Introduction to Kettlebells for Body Transformation
How do you use kettlebell exercises for weight loss and body transformation?
This question is more pressing than ever if you can not get to or don’t want to go to a gym. What can you do at home which takes little space and the minimum amount of equipment?
There are other full-body exercises you can use to transform your body and life, such as kettlebells.
These ‘cannonballs with a handle’ are excellent tools to improve your fitness, especially when you do not have the room or desire for a home gym.
Kettlebells vs Barbells and Dumbbells
If you want to build serious muscle size and strength, barbells and dumbbells are hard to beat. They allow you to really overload your muscles and, combined with an adjustable bench and squat rack, you can train virtually every muscle in your body. You can even use barbells and dumbbells to burn fat and get lean, providing you stick to compound exercises, that is.
But what about kettlebells?
Kettlebells are not the best tool for building strength. They tend not to be heavy enough. And, for bodybuilding, they aren’t as good as dumbbells because you can’t gradually increase your weights, which is an essential consideration for effective progressive resistance training.
But, before you turn your back on kettlebells, you’ll be interested to hear that, for improving your body composition and sculpting a lean, athletic physique, they’re pretty tough to beat.
Because there is nothing to adjust, when you work out with kettlebells, you can transition quickly from one exercise to the next. They can be used for single and two-limbed exercises, and almost every kettlebell move is compound in nature.
This all adds up to an outstanding transformative fat-burning workout!
On the downside, kettlebells can be expensive, especially if you want a wide range of weights to train with. However, you don’t need to use kettlebells in pairs, and really, for a decent workout, all you need is two – one light and one a little heavier.
For example, you can work out with an 18 pound (8kg) and 31 pounds (14kg) kettlebell to start. That’s it! And with just those two weights, you can work your whole body. You can work your way up to heavier weights like 35lb (16kg) and 55lb (25kg) as you progress. Pick the weights that work for you, but always start lighter than you think you can handle.
There is no reason to take on too much too soon and end up with an injury that only prevents you from the training you wanted to do.
This kettlebell circuit will work as long as you have access to two kettlebells. It’ll help you burn fat, increase your muscular endurance, and improve your cardiovascular fitness. You don’t even need a bench or a squat rack; just grab your ‘bells and go for it!
The Best Kettlebell Workout Plan
This is a total body kettlebell circuit. A circuit means you are going to do rounds of all the exercises instead of sets of each exercise. In other words, you do the first exercise, rest a few seconds, and then move onto the next one. Work your way down the list and, after you’ve completed the final exercise, rest a minute or two and then start back at the top.
Circuit training is one of the most time-efficient ways to work out and is also one of the best ways to use strength training to burn fat.
If this all sounds a little daunting, don’t worry; there are several modifications that will make this workout a little easier.
Kettlebell swings (H)
45 seconds per exercise
15 seconds between exercises
Over the head press (L)
Goblet squats (H)
Push-up KB touch (H)
Romanian deadlift (H)
Left windmill (L)
Right windmill (L)
Take 1-2 minutes and repeat 2-4 more times
H = Heavy, and L = light. Make sure you use the right kettlebell for the right exercise!
Why use timed intervals of 45 seconds per exercise with 15 seconds rest instead of the more usual reps? Good question! The simple answer is that it makes it easier for you to regulate the difficulty of your workout. Just do as many reps as you can in the allotted time.
And if 45 seconds is too much time, then reduce it down to 30 seconds. Similarly, you can also adjust how much rest you take in between each exercise.
Therefore, the actual number of reps you complete will depend on your fitness and the weight of your kettlebell. If this kettlebell workout circuit calls for 12 reps, but you’ve only got a light KB to train with, that might be too easy. Using time gets around this problem.
Get the most from this or any other workout by doing each exercise correctly. Improper form makes the exercises less beneficial and could lead to injury. If in doubt, check out some of the videos below, or ask a personal trainer or gym instructor to show you what to do.
1. Kettlebell swings
The kettlebell swing is arguably one of the best exercises for burning fat and building fitness. It’s a posterior chain exercise, which means it works all of the muscles on the back of your body. The barbell deadlift is my favorite exercise, but KB swings are not too far behind!
To do this exercise, hold your kettlebell in front of your legs and stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees slightly. Lean forward from your hips without rounding your lower back. Lower the weight down to about knee-height. Snap your hips forward and swing the weight up to around shoulder-height. Keep your core braced! Lower the weight and repeat.
Swings should be done explosively and smoothly. Set a brisk rhythm and maintain it for the duration of your set.
2. One arm kettlebell shoulder press
The one-arm kettlebell shoulder press is an effective shoulder exercise that only requires a single kettlebell. Not only does this exercise work your deltoids and triceps, but it’s also good for your core.
Hold your kettlebell in the palm of your hand at shoulder-height in rack position which is hand below your chin. Keeping your body tight, press the weight up over your head with your elbow remaining aligned with your shoulder. Do 4 – 6 reps and then switch hands, alternating till the timer runs down.
Word of caution – start with a light weight, especially if you have not worked on your shoulder mobility.
Kettlebell Shoulder Press
3. Goblet squats
Goblet squats are one of the best ways to work your legs. They force you to maintain an upright posture, which means they’re easy on your lower back too. They also involve your arms, making them even better for calorie and fat burning.
To do this exercise, hold your kettlebell by the vertical handles in front of your chest. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Brace your core and lift your chest, pulling your shoulders down and back.
Bend your knees and squat down until your thighs are about parallel to the floor. Stand back up and repeat.
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4. Kettlebell Halos
Halos don’t just strengthen your shoulders and abs, but they also work your core. This exercise is good for upper body conditioning and mobilizing your shoulders and thoracic spine. Just take care not to hit yourself on the head!
Hold your kettlebell upside down in front of your face by the vertical handles. Next, lift one elbow and rotate the weight around your head. Return to the starting position and then do a rep in the opposite direction. Keep alternating until the 45 seconds are up.
You can do this exercise standing or kneeling as in the following video:
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5. Push-up KB touch
We know that push-ups aren’t a kettlebell exercise, but with no bench and only two uneven weights available, there aren’t many chest exercises you can do. This is our solution! As an added benefit, this exercise also works your core.
Place your kettlebell on the floor in front of you. Take one large step back. Squat down and adopt the push-up position. Your arms, legs, and body should be straight, and your hands about shoulder-width apart. In this case the kettlebell is in front of you.
Bend your arms and lower your chest to about one inch above the floor. Push yourself back up. Next, extend one hand and touch your kettlebell. Return your hand to the floor and repeat but, this time, touch it with the other hand. Continue alternating hands for the prescribed duration.
Or you can touch the kettlebell with both hands as in the short video below:
Push-up Kettlebell Touch
6. Romanian deadlift
The Romanian deadlift is another useful posterior chain exercise. It’s a little easier than the KB swing, but that’s no bad thing as you’ve done quite a lot of training to reach this point. Like swings, make sure you do not round your lower back during this exercise.
To do Romanian deadlifts, hold your kettlebell in both hands in front of your legs. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Bend your knees slightly. Push your hips back, hinge forward, and lower the weight down the front of your legs as far as your flexibility allows. Stand back up and repeat.
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7. Right windmill
The windmill is a challenging core exercise that also increases shoulder strength and stability. This exercise is tricky for people with poor hamstring flexibility, but just lean as far as you can, and you’ll be fine!
To do the kettlebell windmill, hold your weight in your right hand and press it above your head. Brace your core. Stand with your feet about 1 ½ shoulder-widths apart. Your knees should be slightly bent or straight depending on your flexibility. Turn your head and look at your kettlebell as you descend. Push your hips to the right and reach down the inside of your left leg with your left arm. Keep your right arm vertical throughout. Stand back up and repeat.
8. Left windmill
Same as number seven but on the opposite side.
Your final exercise works your entire body. It’s a tough one to finish on, but a rest is coming up, so give it all you’ve got. If you feel really tired, use your light kettlebell and not the heavy one we’ve prescribed.
Hold your kettlebell in your upturned palms in front of your chest. Step out and into a shoulder-width stance. Brace your abs. Push your hips back and squat down until your thighs are about parallel to the floor. Stand up and press the weight up and overhead. Lower it back down to your chest and repeat. Use the momentum from your legs to help you lift the weight above your head.
Kettlebell Thruster Variations
Take a break for 1-2 minutes. Catch your breath, mop your brow, and grab a drink. Wipe your hands on a towel and get ready for round two!
This workout is suitable for all exercisers, from beginners to advanced. The weight used and the number of reps you pump out will determine how hard the workout is. That said, you can make the following modifications to make it easier.
- Reduce the work periods – if 45 seconds is too hard, try 30 or even 20 seconds.
- Increase the transition period – give yourself 20-30 seconds between exercises, instead of the prescribed 15.
- Use your light kettlebell for all exercises – this will make some of the exercises considerably easier.
- Do fewer circuits – do just 1-2 rounds instead of the suggested 3-5.
- Pace yourself – instead of trying to do as many reps as you can, pace yourself and work out more slowly.
- Reduce the number of exercises, especially any that you find too demanding.
- Believe it or not, you can only focus on one kettlebell exercise such as the kettlebell swing and benefit.
Kettlebell Exercises for Weight Loss & Body Transformation
While you can use cardio to lose weight and get fit, it’s not much use for toning, strengthening, or conditioning your muscles. In fact, doing too much cardio, especially during a low-calorie diet, can lead to muscle loss. Yes, you’ll weigh less, but with less muscle, you’ll lose strength, your metabolism will fall, and you won’t achieve that lean, toned look you want.
Strength training, and especially kettlebell workouts, corrects these issues. Not only will lifting weights preserve your muscle mass, but fast-paced circuit workouts are also better for fat loss. They trigger something called EPOC, which is short for excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. In simple terms, EPOC increases your post-exercise metabolic rate for as long as 48 hours, leading to faster fat loss.
You don’t need to quit cardio forever, but it definitely works best when combined with some high-intensity strength training. And don’t forget to always get in a good 30 minutes a day of some type of cardio, like walking. Try this kettlebell workout and experience the fat-burning power of strength training for yourself.
The kettlebell swing is an excellent way to strengthen your posterior chain deadlift muscles and introduce you to the hip hinge movement. As a result, you have already set yourself up to start reaping the remarkable benefits of deadlifts.
Now you know why the kettlebell swing is an effective deadlift accessory exercise.
And if you do have room in your home to deadlift, here is the Deadlift Equipment you will need.
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