Guest Post Written by Amanda Perkins of Kettlebell Kings
People usually associate kettlebells with explosive movements such as swings, cleans and snatches that target multiple major muscle groups. When it comes to isolating different muscles in the arm, such as the biceps, triceps, and forearm muscles, dumbbells and barbells are usually the equipment of choice. However, kettlebells can be just as effective, if not more so, than dumbbells or barbells for these single joint movements and smaller muscle groups.
Kettlebells are often thought of a tool utilized for conditioning rather than increasing muscle mass. But again, kettlebells can be just as effective as dumbbells and barbells for adding lean muscle. For experienced lifters who have always used dumbbells and barbells, kettlebells offer a new stimulus that can help elicit further gains, as well as increase movement variety. For beginners with limited exposure to weightlifting, kettlebells offer a more engaging workout option than your rote barbell and dumbbell exercises.
The two most well-known muscle groups of the arm are the biceps and triceps, both of which cross the shoulder and elbow joints. The primary actions of the biceps are elbow and shoulder flexion and forearm supination. The main actions of the triceps are elbow and shoulder extension. Two smaller, less well-known muscles cross at the elbow, the brachialis and brachioradialis, which assist in elbow flexion. The forearm muscles are what allow the wrist to flex and extend. Anytime you grip something, all of these muscle groups turn on.
Kettlebells, often described as cannonballs with handles, have an offset weight distribution that provides a unique challenge for your grip – and activates all of the arm muscles in a way that barbells and dumbbells do not.
This introductory arm workout includes some compound exercises that focus on both the shoulder and elbow joints, as well as isolated exercises that target just the elbow joint. It is designed to increase strength and endurance in all the muscles of the upper arm and forearm as well as some of the major muscles of the shoulder and upper back.
This workout requires only one kettlebell. We recommend women start with a 6-8 kg (13-18 lbs.) kettlebell and men begin with a 10-12 kg (22-26 lbs.) kettlebell. As you gain strength, it is best to increase your weight five pounds at a time. Repetitions 8-10 should be difficult for you to execute. If you don’t feel challenged by the end of the routine, it is time to increase your weight.
Perform three sets of 8-10 reps per exercise using 30-45 seconds of rest between sets.
Primary Muscles: deltoids, trapezius, triceps
Hold the kettlebell at shoulder height in one hand with your elbow tucked in, with the ball of the kettlebell resting on your upper arm and forearm.
Press the kettlebell up , extending your arm fully and locking your elbow out in the top position.
Lower the kettlebell back down to the start position.
Perform the desired number of reps, then repeat on the other side.
Alternating Bent Over Row
Primary Muscles: lats, traps, biceps
Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart with a kettlebell on the floor between your legs.
Bend forward at the waist, maintaining a neutral spine and grab the kettlebell with one hand.
Raise the kettlebell up to chest level, drawing your elbow up and back and pulling your shoulder blades together at the top. Maintain a neutral spine.
Lower the kettlebell back to the floor, rapidly switch hands and repeat. Alternate sides each rep.
Close Push Up
Primary Muscles: pecs, deltoids, triceps
Lay the kettlebell on its side on the floor.
Place both hands on the ball of the kettlebell and position your body in the top of a push-up position with your feet wider than shoulder-width for balance.
Lower your upper chest down towards the kettlebell, bending at the elbows.
Push back up to the top position, maintaining a neutral spine throughout.
Important Note: If the full military style push up is too challenging, modify by placing your knees on the floor. If you find an exercise too difficult, it’s always best to modify to avoid injury.
Primary Muscles: biceps, forearms
Stand holding a kettlebell by the horns of the handle in both hands with your arms straight.
Raise the kettlebell up to your upper chest, bending at the elbows.
Hold briefly at the top then lower back to the starting position at the same pace. Ensure the arms straighten out completely to get full range of motion.
Primary Muscles: triceps, forearms
Stand holding a kettlebell by the horns of the handle in both hands behind your head with your elbows bent.
Raise the kettlebell overhead, keeping the elbows tight and extending them fully.
Lower the kettlebell back down to the start position, taking care to avoid contact with the back of your head.
Primary Muscles: biceps, forearms, deltoids
Stand, squeezing the ball of a kettlebell in both hands with the handle facing down and your arms straight.
Raise the kettlebell up to your midsection, bending at the elbows until they reach a 90-degree position.
Hold this position, squeezing the kettlebell for up to 20 seconds (or as long as possible) then slowly lower on a five count and repeat.
For best results perform this arm-specific kettlebell workout once or twice a week in addition to your regular full-body workouts. By utilizing kettlebells in your daily workouts, you will build the strength and stamina to perform daily activities easily. Keep checking our blog for Part 2 of our 10-part kettlebell workouts for arms series.
About Kettlebell Kings
Kettlebell Kings is a premium-quality kettlebell and kettlebell content provider, based in Austin, Texas. You can view our equipment, kettlebell how-to’s, and get expert advice at https://www.kettlebellkings.com and https://blog.kettlebellkings.com. For more information, call us at 855-7KETTLE to learn more.