Kettlebell training is a great way to add variety to your strength training program.
However, many beginners are not sure how to use a kettlebell or how to structure a kettlebell workout for beginners.
In this article, we will provide a challenging but doable beginner kettlebell workout as well as some tips for kettlebell training for beginners, such as how to use a kettlebell and how to structure a kettlebell workout for beginners.
Kettlebell Exercises Included:
- Goblet Squats
- Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts
- Kettlebell Swings
- Single-Arm Farmer’s Carry
- Sumo Squat Figure 8’s
Let’s dive in!
How to Use a Kettlebell
Kettlebell training uses kettlebells, which is a weighted implement that looks like a cannonball with a flattened bottom and a horseshoe-shaped handle (called a “horn”) protruding from the top of the “bell.”
The shape of a kettlebell changes the weight distribution relative to dumbbells because the majority of the weight is centrally located directly under the handle rather than evenly across both sides of it.
Moreover, the rounded handle can accommodate one or both hands. As such, many kettlebell exercises involve holding just a single kettlebell with both hands together.
Typically, the kettlebell is held such that the weighted bell portion hangs below the handle, but there are kettlebell exercises, such as overhead presses or Turkish get-ups, where you invert the weight.
Kettlebell workouts for beginners are beneficial because the center of gravity shifts differently throughout the range of motion of the exercise.
This, in turn, alters the strength curve of the exercise, which refers to how the difficulty of an exercise changes throughout the range of motion of the movement.The uneven weight distribution challenges your balance and core stability and requires the activation of smaller stabilizer muscles when you are performing basic strength training movements, allowing for more functional training than when using dumbbells.
Additionally, the unique design and weight distribution of the implement allow it to be used for dynamic, metabolic exercises such as kettlebell swings, cleans, and snatches.
The weight of the kettlebell will be imprinted on the side, either in pounds or kilograms, so you will select the appropriate weight based on your fitness level and the exercise you are doing.
The Ultimate Beginner Kettlebell Workout
Here is a great beginner’s kettlebell workout for you to try. Work up to 2-3 sets per exercise.
#1: Goblet Squats
Goblet squats primarily target the quads and glutes, but they also work your hamstrings and adductors as well.
This is a great kettlebell exercise to add to your beginner’s kettlebell workout because the shape of the kettlebell works well with the mechanics of the exercise.
By holding the kettlebell upside down, the weight is a little more unstable, which means that you have to use your shoulders, core, and hips to help balance the top-heavy weight.
Here is how to perform this exercise with a kettlebell:
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointing about 5-10 degrees outward and your hips externally rotated.
- Hold a kettlebell upside down in both hands at chest height.
- Inhale, sitting your hips backward as if reaching your butt back to sit in a chair. Make sure your core is engaged, your chest is up, and your back is straight.
- Exhale, pressing through your heels to return back up to the starting position.
- Repeat for 10-12 reps per set.
#2: Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts
Single-leg Romanian deadlifts are one of the best kettlebell exercises for beginners.
The exercise is excellent for strengthening your posterior chain muscles, and the shape of the kettlebell lends itself well to performing the exercise comfortably from an ergonomic standpoint.
Doing a single-leg kettlebell Romanian deadlift will challenge your balance, requiring hip, ankle, and core stability.
Here are the steps to perform this beginner kettlebell exercises:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, chest up and proud, shoulders retracted, arms at your side, and a kettlebell in your right hand.
- Bring your left arm out to your side for balance and engage your core and glutes.
- Bend your left knee (the one on your standing/support leg) about 20 degrees to activate your hamstrings and glutes while you lift your right leg off the floor.
- Contract your glutes and hinge from your hips to bring your torso towards the floor, keeping your gaze on the floor to prevent hyperextending your neck. Keep your back straight. You do not want to be rounding your back or bending from your back, the hinging should all come from your hips. Your right leg should extend behind you as a counterbalance.
- Reach the kettlebell in your right hand down towards your left foot until you feel enough of a stretch in the hamstring of your supporting leg.
- Engage your core and glutes to press through your heel to come back up, extending your hips until they are fully locked out. If you need to regain your balance, you can touch your right foot back down to the floor; otherwise, keep it lifted and move into your next rep.
- Complete 10-12 reps per side per set.
#3: Kettlebell Swings
Although the kettlebell swing can be a little difficult for beginners to master, it is truly one of the foundational kettlebell exercises.
According to a research study conducted by ACE Fitness, kettlebell swings are one of the most effective hamstring exercises. It is also a great total-body conditioning exercise and an excellent exercise for metabolic conditioning (met-con) workouts and CrossFit workouts.
Plus, studies have found that the kettlebell swing exercise is a highly effective movement for improving functional strength and decreasing the risk of low back pain.
As such, it is one of the best kettlebell exercises to incorporate into your kettlebell workouts, regardless of your fitness level.
Beginners can just start with a lighter kettlebell to get comfortable with the proper technique rather than going heavy with the weight.
Here are the steps to perform this kettlebell exercise:
- Stand upright with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, gripping the horn of a moderately-heavy kettlebell with both hands. Your arms should be fully extended so the kettlebell is hanging down in front of your body.
- Keep your heels firmly planted but allow a gentle bend in your knees.
- Engage your core and glutes as you press through your heels and explode through your hips to drive the kettlebell upward until it’s roughly chest height and your arms are fully extended out in front of you.
- Control the kettlebell as it descends, loading your glutes and hamstrings. The kettlebell should swing back through the space between your legs somewhat.
- At the end of the arc of the swing, snap your hips forward again to drive the kettlebell back up to chest height.
- Complete 12-20 reps.
#4: Single-Arm Farmer’s Carry
One of the best kettlebell exercises for beginners is the single-arm farmer’s carry.
The unilateral nature of the exercise requires much more core activation and stability than when performing the exercise with a weight in both hands.
Use the heaviest kettlebell you can manage safely.
Grip the horn as hard as possible, as this is an excellent exercise to improve grip strength. Squeezing the horn will engage your forearm muscles.
Here is how to perform this kettlebell exercise for beginners:
- Stand upright with good posture, chest up, shoulders back and down, holding a heavy kettlebell in one hand with both arms down by your sides.
- Keeping your core tight, back straight, and your shoulders even, walk forward for 15 paces or 30 meters or so.
- Turn around and walk back.
- Switch arms and repeat.
- Complete 15-30 meters of down-and-back kettlebell carries per side.
#5: Sumo Squat Figure 8’s
Like regular squats, sumo squats work the quads and glutes, but the foot positioning also activates your hamstrings and adductors.
In this kettlebell exercise, you’ll weave a heavy kettlebell around your legs to work your obliques and abs as well while performing an isometric squat hold.
These are the steps for this kettlebell exercise:
- Stand with your feet about six inches wider than shoulder-width apart, core engaged, hips externally rotated, and toes pointing about 45 degrees outward.
- Grip the horn of a heavy kettlebell in both hands with your arms straightened and down in front of your body.
- Inhale, sitting your hips backward as if reaching your butt back to sit in a chair, ensuring your core is engaged, your chest is up, and your back is straight.
- When you’re fully lowered so that your knees are bent to 90 degrees and your thighs are parallel to the floor, pause and hold.
- In this lowered position, weave the kettlebell in and around each leg, passing it between your two hands, tracing a figure 8.
- After one full figure 8, exhale, pressing through your heels to stand upright to the starting position.
- Repeat for 8-12 reps.
There you have it! Five of the best exercises to try out in your beginner kettlebell workout.
You can learn more about the benefits of kettlebells vs dumbbells here.