5 Most Efficient Kettlebell Exercises For Fat Loss

By Karen Smith

If you're interested in fat loss, it's normal to hope that there really is a “magic pill” for fat loss. But seriously, come on now—we know better!

There are zero magic pills. When it comes down to it, our body shapes and figures are a result of our genetics, the exercises we perform, and the food we eat. And not just in the short term, but over the long haul. Understood? Good. So then...

...why do so many women still believe the headlines next to airbrushed supermodels on the covers of magazines, promising flat abs in 10 days or a smaller “this” or “that” body part in just two weeks?

As coaches, it’s our responsibility to guide you away from all of that nonsense and toward information that is truly helpful and effective. Like I said, there are no magic pills when it comes to achieving your fitness and fat loss goals. However, it is true that some training tools and exercises are more efficient than others for physique goals.

The kettlebell is one of the most efficient training tools for your strength and physique goals. When you train with kettlebells, you’re using your whole body, getting more bang for your buck in terms of muscle recruitment and calorie burn—with minimal equipment! In addition, kettlebells are extremely portable and don’t take up a lot of space, which makes it easier to train at home or take your workouts on the road, something you wouldn’t be able to do with larger equipment or a traditional gym set-up.

Here are the top five kettlebell exercise I recommend for fat loss. Include one or more of these into your weekly training program (of course, in combination with a nutritional approach that also supports your goal) and you’ll be on your way to building a leaner and stronger physique.

Getting Started: The Hike Pass

karen-hikeposition-326x388The five kettlebell exercises in this article all begin with the same starting position, called the hike pass. Each exercise is only as good as the set up.

To get into the hike pass position, approach your bell with intent. Stand with a shoulder-width (or slightly wider than shoulder-width) stance about a foot away from your bell. Next, hinge at the hips with a neutral spine, and reach for your bell. As you grip the bell, visualize breaking the handle of the bell to engage your lats.

Each exercise will begin by “hiking” the bell through your legs and behind you then proceed with an explosive hip snap to the finished position (“standing plank”) for each exercise.

Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing begins in the Hike Pass position, and finishes as a standing plank. Your hips should drive the bell, while your arms should guide the bell to your chest level. Allow the bell to float for a moment prior to initiating the hike for the next repetition.

  1. Get into the hike pass position as described above.
  2. Sniff in some air and hike the bell, keeping it close to your body.
  3. Snap the hips to stand up straight and exhale using the tension breath (“hiss”) at the top, matching the hip snap. The bell should float momentarily at chest height while you are in a standing plank.
  4. Throw the bell back for another rep, or return the bell to the hike pass position to end the movement.

Get an in-depth, step-by-step breakdown of the kettlebell swing, including videos, here.

Kettlebell Snatch

The kettlebell snatch also begins with the hike pass, however you grip the bell with only one hand instead of two hands. I don’t recommend this exercise for people who lack the appropriate shoulder mobility and stability needed to achieve the lockout position ( arm straight overhead either by the ear or slightly behind it, and completely stable while holding the kettlebell over a straight wrist). I strongly advise that you learn the kettlebell snatch from a skilled/certified instructor.

  1. Hinge at the hips to get into the hike pass position.
  2. Hike pass with an inhale, keeping the bell close to your body on the way back up as you begin the hip snap
  3. Finish the hip snap with a powerful tension breath (“hiss”).
  4. Pull the bell up to “high pull” position (as if you were going to elbow someone behind you).
  5. As the bell floats by your ear, quickly “punch through: the bell in an upward motion toward the ceiling.
  6. Finish in a solid overhead lockout position with the bell softly sitting on your strong, straight wrist
  7. Pause momentarily, re-hike and repeat for next rep, or return the bell to the floor to end the exercise.

TIP: If you’re doing the snatch correctly, the bell should not bang or bruise your wrist. Additionally, the snatch is an advanced exercise that may take some time to master. This detailed step-by-step tutorial of the kettlebell snatch offers some drills to help you get there.

Double Kettlebell Clean

The double kettlebell clean begins with a slightly wider foot stance.

  1. Position the two bells’ handles in a “V.” Grab them with an overhand grip, and hinge at the hips for the hike pass.
  2. With an explosive hip snap, and keeping your elbows pressed tight to your rib cage, spear your hand through the bells to finish with the bells in the rack position.
  3. Pause at the top and then re-hike for each repetition.

TIP: If you’re doing the clean correctly, the bells should not bang your wrist or shoulder. This is an intermediate skill that you should first practice and master with a single bell.

Double Kettlebell Front Squat

  1. Perform one repetition of the double kettlebell clean to get into the rack position for the double kettlebell front squat.
  2. From the rack position, pull yourself down into a deep squat with a neutral spine. Pause at the bottom momentarily, maintaining a tight core.
  3. Press through the ground with your feet and stand up. Pause for a moment in the rack position before initiating the next squat.

TIP: If you have not learned the double kettlebell clean and would like to add kettlebell squats to your training program, start with the goblet squat. The goblet squat is a squat holding only one bell by the horns at chest height. Here’s a great video on how to do a goblet squat.

Double Kettlebell Jerk

  1. Perform one repetition of the double kettlebell clean to get into the rack position for the double kettlebell jerk.
  2. From the rack position, dip at the knees and drive the bells upward until they float weightlessly at about eye level.
  3. At the float, quickly drop underneath the bells to finish in a semi-overhead squat position.
  4. Stand up while the bells remain locked-out overhead.
  5. Safely return the bells back to the rack position prior to each repetition.

TIP: The kettlebell jerk is an advanced exercise that may take some time to master. The kettlebell push press is a great exercise to practice prior to progressing to the jerk.

You can include each of these kettlebell exercises in your existing training program, perform them as a metabolic conditioning workout or complex, or add them to the end of your training as a high-intensity finisher. You can also program them with heavier weights and lower reps or lighter weights for a higher volume of work and adjust the duration of your rest periods.

Bonus Workouts!

It's your lucky day! Here are three sample circuits featuring these moves. You can do all three circuits as a workout (for example, three rounds of each with appropriate rest intervals). You can also incorporate one of the circuits into your existing workout, or add one as a finisher at the end (for five to 15 minutes max).

Circuit 1:

  • 10 Swings
  • 10 Snatches R/L
  • Rest and repeat

Circuit 2:

  • 5 Double Cleans
  • 5 Double Squats
  • Rest and repeat

Circuit 3:

  • Jerks
  • 15 seconds work / 15 seconds rest

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About the author:  Karen Smith

Karen Smith is a highly-respected trainer and coach specializing in kettlebell and bodyweight strength training. She is a StrongFirst SFG Master Instructor and Chief Bodyweight Instructor. Karen travels the world instructing and certifying individuals through StrongFirst, and works with clients online and in person.

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