Kettlebell training is great for EVERY season of life. They can be used similarly to other free weights, but I love the low impact cardio and core muscle recruitment I get when I use a kettlebell. Additionally, they are:
Versatile (you can use them to hit almost every muscle group, which we’ll do in today’s workout!)
Efficient (calorie burn per minute is similar to running a six-minute mile, according to this study by ACE)
POWERFUL (they add an element of power and explosiveness to low-impact strength training)
Don’t have a kettlebell?
No problem! You can do all of these single kettlebell movements using a single dumbbell. Follow along with Rachel on the left in the video linked above for how to substitute a single dumbbell for this workout.
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7 Kettlebell Exercises for Women to Build Muscle and Power
The seven BEST kettlebell exercises for women to build muscle, burn calories and break a sweat.
This pyramid style workout is a true test of strength and endurance.
Don’t have 45 minutes? Stop halfway up the pyramid (after completing move 7 one time, or minute mark 30:03 in the video).
One medium-to-heavy kettlebell or a single dumbbell.
Let me be your personal trainer for the day. I’ll coach you through all seven kettlebell exercises, providing form cues and keeping track of the timed intervals.
Alternatively, work through the kettlebell exercises for women below at your own pace.
This is a pyramid workout, which means we’ll add on moves as we work “up” the pyramid, and then drop off moves as we work our way back “down” the pyramid.
So it will look like this:
Set 1: Perform move 1 for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest.
Set 2: Perform move 1 for 30 seconds and then move 2 for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest.
Set 3: Perform move 1 for 30 seconds, and then move 2 for 30 seconds, and then move 3 for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest.
Continue this stack-on, pyramid format until you complete moves 1 through 7. Then you have the option to go back down the pyramid in reverse order, dropping off move 1, then move 2, then move 3 and so on.
Kettlebell HIIT Pyramid Workout Outline:
Uneven Split Lunge
Single Arm Row
Deadlift Clean Squat
Kettlebell Squat Thruster
Push Up + Kettlebell Pass
Kneeling Halo Core
7 BEST Kettlebell Exercises for Women (with Exercise Tutorials)
1. Kettlebell Swings
Targets: Glutes, hamstrings, hips, core, and all the stabilizing muscles in your back and shoulders.
NOTE: This is a HIP HINGE movement, not a squat. And be sure to stand straight up, DO NOT ‘over-extend’ arching through the low back at the top of the swing.
How to do Kettlebell Swings:
Start standing with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart.
Hinge forward at the hips to reach for the kettlebell in front of you. Place your hands on the horns of the bell, hand palms facing your body.
Then with a slight bend in your knees and weight in your heels, ‘hike’ the kettlebell back between your legs to start the swing movement.
Drive through your heels to stand tall, pushing your hips forward as you squeeze your glutes to swing the kettlebell up to shoulder height. Aim for shoulder height, with arms extended out away from the body. Think long, loose arms (your arms are just a vehicle for moving the bell, your hips and glutes generate the power to move the bell).
As the kettlebell begins to descend, think of catching the weight with your hip hinge loading the glutes and hamstrings.
2. Uneven Split Lunge
Targets: Legs, glutes, quads and core.
How to do an Uneven Split Lunge with Kettlebell:
Start standing with feet hip-width apart. Left leg forward with left foot planted firmly on the ground, right leg back with right toes tucked under and right heel popped off the mat. Most of your weight should be in your front left foot.
Hold the kettlebell in your right hand in front of your right hip. Left arm can be out at your left side for counter-balance. Engage your core for balance support.
Hold this split lunge stance. Then drop your back right knee down towards the ground as you lower your hips until both knees reach a 90 degree angle, front thigh parallel to the floor.
Drive through your front left foot to stand tall, returning to the starting position.
3. Single Arm Row with Kettlebell
Targets: Arms, specifically the lats (the largest muscle in the upper body and biggest back muscle) and core.
How to do a Single Arm Row with Kettlebell:
Start standing, feet under hips, core engaged, soft bend in your knees. Option to take a staggered stance (pictured above), stepping your right foot slightly behind your left.
Hold the kettlebell in your right hand, left hand extended out for balance.
Hinge at the hips so your torso forms a 45 degree angle, right arm extended long.
Squeeze your back to pull your right elbow up to meet your ribcage. Hold for a moment at the top.
With control, lower the bell back down; right arm extended, to return to starting position.
Modification: Place your left hand on a chair or bench for support.
4. Deadlift Clean Squat
Targets: The legs, glutes, hamstrings, hips, quads, back, shoulders, chest and core.
How to do a Kettlebell Deadlift Clean Squat:
Stand with feet hip-distance apart, toes pointing forward. Grab the kettlebell handle with both hands and hold the bell at your chest. Engage your core.
Hinge at your hips to lower the bell down towards your knees/shins/floor. Think of pushing your butt back towards the wall behind you while keeping a flat back and neutral neck. This is the deadlift portion of the move.
Then stand tall, driving your hips forward to bring the kettlebell up towards your chest (this is the “clean” portion of the clean squat). Note, your heels might pop off the mat as you use your momentum to “clean” the bell up to shoulder height. Think about “getting under” the weight, catching it in a loaded position (your hands will slide down the horns of the kettlebell, landing closer to the base).
Once you “catch” the weight at your chest; hold the weight at your chest as you perform a kettlebell goblet squat. Lowering your hips down parallel to your knees.
Finally, drive through your heels to stand tall.
5. Kettlebell Squat Thruster
Targets: Glutes, quads, chest, shoulders, back, abs and core.
How to do a Kettlebell Squat Thruster:
Stand with feet hip-distance apart, toes pointing forward. Hold a kettlebell with both hands by the horns at your chest; front rack position. Engage your core.
Sit your hips back as you lower into a squat, aiming to get your thighs parallel to the ground.
Press through your heels to stand tall, driving the kettlebell up overhead; arms straight overhead. Think about using the power from your lower body to press the kettlebell overhead rather than just your arms.
Lower the dumbbell back to your chest and repeat.
6. Push Up + Kettlebell Pass
Targets: Arms, chest, shoulders, triceps, abs and core.
How to do a Push Up and Kettlebell Pass:
Start in high plank position, shoulders over wrists, core engaged. Place the kettlebell just outside of your body, behind your right hand.
Lower your chest to the ground, performing a push up. Elbows fall back towards the body. Press up to return to high plank.
With your left hand, reach across your body to grab the kettlebell and pull it to the left side of your body.
Perform another push up, then use your right hand to reach crossbody and grab the kettlebell. Repeat this pattern.
Modification: Perform the push ups from your knees.
7. Kneeling Halo Core
Targets: The abs and core from every angle — upper abs, lower abs, obliques and deep transverse abdominals.
How to do a Kettlebell Halo Kneeling:
Start in a kneeling position, knees under hips, core engaged.
Hold the kettlebell by the horns in both hands at your right hip.
Hold your core tight as you pull the kettlebell in a smooth motion from your right hip to left shoulder and then behind and around your head, before bringing it down to your left hip.
Repeat in the opposite direction.
Modification: Perform the kettlebell halo from a standing position.
Pin this Workout: The 7 Best Kettlebell Exercises for Women
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