5 essential kettlebell exercises for beginners to gain muscle mass

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KETTLEBELLS CAN BE PRECIOUS fitness tools to build strength and muscle, but not everyone understands exactly how best to do it from the first moment they take one by the handle. Uniquely shaped pieces of equipment aren’t yet as common as dumbbells and barbells in many gyms, and some specific kettlebell moves require a little more knowledge and mastery before you can add them to your training plan.

If you’re just now dipping your toes into kettlebell training, you’ll be better served learning the basics than attempting high-level moves right away. You can rely on coach Jah Washington for a helpful introduction to the best kettlebell exercises for beginners, all of which are included in his new Kettlehell Vol. 2 workout program, now available at All Out Studio via Men’s health MVP award.

These are all exercises that will serve as the building blocks for your kettlebell workouts, including movements that target your legs, arms and even your core. Try these exercises, following Washington’s guidance, before moving on to more advanced maneuvers.

The 5 best kettlebell exercises for beginners

Kettlebell deadlift

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The deadlift is a fundamental exercise for all training styles and equipment, in part because of the movement that strengthens: the hip joint. “A lot of kettlebell training involves having a powerful hip hinge,” says Washington.

How to do it:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your weight between your legs. Your knees should be slightly bent to start; squeeze your shoulder blades, core and glutes to create tension.
  • Push your butt back, then hinge at the waist to reach down and grip the handle with both hands.
  • Stand straight, squeezing your buttocks up.

Clean dead kettlebell

Kettlebell training can include power-building exercises, such as cleans and snatches, and here you’ll get a good introduction to two-handed on the bell before moving on to more challenging variations. “This will teach us about power and load transfer off the floor,” Washington says.

How to do it:

  • Start in the same position as the kettlebell deadlift, taking the same steps to grip the handle with both hands.
  • From that position, stand up explosively, using that force to bring the weight close to your body and up to shoulder height.
  • As you lift the weight, shift your grip on the handles so you are holding the bell by the horns (the parts of the bell that attach the handle to the weight) at the top.

Squat goblet

What’s a workout program without a squat? This variation is more accessible for beginners, as the anterior (front) position of the load helps reinforce good posture and spinal stability. “We sit and get up every day, we want to make sure we’re functional,” says Washington.

How to do it:

  • Begin holding the kettlebell by the horns in front of your chest with both hands. Squeeze the shoulder blades to create mid-back tension and engage the core to support the load.
  • Push your butt back, then bend your knees to squat as low as possible while maintaining proper upright posture. Push your knees out and keep your core engaged; do not rest your elbows on your knees.
  • Push into the floor with both feet to push yourself back up, squeezing your glutes up.

Print from above

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This two-handed press introduces an important component of kettlebell training: the overhead press.

How to do it:

  • Begin holding the bell with both hands by the horns, with the weight at chest height. Squeeze your shoulder blades, core and glutes to create tension throughout your body.
  • Raise your arms straight above your head, lifting the weight straight up. Keep your core engaged to keep your ribs from widening and your back from arching.
  • Lower the weight to the start.

Marching with kettlebells

This exercise will introduce a new way to challenge your core muscles if you’re only used to abs, as you’re forced to support your weight as you move your legs.

How to do it:

  • Start holding the kettlebell by the horns in front of your chest, like you did for the goblet squat. Squeeze your shoulder blades and abs to create tension, this core strengthener is the key to this exercise.
  • Start marching in place, struggling to keep the weight in place while maintaining tension.

You can find more kettlebell workouts from Washington through his new workout program, Kettlehell Vol. 2, available only at All Out Studio for Men’s health MVP Premium Members.

Headshot of Brett Williams, NASM

Brett Williams, fitness editor at Men’s Health, is a NASM-CPT certified trainer and former professional football player and technical journalist who divides his training time between strength and conditioning training, martial arts and running. You can find his work elsewhere on Mashable, Thrillist, and other outlets.


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