Forget burpees — build muscle all over with one kettlebell and these four moves

Man outside on balcony squatting with a kettlebell in left hand
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

It's time to roll out your exercise mat, pick up one or two of the best kettlebells and try these four kettlebell exercises for targeting your upper and lower body and core muscles in under 30 minutes. 

The kettlebell strength workout comes courtesy of functional fitness Youtuber JTM Fit and helps build a stronger core while targeting your legs, glutes, chest, back, shoulders and arms. Barely a muscle group goes untouched, which ticks boxes for efficiency, too. 

We recommend a set of heavy kettlebells if you plan to try it, and you should be able to press the weight above your head. If you only have one bell, work one side at a time and share or double the reps — there’s plenty to go around. 

What is the 4-move functional kettlebell workout? 

We stumbled across the workout accidentally and couldn’t help but share it, having since practiced it at home. The cluster of muscle-torching moves is guaranteed to skyrocket your heart rate and deliver a full-body burn in very little time, and if you can’t get to the gym, you only need enough space to roll out your mat from wherever you are. If you’re new to kettlebell training, our guide on holding a kettlebell properly can help you get familiar with some grips that crop up during cleans and squats. 

Here’s a breakdown of the four exercises:

  • Sumo deadlift
  • Dual hike power clean
  • Dual front rack squats
  • Push press

Rest for 2-3 minutes between rounds

X 5 sets

Watch JTM Fit's four-move kettlebell workout

The kettlebell complex runs exercises back to back, meaning you’ll sequence each move together without rest. You can follow the video above, which shows you exactly how to execute, and remember to complete all eight reps before resting.

For example, start with two sumo deadlifts, then reset the bells on the mat and move into the kettlebell power cleans. After the second clean, keep the kettlebells in the front rack position and perform two squats, followed by two push presses. You get plenty of rest between rounds, and there are only two reps per move per round, so maximize your working sets by lifting heavy (close to failure) while keeping your form tight and your stomach engaged. 

Dual loading will help you achieve a heavier load overall, but you can work unilaterally (single-sided) if you have one kettlebell to hand. Unilateral training helps achieve the same intensity on both sides of the body so your dominant side can’t take over. It’s a particularly useful training tool if you want to strengthen weaker muscle groups and recruit the stabilizer muscles that help you lift. 

Trainer tips

During the sumo deadlifts, you’ll send the most focus to the posterior chain muscles that run down the back of the body. Adopt a foot stance slightly wider than shoulder-width and position the bells side-by-side between your feet. Keep your back flat and avoid rounding your spine or arching your back.

As you move to the hike cleans, take a small step back to provide space. Again, keep your back flat, and drive the two bells toward your shoulders, keeping the bells tracking close to your body. The exercise is all about power. Unlike regular kettlebell cleans, you’ll place the kettlebells on the mat in front of you, then swing them between your legs and drive up, reversing the movement pattern as you lower the weights. 

Remember to keep driving your knees outward as you move through the squats, imagining you’re pushing the ground away with your feet. Your heels stay planted and elbows slightly lifted as you keep the kettlebells in the front rack position. Here’s how to do a front rack kettlebell squat step-by-step.

Finally, finish the complex by dipping into the legs and pressing the weights above your head, punching the bells into the air and locking both arms out at the top, close to the body. The legs and core help drive the motion, but avoid squatting down — this isn’t a kettlebell thruster. 

Throughout the workout, focus on keeping a neutral spine and bracing your stomach. When anyone begins to fatigue, the first thing to go is form. Thankfully, you only have two reps to complete per exercise and plenty of rest to shake it off before you head back into the pain cave.

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Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.