The kettlebell is by no means a new addition to the weight training equipment. The kettlebell's predecessor, the Russian girya, has been used since the 19th century.

Still, kettlebells were nowhere near as popular as they are today before CrossFit became a global phenomenon. Now they are practically a staple of home workouts.

In this article you'll discover the best kettlebell exercises for developing your arms along with how to do each one. 

There are numerous benefits of using kettlebells for the biceps, triceps, and shoulders.

It can help you grow certain muscles but also improve your overall fitness level since it is equally suitable for strength and cardio training. Those are certainly the main benefits.

Other than that, portability is another benefit that makes everyone love the kettlebell so much and why it has become a part of every gym, fitness center, and even calisthenics park; although the kettlebell is not part of a bodyweight workout, it can be combined with it.

One more benefit is grip strength. Many can’t strengthen the grip sufficiently with barbells and dumbbells, but they can by doing most kettlebell exercises.

17 Top Kettlebell Arm Exercises To Try Today!

Let's take a deep dive into the 17 best upper-body kettlebell exercises. If you are persistent enough, you can make your biceps and triceps stand out.

1. Standing Kettlebell Bicep Curl

Man Doing Standing Kettlebell Bicep Curls

The biceps curl is the most effective exercise for the biceps brachii muscle. There are many variations.

You can use a dumbbell, resistance band, cable machine, body weight, kettlebell or barbell. Each variation will help you develop strong biceps and build muscle mass. 

I like using the kettlebell as they usually have a thicker grip than dumbbells and work your forearms harder during each rep.

Target: Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis

benefits:

  • Works your biceps using a wide range of motion.
  • Trains each side separately.

How To Do It:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and engage the core for stability.
  2. Take a kettlebell (or two) and hold it with an underhand grip.
  3. Your elbows should be approximately at the iliac crest (hip crest)
  4. Curl the kettlebell up towards your shoulder.
  5. Slow lower it back down (negative phase)

Tips From A Trainer!

At the top of the movement, forcefully squeeze the biceps. 

2. Double Arm Kettlebell Bicep Curl

Man Holding A Kettlebell

At first glance, this exercise may seem the same as the classic biceps curl, but actually, there is a difference.

Different angle leads to a change in the level of muscle activation. So the emphasis is on the brachialis instead of the biceps brachii. The brachialis will help you add thickness to your biceps and will make them "pop" out more. 

This is one of my favorite biceps "finishers" to use at the end of my workout. 

It works the same muscles as a bicep hammer curl with dumbbells, so it's great for developing your forearms.

Target: Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis

benefits:

  • Provides you with an excellent pump. 
  • Suitable for all ability levels.

How To Do It:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Push your chest out (proud chest).
  3. Take it with both hands, arms bent slightly, and curl it up to chest height.
  4. Pause at the top of the movement and slowly lower it down.

Tips From A Trainer!

Use a kettlebell at least 50% heavier than the one you use for the one-arm biceps curl. 

3. Kettlebell Overhead Tricep Extensions

Man Performing A Kettlebell Overhead Tricep Extensions Exercise

Most gym-goers will focus more on the biceps than the triceps, and that is a HUGE mistake.

While you should certainly pay attention to the biceps, the triceps is a larger muscle which covers around 75% of your upper arm mass. 

If you skip triceps exercises, you won't have the big, muscular arms you desire.

The overhead tricep extension is one of the most effective triceps isolation exercises.[1]

This exercise works your muscles using a full range of motion and fully stretches the muscle, exposing your fibers to a lot of stress.

Many prefer a kettlebell to a dumbbell for an overhead extension because of the handle position.

Target: Triceps brachii, posterior deltoid

benefits:

  • Uses a large range of movement. 
  • Comfortable handle position. 

How To Do It:

  1. Sit on the edge of a bench or stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold the kettlebell firmly behind your head, the kettlebell facing up.
  3. Tighten your core.
  4. Raise it until your arms are fully extended while keeping your elbows fixed throughout the motion.

Tips From A Trainer!

Those with shoulder instability should be very cautious because the overhead extension can worsen existing problems with the labrum, ligaments, or joint.

Choose a lighter weight or include some other similar exercise in your routine.

4. Kettlebell Skull Crusher

Man Doing Kettlebell Skull Crushers

The name of this great exercise might sound scary, but it puts the shoulders under less stress and is an effective triceps developer.

That is one of the reasons why it's a regular part of my workout routine, and I recommend it to all of my clients. AND, it's relatively safe to perform due to being on the floor.

Target: Triceps brachii, forearms

Benefits:

  • Uses a wide range of motion. 
  • Suitable for all ability levels.

How To Do It:

  1. Lie down on a bench or the floor (a bench is my preference)
  2. Grab one kettlebell by the horns with both hands.
  3. Place it above your chest area.
  4. Slowly bend your arms to lower the kettlebell towards your head (hence the name)
  5. Straighten your elbows to bring it back to starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

The decline kettlebell skull crusher increases tension to all three heads of the triceps while reducing elbow strain. 

5. Kettlebell Tall Kneeling Press

Man Doing Kettlebell Tall Kneeling Press Exercise

The kettlebell tall kneeling press is similar to the Arnold press since you are adding a twist to a standard shoulder press.

However, the Arnold press is usually performed in a sitting position, not kneeling.

This makes the tall kneeling press is more demanding for the core and all other muscles because they have to act as stabilizers to keep you upright.

This superb exercise will help you not only to build your shoulders and arms but also to improve your overall performance when doing other push exercises.

Target: Deltoids, triceps brachii, core, serratus anterior, forearms

benefits:

  • Improves balance and stability. 
  • Works all three deltoid heads. 
  • Great for more advanced lifters.

How To Do It:

  1. Kneel and keep your legs 4 to 5 inches apart.
  2. Place the kettlebell in the front racked position[2]
  3. Engage your core muscles and glutes.
  4. Push it overhead while gradually twisting the weight—the palm facing forward at the end of the movement.

Tips From A Trainer!

Place a mat under your knees to make it more comfortable while you're performing this exercise.  

6. Kettlebell Push Press

Man Doing Kettlebell Push Press Exercise The Gym

The push press is different from the shoulder press because the legs are also included in the movement.

The kettlebell push press can be a very useful exercise to get past a plateau in weightlifting since it allows you to increase the weight even when you are not ready for a heavier kettlebell during the regular overhead press.

This is because you can use the momentum generated from your legs to help you lift more weight than you usually could. 

You may even be able to perform several more reps because of your leg drive. Those last few repetitions are the most important, so when you reach the point of failure, activate your legs.

Target: Deltoids, triceps brachii, core, serratus anterior, pectoralis major

benefits:

  • You can lift more weight than regular shoulder press. 
  • You can perform more reps.
  • Uses your whole body.

How To Do It:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Place the kettlebell in the front rack position.
  3. Bend your knees slightly as if you are starting to squat, and then initiate an upward motion while pushing the kettlebell overhead.
  4. Finish when the arm is completely straightened and legs extended.
  5. Repeat

Tips From A Trainer!

Always try to make the dip of your knees and the press one movement. One of the biggest mistakes I see is gym-goers making the movements separately. If they're performed separately, you'll miss out on a the benefits of this exercise.  

7. Kettlebell Clean & Press

Man Doing Kettlebell Clean & Press Exercise

The clean and press is a compound exercise that is classed as an Olympic lift. It's popular with gym-goers who participate in CrossFit styled workouts.

It's a brilliant movement that activates almost every muscle in the body. - Giving you a lot of bang for your buck.

This exercise won't build your arms alone, but I've found that it helps develop overall muscle mass (particularly in your shoulders) which will make your arms appear thicker.

Also, during several parts of this complex movement, the biceps and triceps will be in the spotlight.

Target: Deltoids, triceps brachii, biceps brachii, core, serratus anterior, pectoralis major, glutes, quadriceps femoris

Benefits:

  • Works your entire body. 
  • Improves overall body muscle. 
  • Gives you thicker looking arms.

How To Do It:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Point your toes outwards like when doing a sumo deadlift.
  3. Brace your core.
  4. Bend your knees slightly and grab a kettlebell with an underhand grip.
  5. Move your hips forward forcefully to initiate the movement.
  6. Stand up straight and put the kettlebell in the front rack position simultaneously.
  7. Press the weight overhead until your biceps reach approximately your ears' height.

Tips From A Trainer!

The clean and press is not an exercise for beginners.

They should start with the kettlebell clean to master the first part of the movement and only then introduce the press. 

8. Kettlebell Squat And Press

Woman Doing Kettlebell Squat And Press Exercise

Ok, I know what you're thinking... "squat and press for arms?"... Hear me out on this one. 

While the squat and press exercise uses your entire body, one of the muscles used will be your triceps. They might not be the main driver during this movement, but they'll still need to work a considerable amount. 

The movement is relatively similar to the clean and press, but the legs are more involved, and the biceps are less involved.

The momentum from the squat is transferred to the press, which makes the biceps less active.

It's one of the best kettlebell exercises for improving strength and your cardiovascular fitness. I have used this exercise plenty of times throughout my strength and conditioning circuits, and my clients love it.

Target: Deltoids, triceps brachii, core, serratus anterior, pectoralis major, glutes, quadriceps femoris, hamstrings, calves

Benefits:

  • Improves strength and cardiovascular health. 
  • Develops your entire body. 
  • Suitable for most abilities.

How To Do It:

  1. Stand with your feet a bit wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold a kettlebell with an underhand grip.
  3. Sit on your heels as you lower into a squat.
  4. Start standing up.
  5. Use that momentum to perform a fluent, explosive movement that will bring the kettlebell into the rack and then into the overhead position with the arm fully straightened.

Tips From A Trainer!

Want to make this exercise more upper body focused? Try this: Perform 1 squat and 2 shoulder press per rep. This will burn your shoulders (and arms) out a lot quicker this way.  

9. Kettlebell Close Grip Push Up

Man Doing Kettlebell Close Grip Push Ups

Close grip push-up is a highly effective upper body exercise, the same as all other push-up forms.

Calisthenics athletes sometimes base their entire workout on push-ups, dips, and pull-ups. Check out our calisthenics workout plan for beginners to dive into the complete training program.

The kettlebell close grip push-up is not for beginners, and most intermediate exercisers will probably find it too difficult as well.

So if you're an advanced lifter looking to take your workout to the next level, this might be the movement for you. 

Until you can do at least 15 reps of the decline push-up, diamond push-up, and pike push-up, stick to other variations instead of kettlebell close grip push-up.

Target: Triceps brachii, anterior deltoid, pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, core, serratus anterior

benefits:

  • Uses your body weight. 
  • Ideal for advanced lifters. 

How To Do It:

  1. Take a large, heavy kettlebell and lay it on the ground on its side.
  2. Place both hands in a diamond shape on it.
  3. Brace your core, or it will be impossible to remain stable.
  4. Perform a push-up until your chest touches the kettlebell.
  5. Explosively return to the starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

If you're struggling with this movement, place your knees on the floor to remove some of your body weight from your arms. This will make the exercise a little easier. 

9. Kettlebell Close Grip Push Up

Man Doing Seated Incline Kettlebell Bicep Curls

When performing a seated incline kettlebell bicep curl, your biceps are even more engaged than during a regular bicep curl. There are three reasons why this is so.

The first reason is the increased range of motion, and the second reason is that gravity is acting differently on your biceps, meaning they're working harder during the top portion of the bicep curl. 

Thirdly, you're in a seated position. When you sit, especially in this position, the rest of the body cannot help, but the biceps must do all the work.

Therefore you should start with light kettlebells compared to the one you are using for standing biceps curl.

Target: Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis

benefits:

  • Increased range of motion. 
  • Your biceps have to work harder. 
  • Difficult to cheat. 

How To Do It:

  1. Set an incline bench, sit on it, and grab a kettlebell in each hand.
  2. Press your back against the bench, engage your core, and let your arms hang.
  3. Curl the kettlebells towards your shoulders without changing the position of your elbows.

Tips From A Trainer!

The optimal angle on the incline bench is between 30 and 45 degrees. 

11. Kettlebell Floor Press

Man Doing Kettlebell Floor Press Exercise

I prefer exercises that make you move joints through their full range of motion. Having said that, the floor press is one of the exceptions.

A few years ago, I just couldn't break a bench press plateau until I included the floor press in my workout routine on chest day.

It was the limited range of motion that helped me strengthen my chest and arms even more. 

Because of a limited range of motion, floor press should certainly not be the only chest exercise you do but rather one to burn pecs and triceps at the end of the training session using heavier weights.

Using a kettlebell instead of a dumbbell or a barbell makes this exercise a fantastic substitute for the standard floor press.

Target: Pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, triceps brachii, anterior deltoid, serratus anterior

Benefits:

  • Less shoulder strain. 
  • Helps break through plateaus.
  • Doesn't require a spotter.

How To Do It:

  1. Lie down on the floor.
  2. Take one or two kettlebells, depending on whether you are doing a single or double-arm floor press.
  3. Elbow should be on the floor at a 45-degree angle.
  4. Explosively raise the kettlebell straight up.
  5. Squeeze the pecs at the top of the movement and keep arms straight, palms facing the ceiling.

Tips From A Trainer!

If you don't have kettlebells nearby, you can use dumbbells or even a resistance band. 

12. Kettlebell Hammer Curls

Man Doing Kettlebell Hammer Curls

The hammer curl is one of my favorites. This bicep exercise hits the long head and short head of the biceps, as well as the brachialis, brachioradialis, and forearms. - And trust me, your forearms will be on fire after this exercise.

If you want to use a kettlebell instead of a dumbbell for hammer curls, you must have a very strong wrist, grip, and forearm.

Those struggling with grip strength should first start with dumbbells and later try kettlebells.

Otherwise, you risk wrist injury, and it is almost certain that you will not execute the exercise properly.

Target: Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis, forearms

Benefits:

  • Works your forearms. 
  • Suitable for more advanced lifters.

How To Do It:

  1. Grab a kettlebell in each hand using a neutral grip.
  2. Keep your elbows close to your body.
  3. Raise the weight to shoulder height. You can do it simultaneously or try alternating hammer curls.

Tips From A Trainer!

Want an additional challenge? Hold one arm at 90 degrees while you curl the other arm. Then swap arms once you've finished your reps. The static hold adds a whole other level to this exercise.  

13. Kettlebell Bent Over Rows

Woman Doing Kettlebell Bent Over Rows

The bent-over row is primarily a back exercise, but as with practically all back exercises, the biceps is a secondary muscle that is significantly involved.

You can even increase the biceps activation my using an underhand grip during the movement.

I love this exercise as it uses a large range of motion and can be performed by most gym-goers (unless you have lower back issues). 

I find the kettlebell more comfortable than the dumbbell for this exercise.

Target: Latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids, posterior deltoid, biceps brachii

benefits:

  • Uses a wide range of motion. 
  • Develops your back muscles too. 

How To Do It:

  1. Bend your knees and lower your torso until it's somewhere between vertical and parallel to the floor (hip hinge).
  2. Hold a kettlebell with a straight arm (or two kettlebells with both arms) and pull your shoulder blades backward.
  3. Pull the kettlebells up to your rib cage, both at the same time or alternating.
  4. Squeeze your lats for greater muscle activation.
  5. Slowly return the weights to the starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

If you're on the move and don't have your kettlebells with you, you can use a resistance band instead.  

14. Kettlebell Plank Rows

Man Doing Kettlebell Plank Rows

The plank row is an advanced row variation that requires a very strong core. Otherwise, you won't be able to maintain the plank position and perform rows simultaneously.

My advice is to try to hold the classic plank and side plank for about a minute. Also, try mountain climbers for at least 30 seconds.

If you can do all that successfully, then you are ready for kettlebell plank rows. This movement is a good alternative to renegade rows as well!

Target: Core, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, rhomboids, posterior deltoid, biceps brachii, glutes

benefits:

  • Uses your core muscles. 
  • Ideal for more advanced lifters. 
  • You can do them almost anywhere.

How To Do It:

  1. Place two kettlebells in front of you on the ground.
  2. Get into a plank and grab kettlebell handles.
  3. Tighten your core.
  4. Bend your hips slightly for stability, and your back must remain flat.
  5. Pull it towards your body until the elbow is just past the midline.
  6. Alternate arms or do one and then the other arm.

Tips From A Trainer!

Keep in mind that the position you should take for the plank row looks more like a push-up position or high plank than a forearm plank. 

15. Kettlebell Tricep Kickbacks

Man Doing Kettlebell Tricep Kickbacks In The Gym

The tricep kickback is one of the best isolation tricep exercises. If you perform it properly, you will feel your entire triceps working through the full range of motion. Don't underestimate this exercise, it's great for your tricep development. 

Opt for a lighter kettlebell because a large and heavy one is not suitable for tricep kickbacks unless you have superhuman grip strength.

Otherwise, you risk damage to the elbow joint, tendons, and ligaments around it, and your wrist can be hurt as well.

Target: Triceps brachii, posterior deltoid

benefits:

  • Isolates your triceps.
  • Suitable for all abilities. 

How To Do It:

  1. You can stand or kneel with one leg on the bench.
  2. Bent over (hip hinge)
  3. Grab a kettlebell handle.
  4. Straighten your arm behind you.
  5. Pause for a second.

Tips From A Trainer!

When you fully straighten your arm, try to push the whole arm from the shoulder a little further back, for end-range strength. 

16. Kettlebell Goblet Squat Curls

Woman And Man Doing Kettlebell Goblet Squat Curls

To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of 2-in-1 exercises. I think that the 2-in-1 approach lowers the intensity of both exercises that you would otherwise do separately.

However, the kettlebell goblet squat curl is one of the 2-in-1 exercises that are useful and can be well incorporated into full-body workouts or when you're short on time.

The goblet squat targets the quadriceps but also almost the entire lower body, especially if you are using heavy kettlebells.[3]

Target: Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis, glutes, quadriceps, core

benefits:

  • Works most of your body. 
  • Time efficient.

How To Do It:

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
  2. Point your toes slightly outward.
  3. Take a bigger kettlebell in both hands with an overhand grip, bend your elbows, and put it in the middle of your chest (approximately at the sternum)
  4. Press your hips back and bend your knees to perform the goblet squat.
  5. When you squat down, keep your feet flat, stay in the bottom position and rest your elbows on the inside of your knees.
  6. Perform a few biceps curls.
  7. Stand up.

Tips From A Trainer!

If you're looking to pack size on to your biceps, this ISN'T the exercise for you. If anything, this movement should only be used if you're stuck for time... even then I'd be tempted to say you'd get more development from just regular bicep curls.  

17. Kettlebell Preacher Curls

Man Showing How To Do Kettlebell Preacher Curls

The preacher curls heavily emphasize bicep muscles.

The preacher bench puts you in such a position that shoulders are almost totally out of the equation, thus leaving the biceps fully exposed to the load.

I LOVE the preacher curl as it truly allows you to isolate your biceps. And, it works them using a wide range of motion, allowing you to pack on some serious arm mass. 

If your gym doesn't have a preacher bench, you can do single-arm preacher curls on an incline bench.

Target: Biceps brachii, brachialis, brachioradialis

benefits:

  • Isolates your biceps.
  • Uses a wide range of motion. 

How To Do It:

  1. Sit at the preacher bench and put your armpits on the top of the bench.
  2. Grab a kettlebell with mid-upper palms.
  3. Fully extend your arms.
  4. Curl one or both kettlebells until you reach about a 100-degree angle.

Tips From A Trainer!

Focus on using the correct form over weight. The last thing you want to do is use a kettlebell that's too heavy as your form will suffer and the exercise won't be as effective.  

Kettlebell Arm Workout Plan

If you're wondering how to structure your kettlebell arm workout, I've got your back. Here's an example workout that you can follow. 

Ensure that you can between 60-90 seconds rest between each set. If you're a beginner use 90 seconds rest, if you're more advanced lower the rest periods to 60 seconds.

Exercises

Sets

Reps

Standing Kettlebell Bicep Curl

4

10-15

Kettlebell Overhead Tricep Extensions

4

15

Kettlebell Hammer Curls

4

15

Kettlebell Close Grip Push Up

4

15

Kettlebell Bent Over Rows

4

15

Kettlebell Tricep Kickbacks

4

AMRAP (As Many As Possible)

Kettlebell Preacher Curls

4

AMRAP

Note: I've given you a rep range of 10-15 reps. Once you can comfortably perform 10 reps, move up to 11, then 12... and so on. Once you've mastered 15 reps, it's time to up the weight. 

Frequently Kettlebell Arm Exercise Questions

Can you get big arms from a kettlebell?

Yes, kettlebells can be quite heavy, so you will be working on your arms both during isolation exercises and during certain exercises where the biceps, triceps, and forearms are secondary muscles.

Are kettlebells good for toning arms?

Yes, you can certainly develop muscles and lose fat on your arms using kettlebells, which will give you toned arms and a muscular appearance. You just have to be creative and make a good workout plan or let your personal trainer make it for you.

How long should a kettlebell workout be?

It depends on many factors, such as your fitness level, age, and goal, but since the intensity of a kettlebell workout is very high, usually, 15 to 20 minutes is enough.

Which is better: dumbbell or kettlebell?

Dumbbells and kettlebells are different, but both are very useful. A kettlebell is better for full-body, dynamic movements, while a dumbbell is a preferred choice when you want to isolate a muscle. In case you don't have one of these two pieces of equipment, the other can serve as a good alternative.

How heavy should a beginner kettlebell be for arm workout?

Male beginners should start with 20-25 lbs, and for female beginners, I recommend around 15 lbs.

Conclusion

A kettlebell arm workout is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of arm exercises.

However, the biceps, triceps, and forearms are involved in almost every movement, including ones where the emphasis is on the legs.

This leads us to conclude that it is inevitable to develop arm muscles with any type of training, including kettlebell training primarily focused on compound movements and cardiovascular fitness.

Weight training is only one of the steps toward your goal. You have to pay attention to nutrition, rest, and lifestyle habits to maximize your potential and reach your desired appearance faster.

References: 

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28677940/
  2. https://www.menshealth.com/fitness/a31118497/front-rack-position/
  3. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2021/10000/Differences_in_Muscle_Activity_and_Kinetics.1.aspx
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.