The kettlebell: one of my personal favorite workout tools, and one that I feel is underutilized by many. Some only see kettlebells as a tool for functional training, but in reality they are marvelous for bodybuilding and aesthetic training as well. Kettlebells provide for a larger range of motion than barbells or even dumbbells, helping to maximize the pump and working on different types of muscles or focusing on one in particular.
We are starting off our kettlebell workout series by focusing on exercises you can do that strengthen and sculpt back muscles as well as shoulder muscles. Besides looking great, strong back muscles can help to improve your posture and align your spine.
Bad posture has become quite the epidemic lately due to the large amount of desk jobs and smartphone use that is rampant in our society. There are numerous benefits to correct posture, including deeper breathing, reduced strain on bones and joints, and more energy. Good posture also makes you appear stronger, longer and more confident.
So, now it’s time to bust out your favorite kettlebell and let’s get to work on buffing those back and shoulder muscles!
Kettlebell High Pull
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, hold your kettlebell by the handle with an overhand grip.
- Squat and sit back with your hips, load the heels and keep your shins vertical.
- Pull the bell up vertically, keeping it close to your body.
Kettlebell Normal Row (Killer Back Workout)
This exercise can be slightly difficult for beginners, as there are a lot of factors that you need to consider when performing it. Watch the video below by kettlebell expert Greg Brookes in addition to reading the instructions for best effect!
- Stand feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Push your hips backwards and load the heels. Keep core tight throughout the exercise.
- Grip the kettlebell with one hand.
- Pull the bell back towards the hip.
- Stand with feet hip-width apart, and hold your kettlebell using both hands in front of your chest, arms straight outwards.
- Sit into the stance, pushing your butt outwards and moving your chest forwards.
- Raise the weight overhead until your biceps touch your ears.
- Place the kettlebell in the rack position, tight against the body, with the wrist straight and the arm against the body.
- Push the weight upwards while rotating your hand.
- Slowly lower the weight back to the rack position.
Video works better than I could ever explain. Let the fellas over at Mind Pump show you how it’s done.
One Arm Kettlebell Swing
A one arm variation on the kettlebell swing. This exercise will put extra demand on the shoulders, and when performing this exercise your body will attempt to go into a rotation. Correcting this will place more emphasis on your shoulder muscles and also your core will have to work overtime to counteract this rotation.
The fundamentals of the one arm swing are exactly the same as the two arm swing, and many people actually find it easier as there is more room between the legs to complete the swing.
Make sure you have the two arm swing down pat before attempting this variation!
- Grab a kettlebell by the horns at chest level. Keep ribs and shoulders down, while clenching the glutes and tightening your core.
- Bring the bell behind your head, then back in front of your body.
- Switch the direction of rotation to work opposing muscles.
Classic Kettlebell Swing
This is a classic manuever, and one that I see being performed improperly all the time at the gym.
A properly performed kettlebell swing will work your entire body, promoting stronger shoulders and back as well as a strong core and more flexible hips. These flexibility and core strength benefits can also lead to helping you perform splits even if you are inflexible!
It is often advisable to perform this exercise at the end of your workout, to give you that final “push” and solidify a strong workout.
- Start with the weight on the floor slightly in front of you, between your feet. Keep feet shoulder-width apart during the exercise.
- Bend slightly at the knees but concentrate your movement on hinging your hips, then grasp the kettlebell.
- Pull the bell between your legs, creating momentum. Drive your hips forward while straightening your back.
- Get the bell up to about shoulder height, then let the weight move back between your hips and repeat the move.
The clean is a swing that just ends up with the bell in a different location. You should focus on keeping the same elements to a good kettlebell swing when doing the clean exercise.
Performing a good clean can be somewhat complicated, as there are a lot of moving parts to the exercise. This is one of my favorite videos explaining the clean, in a much better way than I could. Take it away!
Kettlebell Bob and Weave
- Stand upright with feet shoulder width apart.
- Hold kettlebell with both hands, close to the chest. Keep elbows bent.
- Step out with one leg landing wider than shoulder width apart, squatting at the same time.
- Step the other foot close, swinging the torso to the side.
A variation on the classic snatch exercise. Adding a kettlebell means more muscles have to work to stabilize the weight, making it an even more effective exercise.
Elevated Bent Over Row
- Start in plank position, while keeping your right hand on a sturdy object that won’t easily move, like a bench or chair.
- Pull the weight up to your chest, while bending your elbow behind you. Slowly lower the weight to the starting position.
Interested in the best kettlebell and battle rope workouts on the web, with hundreds of video lessons taught by certified instructors? Head over to the Living.Fit workouts page, where you will find some of the best kettlebell and battle rope exercises, all with complete breakdown videos and community support every step of the way.
Hey! My name is Stephen and I’m the owner of Ultimate Core Health. Since we started, we’ve grown into a trusted resource for unbiased, science-based articles and reviews on fitness, nutrition and supplements. Check me out on social media, feel free to add me if you want to talk health!