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.

Yes, kettlebells can be used to develop muscle and increase strength.

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.

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.  

man holding two kettlebells outside

5 Important Tips When Using Kettlebells To Build Muscles

1. 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.

2. 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 [1].

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

12 Best Exercises For Building Muscle Mass With Kettlebells

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 

Woman Doing Standard Kettlebell Swings

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.

 I often include this kettlebell exercise into my conditioning workouts. While it works your whole body, I find it develops your glutes and posterior chain muscles.

One of the main benefits of kettlebell swings is that by having a strong posterior chain, you'll be less likely to suffer from lower back injuries. 


  • Strengthens your posterior chain. 
  • Develops explosive power.
  • Great for conditioning workouts.

how to do it:

  1. Stand with your legs slightly more than shoulder-width apart to ensure good balance as you swing. 
  2. Ensure good grip throughout.
  3. Bend your knees and lean forward and allow the kettlebell to swing between your knees.
  4. Now with the explosive force generated from the legs, glutes, and hips, swing the kettlebell forwards and upwards.
  5. Continue its momentum with your arm and shoulder muscles.  
  6. Perform a 10-20 reps and rest.
  7. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Keep tight hold of the kettlebell, the last thing you need is to let go of it midway through a rep. (A client of mine did this midway through a class and it left a HUGE mark on the gym's newly laid flooring).  

2. Double Kettlebell Front Squat 

man doing double kettlebell front squats

The front squat is an excellent front loaded variation of the traditional squat. As it's front loaded, it places less strain on your lower back and more emphasis on your quads. So if you've got lower back issues, this might be a good squat variation for you. 

I've often used this movement to teach new clients how to squat. Generally, kettlebell squats are easier to perform than back squats, so they're my go-to exercise for gym newbies. 


  • Great for beginners.
  • Less lower back strain.
  • Places a lot of emphasis on your quads.

how to do it: 

  1. Stand with your legs shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold 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.
  3. Hinge from your hips and bend your knees, driving your glutes back.
  4. Maintain a neutral spine and squat down until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
  5. Hold for a second and push up through your feet back to the starting position. 
  6. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Finding it difficult using two kettlebells? Use one instead. Once you've mastered the single kettlebell squat, you can move on to the double.  

3. Kettlebell Thrusters 

man doing kettlebell thrusters

Kettlebell thrusters are a brilliant full body kettlebell exercise that you can add to your workout routine. While it mainly uses your legs and shoulders, your entire body will work to stabilize the weight. 

Each rep should be performed explosively, making it brilliant for athletes or anybody participating in sports.

I've often included this movement into my circuit training classes as it provides you with fun whole body movement with a lot of bang for your buck. 


  • Uses your full body.
  • Develops explosive power.
  • Great for circuit training.

How to do it:

  1. Hold two evenly weighted kettlebells against your shoulders.
  2. Squat down (bending your knees) and maintain a neutral spine.
  3. Push up from a squat position explosively and press the kettlebells above your head.
  4. Lower the kettlebells back to your shoulders back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Always ensure that you perform the squat and the shoulder press as "one movement". I've often seen people squat and then pause, then press the weight up, this is wrong. You want to transition from the squat and press immediately, using the momentum from your squat to help you press the weight above your head.  

4. Double Kettlebell Deadlift 

man doing double kettlebell deadlifts at the gym

While the squat is often nicknamed the KING of all exercises, the deadlift is easily the queen.

The kettlebell deadlift is one of the best exercises for building muscle. This exercise will work your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back (and pretty much every other muscle in your body). 

By performing the deadlift, you'll increase your posterior chain strength which will help to protect your lower back from injuries. 


  • Strengthens your posterior chain.
  • Works your entire body. 
  • One of the best muscle builders.

How to do it:

  1. Begin with two kettlebells of equal weight on the floor between your feet and slightly in front of you.
  2. Next, hinge your hips and bend your knees slightly as you dip to grip them using an overhand grip.
  3. Maintain a neutral spine. 
  4. Lift the kettlebells from the floor by firing your hips forward and squeezing your glutes. 
  5. Slowly lower and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Can't lift two kettlebells, try using one kettlebell instead. Simply place the kettlebell between your legs and deadlift it.  

5. Kettlebell Clean & Press 

man doing kettlebell clean and press at the gym

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. 

This was one of the first kettlebell movements I performed (many years ago), and it's still one of my favorite kettlebell exercises around. 


  • Uses your entire body.
  • Develops explosive power.

how to do it:

  1. The kettlebell starts on the floor in front of you.
  2. Maintain good balance and keep your back straight as you bend at the knees to pick it up.
  3. Use your hips, glutes and back to give the kettlebell enough momentum to reach your shoulder.
  4. Then press the weight over your head, keeping your base steady and your grip secure.
  5. Lower the weight back to the starting position and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

New to training? Skip this movement for the time being, it's a complex movement which can be challenging for beginners to learn. Instead, try performing the deadlift and kettlebell press. 

6. Kettlebell Single Leg Deadlift 

woman doing kettlebell single leg deadlifts

The single leg deadlift allows you to focus on one leg at a time. It will also improve your balance and coordination.  As you'll be working each leg separately, it allows you to solve any muscle imbalances that you may have developed. 

It's a tough exercise to learn as it requires a lot of balance, so if you can't do it, perform a regular kettlebell deadlift instead. 


  • Works your posterior chain. 
  • Isolates each side, ironing out any muscular imbalances. 

how to do it:

  1. Place a kettlebell in front of you, and stand on one leg.
  2. Bend forward by hinging from your ups to pick it up.
  3. Push your free leg out behind you to act as a counterweight to the kettlebell and to stop you from falling forward.
  4. Maintain a neutral spine. 
  5. Grab the kettlebell and push your hips forward until you're upright. 
  6. Slowly lower and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Take your shoes off for this movement. By removing your shoes, you'll have a better connection to the ground and will be able to balance more easily. 

7. Kettlebell Goblet Squat 

man doing kettlebell goblet squat exercise

The goblet squat puts major emphasis on the leg muscles, but also builds strength in the arms, chest, and shoulders.

During the kettlebell goblet squat you'll work your quads and glutes mainly, but it is a great way to strengthen all your leg muscles, including adductors and abductors.

As the movement is front loaded, you'll place less stress on your lower back and more emphasis on your quads. 


  • Less lower back strain than traditional squats.
  • Increased quad activation. 
  • Uses your whole body.

how to do it:

  1. Hold a kettlebell at shoulder height with your elbows pushed out forwards. 
  2. Maintain a neutral spine, bend your knees and send your glutes backwars (hinging from your hips). 
  3. Squat down until your legs are parallel to the floor. 
  4. Push up to the starting position.
  5. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Struggling with squat depth? Try elevating your heels slightly using weighted plates. The elevated heel position will allow you to achieve a lower squat depth.  

Related Article - Kettlebell Vs Barbell

8. Kettlebell Snatch 

woman doing 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. 

This is an excellent movement for anybody participating in sports as it provides you with the power you need to sprint, jump, and move explosively.

While it's a great kettlebell exercise, it's a challenging movement to learn and might not be suitable for beginners. 


  • Develops explosive power. 
  • Ideal for athletes or sports training. 

How to do it:

  1. Start with your kettlebell on the floor. As always, keep a steady base, hinge at the hips, and bend the knees.
  2. 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.
  3. Reverse the movement and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Drill the movement over and over and OVER again until you're performing it in your sleep. Then and only then should you add weight. Once you nail the movement, you'll get the most benefit from it.  

9. Kettlebell Lunges 

men doing kettlebell lunges at the gym

Lunges are a great way to target the muscles in your legs and build strength using kettlebells. 

It's a brilliant movement for developing your coordination, balance, and strength, making it ideal for sports specific training. 

I like this kettlebell exercise as it allows you to train your entire lower body in one movement. It's one of my go-to exercises for beginners. 


  • Improves coordination and balance.
  • Strengthens your lower body. 
  • Great for beginners.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet hip width while holding a kettlebell at shoulder height.
  2. Step forward with one leg and lower yourself to towards the floor by bending your knees. 
  3. Stop when your knees reach 90-degrees.
  4. Step forward, returning to the starting position. 
  5. Repeat with the opposite leg.

Tips From A Trainer!

Ensure your stance remains hip width throughout the entire movement. This will help you maintain balance during each rep.  

10. Kettlebell Lateral Lunge 

man doing kettlebell lateral lunge

In this exercise, you work the quadriceps, glutes, and adductors.  

While you might see beginners doing this movement, I'd avoid this until you've developed lower body strength by performing other movements like the kettlebell squat, lunges, and deadlift. 


  • Great for more advanced lifters.
  • Works your lower body using a different plane of movement.

how to do it:

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

Tips From A Trainer!

If you're struggling to perform this movement, try doing a body weight version instead. 

11. Kettlebell Farmer’s Walk 

man doing 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.  This tough exercise will test your leg strength while also working the trapezius and glutes and core. 

As this movement trains your core, it'll have a huge carryover to other exercises such as squats, deadlift, and other core dependent movements. 


  • Strengthens your core. 
  • Great for all ability levels. 
  • Great carryover to other lifts.

How to do it:

  1. Holding a kettlebell at each side by your hips, walk forward.
  2. Don't let your shoulders sag, or the kettlebells will swing and make walking more difficult.
  3. Rest and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

Move slowly during this movement, you don't want to allow momentum to take over.  

12. Kettlebell Floor Press 

man doing kettlebell floor press exercise

This kettlebell movement works your chest and triceps with a small amount of shoulder activation. 

As the kettlebell floor press has a lower level of shoulder activation, it's a brilliant movement if you've had shoulder issues in the past. 

I like this movement as it's simple to perform and you can do them pretty much anywhere using minimal equipment. 


  • Minimal equipment needed. 
  • Low level of shoulder strain. 
  • Develops your chest and triceps. 

how to do it:

  1. Lying on the floor with your kettlebell beside your shoulder.
  2. Grip the kettlebell with an underhand grip and lift it in a direction perpendicular to the floor.
  3. Squeeze your chest muscles as you lift and again at the top.
  4. Don’t lock out your arms and bring the kettlebell down again in a controlled manner.
  5. You can do this exercise one arm at a time, or doubling up with two kettlebells. 

Tips From A Trainer!

On the move and can't take a kettlebell with you? Use a resistance band instead.  

Building Muscles With Kettlebells FAQs

Do kettlebells count toward strength training? 

Yes, kettlebells do count as part of strength training. There are many exercises you can do with your kettlebells to strengthen your entire body.

Are kettlebells mainly used for cardio? 

No, kettlebells aren't mainly used for cardio, they're excellent for developing your muscles. But, they can be used to  train the cardiovascular system. 

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? 

Yes, the explosive power that kettlebell exercises are great for getting ripped. However, to get ripped, you need an excellent diet to accompany your kettlebell routine. 


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.

Read through the list above and choose some of these movements to your workout to add muscle mass to your body. 




Lee Kirwin

Lee Kirwin

Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.