Forget push-ups — you just need 1 kettlebell and 15 minutes to build your chest, shoulders and legs

Two men squatting with a kettlebell using goblet hold during workout
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

A one-weight, three-move workout serves as a reminder that you don’t always need loads of gym equipment to build full-body strength and muscle. 

Pick up one or two of the best kettlebells for weightlifting and give them a try. Between them, these three moves target your chest and back, biceps and triceps, core muscles and legs. Depending on your experience, we’ve provided ways to scale, so even if you’re a kettlebell beginner, you can tackle this workout however you like.

How you complete this kettlebell workout is up to you, but for guidance, we’ve provided a 15-minute workout breakdown below. Remember to adopt a full range of motion during each move so your muscles stay under tension throughout every rep.

Woman standing against grey wall holding a kettlebell overhead with right arm and left hand on hip

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re new to exercising with kettlebells, we recommend learning how to hold a kettlebell properly (yep, there really are grip techniques worth knowing before you begin), and if you’re still working on your grip strength, some chalk or a set of grip gloves go a long way. 

These are some of the best kettlebell exercises you can add to your routine. Here they are.

What are the 3 kettlebell exercises?

Kettlebell farmer’s walk

Learning how to do the farmer’s walk is simple enough, but keeping your form tight is trickier. Pick up one or two kettlebells, then walk for a set amount of time or distance, as demonstrated in our video using dumbbells.

Keep your shoulders set down and back, avoid hunching forward or arching your lower back and try to avoid overshooting your stride too much, which will place more pressure on your spine. 

If you work with one kettlebell, it might be tempting to overlean to one side, so remember to stand tall and squeeze your stomach to keep your core engaged. We tried the farmer’s walk every day for one week recently and reported what happened, plus explain how to do the treadmill farmer’s walk if you have minimal space or plan to work out in a small or busy gym. 

Kettlebell thrusters

As a trainer, this is my favorite dumbbell exercise to program and it works just as well with kettlebells and barbells if you prefer using them. The kettlebell squat to overhead press combo delivers on intensity, strengthens the upper and lower body together and tests your core strength.

We recommend using one weight if your goals include building better balance, core stability and coordination, as your body meets with more challenge when loading one side of the body at a time. If you want to go heavier, use two weights front racked, start light and then build. 

If you have limited lower body mobility, your focus will be to try and sit deeper into the squat and work on your range of motion to avoid half-reps before adding weight. 

The famous “butt wink” can happen when your body tries to find more space during a squat and is characterized by the pelvis slightly tucking under at the bottom of your squat — here are 7 best ways to fix butt winks if you think this could be you. 

Sumo kettlebell goblet squat

The sumo squat helps target the inner thighs, outer glutes and legs using a wider foot stance than hip or shoulder-width; slightly turn your toes to 45 degrees and ensure your knees push away rather than turn in as you squat.

You can hold the kettlebell by the horns or cup the bell, whichever works best for you. Remember to keep your spine neutral — no arching in your lower back or butt winking — and only load to a weight that allows you to perform reps unbroken with solid form. 

To make this exercise more challenging, try slowing down the eccentric phase, which means lowering into the squat more slowly and explosively pushing up to stand.

3-move kettlebell workout to try in just 15 minutes

Man outdoors holding kettlebell on shoulder in racked position during clean and jerk exercise

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Whether you’re short on time, looking for a finisher, or plan to add this to an existing kettlebell routine, the workout below is leg-centric, short and sweet and packs a healthy punch, working your entire body in just 15 minutes.

E2MOM (Every 2 Minutes On the Minute) x 7 rounds:

  • Kettlebell thrusters x 8 reps
  • Kettlebell sumo squat x 8 reps
  • Farmer’s walk: remaining time

First, decide if you’d prefer to single or dual load; if you use one kettlebell, remember to switch arms after four thruster reps and during the farmer’s walk. You could also work one side per round and split the last round.

Your rounds are every two minutes for seven rounds. Set a timer, then perform eight kettlebell thrusters, immediately followed by eight kettlebell sumo squats. Move to the farmer’s walk for the remaining time. Aim to give yourself 20-30 seconds rest before the next two-minute round begins, finishing around the one-minute 30-second mark (give or take and depending on how much rest you’d like).

 Here are some scaling options:

  • Add or reduce weight
  • Add or reduce reps
  • Add or reduce resting time
  • Add an incline during the farmer’s walk.

For beginners, consider extending this to three minutes and just five rounds, giving yourself more time to get the reps done and rest.

Trainer tips

The workout is heavy on the legs, but there’s a strong core focus here, even though it’s not an out-and-out ab workout. The words “core engagement” can get repetitive, but we really mean gently bracing your stomach and pulling your belly button toward your spine so your trunk can deal more safely with the load. 

As you squat, remember to push the ground away with your feet and maintain a tripod position — press through your heels, big toes and little toes to help the weight evenly distribute and keep you stable. 

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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.