Ah, kettlebells- those weird-shaped, hunks of metal that are only good for doing kettlebell swings. Nothing particularly interesting going on there, they’re just like dumbbells, only less useful, right?
When used correctly, the lowly kettlebell transforms into one of the most potent strength training tools you can find.
And no, they aren’t only beneficial for Cross Fitters, they can help men and women of all fitness levels get in the best shape of their lives.
That said, we’re here to talk more specifically about how women can utilize these goofy looking weights to improve strength, endurance, and overall performance in pretty much any daily task.
Before we get to the exercises though, let’s go over a little background info regarding kettlebells and how/why they work so well.
The Benefits of Using Kettlebells
Full disclosure- I’m not a woman, but I’m married to one.
And as a physical therapist, I like to think I have some working knowledge about the benefits of exercise, strength training, and general anatomy with regards to both sexes.
That said, I was totally inspired to write this article by my wife.
It all started when my wife started working out with a personal trainer (who’s great by the way) a few months ago.
He has her doing all kinds of compound lifts and functional training stuff that she’s never really done before and it’s working- she’s getting in great shape.
But one thing I noticed is that they do a lot of work with kettlebells.
And my wife enjoys it so much that we’ve started adding them to our home collection as well, so she can work out with them on the days she doesn’t see her trainer.
Personally, I’ve used kettlebells some here and there over the years, but nothing like my wife is doing now.
Like most, I primarily used them for kettlebell swings, mostly when I was trying to add a little spice to my workouts.
But seeing how my wife uses them for all kinds of moves has really opened my eyes to their true potential.
I’m writing this article with women in mind especially, but men can benefit from the use of kettlebells just as much.
The great thing about kettlebells is how much they force our core to engage, regardless of the exercise we’re doing.
That odd shape I was poking fun at in the intro is the secret sauce and the whole reason these weights act differently than your standard dumbbells.
With a kettlebell, the weight isn’t centered around the grip like it is with a dumbbell- instead, it’s centered opposite of the handle, kind of like a can of paint.
Having this type of weight distribution makes the kettlebell harder to handle, which in turn forces your body to recruit more muscles to control it.
This lopsided weight distribution means the center of mass for the kettlebell is often farther away from your body. This means your core is gonna have to kick in overtime to stabilize your spine as you perform lifts with it.
That’s my long-winded way of saying that kettlebells increase core activation.
And not just with kettlebell swings (which are a great exercise by the way), but with pretty much any exercise you choose to do with them.
You can also turn on a lot of other stabilizer muscles (like in your shoulders) when doing controlled presses because of this weight distribution.
Basically, doing any exercise with a kettlebell will turn more muscles on (or make them work harder) than doing it with a dumbbell.
All of this core and stabilizers activation is especially great for women who have had children.
Men, I’m not sure if you’re aware, but being pregnant and giving birth can wreak havoc on a woman’s core (again, not something I know from personal experience).
Regardless of what type of delivery a woman has, her core/pelvic floor strength will be significantly diminished afterwards, which can put her at an increased risk for back injury.
That means core strengthening exercises are especially important for women post delivery -and this is where the kettlebells can come in to the rescue.
Ladies, if you’re new to kettlebells (or exercise in general), I encourage you to start light and concentrate on form. Once you’re comfortable with the proper form, only then should you start upping the weight.
You can choose a few exercises below to add to your regular routine or you could get an entire workout in with just kettlebells.
Either way, they can provide a great alternative to your strength training routine.
Ok, enough already, let’s get to the exercises.
The 7 Best Kettlebell Exercises For Women
1. Kettlebell Swing
This is probably the most well-known kettlebell exercise around, but it’s still a great one.
When done correctly, this exercise hits pretty much every muscle in the body, but it’s especially efficient for hitting the glutes, quads, core, and shoulders.
It’s also a great exercise because it combines strengthening and cardio training into 1 highly-efficient move, helping you burn calories and fat at the same time.
You can do them with 2 hands on a single kettlebell or one arm at a time. Just remember to keep that back straight.
2. Goblet Squat
This is one of my wife’s personal favorites.
Squats of all varieties are awesome for sculpting your hips and legs, but doing goblet squats with a kettlebell takes it to the next level.
Holding the kettlebell upside down like she does in the video is gonna force your core to kick in even more because your core is going to have to fight the weight from pulling you forward as you squat.
You can play with the position of the kettlebell to make this move easier or harder- bringing the kettlebell away from your body will make it more difficult; holding the weight by the handle and keeping it dangling between your legs will make it easier.
3. Single Arm Shoulder Press
If you’re looking to take your upper body workout to the next level, try adding a single arm shoulder press with your kettlebell.
This is a great exercise for a few reasons.
For one, you’re doing a standing, single extremity move, which is going to force your core to activate.
But with the kettlebell, it’s even tougher because of how the weight wants to pull your arm back, forcing your core and shoulder stabilizers to kick in even more.
If you try this move, start light and be careful with your wrist position as mentioned in the above video.
If you really want to challenge your rotator cuff, try this press holding the kettlebell upside down by the handle- just keep that weight light, you don’t need much to get a real challenge.
4. Single Leg Deadlift
Single leg deadlifts are a great exercise to target your core, glutes, and hamstrings, but it’s also a great balance move. After all, you’re balancing on one leg as you go through the lift.
With this one, make sure you listen to your hamstrings- don’t try to stretch too far to the point of discomfort.
Remember- stretch good, pain bad.
You can do single leg deadlifts with a single kettlebell, like in the above video, or with 1 in each hand.
My wife’s trainer is diabolical- he makes my wife do them with 2 kettlebells of different weights- talk about core stabilization.
This one’s a little more challenging than it might look.
The cleverly named “halo” will really work your shoulders and rotator cuffs, as well as your core of course.
I think this move would make a great warm up or finisher. Definitely a good idea to start light too, again, your shoulders will really start burning.
You could go for reps clockwise/counter-clockwise, but I think it might be easier to go for time.
This is another exercise where it’s smart to start slow and use a light kettlebell. If you have shoulder issues, you might want to skip this one.
6. Bent Over Row
I had to throw a back exercise in there and when it comes to the back, few moves are as good as the row.
This classic move can be done with dumbbells, barbells, or resistance bands, but doing it with a kettlebell adds a slight twist.
The handle actually makes this move quite comfortable with a kettlebell. And its weight distribution kind of mimics real world activities like lifting a bucket or gallon of milk.
With this move, keep your core tight and try to avoid rounding your back.
There are several variations on this move. You can do 1 side at a time like in the video or both arms simultaneously. You can even do it while stabilizing yourself with your other hand holding onto a bench or chair.
7. Push Press
The push press is another classic lifting move that can be done with other types of resistance as well. Like all the other exercises mentioned already though, it works quite well with kettlebells too.
The off-balancedness of the kettlebell just makes the entire move more challenging- and when it comes to exercises, more challenging is a good thing.
The push press combines 2 key exercises, the squat and the shoulder press.
Combining these 2 great moves creates one killer, full body exercise. Like the kettlebell swing, the push press basically works every muscle in your body at the same time.
It obviously targets the quads, glutes, and shoulders effectively, but your core has no choice but to stay engaged for the entire movement.
This is another exercise that does a great job of getting your heart rate elevated in a hurry too.
Kettlebells are surprisingly versatile.
And I have to admit, I never gave them the proper respect until I saw the kinds of stuff my wife has been doing ’em.
The above exercises are a great place to start for both men and women, but there are literally boat loads of other exercises and variations that you can do with kettlebells.
For women who are looking to build strength, endurance, and especially core strength and stability, adding kettlebells to your routine is a great choice.
As always, just be careful and start slow- the last thing you want is an injury that’s gonna slow ya down.