The Ultimate Kettlebell Workout for Beginners: A 4-Week Plan
by Lisa Leslie and Colin McGarty
So, you’re walking down the sports equipment aisle of your local Walmart or Target (or your favorite sports retail store), and you stumble upon these funny-looking weights with a handle on top.
You may be wondering, “What are these strange weights?” and, “How are they different from traditional dumbbells?”
They’re called kettlebells, and while you can use them for many of the same exercises as dumbbells, the way they impact our bodies is slightly different.
Whether this is your very first encounter with a kettlebell, or you’re curious about the benefits they offer (and what the heck you’re supposed to do with them?), you’re in the right place! At Seacoast Kettlebell, we love everything about kettlebells — especially introducing these unique weights (and their incredible benefits!) to newbies like you.
Ready to give kettlebell training a try? Here’s everything you need to know to get started.
Kettlebells vs. Dumbbells – What’s the Difference?
The first thing you may notice about kettlebells is their unique shape and design compared to traditional dumbbells, which feature round rubber weights in the shape of a hexagon on each side of a cylindrical bar. Kettlebells are designed this way for a reason. While dumbbells distribute the weight evenly on each side of a bar, a kettlebell’s weight sits primarily in the centralized, round-shaped part, with a handle on top.
Kettlebell exercises are typically compound movements that train multiple muscle groups simultaneously, vs. dumbbell exercises, which are typically used to target a specific muscle group. Therefore, when talking about kettlebell exercises, we categorize them according to the movement patterns they involve rather than by individual muscle groups. The five basic movement patterns are hinging, squatting, pushing, pulling, and core.
Why Use Kettlebells?
There are many great reasons to exercise with kettlebells over traditional dumbbells; here are a few of the top benefits:
- The weight distribution is offset approximately six to eight inches from the handle, forcing you to work harder to control the weight throughout the movement. As a result, you’ll burn a TON of extra calories and gain core strength.
- Many kettlebell exercises are compound exercises, which involve movement in two or more joints and engage multiple muscle groups at once. This forces you to work multiple areas of your body with each move.
- There are a variety of moves to choose from, depending on your skill level and goals, so you can change up your workouts regularly to avoid boredom and engage different muscles regularly.
- Many moves are skill-based, which require practice and repetition, inspiring you to keep doing the moves until you get them just right.
- It’s fun to mix and match moves to create a full-body workout you can do (almost) anywhere.
Your 4-Week Beginner Kettlebell Workout
If you’re looking to create a solid kettlebell workout that won’t feel impossible but will push your limits, we’ve put together some of the simpler kettlebell moves to create the ultimate kettlebell workout for beginners.
Some exercises may be more complex and therefore may require more practice than others. We recommend starting with a lighter weight while you’re learning a new movement. When a move is more complex or challenging, you may want to try doing it without any weight until you achieve proper form to avoid injuring yourself.
Ready to dive in? Let’s learn the moves.
Step 1: Learn the Moves
Our kettlebell beginner workout is split into two full-body workouts, alternating between “Workout A” and “Workout B” for a total of three workouts each week for four weeks.
- Dead Cleans (each side)
- Goblet Squats (total)
- Push Press (each side)
- One Arm Rows (each side)
- Kettlebell Plank Drag (each side)
- Russian Swings (total)
- Goblet Split Squats (each side)
- Pushups (total)
- Crush Curls (total)
- Pullover Sit-Ups (total)
How to Do Each Move
Here’s how to do each move listed in “Workout A” and “Workout B” above. Read and watch below, and then give it a shot. These are some of the most basic moves, so we’re confident you’ll get the hang of them in no time.
- Stand over a kettlebell with your feet shoulder-width apart, with the kettlebell between your heels.
- Grab the handle with one hand and clean it to the rack position.
- Place the kettlebell back between your heels and repeat with the other hand.
- Clean a kettlebell and hold it close to your sternum with both hands. You can hold it upside down or by the horns of the kettlebell, depending on which grip feels more comfortable.
- Pull yourself into a deep squat while maintaining an upright torso. Your elbows may touch the inside of your thighs.
- Drive through your heels, and exhale as you stand up.
- Clean a kettlebell and hold it in the rack position.
- Crush the handle, brace your core and legs and then press the kettlebell overhead.
- Lockout with your bicep close to your ear.
- Actively pull the kettlebell back down to the rack position.
- Switch arms and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
One Arm Rows
- Split your stance and drop one elbow to your knee.
- Level off your shoulders and pull them down and away from your ears.
- Grab the kettlebell by the handle and pull it up and back to your rib cage.
- Pause for a moment and reverse the movement.
- Switch sides and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Kettlebell Plank Drag
- Get into a pushup position with a kettlebell next to the outside of your right hand.
- Brace your abs, glutes, and quads hard.
- Grab the kettlebell with your left hand and drag it underneath your body to the outside of your other hand. Try not to move your hips, shoulders, and back as you drag the kettlebell.
- Repeat with your other hand.
- Stand with the kettlebell 12 – 18 inches in front of you and your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Grab the kettlebell handle with both hands; tilt it, flex your lats and flatten your back.
- Explosively hike the kettlebell back between your legs and then stand up tall.
- Pull the kettlebell back between your legs, repeating for the desired number of repetitions.
- Keep your arms straight or slightly bent as you perform the exercise.
Goblet Split Squats
- Start in a half-kneeling position, with your shin vertical and back knee under your hips.
- Hold the kettlebell close to your sternum with both hands. You can hold it upside down or by the horns of the kettlebell.
- Drive through your heel and stand up, then lower until your back knee lightly touches the ground.
- Switch sides and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
Pushups (No bells required; just use your body weight for this one!)
- Get down on all fours, with your hands slightly more than shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your arms and legs straight, and keep your back straight.
- Lower your chest so it almost touches the floor.
- Pause and push yourself back up.
- Grab a kettlebell by the body and squeeze it hard.
- Slowly curl the kettlebell up, bending at the elbows and squeezing your biceps.
- Reverse and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
- Lay face-up on the floor, keeping your knees bent.
- Place a kettlebell behind your head, within easy grabbing distance.
- Grab the kettlebell by the horns and lift it over your head, loading the weight onto your chest.
- Keep the kettlebell against your chest and use your abs to raise your torso off the ground.
- Slowly lower your torso and lift the kettlebell back behind your head.
Step 2: Get Warm
It’s so important to warm up properly before doing any type of exercise–especially one that uses multiple muscle groups. When you warm up your body, it helps to lubricate your joints, which makes moving your muscles easier and ultimately helps prevent injury.
Unfortunately, many people opt to skip the warmup for one reason or another, but we strongly advise against it!
Before you start swinging kettlebells around, you’ll want to get your body warm and flexible so it’s easier to do the moves – and so you don’t pull a muscle in your first set of reps! Here’s our recommended warm-up routine for the beginner kettlebell workout.
Basic Kettlebell Warm-up Routine
Start with Low-impact Cardio
We suggest starting your warmup with five or ten minutes of easy, steady-state cardio, such as walking, running, or biking. This will bring your body temperature up a bit, so it’s ready for some dynamic stretching.
You’ll use a lot of different muscles and joints during kettlebell workouts, so it’s best to ensure your body is ready to move accordingly. Complete the following stretching exercises before you jump into the workout:
Stand with your feet slightly less than shoulder-width apart. Take both arms and swing them in a big, circular motion. Do ten forward circles and ten back circles.
Stand with your feet less than shoulder-width apart and swing your arms up to the sky. Hinge at the hips and swing your arms down toward the ground. Repeat ten times.
Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and twist your torso left and right, swinging your arms loosely from side to side. Repeat ten times on each side.
Place your hands on your hips and rotate your hips in a wide, circular motion. Make ten circles in each direction.
Stand with your feet a little wider than your hips. Squat down, keeping your knees wide and your chest up. Push your hands together to stretch your forearms and wrist simultaneously. Repeat slowly ten times.
Inchworm to a Push Up
Stand up tall. Then lower your body and place your hands on the ground, with your legs straight. Walk your hands out into a plank position and perform a pushup. Keep your core tight and be careful not to let your hips sag. Drop to your knees for the pushup if needed. Push yourself back up into a plank position and walk your feet back to your hands. Repeat ten times.
Get down in plank position. Step your right foot forward and place it on the outside of your right hand. Keeping your foot planted, push your front knee outward to stretch out your hip. Sink your hips a little lower and twist your body to the left, reaching your left arm up to the sky while keeping your feet on the ground. Alternate legs for a total of ten on each side.
Low Back Twist
Lie on your back and pull your knees into your chest. Stretch your arms out wide on each side, and roll your knees to one side, keeping your shoulder blades touching the floor. Do ten twists per side.
Step 3: Get Moving
Now that your muscles are warm — and hopefully you’re sweating a little? — it’s time to start your workout. Remember to start with a light to moderate weight for each exercise, which will allow you to perform multiple repetitions of each exercise in the workout.
- Perform three workouts each week.
- Alternate between “Workout A” and “Workout B”.
- Include at least one day of rest between each workout.
- Perform the suggested number of repetitions (reps) for each exercise, on each side (where applicable) weekly, as follows:
- Week 1: 8 reps
- Week 2: ten reps
- Week 3: 12 reps
- Week 4: 15 reps
- Rest for between 30 seconds and two minutes between each move.
Week 1 Example:
Monday: Workout A (8 reps)
Tuesday: REST DAY
Wednesday: Workout B (8 reps)
Thursday: REST DAY
Friday: Workout A (8 reps)
Saturday: REST DAY
Step 4: Stretch it Out
Now that the warmup and workout are complete, it may be tempting to call it a day. But there’s one more step you shouldn’t skip — the final stretch and cool down. Take a few minutes to stretch out the areas of your body you used in the workout, so they aren’t stiff the next time you go to use them.
Simple Stretch and Cooldown Routine
Here are some simple stretches you can do to end your workout:
Low Back Twist
This move is excellent for stretching out your lower back and slowing your heart rate down in the process. It’s a versatile move that you can do in both the warmup and cooldown.
- Lie on your back and pull your knees into your chest.
- Stretch your arms out wide on each side, and roll your knees to one side, keeping your shoulder blades touching the floor.
- Rotate back and forth for 30 seconds to one minute.
This move is great for removing tension in your hips, glutes, and thighs.
- Lie on your back with your left knee bent, and your right leg extended.
- Grab your right knee and pull it into your chest, and hold it for 30 seconds.
- Repeat with your other leg.
Seated Spinal Twist
This move helps to open your hips and stretch your glutes and back. It’s also great for your abdominals, shoulders, and neck.
- Sit with both legs extended frontward.
- Take your left knee and place it over your right thigh.
- Grab the outside of your left thigh with your right arm and twist to the left, sitting up straight.
- Hold for 30 seconds to one minute.
- Release your left leg and repeat with your right leg.
This move looks a little funny but is great for stretching your shoulders, neck, and chest and releasing tension in your spine.
- Get down onto all fours in what is referred to as “tabletop position”, with your hands and knees planted on the ground and your back flat.
- Inhale, pushing your belly downward and lifting your chin and chest, looking upward. Let your shoulders fall away from your ears.
- Exhale, tucking your chin into your chest and arching your spine toward the sky.
- Repeat for 30-60 seconds.
This is a popular yoga pose, but it feels amazing and is great for stretching your glutes, things, and spine.
- Get into tabletop position (described above) and push your heels together, pushing your knees out wide.
- Fold forward, stretching your arms out in front of you and resting your head between your knees. Hold for ten seconds.
- Walk your hands to the right and hold for ten seconds.
- Walk your hands to the left and hold for ten seconds.
- Walk your hands back to the middle and hold for 30 seconds to one minute.
Time to Get Started
Now that you know how to do each move, all that’s left for you to do now is grab a (light) kettlebell and give kettlebell training a try. Remember to focus on form first. There’s no need to rush through the moves, especially when you are first learning them. That’s how injuries happen.
By the end of the four weeks, you’ll be ready for an intermediate kettlebell workout. But let’s get these moves down first, deal?
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