Kettlebell Exercises - Arms Edition
Let's great right into it and breakdown some of my favorite kettlebell arm exercises.
I'm going to focus on mainly the arms... so areas like:
- A little of the delts (shoulders)
I'm not going to go to much into the back of your shoulders (traps and shoulder blades) since I consider that more of your upper back.
I happen to have a great post of kettlebell back exercises ... you should check that out.
What are we waiting for?
Let's break these exercises down.
Kettlebell Exercises For Your Arms
Holding a heavy kettlebell for as long as you can is amazing for your delts and your shoulders too.
But your anterior (front) delts will have a huge role in supporting the heavy weight.
This is not enough... let's tweak it so it hits your arms hard.
Squeeze the handle of the kettlebell hard.
Immediately you'll notice your arms flexes.
And now you're in an endurance situation where you're training your body to stay flexed for a period of time.
However long you can last. The longer you last... the more endurance you'll have and the stronger you'll get.
As heavy as you can go without posture breakdown. But start lighter because I want you to go for a long period of time squeezing... rather than just heavy.
A Big Idea
Be aware when holding a flex for a period of time.
It's possible a muscle might cramp or get slightly tweaked out because you're sqeezing so hard.
It's always a good idea to NOT push to your breaking point here.
Take you're time getting stronger with squeezes... there's no rush.
One of my favorites and one of the best arm exercises... period.
You need a heavy kettlebell to make this worth it.
It's simple... just hold your kettlebell like a suitcase and stand with near perfect posture.
Your power pose.
But guess what?
Don't just hold the kettlebell... squeeze the handle really hard.
Immediately you're arms will light up... and now you just hold and squeeze.
What I love about kettlebell farmers carry is the focus on grip strength.
You never hear too many people talking about grip strength... but grip strength will revolutionize your strength training.
A stronger grip makes all exercises easier to do... exercises like...
- Almost every other kettlebell exercise come to think of it!
The ultimate grip strength test is hanging from a bar.
I like to hang as long as possible. I don't think there is a thing as too much in this case.
Try to get over a minute as a minimum.
You'd be surprised to see many women can't hand for 10 seconds.
Plus hanging is incredibly good for your shoulder joint. If you have shoulder pain... add in hanging to your daily routine and I bet your pain will slowly melt away.
We will cover bar and pullup exercises later!
Farmers Towel Carry
I know what you're thinking...
"Kindal... I want to do farmers carry but I don't have a heavy kettlebell. What can I do?"
I got you covered!
Go grab an old t-shirt or dish towel.
Place it through the handle of your kettlebell and hold the towel as you let the kettlebell rest at your side.
OMG... this is grip strength to the max!
It's insanely tough. It applies a sheering force your fingers and grip... something just holding a kettlebell can't do.
So you're grip and your forearms will get an amazing workout with this variation.
Over Head Hold
Let's change things up and give your grip and rest.
Over head kettlebell holds are so simple and yet so good for your delts.
I usually tell my clients to grab a lighter kettlebell for this... it can be tough to push press a heavy kettlebell over your head.
And when you're arm is fatigued... it can be tough getting that heavy kettlebell down from over your head.
So lighter is usually safer.
But this also means you'll have to hold for a longer period of time to get your delts to fatigue.
You should know what's coming by now...
Rather than just hold the kettlebell over your head... squeeze it!
You'll feel the difference... and rather than fatigueing you faster... when the kettlebell is over your head... this normally helps you hold longer.
So we're going to hold a...
- Rack hold
- Over head hold
- Dynamic kettlebell cleans
This isn't a new exercise... it's a way to make some of the exercises on our list harder and even more targeted to your arms.
Remember how I said to squeeze the handle of the kettlebell?
I've only said it like five times already.
Now I'm going to put you in a position that will force your to squeeze the handle really hard.
It's inverting the kettlebell.
Whether you're holding the kettlebell in...
- Over your head
- Or dynamically cleaning the kettlebell to an inverted hold
You'll have to squeeze hard or the kettlebell will just flop over in your hand.
This is not easy at all... but you will feel your arms light up!
Make sure you go outside for this one... just in case you drop the kettlebell.
This is easy to explain but hard to do... especially as you go heavier with your bells.
It's similar to holding the kettlebell in rack... but your're going to hold your ball in the palm of your hand.
This takes balance and strength through your arms and shoulders.
For stability you'll immediately feel your arm engage... almost as if you are squeezing. It's a theme!
- Aim for 30 seconds...
- Then 60 seconds...
Once you get good... aim for balancing two kettlebells. Getting them into this position takes some practice.
Switching gears again...
The good old kettlebell snatch is a great arm exercise. But you have to go heavy to really get the most from this.
As you're securing the kettlebell over your head your shoulders and delts are doing a lot of the stabilization work.
When I do a lot of kettlebell snatches... I always feel sore in my shoulders the next day... especially my delts.
I won't go into an in-depth on how to do the kettlebell snatch here . I have a blog post on how to do the kettlebell snatch.
Make sure your form is on point before you start going heavy.
Kettlebell Bicep Curl
This is my favorite variation of bicep curls... you'll see why in a second.
Hold the kettlebell upside down at chest level. Your still holding the kettlebell by the handle.
Hinge from your elbows and go all the way down until your arms are straight.
Then just return.
Here's why this is tougher.
When you're hinging down... the bell of the kettlebell is going to pull harder as you get lower.
The builk of the kettlebell (the bell) is out further from the hinge point. This is a huge offset you will feel.
So the exercise gets tougher the lower you go... and it's tough to curl the weight back up.
This offset also causes you to naturally squeeze the kettlebell... and you know now... squeezing is always good for your arm muslces.
Another version to activate your grip more... kettlebell curls with a towel!
Using a kettlebell let's you go to the next level with combinations compared to dumbbells. (Although some of these you can do with dumbbells.)
Before you do a kettlebell curl... go down into a deep squat and curl there.
- Do a halo and then go into a curl.
- Do a swing to curl combo... 6 light swings... 6 curls.
You can do so much without ever putting the kettlebell down and things can feed right back into the kettlebell curl.
Floor Tricep Extensions
This is a classic exercise you can easily do with a kettlebell.
This exercise is traditionally called skull crushers... typical I guess given the history of weight lifting.
Either way... it's a great exercise for your triceps.
A Big Idea
Okay... if you're like most women (anybody really) your triceps are tight... and this can cause some elbow discomfort when you do these extensions.
Go grab your trigger balls... I like the small Jill Miller blue trigger ball of this one...
And take 30 seconds to roll your triceps and right behind your elbow.
You might be surprised how much this hurts. If so... add it in daily.
Lay on the floor with one kettlebell extended over your chest.
Make sure your thumbs are through the handle of your kettlebell. This will secure it when you're in the loaded position.
You're only going to hinge at your elbows. So your upper arms will stay perpendicular to the ground.
Hinge at your elbows and lower the weight to your head until your forearms are parallel to the ground.
Return to start and squeeze your arms a little to flex your triceps.
Then just repeat and listen to your elbows.
I love this version of the plank. It's hard to do during Fit Women's Weekly LIVE workouts because you need a kettlebell with a round side.
If you need help picking kettlebells... go read my post on discovering which kettlebell is right for you .
Start with just two kettlebells.
Lay your two kettlebells on the ground... round side down.
We will start with your hands on the kettlebells first.
Get into a top of the pushup plank.
And when you're in position... roll the kettlebell handles off the ground so you're balancing on only the round side of the bell.
This is a little tough on your wrists so make sure you listen to that... but it gets better as your wrists get stronger.
Flip To Your Feet
This is going to be harder.
Place your feet on the kettlebells... round side still down.
Get into your top of pushup plank... and roll the handles off the ground with yoru feet.
Both of these will have your entire body flexed like you've not felt before.
To stay balanced you will need to...
- Twist your hands into the ground hard for balance.
- Push through your shoulders hard and stay tight.
- Lock your legs out to keep your body stiff so it can balance better.
You will love these plank variations...
They are actually tougher on your arms than they are on your abs.
Plus there are variations like:
- Rather than two kettlebells... only use one.
- Use four kettlebells for both your arms and your feet.
Ready for STRONG Arms?
This is more than enough to get you started.
Arm strength is important for women... it's where we lack the most strength.
But this will help you build a good base so you can start doing more difficult exercises like handstands... hangs... pullups and more.
Make sure you checkout our other kettlebell posts:
- Kettlebell Core Exercises
- Chest Exercises with Kettlebells
- 5 Exercises to Get Your Started With Kettlebells
- 6 Hardcore Kettlebell Leg Exercises
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