Kettlebells aren't just for cardio and finishers at the end of your workouts; when used properly kettlebells can be a great tool for building awe-inspiring muscle and functional strength that carries over into real life.
The problem is most fitness professionals and coaches only teach the swing or lack the knowledge on how to fully utilize the kettlebell's mass building potential. This is a shame because kettlebells are relatively cheap, super time efficient, and in many ways are superior to barbells and dumbbells for strength training.
How to Build Mass with Kettlebells
The principles of building strength and muscle are the same with kettlebells as they are for other modalities like barbells and dumbbells. It requires significant time under tension, progressive overload, and plenty of recovery.
The only real difference is that kettlebell exercises are often highly technical, which can increase the risk of injury if adequate time isn't taken to master the movement patterns and techniques before loading the exercises.
Once you've done that, training with kettlebells can unlock strength and mass gains in places you never knew existed.
5 Kettlebell Exercises for Building Muscle and Strength
Kettlebell Exercise #1: Double Kettlebell Squats
Double kettlebell rack squats are an incredible exercise for building strength and size in the legs and glutes. The use of two kettlebells allows you to use more weight and gives you a greater level of stability than using only one bell.
Though you won't be able to use as much weight as you would with a barbell, double kettlebell rack squats allow you to move through a fuller range of motion without the excessive loading of the spine. This provides an incredible workout for the legs, while also reducing the risk of back and spine injuries.
Kettlebell Exercise #2: Double Overhead Press
Double kettlebell overhead presses should be a part of every serious lifters program. Not only do they turn heads at the gym; they work nearly every muscle in the upper body, including: the traps, shoulders, triceps, grip and upper pecs.
Because double overhead presses are completed in a standing position, you have to fully engage your abs and lats to keep the body stable throughout the exercise, also making it a great core exercise.
Kettlebell Exercise #3: Renegade Plank/Rows
The Renegade Row is a combination of a traditional plank combined with a single arm kettlebell row. This challenging combination makes it one of the best full body exercises can do.
Planks are hard enough, so I'm sure you can imagine how your core will feel when you are stabilizing yourself with one arm, while simultaneously rowing a 16kg kettlebell. This movement takes some practice and an incredible conditioned core, so start out with a lighter set of bells and progress slowly over time.
Tip: Try adding a push-up for added difficulty (see video below)
Kettlebell Exercise #4: Sots Press
The kettlebell sots press may look unusual, but it is a monster of an exercise. Using one kettlebell, slowly lower to the bottom of the squat position. From the bottom of the squat position, complete the desired number of presses before racking the bell and returning to a standing position.
As with the renegade row, you won't be able to use as much weight as you normally would for a pressing movement; however, the added complexity of the movement will stimulate a ton of muscle all over the body helping you to ignite growth in places you didn't know exist.
Kettlebell Exercise #5: Kettlebell Any-How
Do the Kettlebell Any-How at your average globo gym and you'll likely see the heads of the other gym goers explode. This is because they probably have never seen anything like it.
The Kettlebell Any-How combines a one-handed overhead squat with a curl added to the bottom of the movement. The resulting exercise is a full body movement that challenges the shoulders, back, core, legs and biceps.
Kettlebells are often thought of as building "exercise skills" because movements like the Kettlebell Any-How require so much full body coordination and neuro-plasticity to complete. If you want to build muscle, strength and work your brain, then you should work this movement into your routine.
Conclusion: Kettlebells are an excellent tool for anyone wanting to build muscle and functional strength. The exercises above are some of our favorites for stimulating the entire body and building strength through various movement patterns often encountered in real life.
Again, kettlebells are highly technical implements, so always start with a light weight and master the movement patterns and form prior to fully loading the exercises. This will reduce the risk of injury and ensure you get the full muscle building benefits of your workout.