Best Kettlebell Workouts for Strength 2024: Full-Body Strength Circuit

We examine the benefits of kettlebell training for strength development, fat burning, and core engagement, making it a versatile tool for beginners and experienced exercisers alike.

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Overview

I’ll be honest, when I first saw those odd-looking cast iron balls with a handle called “the Kettlebell”, I was pretty skeptical about their usefulness for serious strength training workouts. As someone who had spent years dedicating myself to the classic barbell lifts like squats, deadlifts and presses, the idea of swinging around what looked like a retro kitchen decoration didn’t exactly inspire confidence.

But as I’ve learned over the years, keeping an open mind and willingness to try new training methods is crucial for continued progress. And boy, am I glad I decided to give kettlebells a shot – they’ve become an integral part of my strength regimen with some unique benefits you just can’t get from barbells alone.

The Full-Body Strength-Building Power of Kettlebells

Don’t let their awkward shape fool you – kettlebells are true strength training beasts when used correctly. A well-designed kettlebell workout absolutely demolishes your entire body, smashing through strength plateaus from multiple angles.

The offset center of mass makes even the most basic kettlebell movements way more demanding on your grip, core stabilizers and total-body coordinating muscles compared to traditional weights. Nailing the hip hinge and powerful hip drive required for explosive moves like swings, cleans and snatches reinforces the same explosive strengths as Olympic lifting.

Full-Body Kettlebell Strength Workouts

When it comes to designing an effective strength workout with kettlebells, the key is hitting every major movement pattern to develop awesome overall strength. This particular routine has you covered from head to toe. Let’s break it down:

Goblet Squats

A Squat That’ll Light Your Legs On Fire (In a Good Way)

Squats are the bread and butter of leg training, but goblet squats with a kettlebell take it to another level. Holding that awkwardly shaped weight at chest height massively amps up the core activation required to maintain an upright, rigid torso. Your abs will be scorching by the end of each set.

Goblet Squat – FREE Squat Like A PRO Guide (Video Credit: Mind Pump TV YouTube Channel)

Benefits:

  • Builds powerful, muscular legs
  • Forces upright torso and core activation
  • Allows for a deeper squat than back squats

How to Do It:

  • Hold the kettlebell at chest height, elbows tucked in
  • Send hips back and bend knees to squat down
  • Keep chest and eyes pointed forward
  • Drive through mid-foot to stand back up

Pro Tips:

  • Really focus on not letting your elbows flare out
  • Go for depth – shoot for thighs at least parallel to the floor
  • Imagine a rod attached to your hips pushing them back

Sets & Reps: 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps

Kettlebell Overhead Press

The Monstrous Shoulder Builder

When it comes to kettlebell overhead presses, all the same dynamics that make goblet squats so brutal apply to your delts, traps and triceps too. The offset loading shoots your stabilizers into overdrive and lights up your small musculature for incredibly dense strength-building contractions.

Kettlebell Overhead Press (Video Credit: National Academy of Sports Medicine YouTube Channel)

Benefits:

  • Builds impressive shoulder strength and stability
  • Works the whole body as a stabilizer
  • Improves overhead mobility

How to Do It:

  • Clean the kettlebell into rack position at the shoulder
  • Keep core braced and body tight
  • Press the kettlebell overhead by driving through your feet
  • Control the eccentric on the way down

Pro Tips:

  • Use a staggered stance for more stability
  • Concentrate on keeping wrists straight
  • Consider push press for heavier weights

Sets & Reps: 3-4 sets of 6-10 reps per arm

Kettlebell Swings

The One Exercise That Rules Them All

Kettlebell swings might just be the single most potent exercise in the workout. With just a little coaching, you’ll master the powerful hip snap to really put some explosive force into that bell. It’s an incredible workout for your posterior chain – glutes, hams, lower back – while still crushing your core and grip.

Kettlebell Swings (Video Credit: StrongFirst YouTube Channel)

Benefits:

  • Explosive total body exercise
  • Builds powerful hip thrust and hamstrings
  • Jacks up heart rate for conditioning

How to Do It:

  • Hinge over and hold the bell with both hands
  • Send hips back to swing bell between legs
  • Explosively drive hips forward to swing bell to eye level
  • Allow momentum to swing back for the next rep

Pro Tips:

  • Focus on hip snap, not arms pulling
  • Keep core braced and lats tight
  • Exhale forcefully on each swing

Sets & Reps: 4-5 sets of 15-20 reps

Single-Arm Rows

The Back Builder That Never Quit

When it comes to building a barn door back and lats that pop, you can’t beat a heavy bent-over row variation. Having to overcome the eccentric “roll”[1] of the kettlebell makes these single-arm rows incredibly challenging on your backup and grip strength. You’ll be locking down that perfect body tension throughout each rep.

Single Arm KB Bent Over Row (Video Credit: Marcus Filly YouTube Channel)

Benefits:

  • Builds grip and back strength
  • Works anti-rotational core stability
  • Hits lats, rear delts, biceps

How to Do It:

  • Stagger stance with kettlebell between feet
  • Hinge over and row bell straight to abdomen
  • Pull with your elbow, don’t rotate your spine
  • Squeeze back hard at the top

Pro Tips:

  • Pack the shoulder of the working arm
  • Don’t let your shoulder hike up toward your ear
  • Keep hips and feet square to the object

Sets & Reps: 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps per arm

Suitcase Carries

The Secret for Core Strength and Endurance

I saved the most underrated strength-builder for last: loaded carries. Walking around with a heavy kettlebell in one hand might not look too impressive, but you’ll quickly realize just how incredibly taxing these suitcase carries are for your total-body stability and endurance.

Kettlebell Suitcase Carry (Video Credit: HEARTCORE Athletics YouTube Channel)

Benefits:

  • Crushes core, obliques, and hip stabilizers
  • Reinforces upright posture and shoulder packing
  • Improves overall full-body tension

How to Do It:

  • Hold the kettlebell hanging at your side
  • Keep an upright posture and brace your core
  • Walk for the prescribed distance focusing on stability

Pro Tips:

  • Imagine balancing a book on your head
  • Keep shoulders packed and avoid leaning
  • Don’t be afraid to use a lighter weight

Sets & Reps: 3-4 sets of 30-60 second carries per side

Making it a Metabolic Nightmare to Max Out Strength Gains

With each of those exercises lined up back-to-back in a circuit format, this kettlebell routine transforms into an extended full-body grinder. You’re crushing every muscle from multiple planes while keeping your heart rate revving[2] for some surprise conditioning too.

The high-rep schemes for most exercises combined with the minimal rest periods between movements add a mean metabolic kick to the proceedings. Getting in and out of the swing stance repeatedly will have you panting like your first week in the gym!

This calorie-incinerating conditioning element is hugely important for driving serious functional strength gains and carving out a lean, athletic physique. Talk about killing two birds with one swing!

Prepping Your Body for Kettlebell Strength Workouts Domination

Listen, I know it’s tempting to just grab a bell and start swinging away like a madman. But taking a few minutes to properly warm up your body is an absolute must if you want to crush this kettlebell strength workout safely and effectively. Trust me, you don’t want to learn about the infamous “forearm flop” the hard way.

We’re talking about putting your muscles and joints through a pretty crazy blend of dynamic movements under serious tension. A half-assed warm-up just isn’t going to cut it. This systematic routine will prime every piece of your body for the battlefield ahead:

Get Those Muscles Loose and Those Joints Grooved

First up, we’ll start with some full-body mobility drills to make sure your muscles are loose and your joints are ready to move through a full range of motion without restrictions:

Cat-Cows: Get those spinal discs feeling nice and hydrated with this gentle spine-waver.

Inchworm to Hip Opener: After warming up your hamstrings with the inchworm, you’ll open up those hips with a deep stretch perfect for the swing motion to come.

Wake Up Those Kettlebell Movement Patterns

With your muscles pliable, it’s time to groove those kettlebell-specific movement patterns to light up your proprioceptors. We’re using some classic drills:

Windmills: This deep rotational lunge gets your posterior chain ready while reinforcing hip-hinging mechanics.

Turkish Get-Up Progression: Break down this full-body fundamental into steps to fire up every muscle you’ll need.

Swing Into Action

Finally, you’ll cap off the warm-up by doing some light, high-rep kettlebell swings. This gets those hip snap mechanics fully grooved while driving oxygen-rich blood into the muscles you’re about to punish.

Start with just your body weight or a light kettlebell to really dial in the swing before gradually increasing the load over your warm-up sets.

With your body strategically primed for action, you’ll be ready to conquer the intense full-body circuit ahead and make some serious strength gains!

Mastering Your Kettlebell Strength Workouts Programming

This isn’t some fluffy “get toned” workout you’ll bang out mindlessly. Developing legitimate full-body strength with kettlebells requires a calculated, systematic programming approach. Here’s how to set it up:

Find Your Ideal Frequency Sweet Spot

First up, you’ll need to factor in your current training experience and overall weekly schedule/life demands to set the right session frequency for this intense routine.

As a general rule of thumb:

  • IF kettlebells are your sole training focus: Shoot for 3-4 kettlebell strength workout sessions per week.
  • IF you’re also doing heavy barbell/strength work: Cap it at 1-2 kettlebell sessions weekly to allow for adequate recovery between the two.

Don’t underestimate how Systemically taxing this full-body approach will be, especially at first. Your nervous system and overall recovery capacity will need some time to adapt, so start on the lower end if you’re new to this style of training. Listening to your body is key!

Plan Progression From the Start

As with any serious strength program, progressive overload is an absolute must if you want to keep making gains over time. Your body is an incredibly adaptive machine, so you have to find ways to keep challenging it or you’ll get stuck on a plateau.

With this kettlebell workouts routine, you’ve got three main overload progressions to implement every 4-6 weeks:

  • Increase the Density – Do the same amount of total work in less time by minimizing rest periods between exercises/circuits. This jacks up the intensity.
  • Add More Volume – Simply do an extra round or two of the prescribed circuits in each workout.
  • Use Heavier Kettlebells – When the weight finally starts to feel too easy, gradually increment up 4-8 lbs at a time.

Ideally, you’ll combine all three of these overload methods over a mesocycle while still prioritizing the perfect technique. Get comfortable being deeply uncomfortable – that’s where the magic happens!

Between the constant exercise rotations and strategic progressive overload, you’ll ensure your body is always being pushed outside of its comfort zone for continued full-body strength gains. Just don’t neglect that recovery!

Amplifying Your Gains Through Smart Training Supplementation

While this kettlebell strength routine is an absolute beast all on its own, intelligently combining it with some supplemental work can help accelerate your results even further. Let’s break it down:

Barbells and Bells: A Powerful 1-2 Punch

For those of you who also hit the iron with regular barbell training, a smart way to program this kettlebell routine is as a 1-2 punch supplemental workout.

See, kettlebells are incredible for developing explosive power, and core stability, and addressing common strength leaks and imbalances that can hold back your main barbell lifts. Grooving those powerful hip hinges and anti-rotational core bracing mechanics with bells will have a direct carryover to bigger squat fitness, deadlifts, and more.

But, you have to be smart about finding the right frequency fit. I’d recommend capping your kettlebell strength sessions at 1-2 per week max when combined with heavy barbell work. Your body needs adequate recovery resources to keep pushing maximal weights.

Hit it too hard in the gym, and you’ll end up making zero progress. Prioritize your main barbell sessions, and use this routine as a metabolic potentiator on your lighter accessory days.

Doubling Down on Density With Focused Accessory Work

Maybe you’ve got some specific muscle groups[3] , weaknesses, or skills you want to prioritize beyond what the primary workout covers. No problem – we can clean up any remaining loose ends with some targeted accessory work.

After demolishing your full body with this circuit, you could potentially tack on some:

  • Strict Pull-Ups/Dips for added upper-body volume
  • Hanging Leg Raises for core resilience
  • Glute-Ham Raises to amp up your posterior chain further
  • Windmills/Turkish Get-Ups to groove your bracing sequence

The key here is being intelligent about your diversification. Don’t just tack on a random butt-ton of exercise bro-science. Identify 1-2 key areas you want to emphasize based on your goals, and strategically sprinkle in those supplemental exercises.

Your main focus is still recovering from and progressively overloading the primary full-body circuits. Any accessory work should be the icing on top of an already dense strength cake.

TakeawaysThe Takeaway: Harness the Power of the Kettlebell

In summary, this program is one of the most comprehensive, no-BS approaches to developing full-body strength using just one primary tool – the humble kettlebell.
By strategically combining powerful compound movements like swings, squats, and presses in a circuit format with built-in cardio, you’re creating a incredibly dense strength stimulus. Every muscle from head-to-toe gets blasted with tension from multiple angles.

And when you focus on mastering the systematic progression model, you’re essentially future-proofing your ability to keep making gains over months and years. Your body is forced to constantly adapt to new strength challenges.

At the end of the day, kettlebells offer a unique blend of strength-skill that translates incredibly well to any physical endeavor – from feeling confident moving bigger weights in the gym to having the real-world capability to handle unexpected physical challenges.

So train hard, train smart, and most importantly – learn to love and respect these wildly underrated fundamental strength tools. With the right programming, mindset, and commitment to technical mastery, you’ll be shocking yourself and anyone who doubted your abilities in no time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Can you do kettlebell workouts everyday?
A. Daily kettlebell training can be part of a fitness plan, but a thoughtful approach is necessary. Intensity, recovery periods, and individual fitness levels all influence suitability. Consulting a healthcare professional can provide personalized advice on incorporating daily kettlebell workouts into your routine.
Q. Are kettlebell workouts good for strength?
A. Kettlebell strength workouts offer a comprehensive fitness solution. They combine cardiovascular benefits with the potential for building strength and improving functional movement patterns.

Their versatility allows for a wide range of exercises targeting various muscle groups, making them a valuable addition to any workout routine.

Q. Are kettlebell workouts effective?
A. Kettlebell strength workouts demonstrably enhance strength by engaging various muscle groups through dynamic movements. This holistic approach to exercise not only builds strength but may also improve functional movement patterns for everyday activities.
Q. Is a kettlebell workout considered strength training?
A. Kettlebell training constitutes a form of strength training. The exercises utilize kettlebells, weighted objects that require exertion to lift and control, effectively engaging and strengthening various muscle groups.
Q. Can you build strength with kettlebells?
A. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) research highlights kettlebell training’s ability to build strength. Their versatile movements engage multiple muscle groups, effectively promoting overall strength development.

Q. Is 20 mins of kettlebell workouts a day enough to lose weight?
A. Research[4] suggests a 20-minute kettlebell workout involving swings and lifts can burn around 400 calories. However, weight loss hinges on maintaining a calorie deficit. Combining consistent kettlebell workouts with a healthy diet can be an effective strategy for weight management.

4 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. Brumitt J, En Gilpin H, Brunette M, Meira EP. Incorporating kettlebells into a lower extremity sports rehabilitation program. N Am J Sports Phys Ther. 2010 Dec;5(4):257-65. PMID: 21655384; PMCID: PMC3096147.
  2. Jaiswal PR, Ramteke SU, Shedge S. Enhancing Athletic Performance: A Comprehensive Review on Kettlebell Training. Cureus. 2024 Feb 3;16(2):e53497. doi: 10.7759/cureus.53497. PMID: 38440022; PMCID: PMC10910645.
  3. Schmidt D, Anderson K, Graff M, Strutz V. The effect of high-intensity circuit training on physical fitness. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2016 May;56(5):534-40. Epub 2015 May 5. PMID: 25942012.
  4. Chad Schnettler, M.S., John Porcari, Ph.D., and Carl Foster, Ph.D., Mark Anders: Exclusive ACE research examines the fitness benefits of kettlebells. ACE FitnessMatters. 2010 Jan/Feb :https://www.acefitness.org/getfit/studies/kettlebells012010.pdf

Heather Black, CPT

Heather Black, CPT is a certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine, a CrossFit Level 2 Trainer, & a Precision Nutrition Certified Coach.
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