08 Sep The Ultimate Guide: The Top 21 Kettlebell Exercises

Here’s my list of the top 21 kettlebell exericises for beginner’s through advanced progressions. 

Depending on where you are with your training and who you’ve learned from, there may be some surprises here.

These are the “authentic” kettlebell exercises that provide the biggest “bang for the buck”, in my opinion.

There seems to be some confusion with kettlebells in they they just another tool.

The truth is, they are just a tool, but they’re a very powerful tool when used properly and you can’t simulate certain kettlebell exercises with other training tools (dumbbells, for example).

The kettlebell is unique because of it’s shape and design. The offset handle makes a difference.

It’s also unique because of how you use it with ballistics (fast, explosive movements) and grinds (slower, controlled movements).

I put together this list because it represents the exercises that are the most powerful and most effective total body exercises that deliver results with a kettlebell.

You don’t need a kettlebell to do biceps curls or “triceps” work.

There are better tools designed for that called dumbbells.

But, if you want to swing, snatch, or press, the kettlebell is extremely effective.

If you want great results, use this list as a template for progressions, but realize you actually don’t need to learn everything on this list to experience benefits from kettlebells.

“You don’t need to do everything on this list.”

The list is the “big picture” and a long-term approach to kettlebell training.

You could spend months and years working to improve your skills and training with these exercises.

I guarantee that.

I’ll also tell you that if you master the fundamental exercises (the big 7), you can definitely get significant benefits, whether that’s to transform your body or take your strength and performance to the next level.

If you’re a beginner and you want to immediately start shedding body fat, building lean muscle, and improving your physical power, then start with the first 4 exercises (the deadlift, the swing, the goblet squat, and the turkish get up).

When you have the fundamentals down safely, then progress along into the 2 next levels (progressions or double kettlebell work), depending on what your goals are and how much you want to challenge yourself.

With that said, here’s the true top 21 kettlebell exercises.

I have labeled them as beginner, intermediate, or advanced. This is simply to recognize at what level woudl be the starting point for each exercise.

THE BIG 7 (The Fundamentals)

1-Kettlebell Deadlift: (beginner)

The 1st movement to really learn how to build the pattern of the swing. Teaches you good, strong movement and safe biomechanics.  The essential 1st step in kettlebell training.

2-Kettlebell Swing: (beginner)

The most powerful kettelbell exercise on the planet for total body power, fat loss, cardiovascular conditioning, and many other benefits.  This is the foundation of all the the ballistic kettlebell exericses for explosive body power and results.  If I could only do one exercise for the rest of my life, this is probably it. The the kettlebell swing is one of the highest value exercises there is, when learned properly.  Want results? Then learn how to do this one the right way and get almost instantaneous benefits.  Please, don’t believe me, try it and see for yourself.

3-Kettlebell Goblet Squat: (beginner)

Squatting is a fundamental movement pattern.  This exercise is also not just a leg exercise, it’s another total body strengthening and conditioning exercise that offers great results.  It’s also a prerequisite for other kettlebell progressions.

4-Turkish Get Up: (beginner)

This is a beginner exercise because when learning this dynamic movement, you begin with no weight. This exercise is a slow, deliberate movement that has been around for centuries.  If there is an exercise to “bullet proof” your body, this is it.  Too many benefits to name, but it builds stronger, leaner, and better moving bodies.  An amazing exercise for all humans, recreational exerciser or advanced athlete.

This is the most valuable exercise on the planet that very few people ever do. The get-up can be transformational.

5-Kettlebell One Arm Press:  (beginner)

Once you have the other exercise fundamentals and demonstrate good shoulder mobility and stability, the kettlebell press is another exceptional total body exercise.  It’s not just a shoulder exercise, you use your entire body for maximum pressing power and strength.  And, I much prefer a kettlebell compared to a dumbbell.  It’s actually more comfortable in my hand and you feel like you have more power to press.  There is something to the ‘magic’ of the kettlebell, you’ve got to experience it for yourself.

6-Kettlebell Clean: (intermediate)

A great, explosive exercise for total body strength and conditioning.  The clean takes a bit of time to learn, but once you have it down, it’s fantastic.  You become more powerful with this exercise and it offers many other additional benefits.

7-Kettlebell Snatch: (intermediate)

The kettlebell snatch is outstanding, punishing, and rewarding.  A total body exercise that requires strength, power, and athleticism.  It’s one of the best kettlebell exercises, without question. The kettlebell snatch is superior to many other exercises and would be on the upper tier with cardiovascular conditioning. It’s an exercise that can transcend performance and offers many benefits such as full body strength, strong, powerful shoulders, and a well conditioned athletic body.

THE NEXT LEVEL (Progressions After The Big 7)

8-Kettlebell Push Press: (intermediate)

The push press is a great exercise for pressing heavier weights and it teaches you more about movement.  Helps you learn more about how your body moves and offers new challenges in kettlebell training. Offers a few variations and adds to your pressing power.

9-Kettlebell Jerks: (advanced)

I’ve personally discovered how ‘tricky’ this exercise can be.  While it’s a little tricky to learn, it’s a phenomenal exericise.  Teaches you how to move better and handle heavier weights.  Also has a unique blend of strengthening and conditioning benefits.  Great for athletes and those that want more new physical challenges.

10-Kettlebell Windmill: (intermediate)

A great flexibility and movement based exercise.  Strengthens your “core” and improves hip mobility, stability, and strength.  A skilled movement that offers great upside.  Not as physically demanding, but a great skilled movement that offers unique benefits.

11-Kettlebell Bent Press: (intermediate – advanced)

Up until recently, I had viewed this as advanced exercise, however, I was enlightened to the many benefits and earlier initiation of this exercise.  Provides outstanding hip strength and mobility and really teaches you how to move better and move stronger under a load.  The key here is to go through a series of drills and progressions to “build” this exercise.  Definitely, something that requires the proper instruction to get this right for maximum benefit, but a very high value exercise that is often misunderstood.  Again, proper instruction is absolutely essential.

12-Kettlebell Bottoms Up Press: (intermediate – advanced)

The kettlebell bottoms up press in another exercise that offers many hidden benefits.  It’s much more than simply inverting the kettlebell and pressing with it.  While if builds exceptional grip and forearm strength, it also works your entire body, especially your core in new and weird ways.  It requires an incredible amount of stability to press the kettlebell, while holding it in a ‘bottoms up’ position.  This is a really effective and underutilized exercise.

13-Kettlebell Renegade Rows: (intermediate)

The renegade row is a phenomenal exercise for core strength.  As you’re performing the row exercise, your contralateral shoulder has to stabilize and your core has to have exceptional stability to ‘brace’ yourself while you perform the row.  In my experience, it’s not for beginners unless core stability is sufficient.  It’s an exercise that appears very easy and simple, but has high physical demands and undervalued benefits.

DOUBLE KETTLEBELLS (A New Level of Kettlebell Training)

14-Double Kettlebell Swings: (intermediate – advanced)

The double kettlebell swing is obviously double the load.  Biomechanically, it’s slightly different with a wider stance and  you are holding 2 bells instead of 1, but it’s the exact same swing pattern, with heavier load.  Builds more power, more cardiovascular endurance, and more total body strength.  It’s one of my favorites.

15-Double Kettlebell Presses: (intermediate – advanced)

The double kettlebell press is exceptional for building upper body strength and strong, powerful shoulders.  As with the single kettlebell press, I much prefer kettlebells to dumbbells for pressing.  There is something to the shape of the offset handle that make pressing more fun and more powerful with a set of kettlebells.  Absolutely, one of my favorite exercises to make you feel superhuman by pressing a set of heavy bells overhead.

16-Double Kettlebell Cleans: (intermediate – advanced)

Double kettlebell cleans are total body power. Do a set of double cleans and you feel powerful almost instantly! As with all other kettlebell exercises, learning the proper technique is key, but you feel amazing and it’s a great way to build explosive power.  A fantastic exercise to enhance total body strengthening and conditioning.

17-Double Kettlebell Front Squats:  (intermediate)

One of the best abdominal exercises you can do.  Yes, you heard that right, a great abdominal exercise, in addition to working your legs, biceps, anterior deltoids, spinal erectors, and just about everything else. This exercise is incredible with 2 kettlebells because of the load you have on the front of your body.  As with all of the double kettlebell exercises, it’s physically demanding and I would even say it’s a “punishing” exercise. This one is special and has hidden benefits that must be experienced.

18-Double Kettlebell Snatches: (advanced)

The double kettlebell snatch is a sure-fire way to “smoke” yourself with one exercise.  The best way to describe this is physically taxing.  As if the single kettlebell snatch wasn’t physically demanding enough, double bells take this exercise to another level.  Requires much more work and expends energy to a much faster degree.  Very effective for total body strength and cardiovascular enhancement, but definitely an advanced exercise progression.

19-Double Kettlebell Clean and Press: (intermediate – advanced)

Now is when I’ll address combining some of the most effective exercises into one.  Technically, these are ‘complexes’ since they are 2 exercises done together without rest.  The kettlebell clean and press is flat out awesome.  It takes a lot of energy expenditure here, as well.  It’s another powerful exercise that has numerous benefits and a few reps (5-10 range) and your body is toast.

20-Double Kettlebell Clean and Front Squat: (intermediate – advanced)

This one is totally exhausting, yet so effective.  Demands significant physical work, but you feel amazing after a set.  The double kettlebell front squat is a simply brutal total body exercise, as I mentioned, but now you’re adding cleans on top of that.  It’s punishing, but a quick way to train your entire body delivering great results.  A very, very demanding exercise.

21-Double Kettlebell Long Cycle Clean and Jerks: (advanced)

One of my favorites because it’s so exhausting and works everything in your body.  Sometimes, this exercise is my entire workout program because it’s so demanding. The “long cycle” is simply taking the bells through the entire cycle of a clean and jerk and repeating. That entire movement, is indeed, a long cycle.  About 5 reps is typically about all I can handle with a set of double kettlebells.  Because this is so effective, I’ve grown to like it a lot. Again, so many benefits for total body strengthening and conditioning and this exercise dramatically enhances your physical power.  For athletes, it’s fantastic. And, for those who are ready for this, it’s an exceptional exercise to challenge yourself with, providing you get the proper instruction to learn how to do safely and effectively.

These are the top 21 kettlebell exercises, in my opinion.

As I said, this list would be enough to keep you busy and getting results for years.

Again, the “big 7″ is really all most need and many people may not even need all 7 of those.

The swing, the squat, and the get up is where it all starts, then build up from there.

In today’s fitness climate, many of us think we need to do many different things in our training.

We don’t.

We do need variety, but we also need to be exceptional at the fundamentals – this is the truth.

Get ‘cute and fancy‘ later if you want more options, but focus on fundamentals.

Whatever you do, get proper instruction to advance safely and be clear on what your training goals are.

Start with the fundamentals and go from there. That’s some of the best advice I can give you.

If you think this article can help others, please share it.

Scott Iardella MPT, CSCS writes about strength training methods to optimize health and performance. If you enjoyed this article, join a growing community of passionate fitness enthusiasts and get a ton of cool, free stuff! Go to RdellaTraining.com/join
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2 Comments
  • Sebastian
    Posted at 08:07h, 08 September Reply

    Hi Scott,

    great list! Nothing new here but
    a great summary of all top kettlebell
    exercises. I like it.

    I also like your progressions.

    Thanks for this post and best wishes
    from Germany,

    Sebastian

    • Scott
      Posted at 03:18h, 09 September Reply

      Thanks Sebastian. Yeah, for those that are “up to par” with kettlebells, there shouldn’t be any surprises at all.
      Something I thought would be valuable for beginners and intermediates to have a “master list” to work from and training goals to shoot for.
      Thanks and appreciate!
      Scott

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