The 20 Minute Beginner Kettlebell Workout: Build Muscle and Burn Fat

Everyone, at every fitness level, can use a kettlebell.

Yup, even you. And your mom. She’s cool.

When used properly, this funky piece of equipment can help you build muscle, burn fat, and feel like a badass.

Those are three great things in my book!

So you don’t have to be afraid of this cannonball with a handle. It’s not actually explosive.

However, I can understand if you feel intimidated by a kettlebell. It’s awkward and if you don’t know how to use one, you’re just going to use it as a doorstop.

So fear not!

Team Nerd Fitness has designed a kettlebell workout specifically for beginners that you can do TODAY.

The routine will help build muscle and burn fat, two key components of any exercise program. We’ll also make sure you know how to handle a kettlebell safely and effectively. If you couple this with a solid nutrition plan (don’t worry, I got you covered here too), you’ll have a great strategy for many different fitness goals.

So let’s rap about the following:

  • What kettlebell workout you should start with.
  • Why kettlebells are great.
  • Mistakes with the kettlebell we want to make sure you avoid.
  • If you want to purchase one, what kettlebell you should get.

Let’s go! Once you watch the video below, feel free to download our Beginner Kettlebell Worksheet that you can print out and use when you do your next workout! You can get yours free when you sign up in the box below:

The 20 Minute Beginner Kettlebell Workout

Our Beginner Kettlebell Workout is what’s called a circuit (you can learn all about circuit training here)

That’s just a fancy term for doing a workout like so:

  • 1 set of exercise A, go immediately to
  • 1 set of exercise B, go immediately to
  • 1 set of exercise C
  • Repeat from the top!

Your long term goal should be to do 3 full circuits back to back for a complete workout. Four if you’re in Berserker mode. If you can only go through it once or twice, that’s A-OK.

And if you need to take a break at any time between sets or after a circuit, do it! You do you.

Prior to jumping into the kettlebell circuit, don’t forget to do some mobility warm up (you can see our warm-up routine here).

Nothing too crazy, just something to “grease the groove” and get your body used to movement so you don’t pull any muscles once you start swinging the kettlebell.

In other words, preparing your muscles and joints to move some weight around! Five minutes of running in place, air punches and kicks, some jumping jacks and arm swings, should get your heart rate up and your muscles warmed.

Then you’re ready for the Beginner Kettlebell Workout!

I asked Matt Shortis, one of our awesome coaches – and a kettlebell guru – from our 1-on-1 Coaching Program to film this workout for you, because we like you:

Once you’ve watched the video above, here’s a quick recap with repetitions for the workout here:

COMPLETE THE FOLLOWING CIRCUIT 3 TIMES:

  • 8 Halos (each side)
  • 10 Goblet Squats
  • 8 Overhead Presses (each side)
  • 15 Kettlebell Swings
  • 8 Bent Over Rows (each side)
  • 6 Front Rack Reverse Lunge (per side)

You can do all of the above with one single kettlebell, from anywhere. Some things to keep in mind during the routine.

  • With your halos, remember to keep the movement smooth. You don’t want to accidentally slam your head with the bell.
  • For the goblet squat, focus on depth. It’s more important to practice doing a full squat than to pump out reps. If you can’t make 10, don’t stress it. Do what you can.
  • When doing the overhead press, get tight. Tightening your muscles will engage your core, offering a fuller body workout.
  • During the kettlebell swing, focus on hinging your hips. The swing is like a deadlift movement, so you should feel it in your hamstring and glutes.
  • Try to keep your back straight and stomach tight during the row. This will help engage your legs for stabilization as you pull the kettlebell towards your stomach.
  • For the lunges, again keep your back straight. By keeping your shoulders back, you’ll get a fuller body workout when you come in and out of your lunge.

When you’re done, do some light stretching to cool down. A couple yoga poses would suffice. Make sure you drink water too.

Feel free to go through this routine at least once a week, and up to 2-3 times a week, with a day off between. Remember, you don’t build muscle when you’re exercising, you build muscle when you’re resting. Your muscles are broken down when you strength train, and then they rebuild themselves stronger over the following days of recovery! If you just can’t sit still, feel free to do some fun exercises, go for a walk, or do one of the following.

If you read all of the above and you’re intimidated or overwhelmed, I totally get it.

I personally know how scary it can be to embark on a strength training program, especially when you don’t know if you’re doing it correctly. My first time lifting weights was a nightmare.

The results are worth it though, I promise.

Want help on this journey? We got you! We have an online coaching program if you still feel apprehensive about lifting weights, or worried about your proper form on these movements. Matt S from the video above is part of the Nerd Fitness Team that offers private 1-on-1 coaching to help you get in shape. Whatever your goals are, we will build a program that’s specific to your hectic life!

If you want to learn more, click on the big button below to schedule a free call with our team to learn more and see if we’re a good fit for each other!

In case you’re still on the fence about grabbing a kettlebell, let’s dig into them a little bit more [1].

Which Kettlebell Should I Buy? What are the best Kettlebell Brands?

So you want to buy a kettlebell, eh?

They come in all sorts of materials, in all sorts of shapes, and in all sorts of sizes. Which one you pick will come down to personal preference, your budget, and your experience with kettlebells.

Let’s contemplate the following:

  • Standard vs.Competition. A standard traditional kettlebell will be cast iron, and as the weight goes up, the dimensions go up. For example, a 16kg (35 lb.) bell will be larger than a 6kg (15lb) bell. This isn’t true for competitive kettlebells. No matter their weight, competitive kettlebells will have the same dimensions for bell shape, base, and handle width. So the 16kg will look just like the 6kg. This can be helpful to make sure you are consistent with technique.
  • Weight. In general, pick a weight that allows you to complete a workout with good form. When in doubt, start with a lighter weight, as you can always increase the weight/size later. If you’re forcing me to pick one for you, knowing NOTHING about you, I’d say consider purchasing a 16kg if you’re a male or 8kg if you’re a female. Now, this isn’t an exact science, and we are all unique snowflakes. If you think you’re stronger than average, go heavier. Not quite there? Go lighter.
  • Ballistic vs. Grind. You’ll often hear the terms ballistic and grinding in kettlebell workout discussions, for fast and slow movements respectively. Ballistic movements would be quick, like the kettlebell swing. Grinding movements would be slow, like the overhead press. For ballistic movements, you might actually want a heavier kettlebell, to help with momentum. For grinding movements, less weight might be in order to help with control. For now, if you are just starting out, go ahead and stick to one kettlebell. Branch out as you advance in experience.
  • Handle. This is where quality comes into play. You’ll be doing many, many repetitions with your kettlebell. If the handle has rough edges, you’ll feel each and everyone of the movements scrap into your hand. Ouch. Not fun. Quality matters when it comes to handles. So we’ll chat about ideal brands in a moment. I’ll end our discussion on handles by saying they are generally standardized at 35mm for thickness. Use this as your baseline for differences when comparing bell grips.

Okay, let’s talk about brands:

  • Cap Barbell. This would be an ideal first kettlebell. Not too expensive and decent quality, Cap Barbell kettlebells can be found on Amazon or at any Walmart. The Cap Barbell is the most highly reviewed and reasonably priced kettlebell we have encountered. Do you have any experience with one? Let us know in the comments if you like it!
  • Kettlebell Kings. You see Kettlebell Kings ranked as some of the best bells out there. Not a bad price for the quality. Plus, they offer free shipping in the US, which is nice since you’re essentially mailing a cannonball.
  • Dragon Door. Some call Dragon Door the gold standard of anything and everything “kettlebell.” I wouldn’t disagree, but expect to pay for it.
  • Onnit. Onnit rocks, and they offer good quality bells that are quite popular. And… they sell a Darth Vader one. I know, I should have started with that.

OUR ADVICE: Before you go buy an expensive kettlebell, check your gym! I bet it has kettlebells, and you can try out different brands/sizes/weights/styles to see which one you like the best.

Afraid of going to the gym? I got you.

Don’t care about buying your bell new? Check out Craigslist or a used sporting goods store like Play it Again Sports for a previously owned kettlebell from a person who no longer needs it. A used kettlebell is still a kettlebell.

Crafty? Build your own! Here’s a video on how to make a kettlebell:

If you make your own kettlebell (be careful – you don’t want it breaking mid swing!), please email me. I would be so pumped!

How to Lose Weight with A Kettlebell Workout Program

If you’re trying to get fit, a kettlebell and the workout routine above would be a great part of the plan!

The other part of the plan should be your nutrition.

As we lay out in our Coaching Program and our online Nerd Fitness Academy, we believe that proper nutrition is 80-90% of the equation for weight loss.

No joke. It’s by far the biggest factor for success.

So will you lose weight training with kettlebells? Maybe. If you fix your diet AND begin to incorporate our kettlebell routine a few times per week, you’ll will find yourself building muscle, losing fat, and getting stronger!

So how do you fix your diet?

Great question.

Whether you choose to follow a Keto Diet, Paleo Diet, Mediterranean Diet, or something like Intermittent Fasting, the best path will be up to your goals, your situation, and your habits.

Here are some basic tips though (as we cover in our Beginner’s Guide to Healthy Eating):

  • If your goal is weight loss, you have to eat less than you burn each day. This can be through eating less and burning more (from the kettlebell workout above)
  • Processed foods and junk food makes it really tough to lose weight: They have lots of calories and carbs, low nutritional value, don’t fill you up, and cause you to overeat.
  • Vegetables are your friend. If you don’t like veggies, here’s our advice on how to fix that.
  • Liquid calories are making you fat. Soda, juice, sports drinks: they’re all pretty much high calorie sugar water with minimal nutritional value. Get your caffeine from black coffee or tea, fizzy-drink fix from sparkling water.
  • Not losing weight? Track your calories and work on consuming slightly less each day.
  • Eat more protein! Protein helps rebuild muscle, and can help you stay under your calorie limit because it’s satiating and filling.

If you’re not quite sure how to eat correctly, we created a created a free 10-level nutrition blueprint that helps you build better food habits. You can download yours free by clicking in the box below:

Do Your First Kettlebell Workout TODAY

Like most things in life, the important aspect of any exercise regimen is starting it.

No matter what strength training program you choose, start TODAY. You don’t need to get strong before you can play with a kettlebell. You can play with a kettlebell to get stronger!

Here’s that Beginner Kettlebell Workout one more time to recap:

  • 8 Halos (each side)
  • 10 Goblet Squats
  • 8 Overhead Presses (each side)
  • 15 Kettlebell Swings
  • 8 Bent Over Rows (each side)
  • 6 Front Rack Reverse Lunge (per side)

I’d love for you to start with your new strength training today, and let us know how things go with your kettlebell!

If you want help through any part of the fitness spectrum, I’ll remind you of the Nerd Fitness 1-on-1 Online Coaching program. Our coaches can work with you to pick up a kettlebell for the first time or to learn more advance moves.

Whether you are brand new to your fitness journey, or ready to take it to the next level, we have your back!

If you want to go another route, like strictly bodyweight workouts, that’s great too. It’ll help a lot. Just start moving!

-Steve

PS. Don’t forget to download our Beginner Kettlebell Worksheet – and let us know what you think of it!

*All photo sources can be found in this footnote right here[2]

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  • Bryan Ewbank

    your email said “why is it ‘9 yards’? I have no idea”… The whole nine yards is a term from WW2 in the pacific when the US fighter airplanes had belt-fed machine guns, and the belts were 27 feet long.

    A good mission, where you had given everything you had, was one where you’d shot all your ammo .. all 27 feet of it .. so it was one where you’d “given the whole nine yards”.

    Just trivia for today.

  • PiperKev

    I currently own both a 25lb and a 35lb Gold’s Gym kettlebell from Walmart. Any opinion on these? They seem to be made well enough and the handles aren’t rough like other inexpensive kettlebells I’ve seen reviewed. Think these are okay for me to start out with?

  • Jon

    No it’s not. It’s because a well-made bespoke suit with waist coat will use a full 9yards of fabric.

  • Matt

    The kettlebell brands you list are all well-respected. (Well, the Cap brand isn’t really respected, but it does provide good value for a beginner…this was my first KB and I still use it. Got it from a local Academy Sports store.) I have personal experience with KBs from these other vendors as well:
    Kettlebells USA – their Metrixx Elite line is top notch. Only problem? They are uber-expensive. Very good quality if you are okay with the cost. This is perhaps my favorite KB, but the cost is a definite deterrent.
    Fringe Sports – I have their Premium KB and their Prime KB. Their Prime KB is a little more expensive than the Premium, but worth the cost. (I think they’re phasing out their Premium line anyway.) Prime is comparable to Kettlebells USA or Kettlebell Kings IMO, but for MUCH less money. Plus shipping is free. So Prime KBs from Fringe is what I’d recommend as the best bang for the buck, but all the brands you mentioned are great.

  • PiperKev

    I went ahead and ordered a 16kg Prime kettlebell based on your recommendation!

  • Keeks

    Thanks for posting this — I love it when your site breaks down something in detail and provides super beginner tips. I trust it coming from you.

    You have a YouTube channel but this beginner KB video doesn’t seem to be posted there. Do you not post everything on the site, onto YouTube?

  • Matt

    PiperKev, (I couldn’t repIy directly to your reply for some reason). I hope the new kb works out! To be clear, I hadn’t seen your question when I posted my comment (I was responding to the kb list Steve had in his article). If I had seen it, I probably would’ve said use what you’ve got, build the habit first, and after you’ve got that consistency ingrained then invest more money in upgrading your game. Having said that, I think you’ll like the Prime kbs. They’re rough enough to maintain your grip with sweaty palms, but not too rough. Good luck!

  • Kevin Palm

    Thanks, Matt! I’ve used it a few times now, and I’m quite happy with it! I’ve only used the 16kg one for Goblet Squats, swings and front rack reverse lunges so far, since I’m not quite up to that weight for the other ones in this program, but I love the feel of the Prime! I’ll probably switch over all of my el cheapo Gold’s Gym kettlebells to Prime ones as $$ allows! Thanks again for the recommendation!

  • Awesome post Steve. I was looking for a good KB warmup. Big fan here. What are your thoughts on Turkish Get-ups?

    – Stephen

  • infinite-catalysts

    *unless someone has found a printed origin more recently than the 2015 NYT article.