by: Yuri Elkaim

The Best Kettlebell Full Body Workout Routine for Beginners

If you add just one tool to your fat-blasting and muscle-building arsenal, choose a kettlebell. 

There’s a good reason that kettlebells have resurfaced as a fitness tool. Used back in the 1700s in Russia, they’re now in gyms everywhere – but they can seem a little intimidating if you’ve never used them before.

Which is too bad, because working with kettlebells is one of the best ways to build a strong, stable, and lean body.

And don’t worry if you’re a beginner. I’ve structured a kettlebell full-body workout that will get you used to working with kettlebells, and also help you tone up in record time.

The Benefits of Working with Kettlebells

You might be surprised at how many benefits lie waiting to be unleashed in the unassuming kettlebell. Let’s take a look at a few below.

1. Full-Body Burn

Any time you work with kettlebells, you engage nearly every muscle in your body. 

Even during the kettlebell swing, which at first appears to primarily work the arms, you’re actually working your core, glutes, back, shoulders, and quads. In fact, your power for the swing shouldn’t even come from your arms, but we’ll talk about that later.

The reason kettlebells engage so many muscles is due to the fact that just by holding one, your body immediately has to engage the stabilizer muscles in your core and low back to remain balanced. 

This becomes even more pronounced when you start to do asymmetrical kettlebell exercises, like single-handed swings, since they require even more core strength and balance to perform.

But the work doesn’t stop there.

The explosive movement of the kettlebell swing, combined with all of these firing muscles, also gives us a hard-core anaerobic and aerobic workout.

This is especially great when it comes to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) style workouts, since we get all the fat-burning and muscle-building benefits in one nice package of movement. 

2. Anaerobic and Aerobic Benefits

Kettlebell swings are unique in their ability to give you both an anaerobic and aerobic workout at the same time.

This means that in addition to building lean mass, the explosive nature of the swing also gets your heart rate up into the aerobic zone – a win-win for those dreading another long-winded run on the treadmill.

Not to mention, the calorie burn that occurs during kettlebell swings is pretty amazing. 

For instance, a study conducted by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) found that during a 20-minute kettlebell workout, participants burned 13.6 calories per minute aerobically and 6.6 calories per minute anaerobically.

This translated into burning an average of 20.2 calories per minute, which researchers claimed was “off the charts,” and was the equivalent to running a 6-minute mile pace (1).

kettlebell-benefits

3. Increased Fat Burn

If you’re not convinced of the magical power of kettlebells yet, you’re about to be. 

What if I told you that studies show that high-intensity workouts (like those we get when working with kettlebells) can actually increase your metabolism by up to 4.2 percent for up to 48 hours after your workout (2)?

Magic aside, there is actually a scientific explanation behind this wonderful effect. 

This phenomenon is referred to as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or EPOC, and it’s the amount of calories you burn in the hours following a workout. 

It turns out that high-intensity resistance exercise is the best way to increase EPOC, specifically due to it being so intense.

You see, during a workout we begin to lose oxygen (hence becoming out of breath), lactic acid builds in our muscles, and microscopic tears occur in our muscles from our resistance work. Following a workout, the body has to work overtime to restore our oxygen levels, clear the lactic acid, and repair our muscles.

All of these processes require more calories than usual, which results in an increase in metabolism and, subsequently, fat burn. Abracadabra!

4. Improved Posture and Less Back Pain

Kettlebell swings are one of the best exercises to strengthen the posterior chain – the group of muscles running along your back side that includes your glutes, back, hamstrings, and part of your core.

Because of this, kettlebell swings can help to correct forward slouching by strengthening the posterior muscles that are weakened and “loose” from excessive sitting. 

Research also shows that working with kettlebells can alleviate low back pain. One study found that participants with musculoskeletal pain had reduced pain intensity in their necks, shoulders and lower backs after completing an eight-week kettlebell workout program (3).

The reason many people experience back pain relief when strengthening the core and posterior chain is because these muscles create a literal muscle “cushion” around our spine, preventing unnatural movement and alleviating excess pressure.

Kettlebell Swing Form 

Training with Kettlebells

Form is one of the most important aspects when we talk about working with kettlebells. This is especially true during the kettlebell swing, since it makes up the foundation of an awesome kettlebell workout and is commonly performed incorrectly.

So let’s take a look at proper swing form before moving on to other exercises.

Here we’ll be focusing on the Russian kettlebell swing instead of the American version. The Russian swing stops at shoulder height rather than going all the way over the head.

Why does this matter?

Because during the overhead American swing, the shoulder joint (which is naturally unstable joint) is put in a precarious position. It essentially puts all of the kettlebell weight on the shoulder joint, while also forcing it to keep that weight in alignment. As you might imagine, this could easily lead to shoulder injuries.

The Russian swing, on the other hand, avoids putting an excessive load on the shoulders, since it tops out at chest level. A bonus of doing this is we can actually use a heavier kettlebell for our swings (thus building more muscle and burning more fat) and engage our core even more.

The Russian Kettlebell Swing

First and foremost, you want to make sure you avoid rounding your spine during the swing. Also, remember that the swing comes from the hinge of the hips (different than a squat).

To make sure you’re keeping your spine straight and hinging correctly, be sure to concentrate on engaging your core and glutes throughout the

kettlebell-swing

Instructions:

  1. Begin by holding the kettlebell with both hands just below the groin, feet hip-width apart.
  2. Be sure your spine is neutral, not rounded forward, and your core is engaged.
  3. Now bend your knees slightly, hinge upward, and push the kettlebell into a swing using the explosive force of your hips and glutes.
  4. Swing the kettlebell to chest level, avoiding letting your shoulders “creep up” to your ears.
  5. Let the kettlebell swing back to your starting position by hinging again at the hips.
  6. Repeat.

Now let’s take a look at how to properly perform the other exercises in this workout:

Kettlebell Single-Arm Swings

kettlebell-1-arm-swing

Instructions:

  1. Begin by holding the kettlebell in one hand just below the groin, feet hip-width apart.
  2. Make sure your spine is neutral, not rounded forward, and your core is engaged.
  3. Now bend your knees slightly, hinge upward, and push the kettlebell into a swing using the explosive force of your hips and glutes.
  4. Swing the kettlebell to chest level, avoiding letting your shoulders “creep up” to your ears.
  5. Let the kettlebell swing back to your starting position by hinging again at the hips.
  6. Repeat, then switch arms.

Kettlebell Press

kettlebell-press

Instructions:

  1. Begin standing, feet shoulder-width apart, kettlebell resting in your palm against your shoulder.
  2. Engaging your core, press the kettlebell above your head.
  3. Lower and repeat.

Turkish Get-Ups

kettlebell-turkish-get-ups

Instructions:

  1. Begin lying face-up on the floor. Bend your right leg while keeping the other straight.
  2. Lock out your right arm, holding your kettlebell above you. Pushing from your right foot, roll over toward your left side onto your left elbow.
  3. Push up onto your left hand and use your right foot to come up further. Thread your left leg back so you are now in a kneeling position.
  4. Now, bracing your core and making sure your right arm is firmly in control, push up from your lunge position to standing.
  5. Lower by reversing this process and repeat for four reps on each side.

Kettlebell Goblet Squat

kettlebell-goblet-squat

Instructions:

  1. Begin standing in a wide squat position, cradling your kettlebell in your palms by your chest.
  2. Lower into a plie squat, avoiding letting your upper body fall forward.

Kettlebell Chest Press

kettlebell-chest-press

Instructions:

  1. Begin lying on the floor with your legs bent.
  2. Bring your kettlebell to your side with your palm facing in.
  3. Press the kettlebell straight up, avoiding letting your body rock from side to side.
  4. Lower and repeat on each arm.

Kettlebell Single-Leg Rear Deadlift

kettlebell-single-leg-rear-deadlift

Instructions:

  1. Begin standing holding your kettlebell in your left hand.
  2. Hinge forward at your hips, keeping your spine straight. 
  3. Extend your right leg behind you as you lower your kettlebell toward the ground.
  4. Engage your glutes and push up through your heel to return to standing.
  5. Repeat, then switch legs.

Kettlebell Reverse-Lunge Press

kettlebell-reverse-lunge-press

Instructions:

  1. Begin standing, pushing your kettlebell up over your head in your right hand.
  2. Lunge your left leg behind you, holding the kettlebell in place (really focus on engaging your abs to maintain your balance).
  3. Push back up to standing using your glutes.
  4. Repeat for 6 to 8 reps, then switch arms.

Burpees

burpees

Instructions:

  1. Begin standing tall. Now bend at your knees, pushing your hips back, and plant your hands firmly on the ground.
  2. Jump your feet behind you and land in a push-up position. Beginners can stay here or can continue to do a full pushup.
  3. Jump your feet back in and explode up from a squat to a jump.
  4. Repeat for 10 to 15 reps.

Kettlebell Workout Routine for Beginners

Without further ado, here is the full-body kettlebell workout that will result in some serious fat burn and muscle growth. 

Warm Up

Warm up with some light kettlebell swings for 2 to 3 minutes.

The Workout

Complete circuit one, rest for one minute, then complete circuit two and rest for another minute. Complete both circuits twice.

Do this full body routine 2 to 3 times a week for best results.

Circuit One:

  1. Kettlebell Swings (8 to 12 reps)
  2. Kettlebell Press (8 to 12 reps each arm)
  3. Burpees (10 to 15)
  4. Turkish Get-Ups (4 reps each side)
  5. Kettlebell Swings (8 to 12 reps)
  6. Kettlebell Chest Press (8 reps each arm)
  7. Kettlebell Single-Arm Swings (6 to 8 reps each arm)

Rest for one minute then move on to circuit 2.

Circuit Two:

  1. Burpees (10 to 15)
  2. Kettlebell Single-Leg Deadlift (8 to 12 reps each leg)
  3. Burpees (10 to 15) (Note: a lower-intensity option is 30 jumping jacks) 
  4. Kettlebell Goblet Squat (8 to 12 reps)
  5. Kettlebell Single-Arm Swings (6 to 8 reps each arm)
  6. Kettlebell Reverse-Lunge Press (6 reps each arm)

Rest for one minute then repeat both circuits again.

Intensity is the Key

As you may have noticed, working with kettlebells is hard! But it’s also fun.

Stick with it – it’s precisely this level of intensity that’s going to give you the results you’re looking for.

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Yuri Elkaim

Yuri Elkaim

Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.