The kettlebell is beginning to get the credit it deserves, and for good reason. Its top-mounted handle makes it the ideal tool for ballistic, swinging movements, giving workout options that are tough to replicate with dumbbells or a bar.

Because moves like the swing, snatch and clean use virtually every muscle, they can be done for low reps to build full-body explosiveness, or ultra-high reps (50 in a set isn’t uncommon) for fat burn and cardio. 

But there’s more. Since the 1700s, farmers and strongmen have been using lifts like the windmill and bent-over press to show off their strength and coordination, and incorporating them into your routine will help you build physical powers  you barely knew you had.

Want to get strong, explosive and lean? Time to unleash bell. 

What are kettlebells best for?

Building explosiveness and core strength. Kettlebells come into their own for swings, cleans and snatches – where they’re more comfortable to use than dumbbells and less technical than barbells – making them excellent for building power.

Because you’ll often use them unilaterally, in ways that involve holding them at odd angles to your body, they’re also great for teaching your body to ‘resist’ force, building the anti-rotational strength that experts agree is key to long-term health. Finally, because they’re suited to very high reps, they’re great for burning fat.

Can I just get the cheapest ones?

Unfortunately, not all kettlebells are created equal. Look for one with a nice handle: wide enough to comfortably grip with both hands, and with a texture that won’t irritate your hands over dozens of reps.

Ideally, you’ll also want a bell that sits comfortably against your forearm during swings or snatches – big and round is the key, but try it out if you can. The best bells are competition-style – they’re all the same size, whether they weigh 6kg or 32kg, and they’re a joy to swing.

How heavy should I go?

As an all-round option, 16kg is probably the best bet. You might find it a bit light when you get used to swings and squats, but it’ll also let you do a load of pressing variations and high-rep snatches.

If you’re getting a second bell, consider a 20kg or 24kg – the latter is heavy enough for almost any move you’ll want to do.

Here’s our pick of the best kettlebell exercises…

23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK

Kettlebell Swing 

Primary target: Glutes | Secondary target: Hamstrings

Why: This full-body move engages all the muscles of your posterior chain, but also teaches the explosiveness you need to do everything from throwing a punch to jumping onto a box. Remember, it’s a swing and not a squat: you only need to bend your knees as much as you would before a jump.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and push the kettlebell off your body to start the swing.
  • As you lower, hinge at the hips by pushing your glutes back.
  • When you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, drive your hips forward, swinging the kettlebell up.
  • Don’t worry too much about how high the kettlebell gets – the snap at the hips and drive through the glutes is more important than air time.

23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK

Single-Arm Kettlebell Swing 

Primary target: Glutes | Secondary target: Hamstrings

Why: Swinging the kettlebell with one hand forces you to engage your core muscles to stay upright and in control, building strength through your obliques that will transfer to almost any sport. This is also a good way to ‘wake up’ your abs ahead of heavy moves like the deadlift or squat.

  • Swing the kettlebell between your legs with one hand, bending your knees slightly, then pop your hips forward to drive it up to around chest height, keeping your arms relaxed. 
  • Do all your reps on one side, then switch to the other.

23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK

Alternating Kettlebell Swing 

Primary target: Glutes | Secondary target: Hamstrings

Why: Building on the single-arm swing by switching hands mid-air will work your coordination and proprioception. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can even move into kettlebell ‘juggling’ (flipping the bell over before catching it) – but don’t run before you can walk.

  • Swing the kettlebell between your legs with one hand, bending your knees slightly, then pop your hips forward to drive it up to chest height, keeping your arms relaxed. 
  • Switch hands in mid-air – but don’t let go of the kettlebell unless you’re confident you’ll catch it.

23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK

Double Kettlebell Swing 

Primary target: Glutes | Secondary target: Hamstrings

Why: If you’re aiming to build strength or power, but don’t have a heavy enough bell, using two at once is a solid option. Swinging between your legs will give you better glute and posterior chain activation, but you can also take a narrow stance and swing outside your legs to build your hamstrings.

  • Taking a wider stance than normal, swing the kettlebells between your legs with both hands, then pop your hips forward to drive them up to chest height, keeping your arms relaxed. 
  • You’ll need to maintain a wide stance, so the weights don’t collide.

23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK

Kettlebell Clean 

Primary target: Hamstrings | Secondary target: Traps

Why: As well as being slightly less technical to learn than the barbell power clean, the kettlebell clean teaches what some coaches call ‘steering strength’: the ability to redirect a heavy object while it’s moving. This will build explosiveness through your posterior chain, while teaching you to deal with impact in a way the swing doesn’t via the rack-position ‘catch’.

  • Swing the kettlebell upward with a pop from your hips. 
  • Bend your knees slightly to help with the catch – the kettlebell doesn’t have to go above chest height.
  • As it moves upwards, bend your elbow and let the handle slide from your fingers down into the base of your palm.
  • When you rack the kettlebell, keep your elbow tucked into your body.
  • Swing the kettlebell back down and go straight into the next rep.

23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK

Kettlebell Snatch 

Primary target: Glutes and hamstrings

Why: Though it’s tricky to master, the snatch is worth it. It’s a full-body test of coordination that demands savage lung power when done for high reps, which is why it’s one of the two key moves in traditional kettlebell competitions. The gold standard is 100 reps in ten minutes – doing it with a 16kg kettlebell is respectable, a 20kg is pretty good and a 24kg is elite. There’s a target for you.

  • Swing the kettlebell between your legs with one hand, then pop your hips forward to drive it upwards. 
  • When it gets to chest-level, punch your hand forward and catch it on your forearm, bringing it overhead – done properly and with enough force, it should land softly and not hurt.
  • Flip it back down and swap hands for the next rep.

23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK

Kettlebell Overhead Press 

Primary target: Shoulders | Secondary target: Obliques

Why: As well as allowing your shoulder joint to rotate more naturally than a barbell press, the one-sided kettlebell version of the press brings your obliques into play, forcing them to work to stabilise your torso. Working
your shoulders unilaterally should also fix any imbalances. 

  • From the rack position, press the kettlebell overhead, keeping the bell resting against your forearm. 
  • Lower the bell under control, pausing at the bottom of the move with the bell resting behind your shoulder.
  • Finish all your reps on one side, then switch to the other.

23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK

Kettlebell Bottoms-Up Press 

Primary target: Shoulders | Secondary target: Forearms

Why: It’s more than a circus trick – this move will work all the stabiliser muscles around your shoulder girdle, keeping your rotator cuffs injury-free. It’ll also work your grip and forearms, and it may even help your chin ups. Use it as a warm-up on shoulders day. 

  • Grip the kettlebell handle hard with the base facing the ceiling. 
  • Brace your core to maintain stability.
  • Press the weight overhead, then lower with control.

23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK

Kettlebell Lunge Press 

Primary target: Quads and shoulders

Why: This move builds core strength by forcing your body to stabilise the kettlebell overhead, but also improves coordination and proprioception. 

  • Holding the kettlebell in the rack position, lunge forward on the opposite leg as you press it overhead. 
  • Pause at the bottom of the move with the kettlebell overhead, then return to the start position.

23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK

Kettlebell Halo 

Primary target: Obliques | Secondary target: Shoulders

Why: This move engages your shoulders and core, making it the ideal warm-up when done light – or a fat-burning finisher when used together with other kettlebell exercises. 

  • Holding the kettlebell by the handle, rotate it around and behind your head, bending your elbows as it passes behind you for the maximum possible range of motion. 
  • You’ll feel this one in your obliques if you do it right.

23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK

Kettlebell Windmill 

Primary target: Obliques | Secondary target: Hamstrings

Why: This move targets your obliques and works on your full-body coordination, but it’s also a great dynamic hamstring stretch – ideal for warming up on a big deadlift day. 

  • Hold a kettlebell by the horns.
  • Clean the kettlebell to your shoulder by extending through the legs and hips as you pull the kettlebell towards your shoulder.
  • Rotate your wrist as you do so, so that the palm faces forward.
  • Press the kettlebell over your head, locking out your arm.
  • Initiate the windmill by angling both feet 45 degrees away from the arm holding the kettlebell.
  • Push the hip under the kettlebell back, extend your leg as tall as it will go and keep a bent knee on your front leg.
  • Use your free arm as a guide, moving your hand down your straight leg as you lower as far as mobility will allow – do not compromise form.
  • Reverse the movement to return to standing.

23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK

Kettlebell Side Press 

Primary target: Shoulders | Secondary target: Obliques

Why: This time-honoured lift allows you to handle more weight than a traditional overhead press, as your press should be stronger out to the side than straight overhead. It’ll also work your core. 

  • Take a fairly wide stance, with your feet pointed in the direction you’ll be leaning. 
  • As you begin the press, bend to the side away from your pressing arm.
  • How much you bend will depend on how heavy the weight is.
  • Once your arm is locked out, straighten up into a standing position.

23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK

Kettlebell Bent-Over Press 

Primary target: Shoulders | Secondary target: Obliques

Why: This might look similar to the side press, but here the idea is not to press the weight but to support it as you get underneath it. It was once practised as a feat of strength, and celebrated strongman Arthur Saxon used to do it with 167kg. 

  • Start in a similar position to the side press, keeping your elbow on your hip. 
  • Bend away from the weight while you keep your upper arm in contact with your body.
  • Then start pressing, and keep lowering your torso until your arm has straightened all the way.

23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK

Kettlebell Around the World 

Primary target: Obliques | Secondary target: Forearms

Why: Done at speed, this move gets all your core muscles firing, making it a good warm-up (done light) or a good finisher (done heavy, in conjunction with other moves). It’ll also work your grip, if you keep at it for a while. 

  • Stand tall with the kettlebell in one hand, then swing it around your body, switching hands as it passes in front of and behind you. 

23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK

Double Kettlebell Squat 

Primary target: Quads and glutes

Why: Using a pair of kettlebells for a ‘rack’ squat enables you to be more self-correcting than the traditional barbell back squat. You won’t be tempted to lean forward, and holding the bells on your forearms will allow you to handle decent weight for moderate reps.   

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and clean both kettlebells into the rack position, the bells resting on your forearms. 
  • Squat down as low as you can, pausing at the bottom.
  • Drive back up through your heels.

23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK

Kettlebell Goblet Squat  

Primary target: Quads and glutes

Why: It’s the most idiot-proof version of the squat. If you focus on touching your elbows to your knees, it will build the mobility you need for full-depth squatting, as well as flexibility in your groin and ankles. Use it as a warm-up on your squat days.  

  • Hold your kettlebell handle-down with both hands around the bell, and squat down with your back straight and chest up. 
  • Descend until your elbows touch the insides of your knees, then put your weight on your heels as you stand back up.

23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK

Double Kettlebell Thruster 

Primary target: Quads, glutes and shoulders

Why: This full-body move demands coordination, strength, and – if you do it for reps – a fair amount of cardio. It’s similar to the barbell thruster but, because you’re doing it with two bells, better for working
on imbalances.  

  • Clean the kettlebells into the rack position. 
  • Do a squat, then drive upwards quickly, using the momentum to help you press the weights overhead.
  • Keep your torso braced during the squat, loosen up during the drive, then brace again as you lock out the kettlebells at the top of the move.

23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK

Double Kettlebell Romanian Deadlift 

Primary target: Hamstrings | Secondary target: Glutes

Why: As well as providing a much-needed (for most people) hamstring stretch, this two-kettlebell move adds an element of core-strengthening instability.

  • Holding a pair of kettlebells and keeping a slight bend in your knees, bend forward at the hips (keeping your back flat) until you feel the stretch in your hamstrings. 
  • Straighten up.

23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK

Kettlebell Rolling Thunder 

Primary target: Obliques | Secondary target: Chest and triceps

Why: This move uses full-body coordination while forcing your core to work under load, building real-world strength that’ll be useful in anything from Brazilian jiu jitsu to surfing. It will also give your shoulders some much-needed stability work. 

  • Lie with a kettlebell in each hand, keeping your knees bent. 
  • Roll to one side as you press one kettlebell into the air, bringing your shoulder off the ground.
  • As you lower the first kettlebell, roll over to press the other one.

23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK

Kettlebell Press-Up 

Primary target: Chest | Secondary target: Triceps

Why: By doing a press-up on kettlebells, you won’t just have to stay stable and controlled. You will also be able to descend further than you would on the floor, increasing the stretch across your pecs. 

  • Hold the handles of the kettlebells, keeping your body in a straight line. 
  • Descend into a press-up, stopping when your thumbs touch your armpits.
  • Grip the handles hard as you press back up.

23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK

Kettlebell Renegade Row 

Primary target: Core | Secondary target: Lats

Why: This move combines stability with pulling, so it will build your core as well as your back. It’s tempting to twist to one side as the reps get tougher, but the more you can stay parallel, the harder you’ll work your abs.

  • Do a press-up on the kettlebells, then – in the top position – lift one dumbbell, lower it, then lift the other. 
  • Raise them to your armpits, trying to keep your body parallel to the floor.

23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK

Kettlebell Plank Pass 

Primary target: Abs | Secondary target: Obliques

Why: Once you can do the plank for at least two minutes, this variation adds instability and a twisting motion, hitting your core from every angle. You can also effectively do it with a sandbag or a dumbbell.  

  • Get into a straight-arm plank position with the kettlebell underneath you. 
  • Grasp it with one hand, bring it across your body and put it down, then change hands and replace it on the other side.
  • Keep your torso as parallel to the ground as possible.

23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK 23 Best Kettlebell Exercises | Men's Fitness UK

Kettlebell Turkish Get-Up 

Primary target: Full body

Why: This move builds strength and balance through your whole body, as well as teaching you to create tension and stability in a variety of positions. With lighter weights you might get away with bad form, but as you go heavier you’ll need to keep the weight directly overhead, allowing you to lift it efficiently. Start with a shoe balanced on top of your fist to teach yourself the form, then progress to a kettlebell. 

  • Lie on your back with a kettlebell in one hand. Roll slightly away from it as you press it upwards, coming up to support yourself on your opposite forearm. 
  • From here, plant the foot on the same side as the kettlebell on the floor, and use it to take your weight as you sweep your other leg underneath you into a half-kneeling position.
  • Stand up with the kettlebell overhead.
  • Reverse the whole movement to go back to the floor.

Photography: Glen Burrows