Do Kettlebells Build Muscle? (12 Exercises To Gain Mass)

Kettlebells are hugely popular for home gym users and help improve strength, core power, balance, flexibility, and coordination. But can you build muscle with kettlebells?

This guide will help you to learn all about building muscle with kettlebells, and teach you how to choose the best exercises for a kettlebell muscle building routine.

Physical training is about telling your body it needs to change. If you burn lots of calories by running or cycling, your body will get slimmer. If you lift lots of heavy weights, your body will get stronger. When deciding whether kettlebells are right for your home gym, you might ask, “Can you get strong with kettlebells?”

To answer this, it helps to talk about what kettlebells are and what they do. A kettlebell is a weight that you resist when you exercise using them. If that weight is heavy and your rep range is low, you are telling your body it needs to get stronger. Therefore they can be used to develop muscle and increase strength. A classic example would be kettlebell swings which build muscle in your lower and upper body. Learn more by checking out our article on what muscles do kettlebell swings work!

But kettlebells can also be used similar to dumbbells to isolate different muscle groups and increase their strength and size. You can also do bicep curls, shoulder presses, squats, skull crushers, and many more exercises alongside kettlebell swings. These will help you vary your workout and get the most effective results.  

Do Kettlebells Build Muscle?

Building Muscle Mass With Kettlebells: 12 Best Exercises

Any workout program must be fine-tuned for your exercise goals. If you want to know how to build muscle with kettlebells, you need to choose the right exercises. Here are some of the best exercises that gym-goers use for building muscle with kettlebells.

1. Kettlebell Swing 

One of the most popular ways to get strong using kettlebells, kettlebell swings provide a full-body workout. This exercise will build muscle in your legs, shoulders, and back, especially if you use a heavy weight. Stand with your legs slightly more than shoulder-width apart to ensure good balance as you swing.

Ensure good grip throughout. Bend your knees and lean forward and allow the kettlebell to swing between your knees. Now with the explosive force generated from the legs, glutes, and hips, swing the kettlebell forwards and upwards. Continue its momentum with your arm and shoulder muscles.  

Related Article - Benefits Of Kettlebell Swings

kettlebell swing

2. Double Kettlebell Front Squat 

The front squat gives special attention to the quads and glutes. Stand with your legs at least shoulder-width apart, holding two kettlebells of equal weight in each hand, with your hand passing through the grip cavity on each bell so that they are resting on your forearms as you squat.

Pushing your posterior out, bend at the legs. Maintain good posture in the upper body and squat down until your thighs are parallel to the ground.

double kettlebell front squat

3. Kettlebell Thrusters 

Kettlebell thrusters are another effective exercise for strengthening multiple muscles with one movement. Holding two evenly weighted kettlebells against your shoulders, push up from a squat position which transitions into a shoulder press. Lower the kettlebells back to your shoulders and squat back down to your starting position. The squat works the lower body, and the press works your shoulders. 

kettlebell thrusters

4. Double Kettlebell Deadlift 

This is one of the best exercises for building muscle using kettlebells. You begin with two kettlebells of equal weight on the floor between your feet and slightly in front of you. Next, hinge at the waist and bend your knees as you dip to grip them.

Keep your arms perpendicular to the ground as you grip the kettlebells and throughout the lift. Keep your back straight at all times and push from the legs and hips. This exercise will work your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back.

double kettlebell deadlift

5. Kettlebell Clean & Press 

This variation of the classic Olympic lift is a fantastic way to build muscle. The whole body is required for this lift. The ‘clean’ part of the movement works the lower body and back, and the press works the triceps and shoulders. The kettlebell starts on the floor in front of you.

Maintain good balance and keep your back straight as you bend at the knees to pick it up. Use your hips, glutes and back to give the kettlebell enough momentum to reach your shoulder. Then press the weight over your head, keeping your base steady and your grip secure.

kettlebell clean and press

6. Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift 

The single leg deadlift allows you to focus on one leg at a time. It will also improve your balance and coordination. Have the kettlebell ready in front of you, and standing on one leg, bend forward to pick it up. Push your free leg out behind you to act as a counterweight to the kettlebell and to stop you from falling forward. Keep your back straight and ensure this movement is controlled and deliberate. 

kettlebell single leg deadlift

7. Kettlebell Goblet Squat 

The goblet squat puts major emphasis on the leg muscles, but also builds strength in the arms, chest, and shoulders. Hold your kettlebell against your chest with a firm grip in both hands. Squat to parallel. This will work your quads and glutes especially, but it is a great way to strengthen all your leg muscles, including adductors and abductors.

kettlebell goblet squat

8. Kettlebell Snatch 

The kettlebell comes into its own when training for explosive power. The kettlebell snatch is a full-body exercise that requires great strength and force generation. Start with your kettlebell on the floor. As always, keep a steady base, hinge at the hips, and bend the knees.

In one movement, pick up the kettlebell, and using force generated from your lower body and traveling up your body as you lift, take the kettlebell out in front of you and over your head as you reach a standing position.

kettlebell snatch

9. Kettlebell Lunges 

Lunges are a great way to target the muscles in your legs and build strength using kettlebells. The shape of the kettlebell lends it especially well to this exercise. Step forward with one leg while holding your kettlebell at your shoulder.

Bend your rear knee until it is parallel to the ground, and then push upwards with your front leg until you are back in the standing position. Alternate legs or do sets one leg at a time. This will also improve your balance and coordination.

kettlebell lunges

10. Kettlebell Lateral Lunge 

In this exercise, you work the quadriceps, glutes, and adductors. Standing with your kettlebell at shoulder height, step out sideways with one leg. Bend this leg while keeping the other straight (but not locked). Keep your upper body in a good tight posture and your back straight. Push back up to a standing position—alternate reps between legs or train one leg per set. 

kettlebell lateral lunge

11. Kettlebell Farmer’s Walk 

The farmer’s walk is a staple of strongman competitions. You can train like a strongman with your kettlebells and build muscle with the farmer's walk. Holding a kettlebell at each side by your hips, walk forward. Don't let your shoulders sag, or the kettlebells will swing and make walking more difficult. This tough exercise will test your leg strength while also working the trapezius and glutes. 

kettlebell farmer's walk

12. Kettlebell Floor Press 

You can work your chest and triceps with your kettlebells using the kettlebell floor press. Lying on the floor with your kettlebell beside your shoulder, grip the kettlebell with an underhand grip and lift it in a direction perpendicular to the floor.

Squeeze your chest muscles as you lift and again at the top. Don’t lock out your arms and bring the kettlebell down again in a controlled manner. You can do this exercise one arm at a time, or doubling up with two kettlebells. 

kettlebell floor press

Important Tips When Using Kettlebells To Build Muscles

Choose The Right Exercise

Kettlebells are versatile tools. To build muscle with them, you need to choose exercises that target the muscle group you want to strengthen.

Get Good Nutrition 

Building muscle with kettlebells requires putting the right fuel into your body. To get strong, you need to get lots of protein and micronutrients from fresh vegetables. 75% of muscle is water, so you will need to stay hydrated to build muscle. Studies show that not having enough fluid in your body negatively affects your strength and power.

Employ Progressive Overload 

The principle of progressive overload says that as you get stronger, you need to increase the resistance. When it gets too easy, up the weight to take your strength to the next level.

Stay Within The Right Rep Range 

You need to employ short sets in the 4-10 rep range as these are the best way to stimulate muscle growth and improve strength.

Recover Correctly 

Muscles grow the most when they are recovering. It takes up to 72 hours for this process to plateau. Work different muscle groups on different days and make sure to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night.


Building Muscles With Kettlebells FAQs

Do kettlebells count toward strength training? 

Kettlebells can be used to great effect as part of a strength training program. There are many exercises you can do with your kettlebells, but you need to ensure you use high resistance and a low rep range.

Are kettlebells mainly used for cardio? 

Kettlebells are great for training the cardiovascular system, but you can also use them to build muscle mass and strength. It's all about finding the right exercises and using a heavy weight for low reps. 

What kind of physique will kettlebells give you? 

Your kettlebell program can be tweaked to achieve the physique you want. Kettlebells can be used to build lean muscle mass as many of the exercises burn lots of calories, and using heavy weights will make your body stronger and more muscular.

Can you get ripped using just kettlebells? 

The explosive power that kettlebell exercises are great for getting ripped. You should supplement your workout routine with other exercises for the best results. Still, a well-planned kettlebell routine can go a long way to achieving a lean and muscular physique, as every muscle in the body can be worked as part of a kettlebell muscle-building program.


Conclusion

There’s lots of scientific evidence that kettlebell exercises such as swings are great for improving maximal and explosive strength. There are many great muscle building kettlebell exercises that you can use to get bigger and stronger.

A well-thought-out routine can target all the major muscles of the body as part of a kettlebell strength training program that builds muscle and improves strength.

Are you ready to start gaining mass? Check out our guide to the best kettlebells to get yours!

Last Updated on February 24, 2022