TwoforOne Kettlebells

By Lauren Bedosky |

The small yet mighty kettlebell is an all-around training tool, and you can take advantage of its inherent versatility simply by varying weights, reps, sets, rest periods, or tempo. Consider this a choose-your-own-intensity workout.

The kettlebell is designed to be dynamic, “giving you everything you need” in one piece of equipment, says Karen Smith, a Master StrongFirst kettlebell instructor. Thanks to its sturdy handle and round shape, it’s ideal for traditional strength-building exercises like presses and rows. But it’s great for ballistic moves, like swings, cleans, and snatches, that quickly bring on a cardio effect to burn fat and build endurance. Few exercise implements offer such wide-ranging benefits.

In general, lifting a heavy weight for fewer reps builds muscles, while using a lighter weight for higher rep counts burns fat. The heavier you lift, the longer you’ll need to recover between sets. If you’re going lighter, you’ll want to take shorter breaks so you maintain a steady heart rate.

To see what this looks like, consider the kettlebell swing: If you use a lighter weight for a higher number of reps and keep your rest periods brief, you’ll work your aerobic capacity. “Think of that as more like a marathon,” Smith explains.

But if you swing a heavier weight for fewer reps and take a longer break, you’ll build muscular power and strength. “I think of those as more like sprints,” she says.

These two full-body workouts, designed by Smith, use the same exercises and equipment — but they are hardly identical, thanks to variations in the rep counts and rest times. Take your pick.

The Workouts

For either workout, choose a weight that you find challenging when performing the prescribed number of reps. The weight for the moves in the strength-building routine should be heavier than in the fat-burning one.

Need another way to determine weight selection? You should be able to complete the prescribed number of reps, be ready to rest when it’s time to rest, and then be ready to move again once the rest period is over.

If you find that you can easily perform more than the prescribed reps or don’t need to rest, increase the weight. If you are unable to complete the reps or can’t recover within the prescribed rest period, decrease the weight.

For strength building, plan to rest for double the amount of time it takes to complete a set. For fat-burning, work twice as long as you rest. So, if it takes you one minute to complete a set, rest for 30 seconds.

Half Get-Up

This full-body move fires up your core, shoulders, hips, and glutes while improving flexibility and mobility.

  1. Complete all repetitions on one side before switching to the other.

Make it easier: Perform the movement without added weight.

Goblet Squat

Engages the core, quads, and upper back. Unlike some other squat variations, this one is gentler on your lower back.

  1. Drive through your heels to push back to standing.

Make it easier: Perform the movement without added weight.

One-Arm Suitcase Deadlift

Targets the hamstrings as well as commonly overlooked muscles like the obliques and the gluteus medius.

  1. Complete all reps on one side before switching to the other.

One-Arm Overhead Press

Strengthens the shoulders and challenges core stability as you work to keep your torso from wavering under weight.

  1. Complete all reps on one side before switching arms.

One-Arm Floor Press

Hits your chest, triceps, and shoulders.

  1. Complete all reps on one side before switching arms.

Two-Handed Swing

This ballistic move works your glutes, hamstrings, quads, shoulders, forearms, and core.

  1. When the kettlebell reaches about shoulder height, pull it back down between your legs. Keep your chest high at all times.

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