When you think kettlebells, most people envision the swing, which—though it uses the arms to hold the weight—is a very lower-body hip-dominant exercise. Indeed, kettlebells aren’t designed as an equal sub for dumbbells—they’re meant to be used dynamically, through controlled movement.
“Kettlebells benefit the upper body by allowing complete stabilization and activation,” says San Diego-based Lauren Brooks, personal trainer, kettlebell master instructor, and founder of laurenbrooksfitness.com. “The shape of this clunk of iron forces your body to stabilize in a way that creates solid grip, forearm, lat, bicep, and shoulder strength, to name a few.”
Anyone who is looking to put on big mass in their arms and upper body should look to kettlebell training as a way to develop a stable shoulder complex,” adds Samantha Carmean, CSCS, a certified kettlebell instructor and personal trainer in NYC and founder of mindfulmeathead.com. “Healthy joint function and positioning leads to more optimal muscle fiber recruitment, which gives you bigger, stronger muscles.”
These 10 workouts, designed by Brooks and Carmean, combine kettlebell and bodyweight work to maximize results. Be sure to warm up before diving in, especially joint mobility exercises such as walkouts, scorpions, and thread-the-needle side planks. “I highly recommend performing a few light weight Turkish get-ups (each side) to tune up total body dynamic mobility and stability,” Carmean says. “Get-ups are the bomb.”