Best Kettlebell Shoulder Exercises 2024: Try This for Stronger Shoulders

Our research identifies effective kettlebell exercises that target the shoulder muscles. Learn how these exercises can enhance strength, stability, and range of motion in your shoulders.

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; we may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links. You can learn more about our review process here.

Introduction

Whether you’re an avid weightlifter, a weekend warrior, or simply someone who wants to feel strong and capable in their daily life, having powerful, well-developed shoulders is essential.

After all, these versatile joints are involved in nearly every upper-body movement you can think of, from pushing and pulling to reaching and lifting overhead.

On the downside, as it happens to combine a dramatic degree of mobility, the shoulder region is also highly vulnerable to injury if not trained and maintained optimally.

This is where kettlebell training comes in again as a comprehensive full-body style that works the shoulder from all angles through its dynamic nature to ultimately help regain strength for increased stability and mobility.

This article covers the best kettlebell exercises for building rock-solid shoulders, how to do them with proper form and technique, setting up your own programming using these moves, and more. Prepare to release the shoulders you never knew you had and let your journey into fitness soar.

The Importance of Strong Shoulders

The shoulders are some of the most complicated and hardworking joints in your body, they perform an array of movements and activities. Good strong/healthy shoulders not only help you with your performance but also improve posture, reduce the risk of injury and ultimately aid in living a better life. Below are just some of the reasons as to why everything changes if you strengthen your shoulders.

Posture and Alignment:

Weak shoulders can lead to rounded shoulders and poor posture[1], which in turn creates added strain on the neck and back. It helps to bring your shoulder back and remind you of what natural, good posture should be.

Prevention of Injury:

The shoulder joint is by nature unstable as it has a high degree of mobility. Loose, tight or overactive shoulder muscles can lead to common injuries such as rotator cuff tears, impingement and dislocations.

When you improve the strength of your shoulder joint’s supporting muscles, which include the rotator cuff, deltoid and traps among many others, you are bridging the gap allowing you to more fearlessly perform day-to-day activities or any physical task.

Improved Athletic Performance:

No matter if you are an elite athlete or a weekend warrior, having powerful shoulders is crucial for the best performance. Shoulder strength and power play a prominent role in throwing a ball or swinging a racket/club, as well as many other sport-related movements.

Stronger shoulders will only boost your speed, power and stamina — whatever sport or activity you might be into.

Use of True Strength:

The strength of the shoulders does not only help athletes, they are key in performing day-to-day activities! Strong Shoulder Muscles Encourage Mobility in Everyday Tasks Carrying groceries and luggage, lifting heavy objects, and reaching overhead — are all basic daily functions that can become difficult without properly tapped shoulder muscles.

Warm-up Before Kettlebell Shoulder Exercises

Before diving into your kettlebell shoulder routine, it’s essential to properly warm up your muscles and joints. A well-rounded warm-up can help increase blood flow, improve mobility, and reduce the risk of injury. Here are some suggested warm-up exercises and stretches:

  • Light cardiovascular activity (5-10 minutes of jumping jacks, high knees, or jumping rope)
  • Dynamic arm swings and shoulder circles
  • Arm crossovers and overhead reach stretches
  • Wrist and forearm stretches

Best Kettlebell Shoulder Exercises

Now, let’s dive into the best kettlebell exercises for building stronger, more functional shoulders:

Turkish Get Up

The Turkish Get Up is considered one of the most challenging and comprehensive kettlebell exercises, testing your strength, mobility, and coordination from multiple angles. It primarily targets the shoulders, core, and hips. While deceptively simple in appearance, mastering the intricate movement pattern of the Turkish Get Up requires patience and practice.

Primal Foundation | Kettlebell “Turkish” Get Up Instructional Breakdown (Video Credit:Eric Leija YouTube Channel)

How to Do It:

  • Start lying on your side, with the kettlebell extended overhead.
  • Engage your core and use your free hand to push yourself up to a seated position, keeping the kettlebell locked out overhead.
  • From the seated position, continue transitioning through various steps until you reach a standing position with the kettlebell overhead.
  • Reverse the movement to return to the starting position.
Exercise Turkish Get Up
Sets & Reps
  • Beginner: 2-3 sets of 3-5 reps per side
  • Intermediate: 3-4 sets of 5-8 reps per side.
  • Advanced: 4-5 sets of 8-12 reps per side.
Targeted Muscles Deltoids, Rotator cuff, Trapezius

Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is a dynamic, full-body exercise that challenges your shoulder endurance and stability while simultaneously working your lower body and core. The constant acceleration and deceleration of the weight demands excellent control and coordination from your shoulders. There is also Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research[1] that states that Kettlebell swings help in restoring and enhancing back health.

HOW TO DO A KETTLEBELL SWING WITHOUT HURTING YOUR BACK! (Video Credit: Dr. Dan’s Plan YouTube Channel)

How to Do It:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding the kettlebell with both hands in front of your hips.
  • Hinge at the hips, sending the kettlebell back between your legs while keeping your back flat.
  • Explosively drive your hips forward, using the momentum to swing the kettlebell up to chest height.
  • Control the swing on the way down, and repeat.
Exercise Kettlebell Swing
Sets & Reps
  • Beginner: 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps.
  • Intermediate: 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps.
  • Advanced: 4-5 sets of 8-12 reps.
Targeted Muscles Deltoids, Trapezius

Kettlebell Windmill

The kettlebell windmill is a unique strength exercise that challenges your shoulder mobility, stability, and strength in a dynamic, rotational pattern. This exercise demands excellent shoulder stability and core control to maintain proper form and alignment throughout the movement.

Kettlebell Windmill (Video Credit: Farm TV YouTube Channel)

How to Do It:

  • Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, holding the kettlebell with one hand overhead.
  • Keeping your arm locked out, hinge at the hips and slide your free hand down your leg toward the ground.
  • Look up at the kettlebell, and reverse the motion to return to the standing position.
  • Repeat on the same side, then switch sides.
Exercise Kettlebell Windmill
Sets & Reps
  • Beginner: 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps per side.
  • Intermediate: 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps per side.
  • Advanced: 4-5 sets of 12-15 reps per side.
Targeted Muscles Deltoids, Rotator cuff, Trapezius

Kettlebell Shoulder Push Press

The kettlebell shoulder push press is a powerful exercise that combines the strength and stability of a strict overhead press with the explosive power of a push press. This exercise challenges your shoulders to control and stabilize the weight throughout the entire range of motion.

Kettlebell Push Press Exercise | Onnit Tutorial (Video Credit: Onnit YouTube Channel)

How to Do It:

  • Start in a rack position, with the kettlebell resting against your chest.
  • Dip your knees and use your legs to generate momentum, driving the kettlebell overhead in a smooth, continuous motion.
  • Press through your heels, fully extending your arms overhead.
  • Reverse the motion, controlling the kettlebell back to the rack position.
Exercise Kettlebell Shoulder Push Press
Sets & Reps
  • Beginner: 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps.
  • Intermediate: 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps.
  • Advanced: 4-5 sets of 6-8 reps.
Targeted Muscles Deltoids, Trapezius

Kettlebell Bottoms Up Press

The kettlebell bottoms up press is a unique variation that not only challenges your shoulder strength and stability but also tests your grip strength and forearm endurance. Maintaining control of the inverted kettlebell requires constant tension and engagement throughout your entire shoulder girdle.

Build More Shoulder Mass!- Bottom Under Press (Video Credit: Mind Pump TV YouTube Channel)

How to Do It:

  • Start by holding the kettlebell upside down, with the bell facing up and your hand gripping the base.
  • Keeping your core engaged and the kettlebell stable, press the weight overhead, fully extending your arm.
  • Reverse the motion, controlling the kettlebell back to the starting position.
  • Repeat on the same side, then switch arms.
Exercise Kettlebell Bottoms Up Press
Sets & Reps
  • Beginner: 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps per side.
  • Intermediate: 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps per side.
  • Advanced: 4-5 sets of 10-15 reps per side.
Targeted Muscles Deltoids, Rotator cuff, Serratus anterior

Programming and Progression of Kettlebell Shoulder Exercises

When incorporating these exercises into your routine, it’s important to follow a well-structured program and allow for proper recovery and progression. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Start with 2-3 kettlebell shoulder workouts per week, allowing at least one day of rest between sessions.
  • Focus on proper form and technique before increasing weight or volume.
  • Gradually increase the weight, sets, or reps as you become stronger and more proficient with the movements.
  • Consider incorporating periodization, where you cycle through different training phases (e.g., hypertrophy, strength, power) to continually challenge your body and prevent plateaus.
  • Listen to your body and adjust your program as needed to allow for adequate recovery and avoid overtraining.

A sample full-body kettlebell routine that incorporates shoulder exercises could look like this:

  • Turkish Get Up: 3 sets of 3-5 reps per side
  • Kettlebell Swing: 3 sets of 15 reps
  • Kettlebell Windmill: 3 sets of 8-10 reps per side
  • Kettlebell Shoulder Push Press: 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Kettlebell Bottoms Up Press: 2 sets of 10 reps per arm

Anatomy of the Shoulder Muscle

Before we dive into the exercises, let’s quickly review the anatomy of the shoulder joint. The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint made up of the humerus (upper arm bone) and the scapula (shoulder blade). It’s surrounded by a complex network of muscles, tendons, and ligaments that work together to facilitate movement and stability.
The major muscle groups involved in shoulder movements include:

  • Deltoids: Shoulder muscles divided into anterior (front), lateral (side), and posterior (back) parts, responsible for arm movement.
  • Rotator cuff: Group of four muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, subscapularis) that stabilize the shoulder joint and aid in rotation and lifting of the arm.
  • Trapezius: Large muscle extending from the neck to the mid-back, responsible for moving, rotating, and stabilizing the shoulder blade.
  • Rhomboids: Muscles located between the shoulder blades, important for retracting the scapula and maintaining good posture.
  • Serratus anterior: Muscle on the side of the thorax that helps move the scapula forward and upward, essential in actions like pushing and punching.

The Benefits of Kettlebell Shoulder Exercises

Incorporating kettlebell exercises into your shoulder routine offers several advantages over traditional weight training:

  • Increased Stabilizer Engagement: The offset weight distribution of kettlebells forces your stabilizer muscles to work harder, improving overall shoulder stability and joint integrity.
  • Full-Body Integration: Many kettlebell exercises involve multiple muscle groups and full-body movements, promoting functional strength and coordination, as per Randomized Controlled Trial[3] 2018 study.
  • Dynamic Training: Kettlebell movements often involve dynamic, multi-planar motions, mimicking real-life activities and enhancing athletic performance.
  • Versatility: According to a 2020 study Journal of Human Kinetics[4]Kettlebells offer a wide variety of exercises that can target your shoulders from different angles, ensuring well-rounded development.

Proper Form and Safety Considerations

Proper form and technique are crucial when performing kettlebell shoulder exercises to ensure maximum effectiveness and prevent injury. Here are some general tips to keep in mind:

  • Maintain a neutral spine and engage your core throughout the movements.
  • Keep your shoulders down and back, avoiding excessive rounding or shrugging.
  • Use a weight that allows you to maintain control and good form throughout the entire range of motion.
  • Start with lighter weights and focus on mastering the movement patterns before increasing the load.
  • Listen to your body and stop if you experience any sharp pain or discomfort.

Stretching After Shoulder Workouts

Stretching and mobility work are essential components of a well-rounded shoulder routine. After your kettlebell shoulder workout, take the time to cool down and stretch the muscles[5] you’ve just worked. Here are some recommended stretches and cool down exercises:

  • Shoulder rolls (forward and backwards)
  • Arm crossovers and overhead reach stretches
  • Child’s pose
  • Doorway chest and shoulder stretch
  • Downward-facing dog

By incorporating these stretches into your post-workout routine, you can help improve your overall shoulder mobility, reduce muscle soreness, and promote better recovery.

conclusionConclusion

Developing strong, functional shoulders is crucial for achieving optimal performance, reducing the risk of injury, and maintaining overall physical health. Kettlebell training offers a unique and effective way to target your shoulders from multiple angles, while also challenging your entire body and improving your overall strength, stability, and mobility.

By incorporating exercises like the Turkish Get Up, Kettlebell Swing, Kettlebell Windmill, Kettlebell Shoulder Push Press, and Kettlebell Bottoms Up Press into your routine, you’ll be well on your way to building powerful, resilient shoulders that can support you in all aspects of your active lifestyle.

Remember, proper form and technique are essential for maximizing the benefits of these exercises and preventing injury. Start with lighter weights, focus on mastering the movements, and gradually progress as you become more comfortable and stronger.

Consistency and dedication are key when it comes to achieving your shoulder training goals. Stick to a well-structured program, allow for proper recovery, and celebrate your progress along the way. With time and commitment, you’ll be amazed at the results you can achieve with kettlebell shoulder exercises.

So, grab a kettlebell, follow the guidance in this article, and get ready to take your shoulder strength and performance to new heights. Strong shoulders await – embrace the challenge and reap the rewards of a well-rounded, functional physique.

5 Sources

BodybuildingReviews avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in BodybuildingReviews, you can read more about the editorial process here.

  1. Shiravi S, Letafatkar A, Bertozzi L, Pillastrini P, Khaleghi Tazji M. Efficacy of Abdominal Control Feedback and Scapula Stabilization Exercises in Participants With Forward Head, Round Shoulder Postures and Neck Movement Impairment. Sports Health. 2019 May/Jun;11(3):272-279. doi: 10.1177/1941738119835223. Epub 2019 Apr 23. PMID: 31013190; PMCID: PMC6537319.
  2. McGill SM, Marshall LW. Kettlebell swing, snatch, and bottoms-up carry: back and hip muscle activation, motion, and low back loads. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Jan;26(1):16-27. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31823a4063. PMID: 21997449.
  3. Chen HT, Wu HJ, Chen YJ, Ho SY, Chung YC. Effects of 8-week kettlebell training on body composition, muscle strength, pulmonary function, and chronic low-grade inflammation in elderly women with sarcopenia. Exp Gerontol. 2018 Oct 2;112:112-118. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2018.09.015. Epub 2018 Sep 20. PMID: 30243898.
  4. Grigoletto D, Marcolin G, Borgatti E, Zonin F, Steele J, Gentil P, Galvão L, Paoli A. Kettlebell Training for Female Ballet Dancers: Effects on Lower Limb Power and Body Balance. J Hum Kinet. 2020 Aug 31;74:15-22. doi: 10.2478/hukin-2020-0010. PMID: 33312272; PMCID: PMC7706648.
  5. Shitara H, Tajika T, Kuboi T, Ichinose T, Sasaki T, Hamano N, Kamiyama M, Yamamoto A, Kobayashi T, Takagishi K, Chikuda H. Shoulder stretching versus shoulder muscle strength training for the prevention of baseball-related arm injuries: a randomized, active-controlled, open-label, non-inferiority study. Sci Rep. 2022 Dec 21;12(1):22118. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-26682-1. PMID: 36543874; PMCID: PMC9772170.

Erin Pereira, PT, DPT

Erin Pereira, PT, DPT, is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Athletico Physical Therapy in the western suburbs of Chicago.
X

How helpful was it?

icon This article changed my life!
icon This article was informative.
icon I have a medical question.
X

How helpful was it?

icon This article changed my life!
Change
Your Rating
Note: Bodybuildingreviews isn't a healthcare provider. We can't respond to health questions or give you medical advice.
Your Privacyis important to us.
X

How helpful was it?

icon This article was informative.
Change
Your Rating
Note: Bodybuildingreviews isn't a healthcare provider. We can't respond to health questions or give you medical advice.
Your Privacyis important to us.
X
icon I have a medical question.
Change

We’re unable to offer personal health advice, but we’ve partnered with JustAnswer who offers on-demand doctors to answer your medical questions 24/7. Talk online now with a doctor and get fast 1-on-1 answers from the comfort of your couch.

just answer logo
ASK A DOCTOR NOW

If you’re facing a medical emergency, call your local emergency services immediately, or visit the nearest emergency room or urgent care center.

X

How can we improve it?

icon This article contains incorrect information.
icon This article doesn’t have the information I’m looking for.
icon I have a medical question.
X

How can we improve it?

icon This article contains incorrect information.
Change
Your Rating
Note: Bodybuildingreviews isn't a healthcare provider. We can't respond to health questions or give you medical advice.
Your Privacyis important to us.
X

How can we improve it?

icon This article doesn’t have the information I’m looking for.
Change
Your Rating
Note: Bodybuildingreviews isn't a healthcare provider. We can't respond to health questions or give you medical advice.
Your Privacyis important to us.
X
icon I have a medical question.
Change

We’re unable to offer personal health advice, but we’ve partnered with JustAnswer who offers on-demand doctors to answer your medical questions 24/7. Talk online now with a doctor and get fast 1-on-1 answers from the comfort of your couch.

just answer logo
ASK A DOCTOR NOW

If you’re facing a medical emergency, call your local emergency services immediately, or visit the nearest emergency room or urgent care center.

x

Have a Question? Please Tell Us What We Are Missing Here!

Find answers in product info, Q&As, reviews
Submit Your Privacyis important to us.