Kettlebell Exercises (Upper Body)

Written by Tele Demetrious, Physiotherapist, BPhysio(Hons)
Reviewed by Brett Harrop, APA Sports Physiotherapist, BPhysio(Hons), MPhysio(Sports Physio)
Updated:

Exercises > Kettlebell > Kettlebell Exercises (Upper Body)

The following Kettlebell exercises are designed to improve the strength of the muscles of the upper body. You should discuss the suitability of these exercises with your physiotherapist prior to beginning them. Generally, they should only be performed provided they do not cause or increase pain. Begin with the basic Kettlebell exercises. Once these are too easy, progress to the advanced and other Kettlebell exercises.


Basic Kettlebell Exercises – Upper Body

The following basic Kettlebell exercises should generally be performed 1 – 3 times per week provided they do not cause or increase pain. Ideally they should not be performed on consecutive days, to allow muscle recovery. Generally you should begin with one or two exercises, and gradually add additional exercises over a period of days to weeks provided they are pain free. As your strength improves, the exercises can be progressed by gradually increasing the repetitions, number of sets, number of exercises or resistance of the exercises provided they do not cause or increase pain.

Kettlebell Pull Backs

Begin this exercise standing in a lunge position with your left elbow resting on your left knee and holding a light Kettlebell in your right hand as demonstrated (figure 1). Keeping your back and neck straight and your arm by your side, slowly pull the Kettlebell straight up leading with your elbow. Pause briefly at the top of the movement and then slowly return to the starting position. Perform 1 – 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each side provided the exercise is pain free.

Kettlebell Pull Backs

Figure 1 – Kettlebell Pull Backs

Kettlebell Floor Press

Begin this exercise lying on your back, with your feet flat on the floor, your elbows straight and holding a light Kettlebell in each hand directly above your shoulders as demonstrated (figure 2). Slowly lower the Kettlebells, allowing your elbows to move to the side until they touch the floor momentarily, then slowly return to the starting position. Ensure the Kettlebells remain directly above your elbows throughout the exercise. Perform 1 – 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Kettlebell Floor Press

Figure 2 – Kettlebell Floor Press

Kettlebell Shoulder Press

Begin this exercise sitting on a Swiss Ball and holding a light Kettlebell in each hand as demonstrated (figure 3). Keeping your back and neck straight and the Swiss Ball still, slowly straighten your arms pushing the Kettlebells overhead and then slowly return to the starting position. Perform 1 – 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Kettlebell Shoulder Press

Figure 3 – Kettlebell Shoulder Press

Kettlebell Rowes

Begin this exercise standing in a semi-squat position with your back and neck straight and holding a light Kettlebell in your right hand as demonstrated (figure 4). Keeping your back and neck straight and your arm by your side, slowly pull the Kettlebell straight up leading with your elbow. Pause briefly at the top of the movement and then slowly return to the starting position. Perform 1 – 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each side provided the exercise is pain free.

Kettlebell Rowes

Figure 4 – Kettlebell Rowes

Alternate Kettlebell Floor Press

Begin this exercise lying on your back, with your feet flat on the floor, your elbows straight and holding a light Kettlebell in each hand directly above your shoulders as demonstrated (figure 5). Slowly lower one Kettlebell, allowing your elbow to move to the side until it touches the floor momentarily, then slowly return to the starting position. Then repeat the exercise on the other side. Ensure the Kettlebells remain directly above your elbows throughout the exercise. Perform 1 – 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each side provided the exercise is pain free.

Kettlebell Floor Press Alternate

Figure 5 – Alternate Kettlebell Floor Press

Kettlebell Lateral Raises

Begin this exercise standing with your back straight and holding a light Kettlebell in each hand as demonstrated (figure 6). Slowly raise your arms out to the side until they are level with your shoulders, keeping your elbows, back and neck straight. Then slowly return to the starting position. Perform 1 – 3 sets of 10 repetitions side provided the exercise is pain free.

Kettlebell Lateral Raises

Figure 6 – Kettlebell Lateral Raises

Kettlebell Pullovers

Begin this exercise holding a light Kettlebell with both hands and lying on a Swiss Ball as demonstrated (figure 7). Keeping your back, neck and elbows straight and the Swiss Ball still, slowly take your arms over head and then return to the starting position. Perform 1 – 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Kettlebell Pull Overs

Figure 7 – Kettlebell Pullovers

Kettlebell Twists

Begin this exercise sitting in the position demonstrated, with your back and neck as straight as possible and holding a light Kettlebell in both hands next to one of your hips as demonstrated (figure 8). Smoothly take the Kettlebell to the other side of our body and then return to the starting position. Maintain activation of your transversus abdominis muscle throughout the exercise (see Before You Start Pilates). Perform 1 – 3 sets of 10 repetitions to each side provided the exercise is pain free.

Kettlebell Twists

Figure 8 – Kettlebell Twists

Kettlebell Biceps Curl

Begin this exercise in standing holding a light Kettlebell in each hand as demonstrated (figure 9). Your back, neck and elbows should be straight. Slowly bend your elbows tightening your biceps. Then slowly return to the starting position. Perform 1 – 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Kettlebell Biceps Curl

Figure 9 – Kettlebell Biceps Curl

Kettlebell Kickbacks

Begin this exercise standing with your back and neck straight, in the position demonstrated (figure 10) and holding a light Kettlebell in your hand. Slowly straighten your elbow tightening the muscles at the back of your arm (triceps). Perform 1 – 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each arm as far as possible and comfortable provided the exercise is pain free.

Kettlebell Kickbacks

Figure 10 – Kettlebell Kickbacks


Advanced Kettlebell Exercises – Upper Body

The following advanced Kettlebell exercises should generally be performed 1 – 3 times per week provided they do not cause or increase pain. Ideally they should not be performed on consecutive days, to allow muscle recovery. Generally you should begin with one or two exercises, and gradually add additional exercises over a period of days to weeks provided they are pain free. As your strength improves, the exercises can be progressed by gradually increasing the repetitions, number of sets, number of exercises or resistance of the exercises provided they do not cause or increase pain.

Prone Kettlebell Pullbacks

Begin this exercise in the push up position with your hands on some light Kettlebells as demonstrated (figure 11). Ensure the Kettlebells are large enough and stable enough to balance on. Keeping your back and neck straight, slowly lift one Kettlebell and then return to the starting position. Repeat the exercise on the other side of the body. Perform 1 – 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each side, provided the exercise is pain free.

Kettlebell Pull Backs Prone

Figure 11 – Prone Kettlebell Pullbacks

Alternate Kettlebell Press on Swiss Ball

Begin this exercise lying on a Swiss Ball, with your feet flat on the floor, your elbows straight and holding a light Kettlebell in each hand directly above your shoulders as demonstrated (figure 12). Keeping your back and neck straight and the Swiss Ball still, slowly lower one Kettlebell, allowing your elbow to move to the side and then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat the exercise on the other side. Ensure the Kettlebells remain directly above your elbows throughout the exercise. Perform 1 – 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each side provided the exercise is pain free.

Kettlebell Press on Swiss Ball Alternate

Figure 12 – Alternate Kettlebell Press on Swiss Ball

Alternate Kettlebell Shoulder Press on Swiss Ball

Begin this exercise holding light weights and sitting on a Swiss Ball as demonstrated (figure 13). Keeping your back and neck straight and the Swiss Ball still, slowly lower one arm and then return to the starting position. Repeat the exercise on the other side. Perform 1 – 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each side provided the exercise is pain free.

Kettlebell Shoulder Press on Swiss Ball Alternate

Figure 13 – Alternate Kettlebell Shoulder Press on Swiss Ball

Reverse Kettlebell Flys on Swiss Ball

Begin this exercise with your chest resting on a Swiss Ball and holding a light Kettlebell in each hand as demonstrated (figure 14). Keeping your back and neck straight and the Swiss Ball still, slowly raise both arms and then return to the starting position. Keep your elbows straight or in a slight bend. Perform 1 – 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Kettlebell Reverse Flys on Swiss Ball

Figure 14 – Reverse Kettlebell Flys on Swiss Ball

Kettlebell Flys on Swiss Ball

Begin this exercise lying on a Swiss Ball with your feet flat on the floor and holding a light Kettlebell in each hand as demonstrated (figure 15). Keeping your back and neck straight and the Swiss Ball still, slowly lower both arms and then return to the starting position. Keep your elbows straight or in a slight bend. Perform 1 – 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Kettlebell Flys on Swiss Ball

Figure 15 – Kettlebell Flys on Swiss Ball

Kettlebell Forward Raises

Begin this exercise in standing holding a light Kettlebell in each hand as demonstrated (figure 16). Keeping your back, neck and elbows straight, slowly raise your arms to shoulder height and then return to the starting position. Perform 1 – 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Kettlebell Forward Raises

Figure 16 – Kettlebell Forward Raises

Kettlebell Shrugs

Begin this exercise in standing holding a light Kettlebell in each hand as demonstrated (figure 17). Keeping your back, neck and elbows straight, slowly bring your shoulders towards your ears, pause at the top of the movement for 2 seconds and then slowly return to the starting position. Perform 1 – 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Kettlebell Shrugs

Figure 17 – Kettlebell Shrugs

Swiss Ball Kettlebell Tricep Extensions

Begin this exercise lying on a Swiss Ball with your elbows straight and holding a light Kettlebell with both hands as demonstrated (figure 18). Keeping your back and neck straight and the Swiss Ball still, slowly lower the Kettlebell allowing your elbows to bend. Then slowly return to the starting position maintaining good posture throughout the exercise. Perform 1 – 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Kettlebell Swiss Ball Tricep Extensions

Figure 18 – Swiss Ball Kettlebell Tricep Extensions

Kettlebell Side Bends

Begin this exercise in standing holding a light Kettlebell in your left hand as demonstrated (figure 19). Your back, neck and elbows should be straight. Slowly side bend to the left side and then to the right side as demonstrated. Maintain good posture and activation of your transversus abdominis muscle (see Before You Start Pilates) throughout the exercise. Repeat the exercise holding the weight in the right hand. Perform 1 – 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each side provided the exercise is pain free.

Kettlebell Side Bends

Figure 19 – Kettlebell Side Bends

Kettlebell V-Situps

Begin this exercise lying on your back and holding a light Kettlebell with both hands in the position demonstrated (figure 20). Keeping your knees as straight as possible, slowly lift your legs and torso, bringing your hands and the Kettlebell towards your feet (figure 20). Tighten your abdominal muscles and maintain activation of your transversus abdominis muscle throughout the exercise (see Before You Start Pilates). Perform 1 – 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Kettlebell V Situps

Figure 20 – Kettlebell V-Situps


Other Kettlebell Exercises – Upper Body

The following Kettlebell exercises should generally be performed 1 – 3 times per week provided they do not cause or increase pain. Ideally they should not be performed on consecutive days, to allow muscle recovery. Generally you should begin with one or two exercises, and gradually add additional exercises over a period of days to weeks provided they are pain free. As your strength improves, the exercises can be progressed by gradually increasing the repetitions, number of sets, number of exercises or resistance of the exercises provided they do not cause or increase pain.

Kettlebell Press on Swiss Ball

Begin this exercise lying on a Swiss Ball, with your feet flat on the floor, your elbows straight and holding a light Kettlebell in each hand directly above your shoulders as demonstrated (figure 21). Keeping your back and neck straight and the Swiss Ball still, slowly lower the Kettlebells, allowing your elbows to move to the side and then slowly return to the starting position. Ensure the Kettlebells remain directly above your elbows throughout the exercise. Perform 1 – 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Kettlebell Press on Swiss Ball

Figure 21 – Kettlebell Press on Swiss Ball

Kettlebell Military Press

Begin this exercise standing and holding a light Kettlebell in each hand as demonstrated (figure 22). Keeping your back and neck straight, slowly straighten your arms pushing the Kettlebells overhead and then slowly return to the starting position. Perform 1 – 3 sets of 10 repetitions provided the exercise is pain free.

Kettlebell Military Press

Figure 22 – Kettlebell Military Press

Single Arm Kettlebell Military Press

Begin this exercise standing and holding a light Kettlebell in one hand as demonstrated (figure 23). Keeping your back and neck straight, slowly straighten your arm pushing the Kettlebell overhead and then slowly return to the starting position. Perform 1 – 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each side provided the exercise is pain free.

Kettlebell Military Press Single Arm

Figure 23 – Single Arm Kettlebell Military Press

Seated Kettlebell Tricep Extensions on Swiss Ball

Begin this exercise sitting on a Swiss Ball and holding a light Kettlebell as demonstrated (figure 24). Keeping your back and neck straight and the Swiss Ball still, slowly bend your elbow and lower the Kettlebell, then slowly return to the starting position maintaining good posture throughout the exercise. Perform 1 – 3 sets of 10 repetitions on each side as far as possible and comfortable provided the exercise is pain free.

Kettlebell Seated Tricep Extensions on Swiss Ball

Figure 24 – Seated Kettlebell Tricep Extensions on Swiss Ball


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