There are times in life when you may only have access to one weight. For instance, you might find yourself at a hole-in-the-wall gym that offers only a paltry selection of mismatched kettlebells. You could be visiting family and discover a single bell that’s been gathering dust in a corner of the garage. Or, you may have scrounged up the money to buy just one kettlebell, and now you’re wondering how you can make the most of it—because, right now, you can’t afford another.
Whatever the circumstances, you need a workout you can do with a single piece of iron, and Juan Leija, former Director of Fitness Programming at Onnit (@juannit_247 on Instagram) has one for you. It not only offers strength training but also includes a warmup, and, at the end, a conditioning circuit to burn fat and build endurance. See the video below where he walks friend, two-time Highland Games champ, and Onnit Pro Athlete Matt Vincent (@matthewpvincent on Instagram) through the routine, and scroll down to see the program in writing.
Full-Body, Single-Kettlebell Workout For Beginners
We’re calling this a beginner’s workout because it’s very effective when done with a light weight, and it teaches basic movements while increasing total-body stability—skills everyone who’s new to weight training (or kettlebell training specifically) should work on. But with that said, there’s no reason to think stronger, more experienced lifters wouldn’t make great gains using this workout too—just look at how much it challenged Vincent in the video.
What To Do If Your Weight Is Too Light
Vincent demonstrates the routine using a 24-kilogram kettlebell. If the weight you have access to feels light (say, a 12-kilo bell if you’re a man, or a four-kilo if you’re a woman), here are some ways to make it feel heavier and more challenging.
– Perform your reps with slower negatives, taking 3–5 seconds to lower the weight.
– Rest a little less time between sets. So, instead of resting up to two minutes as prescribed, rest 30–60 seconds.
What To Do If Your Weight Is Too Heavy
On the other hand, if the weight you have is 24 kilos or greater, or just feels too heavy for the moves we’re asking you to do, here are some ways to reduce the intensity to get through the workout.
– Just use your bodyweight. As Leija points out in the video, you can do the Turkish getups with bodyweight alone. This also applies to the kettlebell halo (you can just perform the motion with your arms) and the single-rack squat.
– Reduce the rep range. If 5 reps is too many on the clean and push press, aim for 3. If eight is too hard for single-rack squats, do 5–6. Over time, build your reps up, or add another round to the exercises that you had to cut reps from.
Perform two sets of the single-kettlebell halo, followed by two sets of the Turkish getup.
Sets: 2 Reps: 5–10 (each direction)
[See 0:35 in the video above]
Hold the kettlebell by the horns (the sides of the handle) and begin circling it around your head. Make one complete revolution, and then switch directions. Each circle is one rep. Keep your ribs down and your pelvis level with the floor. Brace your core.
Sets: 2 Reps 2 (each side)
[See 0:45 in the video]
Step 1. Lie on your back and hold the kettlebell over your chest with your left hand. Bend your left knee and plant that foot. Extend your right arm out at 45 degrees and push your hand into the floor for stability.
Step 2. Roll your torso up off the floor, using your right arm for support. Keep the kettlebell overhead and pointing to the ceiling. Drive your left foot into the floor to bridge your hips up, and swing your right leg under you to rest on your right knee.
Step 3. Windshield wiper the right lower leg so it’s in line with the left leg, and you’re resting in the bottom of a lunge.
Step 4. Stand up tall, with the weight still raised overhead.
Step 5. Reverse the steps to return to the floor. Complete 2 reps on that side and then 2 on the other. That’s one set.
Remember, if your kettlebell is extra heavy, you don’t have to use it for the Turkish getup. Just your bodyweight is enough to get warmed up.
Doing some explosive exercises before you lift heavy will help to warm up your central nervous system, allowing you to better activate the muscle fibers you need to get the most out of your strength work. It will also help to wake you up, increasing alertness if you’re feeling a little groggy or distracted.
Perform two rounds of the kettlebell swing and speed pushup back to back. That is, do a set of the swings and then the pushups. Rest a minute, and repeat once more.
Sets: 2 Reps: 5
[See 4:10 in the video above]
Click here for a full tutorial on the kettlebell swing.
Sets: 2 Reps: 5
[See 4:47 in the video]
Step 1. Place your hands at shoulder width and your feet close together. Brace your core.
Step 2. As you lower your body, tuck your elbows about 45 degrees to your sides so that your head and arms form an arrow shape. Go until your chest is about an inch above the floor, and then press up explosively. Perform the reps as fast as possible.
Do all the reps for one side of your body, rest, and then work the other side. Repeat for two total sets on each side. Rest 1–2 minutes between all sets (unless you have to modify the intensity as described above).
Complete all the sets for one exercise before you go on to the next one.
1. Kettlebell Clean
Sets: 2 (each side) Reps: 5 (each side)
[See 5:43 in the video above]
Click here for our tutorial on the kettlebell clean.
2. Single-Rack Squat
Sets: 2 (each side) Reps: 8 (each side)
[See 7:28 in the video]
Step 1. Clean the kettlebell up to the rack position and stand with feet about shoulder-width apart with toes turned out slightly.
Step 2. Imagine screwing your feet into the floor by turning them outward, but don’t move them out of position. You want to feel the muscles in your hips and glutes turn on. Now squat as deeply as you can while keeping your torso upright—stop before you feel your tailbone tuck under. Your knees should track over your big toes. Be sure to brace your core to avoid bending toward the side that’s holding the weight.
Step 3. Extend your hips and knees to stand up tall.
3. Kettlebell Push Press
Sets: 2 (each side) Reps: 5 (each side)
[See 9:00 in the video]
Step 1. Hold the weight at shoulder level and stand with feet about hip width. Brace your core.
Step 2. Drop into a quarter-squat, initiating the descent by bending your knees. Keep your head, spine, and pelvis in line so your back is flat and your eyes and head are forward. You don’t want to turn this leg drive portion of the lift into a squat, so only bend your knees enough to get some momentum, and don’t hinge your hips too much. Imagine yourself doing the move against a wall and sliding your torso up and down it—you should be that upright.
Step 3. As soon as you’ve dipped, extend your hips and knees explosively to stand up straight, driving through your heels, and simultaneously press the weight straight overhead. You’ll need to push from your shoulders and triceps, but with a strong and quick leg drive, most of the power for the press should be provided by your lower body. Keep your core tight throughout the move so your spine is stable and safe.
[See 9:45 in the video]
Now you’ll put all three of the strength exercises together into a circuit. Perform a clean, then drop into a squat, come back up, and, using the momentum from your legs, press the kettlebell overhead. That’s one rep. Perform 3 reps on each side and then rest a minute. Repeat for 2 total rounds.