How to Use: Kettlebells

Ditch the dumbbells and learn to use this strength training tool.


Kettlebells photo via Walker

Sure, you know how to use treadmills and hand weights. But what about all the other equipment in your gym? In this series, we’ll cut the intimidation factor and give you new tools for getting your best workout.


Are you sick of lifting dumbbells every day? Avoid workout boredom by learning how to use kettlebells.

Kettlebells differ from dumbbells and medicine balls because the center of mass is further away from the handle, requiring greater balance, coordination, and power. If you work out wisely, you can target multiple muscles using kettlebells, increasing calorie burn and creating a more efficient strength training session.

Here are five moves to get you started:

kettlebell swing

Kettlebell Swing

This classic move works your glutes, shoulders, quadriceps, and more. Start with your legs spread to about shoulder-width apart, holding the kettlebell in both hands.

Using your legs, lower down and drive the kettlebell back between your legs, without arching your back. Then swing it back in front of you using your hips, straightening your legs as you do. Don’t swing the kettlebell higher than eye level.

Remember, do not swing with your arms; use your legs to drive the movement.

One set is 10-12 swings. Do three to four sets.

one-arm kettlebell swing

One-Arm Kettlebell Swing

For more of a challenge, graduate to a one-arm kettlebell swing. Repeat the above directions, switching hands when you bring the kettlebell back between your legs.

Do three to four sets of 10-12 swings.


Kettlebell Deadlift

Start with the kettlebell between your legs. Keeping your core engaged and your glutes tight, bring the kettlebell down toward the ground. With a flat back and body weight in your heels, return to standing.

One set is 12-14 deadlifts. Do two or three sets.

upright row

Kettlebell Pull

Start with the kettlebell on the ground, between your feet. Lean over, keeping your legs slightly bent and your weight in your heels, as you would for a deadlift.

Lift the kettlebell back up, but instead of stopping at the waist, use your upper body strength to pull it up to shoulder height. Be sure to lead with your elbows.

The force should come from the hips and legs for the first part of this move. Then, once the kettlebell is at the waist, the rest of the force should come from the arms.

One set is 10-12 reps. Do three sets.

Russian twist

Kettlebell Russian Twist

You can do Russian twists with a kettlebell just as you would with a dumbbell or medicine ball. Sit with the kettlebell in front of you, and your feet lifted off the floor. (Beginners may also do this move with feet on the floor.)

Rotate your torso from side to side, moving the kettlebell with you. Be sure you’re using your abs to move the kettlebell, not your arms.

One set is 12-14 twists. Do two to three sets.

All videos filmed at Boston Sports Club.