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Chances are, if you’ve used kettlebells before, you know how to swing ’em, which, uh, gets a little boring after a while. So, how can you switch things up to get more out of your favorite horned strength training tool? Just flip it on its head.

“Swinging kettlebells works the posterior chain, including the back, shoulders, legs, and glutes,” explains certified personal trainer Kenny Santucci. “But holding the kettlebell with the bottom facing up brings balance and stability into the exercises.”

infographic showing kettlebell warmupsShare on Pinterest
Illustration by Yaja’ Mulcare

Perform each of the moves below for 10–12 reps or a 30-second hold.

If you’re experienced, try 15 reps. To make any of these single-arm moves harder, you can add a second kettlebell for a double-arm progression.

FYI: These moves challenge your balance and stability, so you want to go lighter than you normally would with a kettlebell for swings.

“Women should start with a 6-kilogram bell and men with an 8-kilogram bell,” Santucci suggests. And then work your way up from there. “If you’re not able to hold the kettlebell bottoms-up, hold the handle on the side so the bell is sideways for these moves.”

For these exercises, the steps describe a single rep on one side of your body. Repeat each one on the other side for a balanced workout.

1. Bottoms-up single-arm kettlebell shoulder press

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding the kettlebell in your left hand.
  2. Keeping left elbow close to the side of your body, bend elbow to raise your fist to your shoulder. (This is your starting position.)
  3. Extend right arm for balance.
  4. Keeping abs engaged and torso still, extend left arm to press the kettlebell up toward the ceiling.
  5. Slowly lower and return to the starting position.

2. Kettlebell swing to hold

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding the kettlebell in your left hand and keeping right arm extended for balance.
  2. Hinge at your hips and slightly bend knees as you swing the kettlebell between your legs.
  3. Drive your hips forward to swing the kettlebell.
  4. Stand back up, using the momentum to bring left fist to left shoulder while balancing and stabilizing the bottoms-up bell.

3. Double alternating kettlebell press

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a kettlebell in each hand, bottoms-up. Position your fists at shoulder height and elbows close to the sides of your body.
  2. Keeping right arm still, extend left arm, pushing the kettlebell up toward the ceiling.
  3. As you slowly lower back down, extend right arm, pushing the kettlebell up toward the ceiling.
  4. Continue alternating sides.

4. Reverse kettlebell lunge

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, balancing a bottoms-up kettlebell in each hand at shoulder height.
  2. Keeping your arms still, step right leg back and bend knees to 90 degrees, with right hip stacked directly over right knee and left knee stacked directly over left ankle.
  3. Push through your left heel to stand back up.
  4. Repeat on other side to complete 1 rep.

5. Kettlebell double floor press

  1. Start seated and grab a kettlebell with each hand. Rack them at shoulder height.
  2. Lean back to lie faceup with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms bent to 90 degrees, while balancing the kettlebells.
  3. Extend your arms to press the kettlebells toward the ceiling.
  4. Lower back down until your elbows are bent at 90 degrees.
  5. Repeat.

Wanna make it harder? Press through your heels to lift your hips into a bridge position, with your back and glutes raised off the floor. Stay in this bridge position for the entire set.

6. Side plank kettlebell hold

  1. Start in a side forearm plank on your left side, with elbow under shoulder, core engaged, and the kettlebell in your right hand.
  2. Bend right elbow to balance the kettlebell bottom-up with your palm facing forward, wrist directly over elbow, and elbow close to the side of your body.
  3. Extend right arm, pressing the kettlebell toward the ceiling, and hold for 30 seconds.

7. Overhead kettlebell hold

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding the kettlebell in your left hand.
  2. Keeping left elbow close to the side of your body, bend elbow to lift the kettlebell to shoulder height with the bottom facing up.
  3. Extend right arm forward for balance.
  4. Keeping your torso still, extend left arm to press the kettlebell up toward the ceiling.
  5. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

8. Side plank with kettlebell corkscrew press

  1. Start in a side forearm plank on your left side, with elbow under shoulder, core engaged, and the kettlebell in your right hand.
  2. Bend right elbow to balance the kettlebell bottom-up with your palm facing forward, wrist directly over elbow, and elbow close to the side of your body. This is your starting position.
  3. Extend right arm, pressing the kettlebell up toward the ceiling while rotating your palm to the left (to face your feet).
  4. Reverse the twist and lower the kettlebell back down to the starting position.
  5. Complete all reps on one side, then repeat on the other side.

9. Squat with single-arm kettlebell hold

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding the kettlebell in your left hand.
  2. Keeping left elbow close to the side of your body, bend elbow to raise your fist to your shoulder, balancing the kettlebell with the bottom facing up.
  3. Extend right arm forward for balance.
  4. Keeping left arm still, send your hips back and bend knees to sit back into your heels, squatting until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor while your chest stays lifted. (This is the ideal form, but it’s pretty ambitious — it’s more important to maintain posture than to get fully parallel. It might be time to work mobility work into your routine.)
  5. Push through your heels to return to a standing position.

10. Double static kettlebell hold

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a kettlebell in each hand.
  2. Bend elbows to 90 degrees and raise elbows to shoulder height, with the kettlebell bottoms facing up.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds.

11. Kettlebell swing to bottoms-up

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a kettlebell in your left hand, with right arm extended for balance.
  2. Hinge at hips and slightly bend knees as you swing the kettlebell between your legs.
  3. Drive hips forward to stand back up as you swing the kettlebell up and overhead, keeping left arm straight the entire time.
  4. With control, slowly lower the kettlebell back down, and swing to repeat. Make sure the power comes from your hips rather than your arms — your arms should act like a pendulum, carrying momentum from your hips. If it feels like you’re lifting your arm, refocus on your hips.

12. Kettlebell windmill with overhead hold

  1. Stand with feet just a bit wider than your hips, with the kettlebell bottom-up in your left hand and left arm extended straight overhead.
  2. Keeping your eyes on the kettlebell overhead, bend knees slightly as you reach right hand to the inside of your right foot. Shift weight into your left hip while you complete the reach.
  3. Stand back up.

13. Posting position for kettlebell Turkish get-up

This move (the first part of a Turkish get-up) is a great way to build strength and progress to the full move.

  1. Lie faceup with your right leg extended and left leg bent with foot flat on the floor.
  2. Rest right arm on the floor out to the side and push the kettlebell upward, positioned bottom-up in your left hand.
  3. Keeping your eyes on the kettlebell, extend left arm straight up,
  4. Brace your core, bend right elbow, and push off the floor as you peel left shoulder up to sitting. Keep wrist directly above shoulder as you raise yourself.
  5. Slowly lower back down to the starting position.

Kettlebell workouts can be amazing for working your core, shoulders, and back with different movements — so long as you pull them off safely.

Keep these kettlebell safety tips in mind next time you’re going bell for leather:

  • Pick an appropriate weight. Pushing yourself is fine, but choosing an overwhelmingly heavy weight risks strains and sprains. Pick a kettlebell that’s comfortable and provides resistance without overloading you.
  • Always maintain the correct form. Incorrect form during a kettlebell workout is another surefire way to throw out a shoulder. Take it slow at first while you get used to the basics.
  • Pick a kettlebell that you can grip double-handed. One-handed kettlebell moves can be quite the feat for a beginner. Be sure to use a kettlebell that you can ease into using two hands.

You’ve got the moves, the safety tips, and the structure. Now get to swingin’!

Photography: Julia Hembree
Location: Solace New York