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You don't need the gym to sculpt full-body muscle — just 5 moves and a kettlebell

 Man outdoors doing a push-up with two kettlebells .
Man outdoors doing a push-up with two kettlebells .

Grab a kettlebell and try these five exercises for a muscle-torching full-body workout with barely any equipment.

Kettlebell training packs many benefits for your body, including better stability, mobility, coordination and balance, plus strengthening and building muscles. The best kettlebells for weightlifting also provide versatility, helping you to hit your exercise mat for upper or lower-body workouts, ab exercises, or full-body conditioning. However you enjoy doing your workouts, kettlebells have you covered across all bases.

Below, we cover the five kettlebell exercises in more detail, plus some trainer tips on maximizing your time with the bell and squeezing the most out of each move. Let’s get started.

Watch Michael Vazquez’s 5-move kettlebell workout

In the words of fitness YouTuber Michael Vazquez, “It’s time to get to work.” Vazquez recommends kettlebells if you want to combine strength and cardio and you’re looking for compact, affordable and portable workouts. Check out the video below to see each exercise in more detail, then take a look at some of our tips.

Halo to squat: 12 reps x 4 sets

Combining kettlebell halos and squats targets most of your major muscle groups, including your upper back, chest, arms, shoulders, core muscles, glutes, hips and legs. Keep your torso braced and spine neutral throughout, focusing on controlling the halo in both directions before hitting the squat. Forget half or quarter reps — sit your bum down until your thighs reach parallel to the floor, find depth at the bottom of the squat position, and drive powerfully through your heels to stand.

Complete 12 reps and 4 sets.

Squat hold reverse lunges: 30 seconds x 3 sets

From a squat position, stay low to the ground, then move into reverse lunges. Hold the kettlebell by the horns in front of your chest, elbows bent, and ensure your back knee reaches the floor during the lunge without leaning too far forward with your torso. A slight lean can help engage the glutes if you struggle to recruit them during leg exercises, but avoid compensating with your lower back by hunching.

Complete 30 seconds for maximum reps and 3 sets. 

Kettlebell swings: 20 reps x 3 sets

The kettlebell swing recruits muscles from head to toe, including your shoulders, arms, lower back, glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors and core muscles. It’s a hip-hinge movement, so avoid squatting and keep a soft bend in your knees while you swing. Your back should remain flat as you powerfully drive the weight to shoulder height, squeezing your glutes as you extend your hips.

Complete 20 reps and 3 sets.

Squat press: 12 reps x 4 sets

You could opt for 12 reps per arm for 4 sets or split your reps 6 and 6. Rack your kettlebell to the shoulder, sit deep into a squat, then drive up to stand. Perform the press, locking the elbow out at the top and keeping your arm close to your head, punching the bell overhead in line with your wrist and shoulder. Keep the weight distributed through your midfoot and heel.

Loading one side of your body increases the demand on your core, challenging stability, balance and coordination. If you have a weaker side, you’ll soon find out. Choose a weight you can lift with good form on both sides.

Complete 12 reps and 4 sets.

Kettlebell push-ups: 45 seconds x 3 sets

Narrowing your grip will emphasize your triceps, similar to a diamond push-up. Lower your chest to the kettlebell and keep your hips aligned with your shoulders without dropping them or pushing your bum into the air.

We recommend learning how to do a push-up before trying this variation, and you could also practice walking push-ups for an extra challenge, walking one hand onto the kettlebell at a time. Drive your elbows back without flaring them outward, and drive through your chest as you push the kettlebell away.

Complete 45 seconds and 3 sets.

Trainer notes

Keep your rest periods brief to maximize time under tension (how long your muscles stay under contraction). You can perform the moves as a circuit and adjust the sets to keep the intensity high or play it “typical” of a resistance session by completing the reps and sets for one exercise before moving to the next, resting between sets and ticking exercises off one by one.

Choose a medium to heavy kettlebell. If you have an adjustable kettlebell, you can scale up and down accordingly, but if you’re working with one weight, you’ll need a weight that allows you to transition between the upper and lower body without losing your form to hit the given reps.

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