The kettlebell way to get fit and build functional muscles

A kettlebell is a weight training equipment that is shaped like a cannonball with a handle attached to it.

ketlebellsMove aside barbells and dumbbells, the kettlebell revolution is here. If you don't know what a kettlebell is, it's high time you found out. A kettlebell is a weight training equipment that is shaped like a cannonball with a handle attached to it. Originally from Russia, it's now a popular tool which is used all over the world by people to become stronger, fitter, and leaner.

How it's different

The biggest difference is that in a kettlebell weight is off-centre. This makes your core and grip work a lot harder than it would in standard weights. In fact, it is often said that even a 20-minute kettlebell workout can provide better results than many other protocols that you have working out for 60 minutes or more. The device is also very nifty and can be stored anywhere.

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Basic Kettlebell Exercises

One-arm swing

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart
  • Take a grip on the handle close to the thumb side
  • Exhale and swing the bell back between the legs
  • Reverse the motion and swing it up and forward while inhaling on the way up
  • Rely more on your legs, glutes and back to do the work, rather than relying solely on the arms


  • Start like the one-arm swing, and swing the bell behind you
  • On the way up, open your palm and insert it into the handle
  • Finish with the bell resting close to your body and your palm inserted in a 45 degree angle into the handle. This position is referred to as the 'rack'
  • Drop the bell for the next rep by turning the palm up and letting the bell drop back into the swing

Overhead Press

  • Clean a kettlebell in the rack position
  • Press it up overhead in one motion till your elbows lock out
  • Drop it back into the rack position to do the next rep


  • Start like the one-arm swing
  • On the way up, open your palm and punch straight up and lockout the hand overhead in one motion
  • Make sure to insert the palm into the handle in a 45 degree angle
  • Reverse and drop the bell down by leaning back and turning the palm up to let the bell go back in a swinging motion


  • Clean a kettlebell in the rack position
  • Push the hips back and squat down
  • Make sure to keep the back straight and chest up
  • Reverse the motion by standing back up using your leg muscles


  • Place a kettlebell in front of you and bend over with a straight back
  • Hold the kettlebell handle and pull it up to your stomach
  • Make sure to arch your back and not let it round during the movement
  • Lower the bells back to the starting position in control and repeat

Things to keep in mind

When you begin training in some of the exercises like cleans and snatches, you might initially find that you end up banging your forearms with the bells crashing into it. This will be eliminated with practice. . Thus, it is necessary to avoid doing too many reps of such exercises in the beginning. Instead, do a few reps often to learn the proper form without harming yourself. And once you have mastered these moves, you can then include some more variety with exercises like lunges, alternating swings, floor presses, windmills, Turkish get-up, etc.

Like the other weights, you will see that if you continue lifting the same weight for the same number of reps, you'll not improve your strength or see muscle growth. It's important that you move onto heavier kettlebells and do more reps in order to increase your overall strength and lean muscle mass. (Read: Dumbbells are they better than machines?)

Workout routines

If you have been training with other forms like traditional weights, running or bodyweight exercises and you want to add kettlebells into your training routine, then you can gradually start with swings. Do about 2-3 sets of 10 reps at the end of your normal workouts. Once you are good with swings, then keep adding an exercise from the basic kettlebell exercise list to your regime.

However, if you're currently not following any training program and want to start fresh with kettlebells or want to switch over to an all kettlebell workout, then do the following program:

Kettlebell Workouts: Monday, Wednesday, Friday

  • One arm clean and press- 2 sets of 4-8 reps
  • 1 arm bent-over rows- 2 sets of 8-12 reps
  • 1 arm front squats- 2 sets of 10 reps
  • One arm swings- 2 sets of 10-15 reps

After two weeks, add another set to all the exercises.

Once you get fairly comfortable and good with this basic workout, then start doing more challenging kettlebell workouts like doing circuits, complexes, high repetition snatch or clean and press workouts, etc. The options are limitless, and they are all fun and rewarding but also brutal at the same time. (Read: Know your fitness equipment: Elliptical trainer)

Arnav is a strength coach and fitness trainer based in Kolkata. His style of training depends on simplicity and sensibility over fad and short term methods.

Having trained a variety of clients from competitive body builders to busy businessmen, teachers and homemakers, he has the experience of helping and designing programs for people with highly varied goals and different time constraints. He shares useful training and diet information through various publications - offline and online. He is also one of the very few Indian trainers who contribute regularly to top global websites like, amongst others. His writings have also been published in the print media for international health and fitness magazines like the Dubai based Physique Magazine. He has been a guest on an American web radio show as an expert to discuss his fitness and training methods. To know more about Arnav visit his website- or join his Facebook page-

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