Forget burpees — you just need one kettlebell and 16 minutes to build full-body strength

Woman standing against grey wall holding a kettlebell overhead with right arm and left hand on hip
(Image credit: Getty Images)

To tick the exercise efficiency box, this three-move kettlebell workout could help you build full-body strength and muscle in just 16 minutes. 

The E2MOM (a workout that has you performing exercises every two minutes on the minute) requires one or two of the best kettlebells for weightlifting and takes 16 minutes to complete while targeting the entire body. 

Mike Barbato from Precision Kettlebells leads the kettlebell workout, helping you improve strength and stability while targeting a bunch of major muscle groups. In the words of Barbato, “Grab your kettlebell and follow along.” 

Watch the 3-move kettlebell workout by Precision Kettlebells:

If you’re a kettlebell beginner, we recommend learning how to hold a kettlebell first, as you’ll be required to use several types of grip throughout. We also recommend watching the video below and following along, but if you’re unfamiliar with any exercise or your form, or you’re totally new to weightlifting, checking in with a personal trainer first, where possible, can be helpful.

Here’s the layout of this full-body kettlebell workout:

E2MOM x 8 rounds:

You can use two kettlebells or stick to one, depending on the weights you like to work with. “Today’s full-body kettlebell workout includes different kettlebell exercises that will target the entire body and help to improve strength and stability,” Barbato says.

You’ll perform three swings, clean and press and squats on your left side, then move to the right side immediately after, laddering down to one rep per arm. Finish all your reps within two minutes, then rest for the remainder of the time. Start the next round on the two-minute mark, completing eight rounds, totaling 16 minutes.

Trainer notes

Barbato uses a 24kg/53lb kettlebell as a guideline. I’ve tried this myself and settled on one 12kg bell, and I had to seriously push to finish the full ladder. Two minutes feels like a lot of time for 12 reps but the time goes fast, and it’s deceivingly difficult despite the low rep ranges.

I recommend completing a practice round to help you choose a weight you can maintain for eight rounds. You’re racing against the clock but focus on keeping your form tight throughout, engaging your core and sitting low into your squats. 

Rather than scaling the reps from the start, Barbato recommends removing the one-rep round and taking rest instead. On the first round, you’ll quickly realize if you’ve gone too heavy or ambitious on the reps if you’re not managing any rest before the next two-minute round begins. 

As a guideline, Barbato finishes his first round with 18 seconds to spare, so try to find consistency rather than gas out too early — remember, there’s a whopping eight rounds to contend with. I like to have at least 20 seconds to rest, which is why I chose a weight slightly lighter than I’d usually lift.

During the workout, Barbato decides to hold back on the one-rep round, saving it for every other round, which is also an option if you struggle to recover. 

I recommend taking yourself through a light dynamic warm-up if you head into this kettlebell workout fresh rather than adding it as a workout finisher, including gentle stretches and mobility exercises that work your arms, shoulders, lower back, hips and hamstrings through a range of motion ready to hit the ground running (or in this case, swinging). Barbato leads you through a cool-down afterward, which you can follow along with. 

As always with these sorts of workouts, I like to remind you that to notice results you'll need to repeat and adapt the workout as you get stronger over time. To truly build strength and stamina, adopt a consistent exercise plan that follows progressive overload principles, as one standout kettlebell routine won't do it all.

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Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III qualified 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.