Video: A Kettlebell Circuit for a Full-Body Workout
Here, trainer Christina Chu from New School Fitness leads us through a full-body workout utilizing two kettlebells and three different circuits.
As someone who trained with “traditional” dumbbells and barbells, the kettlebell was intimidating for me at first. I saw all these CrossFit athletes swinging them in very impressive ways, and I wasn’t really sure how to use them. But after proper guidance and experimentation, they became a staple in my exercise routine and client programming. Hopefully, after trying this kettlebell circuit, you’ll feel empowered to make kettlebells part of your weekly workouts as well.
Why I love the Kettlebell
The kettlebell (KB) is great for everyone, from the gym newbie to the experienced athlete. It’s a great tool for teaching basic movement patterns for beginner lifters, but also useful as they advance in their exercise program for power and speed in functional movements. The kettlebell has a different distribution of weight compared to a “standard weight” (a dumbbell or barbell), which helps you utilize stabilizer muscles that mimic everyday movement—how often do you lift something in real life that is perfectly shaped like a dumbbell? Generally, kettlebell exercises don’t require a lot of room, so they’re perfect in a crowded space (5 p.m. gym-goers, I’m looking at you). I integrate kettlebells into my personal exercise routine for these reasons, which is why I am so excited to share this kettlebell circuit with you.
- 1 heavy KB (H). I used a 14 kg (most KBs are in kgs), or around 30 pounds.
- 1 light KB (L). I used an 8 kg, or around 18 pounds.
3 sets of 8-10, circuit format
Perform each exercise 8-10 times before going to the next exercise, and repeat this three times.
Kettlebell Circuit 1:
- Squat & Push (H)
- Bring your KB close to your collarbone. Perform a squat with your feet shoulder-width apart, and on the way up, push the KB up towards the ceiling. Bring the KB down as you come down for a squat.
- Single-arm (SA) Row (H)
- In a low lunge, grab the KB with the hand opposite from the foot that is forward (i.e. if your left foot is forward, grab the KB with your right hand). Drive your elbow up towards the ceiling. Keep this motion under control, with your entire core and back straight. Hips and shoulders should remain square to the ground. Switch sides.
- KB Swings (H)
- Grab the KB with both hands, then bring the KB back as you push your hips back with a straight spine (think: mini-deadlift or hip-hinge not squat). Then, push your hips forward with power, bringing the KB through your legs and up out in front of you with straight or slightly bent arms. Focus on the hip hinge rather than trying to get the KB high.
Kettlebell Circuit 2:
- Eccentric Deadlift (H)
- With both hands on the KB, push your hips back while keeping your shoulders back (think: superman), and core tight (think: belly button towards the spine) and slowly lower for a five-count. The KB should be directly between your feet at this point, and closer to your heels than your toes. Squeeze your hips as you come up for a one-count. You shouldn’t be feeling any pain in your back (what I like to call “old man back”). If you do, grab a box to place between your feet (think: penguins with their eggs between their feet) and complete the deadlift to the top of the box.
- Kneeling Shoulder Press (L)
- Get down on one knee, placing a mat or cushion below if needed. Grab the KB with the hand opposite the knee that is forward (i.e. if your left knee is in front, grab the KB with your right hand). Bring the KB up to shoulder height with the weight of the bell against the back of your hand, not the palm. Start with your elbows in line with your shoulders (bring it forward if you have tight shoulders), and press the KB up towards the ceiling. Engage your core to prevent any rotation or opening of the hips/shoulders. Switch sides.
- Suitcase Carry (H)
- Grabbing the KB with one hand, slowly walk in a straight line with one foot in front of the other. Your core should be firing up to keep the weight from pulling you towards one side. Then switch sides.
Kettlebell Circuit 3:
- Offset Lunge (L)
- Grab the KB with the hand on the same side as the forward leg (i.e. if you are lunging with your left foot in front, grab the kettlebell with the left hand). Step the opposite foot back (in this example, right foot back), drop the back knee, and bring the foot back to the starting position. Your core should be activated to prevent any rotation/opening of the hips/shoulders. Then switch sides.
- Upright Row (L)
- With both hands, pull the KB up towards your chin with your elbows out. Try to keep your core tight, with minimal swinging of the hips as you bring the weight up.
- Plank Pull-Throughs (L)
- On the ground, get in a plank position with shoulders stacked above your wrists and wide feet. With the KB on the ground, below your hands and closer to your chest, pull it on the ground from left to right, and repeat. The core should remain tight to prevent any hip opening.
Don’t forget a warm up and a cool down after your workout. Get after it, Boston!