I’m a fitness trainer and these are the best kettlebell exercises for building strength and weight loss

Woman doing a kettlebell swing

by Becky Fuller |
Published on

Our fitness trainer talks you through the best kettlebell moves to master

If you want to build strength, lose weight, get fitter and have fun while doing it, you need to learn how to use kettlebells. You’ve probably seen them before in a gym or videos of people using them online. They look a lot like cannon balls with handles and are often used for kettlebell swings – an explosive movement using the hips that looks hard but is surprisingly easy.

I have been coaching kettlebells for four years now, and I can honestly say it’s transformed my life. The biggest joy for me is that it’s also changed the lives of all my clients. I currently run an all-female kettlebell club, and I coach women from 35 to 75 years old.

Contrary to popular belief, kettlebells are perfect for beginners and a fantastic way to build strength and improve mobility if you’re over 50. The different weight ranges make for a lot of versatility, and there’s not a lot you can’t do with them. They’re a very effective form of exercise and just ten minutes a day can deliver vast improvements. Below, I've talked you through the best kettlebell exercises for beginners. Once you've mastered these, you'll be able to put them all together for an effective home workout, or add some of the moves to your existing routine.

The benefits of kettlebells

Increased cardiovascular fitness – a kettlebell workout will improve your heart and lung function.

Weight loss – Kettlebells will boost your metabolism meaning you’ll burn more calories while exercising but also at rest.

Improved flexibility – Because it’s predominantly driven by the legs, kettlebells improve function and coordination in the hips, knees and core. Overhead work also keeps shoulders moving.

Increased strength - Kettlebells will make you strong, fact. For women, they are one of the most empowering fitness tools there is. Consistently lifting kettlebells will completely transform your ability to complete day to day tasks with ease.

Protect against multiple health conditions – Any form of weight training for women over 50 is the only way to protect against osteoporosis and osteoarthritis as we age. That’s why it's recommended that all adults do at least 2 sessions of strength work per week, which can be weight training at home, in the gym, or with a personal trainer.

Boosts your confidence and mood – When the body is strong, the mind thinks strong thoughts. Using kettlebells will make you feel invincible, put a big smile on your face and improve your outlook on life.

Personal trainer helping a female client to set up for a kettlebell swing
©Getty Images / Eva-Katalin

Are kettlebells good for beginners?

Yes! The design of a kettlebell makes it a great tool for beginners as it helps you to complete exercises with good form. They also come in a wide range of weights, so there’s room to improve. My advice is always to become fully proficient in one weight before moving onto the next, to avoid injury.

Kettlebells are a great choice for home exercise as they're easy to store. I'd recommend cast iron bells, with or without neoprene covers. You can see my top choices in the article best kettlebells.

Will kettlebells hurt my back?

Not if you perform the moves correctly! Form is very important with kettlebells. As long as you follow instructions properly and always focus on using your hips and glutes (bum muscles), you shouldn’t hurt your back. Injuries happen when people try and lift a weight that’s too heavy for them or don’t do the lift correctly.

What’s the best kettlebell weight for beginners?

In the UK, kettlebells come in kilogram weights. Your starting point will depend on your current level of fitness. You can use a heavier weight for lower body moves, such as squats and swings, and a lighter weight for upper body moves.

Kettlebells are usually sold in the following sizes: 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 16, 20kgs all the way up to 44kg and beyond!

As a very rough guide, an 8 or 10kg bell for lower body is a good starting point, and 6-8kgs for upper body. A female over 50 is considered strong if she can use 12 and 16kg bells for most moves.

Can I lose belly fat with a kettlebell?

I’m going to be completely honest with you here: the main thing that will help you lose belly fat is not what you do for one hour a day, it’s what you do for the other 23. If weight loss is your goal, you need to prioritise the right food, creating a calorie deficit and getting enough sleep. Too many people underestimate those fundamentals and then wonder why it isn’t working.

You can’t target fat loss, so endless crunches holding a kettlebell won’t do anything more for losing belly fat than any other workout. What kettlebells will do, however, is make your core muscles strong. They will also increase lean muscle mass across the whole of your body, boosting your metabolism so you burn more calories overall. So, there will be a reduction in body fat if you combine this with a calorie deficit and good sleep.

Post-menopausal women are much better to focus on boosting metabolism than losing weight, and remember, exercise isn’t a punishment for what you ate, it’s something you get to do to nourish and empower your body.

Kettlebell workout for beginners

Learn the best kettlebell exercises for beginners below and put them together for a great full-body workout. Practice the form first before adding weight and please do consult a doctor before starting any new exercise regime if you have any pre-existing health conditions or injuries.


  • Stand with a kettlebell between your feet, so that when you look down you can’t see the handle.

  • With your feet slightly wider than hip-width, dig your fingers into the creases of your hips and drive the hips backwards, as far as you can.

  • When your hips can’t push back anymore, bend your knees until you can grip the handle of the kettlebell firmly.

  • Pushing your feet into the floor, drive upwards to standing in one swift movement.

  • Repeat the process of hinging at the hips and bending the knees to place the bell back in the starting position.

  • Do 8-10 deadlifts, for 3 rounds.


  • Hold a kettlebell by the handles at chest height. (Don’t allow it to rest against the chest.)

  • With your feet hip-width apart or wider, bend your knees as if you were going to sit into a low chair.

  • Let your knees track over your toes – think about pushing them outwards as you squat down.

  • When you’re as low as you can go, drive the feet into the floor and explode back to standing.

  • Repeat for 10-15 repetitions, for 3 rounds.

Kettlebell swing

  • Place a kettlebell in front of your feet, about a foot-length away from the tips of your toes.

  • A kettlebell swing has the same set up as a deadlift above, so make sure you’re really confident on that before trying swings.

  • Take your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and find the creases at the top of your hips, where you will fold.

  • Hinge the hips backwards as far as possible – think about shutting the car door with your bum.

  • When your hips are back as far as they’ll go, bend the knees until you can grasp the handle of the kettlebell.

  • Tilt the bell towards you on its edge and pull your shoulders back and down.

  • From here, hike the bell sharply back between your legs then explode up to a standing position, letting the bell swing in front of you. Squeeze your glute muscles and snap the hips as you do so.

  • The bell will ‘float’ momentarily (don’t let go!) and then swing back between your legs, where you’ll then power it back up and so on.

  • Do 10 kettlebell swings, for 5 rounds.

Kettlebell row

  • Stand with a kettlebell between your feet, with the handle running in line with the length of your foot.

  • Hinge your hips as above, then bend the knees so you can reach the handle.

  • Hold the handle with your right hand, with your palm rotated in so it’s facing the inside of the right foot.

  • With a firm grip, and keeping your leg position, pull the elbow upwards so the bell and your hand rotate around to the outside of your hip.

  • Corkscrew back down to the starting position and repeat.

  • Do 8 rows on one side, 8 on the other, for 3 rounds.

Kettlebell clean

  • Follow exactly the same set up for the row above, only this time, instead of just bringing the bell to your hip, you’re going to stand up with it.

  • It’s a good idea to practice as follows: row, row, row, stand up.

  • The stand needs to be quick and in time with the row, so the bell comes to rest on the outside of the body.

  • Corkscrew back down to the starting position.

  • Do 5 cleans on each side, for 3 rounds.

Kettlebell press

  • When you’re proficient in the clean above, when you come up to standing, simply press the bell above your head.

  • Keep your glutes squeezed, tummy tight, and crush the handle of the bell.

  • When you’ve learned the press, turn the cleans into clean and press for 3-5 repetitions for 3 rounds.


  • Standing tall, hold a kettlebell upside down with your hands griping the handle on either side.

  • Keep your glutes squeezed and then ‘wrap’ the kettlebell around your head, keeping it as close to your face as you can.

  • Then change direction.

  • Repeat for 8-10 halos, alternating direction each time, for 3-5 rounds.  

    Becky Fuller is a senior digital writer for Yours.co.uk. She is also a fully qualified personal trainer and strength coach, specialising in fitness and wellbeing for over 50s. Prior to joining Yours, Becky was a fitness writer for Saga, and a freelance entertainment and theatre journalist. Becky is passionate about helping people to move well and discover the many benefits of strength training.

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