The Ultimate Kettlebell Workout Routine
By Brad Murrow
, last updated February 12, 2012
The ultimate kettlebell workout routine is one that builds muscles, burns calories, and works all of your muscles. Specific workouts that emphasize bodybuilding or cardio may build more muscle or burn more calories, but limit the benefits of one or the other. To engage all of your muscles, use a variety of upper-body, lower-body, and core exercises, and use a weight that lets you raise your heart rate while challenging your muscles.
Create a workout that lets you raise your heart rate to an aerobic level, which is 70 percent to 80 percent of you maximum heart rate. This is similar to the pace you set during a jog and should cause you to sweat and breath hard. Talk during your workout. If you can’t talk at any point, you have raised your heart rate too high.
Start with a warm-up of several minutes to get blood flowing to all of your muscles. Raise your heart rate gradually and stretch your muscles with dynamic movements, such as jogging in place and jumping jacks. Perform your exercises, then cool down, walking around the room and moving your arms and legs at a moderate pace while you lower your heart rate to normal. Finish with a stretch of all your muscles.
To build your upper body, use biceps curls, snatches, triceps extensions, rows and kickbacks, arm raises, chest presses, and flyes. To work your lower body, perform deadlfits, squats, lunges, and heel raises. To work your core, use swings and Russian twists. Because a kettlebell has a handle, the weight is unstable. This requires you to use your core muscles to balance you during many exercises, so adding swings and twists may be all you need to finish working your core.
How Much Weight?
The more weight you use, the more muscle you build. However, using very heavy weights leads to muscle fatigue and won’t let you continue a cardio workout. Choose a weight for each exercise that lets you continue for 10 to 12 repetitions at a time or for at least 60 seconds. This will allow you to create a circuit-training routine that keeps your heart rate high.
If you only want to buy one kettlebell, choose a lighter weight that lets you perform more exercises, and raise the number of reps you do for certain exercises. For example, if you can do biceps curls using a 20-pound kettlebell, but can only lift 15 pounds during a triceps extension circuit, choose the 15-pound kettlebell and do more biceps curls than triceps extensions.
To get the right balance of muscle building and calorie burning, exercise at roughly 50 percent of your maximum intensity, creating 30- or 60-second circuits, followed by 15 to 30 seconds of rest. You can also create a circuit using a set number of repetitions, which you determine during your first workout. Each week, add more reps to your circuits as you build strength. You can also keep your number of reps constant from week to week, adding more weight as you build strength.
Alternate Body Areas
To decrease muscle fatigue, perform a set of upper-body exercises, followed by a set of lower-body exercises, followed by a set of core exercises. You can add non-weighted calisthenics to your circuit-training workout to let your muscles rest longer while you keep your heart rate high before going back to the kettlebell.
Swinging a kettlebell works your entire body while burning calories. Start with the kettlebell on the floor, slightly in front of you and between your legs. Bend your knees to lower yourself, keeping your torso straight, and grab the handle of the kettlebell with both hands with your palms facing downward. Using your legs and hips to drive you upward, swing the kettlebell forward and upward to your chest, shoulder, or head height. Let the kettlebell fall back down between your legs, keeping your torso straight. Don’t let the kettlebell touch the floor so you can continue swinging it up and down. Make sure you maintain a straight torso, using your legs, hips, trunk, arms and shoulders to raise and lower the weight, rather than your back muscles.