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Upper Body Kettlebell Workout for Athletes

upper body kettlebell workout

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An aesthetic V-taper physique awaits you which includes beautiful 3D delts, a defined chest and a shredded 6-pack. So, how do you achieve it? Well, kettlebell training is your one stop solution to all your upper-body muscle-developing needs! In this article we go over some simple exercises that grapplers can use for upper-body usings kettlebells.

Read below to find out what exercises you need to finally achieve your ideal summer physique!

upper body kettlebell workout

Upperbody Exercises For More Power and Strength

Kettlebell exercises bring wonderful amounts of explosive power into your body movement and allow you to pack lean muscle mass over time. There are many excellent kettlebell movements that target your upper body perfectly, below listed are some of the best in the game.

Add these movements to your routine and watch your gains and health skyrocket in weeks.

Kettlebell Upright Rows

If your goal is to look as masculine as possible even while wearing a loose t-shirt, training your neck, traps, and shoulders is absolutely essential. If well-developed these muscles help you stand out, look more prominent, and much bigger in your daily routine.

This a very simple and effective movement to master, start in a standing position with a kettlebell in hand and hold it from the top of its handle with an overhand grip. Begin the movement by pulling the weight straight up to your chin, pause and squeeze your traps and lower the weight slowly, and repeat.

This exercise is a great compound movement that targets your biceps, traps, and delts. Do 12 to 15 reps for a few sets close to failure with a decent weight to maximize efficiency and muscle growth.

upper body kettlebell workout

Kettlebell Bent Over Row

As kids we all wanted to have a good pack of defined abs, thinking it was attractive and would impress everyone at school. It was only when we grew up that we realized, the real flex is having a big defined back. Nothing’s more attractive than a beautiful V-taper, wide shoulders and lats, and a small waist.

The golden proportion is to have shoulders that are 1.6 times bigger than your waist. To get that wide look, you must train your lats regularly. There are many exercises that will target your lats but one of the best is the kettlebell bent over row. This movement will help you get wings as wide as a Boeing 747!

Start in a standing position with a single kettlebell in each hand and bend forward by hinging through your hips. Make sure to keep your back straight during the entire movement to avoid any sort of injury. Try to find a comfortable starting position.

Then, start the movement by pulling the kettlebells toward your hips and allowing your elbows to bend as needed, and your shoulder blades to retract and contract throughout the movement. Squeeze your lats at the top of the movement with a short pause and slowly lower the weight and repeat.

10 to 12 reps for 2 to 3 sets should help you enjoy the benefits of one of the best pulling exercises for your back!

Kettlebell Skull Crushers

Training your triceps is two-thirds of the effort for building big arms, this is because your biceps are only one-third of your entire arm, therefore proving you do not need to train them as hard and as often. Skull crushers are a staple in any tricep-building workout.

Add kettlebells to this excellent movement and gain further benefit because of the constant tension they keep because of the shape of the weight. Add a decline bench into the equation and you will hit all three heads of the tricep with ease and with maximum efficiency. Do 12 to 15 reps for a few sets close to failure with a decent weight to maximize efficiency and muscle growth.

upper body kettlebell workout

Proper Form for Skullcrushers

It is quite common for beginners to get this movement wrong, as it is slightly advanced compared to your age-old tricep extensions. Lie on your back with your knees elevated and your feet flat on the floor. Hold the kettlebell in both hands directly above your chest.

Keeping your upper arms in place, bend your elbows to slowly bring the kettlebell in front of your forehead. Make sure to perform this movement slowly and with a lighter weight that you can control the eccentric.

Kettlebell Curls

Training your biceps is as easy as targeting its three heads, all of which you can do with different variations of kettlebell curls. Hammer curls, cross-body curls, and spider curls are all you need to get the biceps that pop out of your shirt.

To perform regular kettlebell curls, start in a standing position with a kettlebell in each hand, making sure you hold them from the handle with an underhand grip. Start by slowly pulling the heavy kettlebells back up as you would with dumbbells, making sure your elbows do not move at all.

Slowly lower the weight while focusing on the mind-muscle connection and repeat after fully extending your arms. Do 12 to 15 reps for a few sets close to failure with a decent weight to maximize efficiency and muscle growth.

Kettlebell Turkish Get-Up

The Turkish get-up is an exercise that starts with lying flat on the floor with a kettlebell in your hand at the bottom of the movement. From there you must press the kettlebell weight to complete lockout in the elbow on top of you.

Then, you try to get up by first doing a sit-up followed by getting on your knees and then simply standing up. Do 12 to 15 reps for a few sets close to failure with a decent weight to maximize efficiency and muscle growth.

upper body kettlebell workout

How to do Turkish get-ups Properly

This exercise is known to smash some egos as it is easier said than done. Do a few sets of these making sure to switch hands after each set. This movement guarantees your core muscles will be on fire in a matter of minutes.

It is recommended to first do this exercise with minimal weight to understand the advanced technique and then slowly add resistance. You should also try to keep your back straight and learn to properly brace your core muscles to increase stability.

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Clean & Press

The kettlebell clean and press is an excellent pull and push press exercise that will target your entire upper body, including your core muscles, shoulders, triceps, upper chest, and more. This movement is great for building muscle and explosive strength in the upper body.

This movement should be a part of every upper-body strength full-body kettlebell workout because of its versatility and the cardio benefits that it provides! Add a few sets of these to your routine and watch your explosive power and muscle mass gains skyrocket!

Do 12 to 15 reps for a few sets close to failure with a decent weight to maximize efficiency and muscle growth.

How to do Kettlebell cleans & presses properly

To start this movement start by standing tall with a kettlebell in one hand, hinge at the hips, and allow the bell to travel back in between your legs like you would in a kettlebell swing. Drive your hips forward and swing the bell up in a thrusting manner, and squat down to catch the bell in the front-rack position.

Stand up, making sure to keep your core engaged, and then press the bell strictly overhead until your elbow is completely locked out.

Some tips to master this movement are to start with minimal weight and truly understand the steps of the exercise, only increase when you have understood the movement. Also, keep your back straight by bracing properly which means to engage your core muscles.

Kettlebell High Pulling Exercises

The kettlebell high pull is an excellent strength and explosive power-building exercise that works your upper body and posterior chain. It is one of those movements that is often looked over, but it is an excellent movement if done properly.

Olympic weightlifters are often seen doing high clean pulls and high snatch pulls on barbells and are able to achieve unreal feats of strength. The kettlebell high pull follows the same principle and produces similar strength.

The technique for this exercise is quite simple and requires some explosive movement, any beginner can easily master this movement and initiate muscle growth in their arms, back, and shoulders. Start with your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart.

Using both hands, pick up the kettlebell and engage your core as you move back up to your original standing position, pulling the kettlebell to hip level as you go. Raise the kettlebell until the handle reaches chin level in an explosive manner, pointing your elbows up in the process.

Slowly lower the weight and repeat for 12 to 15 repetitions for a few sets.

Kneeling Press Exercises with Kettlebell

Kneeling press variations are amazing movements to strengthen your core and build muscle in your upper body. Add both the half and full kneeling kettlebell exercises into your routine at least twice a week and enjoy the strength and muscle gains!

upper body kettlebell workout

Half Kneeling Kettlebell Press

The half-kneeling kettlebell press is an excellent exercise for shoulder and core strength in the upper body. This movement takes the legs out of the equation from your regular standing shoulder press, it also has reduced stability because one of your knees is bent and against the floor.

Since there is less stability, to keep your body balanced, your core strength plays a bigger role than usual. The technique for performing this movement is quite simple and straightforward.

Start by getting into a half-kneeling position which is similar to a lunge movement. Engage your abs and squeeze your glutes to maintain a strong position. Raise one kettlebell into the racked position such that the weight rests on your forearm, and press straight up till complete lockout.

This completes one rep, slowly lower the weight and repeat for 10 to 12 reps for a handful of sets for each side. Make sure to add this to your routine and enjoy the core, shoulder, and tricep gains that will come along.

Full Kneeling Kettlebell Press

The full kneeling kettlebell press is just like its half-kneeling variation, however, this makes you hold and press a kettlebell in each hand, making it that much harder. Get into a half-kneeling position, with a kettlebell in each hand. Squeeze your core and glutes to make it a strong position.

Raise both kettlebells into the racked position, holding the handles and resting the weights on your forearms. Press both kettlebells straight up till complete elbow flexion and slowly lower, that’s one rep, now repeat for 12-15 for a few sets.

The full kneeling variation has some extra benefits over the half kneeling press, it takes less time to complete, as you do not have to exercise each side individually. It allows you to use heavier weights since there is more stability in the starting position.

upper body kettlebell workout

Kettlebell Floor Press

The kettlebell floor press is one of the best exercises for creating strength and explosive power in your chest and triceps. The technique is simple as it is just like a dumbbell floor press. Start by lying flat on the floor with a kettlebell in each hand, holding the weight such that the bottom part rests on your forearms.

Press the weight straight up and slightly behind until your elbows are locked out, you should make sure the weight is above your face at the top of the movement. Flex and squeeze your chest and triceps at the top of the movement and slowly lower and repeat for 10 to 12 reps for 2-3 sets.

To add further resistance, add a fly movement between each pressing rep. This will train a different part of your chest muscles, making the overall movement more effective for muscle hypertrophy.

Grip Strength and Forearms

Kettlebell exercises are an amazing overall forearm and grip strength workout. Almost every kettlebell exercise trains your wrists, forearms, and grip strength in a strong manner which is essential for developing aesthetic forearms that look proportionate to your triceps and biceps.

Movements like heavy kettlebell farmer walks, kettlebell swings, and kettlebell halo are excellent for increasing muscular endurance in your forearms and hands. If your goal is to get complimented on your strong handshakes, grab a heavy kettlebell and toss it around, with proper form of course!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some popular questions related to upper body kettlebell workouts and their detailed answers:

How long can you do an upper-body kettlebell training program?

As long as you practice progressive overload, proper form, train hard and maintain a clean diet with lots of protein, you will gain all the benefits kettlebell training has to offer.

Essentially most programs last six to eight weeks which is ample time to make huge progress as a beginner. It is hard to pinpoint a specific limit to how long you should train with kettlebells. The reason for this is that progress and gains are not exponential.

It is recommended to stick to whatever program you choose until the end to achieve your desired results. You should remember that even the best program won’t work unless you are willing to work hard and stay consistent.

Are Kettlebell exercises good for the Upper body?

Whether you use a light kettlebell for higher reps or use a heavy kettlebell for lower reps, kettlebell training, full kettlebell workouts, and overall kettlebell exercises are excellent for building muscle, and increasing cardiovascular endurance, mobility, flexibility, and explosive power in the upper body.

For its widespread plethora of benefits, kettlebell training is highly recommended by many doctors and athletes, especially for beginners. The reason for this is that most kettlebell exercises are easy on your joints and are not as demanding as dumbbells, barbells, and machines because of their free movement path and variety of variations.

Exercises like the clean and press and kettlebell swings are easy full-body movements, making them versatile as a few kettlebell exercises can become an amazing full upper body workout that can easily be done in 15 to 20 minutes. This makes kettlebell training very attractive to people with busy schedules who cannot spare hours to go to the gym every day.

Are kettlebells better than dumbbells and barbells for upper-body workouts?

Kettlebells work in such a manner that every athlete perspires, gaining a number of benefits from them. This equipment is useful enough to prepare one for any sport or even regular fitness and the range of exercises is infinite.

It is important to keep in mind the goal one is aiming for and then select adequate weight and a form of training in accordance. The barbells are better for overall strength, while kettlebells are great for building up athleticism and conditioning.

Both have their own respective benefits, most dumbbell exercises, and barbell training are easier to progressively overload which means continuously increasing the weight used over time. Overall staple exercises with dumbbells and barbells with heavier weights are better for strength and muscle mass gain like the bench press, dumbbell bench press, overhead press, etc.

As for kettlebell training, it also has its quirks and perks over dumbbells and barbells. Kettlebells are better for everyday mobility and flexibility. They are easier to train and therefore are better for beginners or older people looking to get into fitness. Another important benefit is that you do not need a large amount of equipment to get your workout in, a pair of kettlebells is more than enough to have a great full-body workout in 20 minutes.

Overall all three are exceptional for any kind of fitness routine, kettlebells, barbells, and dumbbells compliment each other and provide the athlete will all kinds of benefits. It is highly recommended to have a hybrid program that has all three of these implemented into your routine.

Can kettlebells build shoulders?

The shoulder and the shoulder girdle consist of three main heads. The front delt, side delt and, rear delt. All three of these can be trained efficiently with different kettlebell exercises and variations. To train the front delt you need pressing movements like the kettlebell floor press, kettlebell push press, and kettlebell front raise. These movements efficiently train the front delt alongside your chest and triceps.

To train the lateral delt you need exercises that move in the lateral plane, movements like kettlebell lateral raises are great for building side delts. The lateral head is the most important to get a wider look and should be trained hard and often.

The rear delt is often forgotten and left untrained by most people, however, those who do train it notice significant gains in how proportional their back becomes with defined rear delts. To get these aesthetic 3D delts you need exercises like the kettlebell rear fly, kettlebell renegade row, kettlebell suitcase row, kettlebell upright row, and also movements like the bent-over kettlebell row.

The versatility and results from these movements prove that kettlebell training is great for building aesthetic shoulders that help form a beautiful V-taper physique.

Can you build muscle with kettlebells?

Accommodating kettlebell exercises into workout routines, especially for MMA fighters, brings a wide range of benefits for combat fighters. Building muscles and amplifying power output are traits sought by every athlete including MMA fighters but also regular gym and fitness enthusiasts who look forward to an efficient way of fitness sustenance.

Kettlebells are known for their involvement in full-body workouts and multiple muscles working during an exercise. Muscle movement is covered in complete depth during kettlebell exercise, resulting in an absolute range of motion for muscles. This instigates the release of muscle-developing hormones like Testosterone.

In addition to this, kettlebells develop more explosive strength and power, especially in the hips. This helps stabilizes the lower body, and ensures sound mobility. In light of these kettlebell workout benefits, it was true to term the kettlebells as an all-in-one tool for body conditioning and muscle endurance.

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