4 kettlebell exercises that will give you a total-body workout

Ready to add a new toy to your home gym? Kettlebells will help you work your entire body in less time.
Studies have shown that kettlebell training can improve strength and endurance and help strengthen your back and core.
Studies have shown that kettlebell training can improve strength and endurance and help strengthen your back and core. Peathegee Inc / Getty Images/Tetra images

Considering adding some new equipment to your workout routine? Kettlebells may look intimidating, but most routines and exercises that use the strength-training tool are not any harder or more strenuous than those that call for dumbbells. The power of the kettlebell lies in the way it works.

Effective kettlebell moves work multiple areas of the body at the same time. They make use of a fitness concept called submaximal load. This means that you are using a load that is not as heavy as, say a barbell, and the moves don't require maximal effort, creating a workout that is musculoskeletal and cardiovascular.

Studies have shown that kettlebell training can improve strength, power and endurance and is especially good for developing a strong core and strengthening the back.

A simple kettlebell workout for beginners

Ready to give it a try? You’ll need one kettlebell for this routine. For beginners, I recommend starting with a 15-pound kettlebell. You can perform this routine three times through every other day.

Russian swing

This is, perhaps, the quintessential kettlebell move. It works the whole body but especially the glutes, hamstrings and core in general.

To perform: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Grasp the kettlebell at the top of its handle with both hands. Bend your knees slightly and let the kettlebell hang down between your legs. As you squeeze your glutes to stand, use the momentum to swing the dumbbell up to chest height. As the weight falls don't let gravity do all the work, and then repeat immediately. Move as quickly as you can, for a series of 10 reps initially.

Push press

This is another 'classic' kettlebell move that not only works your core and lower body but gets your arms involved as well, especially the triceps.

To perform: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the kettlebell in your right hand with elbow bent at shoulder height. Execute a simple half squat, bending your knees just a little bit. As you stand to get back to the starting position, press the kettlebell over your head in a quick thrusting motion. Hold for a second and then return your arm to the original position. Complete 10 reps and then do the same on the other side.

Windmill

This is a great exercise for the core and helping to strengthen and sculpt the shoulders, too.

To perform: Stand with feet hip-width apart. Hold the kettlebell in your right hand at shoulder height and then extend the weight overhead until your arm is fully extended and straight. Turn your left foot out and angle your hips slightly to the right. Engage your core and reach your weight-free left hand down towards your left foot, bending your leg as you go. Think of using your free hand to trace a path from your left thigh, to the knee, then the calf and finally the ankle. Keep your kettlebell as steady as possible over your head and your gaze fixed on it (it helps!) before slowly returning to the starting position. Repeat for 5 to 10 reps on each side.

Staggered stance row

This is another excellent full-body move that works both the upper and lower body and the core.

To perform: Hold your kettlebell in your right hand with your arm at your side. Step forward on your left foot. Bend both of your knees so that you can rest your left forearm on top of your left thigh. (Rest lightly though, not with your full body weight.) Engage your core and make sure your torso is at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Lift the kettlebell to rib height in a rowing motion, keeping your elbow close to your side and your core engaged. Hold for a moment and then return to the starting position. Repeat for 5 to 10 reps and then switch sides.