You only need one kettlebell and this 20-minute workout to build muscle and burn fat

Man performing kettlebell swings outside
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re after an effective, full-body workout, kettlebells are a great place to start. These versatile weights are ideal for working your muscles, raising your heart rate, and boosting your metabolism. And this personal trainer’s short routine is the perfect place to start.

Since you don’t need equipment or many weights, it’s a good option if you’re training at home with one of the best kettlebells or in a busy gym without a lot of space. Then you’ll be ready to take on this 20-minute routine from Joe Wicks (known as The Body Coach).

Wicks specializes in accessible home workouts, so you don’t need to worry if you’re new to strength training exercises like this, as he guides you through all the moves. This is helpful, as you must do each exercise with proper form to get the most from the session and avoid injury.

You only need a single kettlebell — for reference, Wicks uses a 35 lbs weight — but make sure you choose a load that’ll challenge your muscles but won’t affect your form. You’ll do each move for 40 seconds, take a 20-second rest, then start on the next exercise.

The session is split into two rounds of 10 exercises in the same high-intensity format, but you can increase the rest time if you need more of a breather. Or, if you’re after more of a challenge, increase the load with a heavier kettlebell, so long as you can still do each move with good form.

Watch Joe Wicks’ 20-minute kettlebell workout

Wicks’ routine includes variations on classic muscle-building exercises, like biceps curls and shoulder presses, alongside weighted versions of staple bodyweight moves, including squats, push-ups, and burpees. It’s an effective program, as each of these are examples of compound exercises.

Compound moves are designed to work several muscles simultaneously, so rather than doing single-muscle isolation exercises, you can strengthen your upper body, lower body, and core all in one. That’s part of the reason this session helps build muscle in just 20 minutes.

But Wicks also includes two sets of kettlebell swings — one of the most efficient full-body exercises you can do. It’s another compound exercise, but it also helps raise your heart rate and boost your metabolism (the amount of energy you burn throughout the day).

Plus, this workout is a form of high-intensity resistance training (HIRT), which is a lot like high-intensity interval training (HIIT) but with a focus on strength-building moves rather than cardio-based exercise, but both encourage you to train intensely for short bursts with minimal rest.

Sustaining this pattern keeps your heart rate high, resulting in a full-body muscle-building, fat-burning workout you can do with a single weight in just 20 minutes. And you can use the progressive overload technique to increase the intensity as you get stronger.

However, as it works your muscles hard, you’ll feel the effects of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) the next day, caused by tiny tears in your muscle fibers. Make sure you eat well, get enough sleep, and do plenty of stretches to help your body recover and strengthen your muscles.

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James Frew
Fitness Editor

James is Tom's Guide's Fitness Editor, covering strength training workouts, cardio exercise, and accessible ways to improve your health and wellbeing. His interest in fitness started after being diagnosed with a chronic illness, and he began focusing on strengthening his core, taking regular walks around the city, and practicing meditation to manage the symptoms. He also invested in fitness trackers, home workout equipment, and yoga mats to find accessible ways to train without the gym. Before joining the team at Tom’s Guide, James was the Fitness Editor at Fit&Well, where he covered beginner-friendly exercise routines, affordable ways to boost your wellbeing, and reviewed weights, rowing machines, and workout headphones. He believes that exercise should be something you enjoy doing, so appreciates the challenge of finding ways to incorporate it into everyday life through short muscle-building sessions, regular meditation, and early morning walks.