The Ultimate Kettlebell Arm Workout

If there is one part of the body that you will likely never hear people complain about training, it will be the arms.

Perhaps the easiest muscles to show off and featuring some of the most iconic exercises, lifters arduously slave away to develop arms they can be proud of.

However, just like any other body part, your training can get stale or plateau if you don’t consistently change things up, especially if you aren’t hitting all of the different areas.

That means the guys who perform hours of dumbbell curls are likely leaving an incredible amount of growth on the table.

With that in mind, I want to suggest kettlebells as a way to add some diversity to your workouts.

In today’s article, I will outline for you the ultimate kettlebell arm workout, complete with all the different areas you need to target and the exercises that will hit them.

So, if you want to get ready to get your guns out when the suns out, then I highly suggest reading on. 

Kettlebell Biceps Exercises

The biceps are made up of two main muscles that include the long head on the outside of the arm and the short head on the inside.

Between them, they are known as the biceps brachii and account for roughly 40% of the overall mass of the upper arm.

Primarily responsible for the flexion of the elbow and the turning of the wrist, they are hugely important both mechanically and aesthetically.

While most bicep development will come from curling movements, there are enough deviations available to help keep things fresh.

Kettlebell Concentration Curls

Begin by either sitting on the end of a bench or standing, then bend over and support yourself with a hand on your knee.

With your free hand, grip a kettlebell and place your arm so that your elbow and the lower part of your tricep are hanging near the inside of your thigh, but not touching it.

Concentrate on your bicep and squeeze it as hard as you can, using nothing other than the bicep to curl the weight until you reach full contraction.

Hold the tension for a few seconds before slowly lowering the kettlebell back to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of reps.

Upon completing the desired number of reps, switch arms and complete the same number on the other side.

Kettlebell Curls

Kettlebell curls can be done from a seated or standing position, and you can either perform reps on both arms at the same time or alternate between them.

Whichever one you choose, take a kettlebell in each hand and hold them at full extension at your sides, with your palms facing your body.

Begin by twisting your wrists 90 degrees, until your palms face forwards, then curl either one or both of the kettlebells up by contracting only the biceps.

After squeezing at the top of the contraction for a second, slowly lower the weight back down, all the way until your palms face your body again.

Now, either perform the same on the other side if you have selected the alternating option or repeat the process until you have completed the desired number of reps.

Incline Kettlebell Curls / Prone Kettlebell Curls

Incline and prone kettlebell curls use an identical motion to regular kettlebell curls and can again be performed either simultaneously with both arms or by alternating.

The only differences will be your starting position and the fact that your palms face forward the entire time.

In an incline curl, you will be sat on a bench with the back rest set to an incline of between 30 and 45 degrees.

Meanwhile, during a prone curl, you will be laid flat on a perfectly horizontal bench. In both instances, your arms will be stretched behind you, so that your hands point straight at the floor.

Curling from these positions allows you to get a deeper stretch in the muscle.

While it will mean you need to use lower weights than with a traditional curl, it will work the muscle through a greater range of motion, allowing you to achieve a fuller development of all the fibres.

Kettlebell Hammers (Single & Double)

You have a few different options when it comes to performing kettlebell hammers.

The first two are almost identical to one another, only one sees you alternating arms, while the other has both arms performing the exercise simultaneously.

These options involve standing up straight with a kettlebell in each hand, arms at full extension by your sides, and palms facing your body.

You will then proceed to curl the weight up using only your biceps, while ensuring your palm remains facing your body and you try to avoid moving your wrists.

The other option will see you take a kettlebell at least double the weight you would use in the first two versions of the exercise and hold it in front of you, with one hand on either side of the handle, palms facing each other, and arms at full extension down towards your waist.

From here, you will then complete a curl using the same technique as you would when using two kettlebells.

In all instances, be sure to squeeze and hold the contraction at the top of each rep for a second, then slowly return to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of reps.

Kettlebell Preacher Curls / Kettlebell Spider Curls

Kettlebell preacher curls will require the use of either a preacher bench or a weight bench with the back rest set to around 45 degrees.

You will then either sit or stand behind it, with your arm or arms resting on the bench out in front of you, depending on if you are working both arms together or one at a time.

If you are performing the single arm variety, it is a good idea to place your free hand on the top of the bench for support.

With your kettlebell or kettlebells at full extension, focus on contracting the bicep and curl the weight as high as you can, while ensuring to keep your tricep in constant contact with the bench at all times.

Squeeze for a second before slowly lowering the weight and repeating for the desired number of reps.

A spider curl uses similar principles as a preacher curl, only your arms will be pointing directly at the floor.

To perform them, again take a bench at 45 degrees, only this time lay with your chest on the bench, so that your arms hang in front of you.

From here, follow the same technique as you would in a preacher curl, only without your arms resting on anything.

Kettlebell 21’s

Kettlebell 21’s will begin with the same setup as regular curls, with you standing completely straight, arms at full extension by your sides, and a kettlebell in either hand.

The kettlebells you select, however, will need to be significantly lighter than those you would use for a regular kettlebell curl.

You will also want to ensure you have your palms facing forward for the duration of the exercise. From here, contract the biceps and, with both arms at the same time, begin performing a kettlebell curl.

When you reach roughly the halfway point of the rep, when your forearms are parallel with the floor, hold the contraction for a second, before returning to the starting position and repeating 6 more times.

At the top of the 7th rep, again squeeze for a second, then continue upwards to where you would finish a traditional curl.

Squeeze for a second before lowering the weight back to the halfway position, where you will take another short pause, and then perform another 6 repetitions of the top half of the movement.

Upon completing the 7th rep of the upper half of a curl and squeezing, you will then perform 7 complete kettlebell curls, each with a slight pause and squeeze at the top.

Kettlebell Triceps Exercises

The triceps are the largest group of muscles in the arms.

Consisting of three main heads, the long, lateral, and medial heads, they account for around 60 percent of the mass in the upper arms.

This means that, while people often focus on bicep training, tricep training is perhaps the most important area for those looking to develop impressive arms.

It also means that, for the fullest development possible, you will need to use a range of exercises that target all three heads.

Close Grip Press Ups

To begin, take either one large kettlebell or two smaller kettlebells and place it on the ground in front of you, with the handle running from left to right.

If using two kettlebells, make sure they are touching. You then want to get yourself in position to perform a regular press up.

However, instead of placing your hands on the floor, you want to hold the handle of the kettlebell or kettlebells.

You want your hands to be just far enough apart that the tips of your thumbs can touch if you extend them towards each other.

You then begin performing a press up but, as you lower yourself down, try to keep your upper arms in constant contact with your torso for as long as possible.

At the very bottom of the rep, it may be necessary to flare your elbows out just slightly, to avoid having to change your hand position.

Hold the stretch at the bottom for a second before slowly pushing back up and repeating for the desired number of reps.

You want to make sure the entire motion is extremely slow, controlled, and calculated throughout, to avoid the kettlebells wobbling.

Kettlebell Dips Behind The Back

Take the tallest, heaviest pair of kettlebells you can find and put them on the ground, just wider than shoulder width apart, with the handles running from front to back.

You then need to sit between them, with the kettlebells just slightly behind you, and your legs fully extended out in front of you.

Reach back and grip a kettlebell handle in each hand and push upwards, straightening your arms and raising your buttocks off of the ground.

At the top of the rep your arms and knees should both be completely straight, and all of your weight will be supported on your hands and heels.

By bending only your elbows, slowly lower yourself back towards the ground and stop just short of your buttocks touching the floor.

Hold this position for a second before pushing back up and repeating for the desired number of reps.

For those who want to vary the effects of the exercise a little, moving the kettlebells closer together will hit the triceps harder, although will be tougher on the rotator cuffs, while moving them further apart will switch some of the emphasis to the chest.

Kettlebell Kickbacks

Get yourself a light kettlebell and a weight bench. You can either place one knee on the bench or simply bend over.

Either way, go down until your back is parallel with the ground and place the hand closest to the bench on the end of it for support.

Take the kettlebell in your free hand and raise your arm until your elbow is higher than your back, with your hand still pointing straight down towards the floor.

Without moving your upper arm, extend your elbow and straighten your arm, lifting the weight in the process.

When your arm reaches full extension, hold the contraction for a second before slowly lowering the weight back to the starting position.

After completing the desired number of reps, move to the other side of the bench and complete the same number again with the other arm.

It is also possible to complete the exercise with both arms at the same time.

However, this can only be done using the standing variety and is less advisable for beginners or those using large weights.

Kettlebell Skull Crushers

Lay flat on your back on a bench and hold a kettle directly over your body, with your arms  completely straight and pointed at the ceiling.

Hold the kettlebell with one hand on either side of the handle, palms facing each other, and the weighted section closer to your head than the handle.

Slightly tilt your arms a few degrees towards your head. Keeping your upper arms stationary, bend at the elbows and slowly lower the weight towards your face.

At the bottom of the rep, the weight should be either almost touching your forehead or just above your head.

Go as deep as you can each time, then use only the triceps to extend the arms out again.

Having them a few degrees off of vertical will allow you to maintain tension throughout the exercise, so squeeze hard at the top of each rep before repeating the desired number of times.

Lying Kettlebell Extensions

Take a small kettlebell and lay on your back on a bench.

Hold the kettlebell with an overhand grip and extend your arm towards the ceiling, until it is completely vertical, with the weight above the handle.

Keeping your upper arm and wrist as still as possible, slowly bend at the elbow and lower the weight towards the opposite shoulder.

When it is just about to touch your shoulder, start extending your arm again, taking the weight back up.

Pause for a few seconds when you are just shy of fully extended and really squeeze the muscle.

After completing the desired number of reps, switch arms and make sure to match the number of reps on the other side.

Overhead Kettlebell Extension

This exercise can be performed either while standing or sitting on a flat bench, but your back must remain completely straight throughout.

Begin by hoisting a kettlebell to your shoulder and placing one hand on either side of the handle, with your thumbs at the bottom.

From here, raise the weight up until your arms are straight. Your hands will naturally tilt a little but try to keep your thumbs as low as possible, and your elbows as close together as you can.

Keeping your upper arms stationary, bend at the elbows to lower the weight as far down behind the back of your head as you can.

When you have stretched as far as you can go, extend the elbows and drive the weight back up towards the ceiling.

Hold the tension for a few seconds before repeating for the desired number of reps.

Kettlebell Forearm Exercises

The forearms are often forgotten or intentionally overlooked during arm training, as people feel they are too small or get enough work in other arm exercises to worry about training them individually.

However, this is generally a rookie error and one that limits the development of your physique.

With two intertwined groups of smaller muscles, the forearms are incredibly important, as they control the movement of your wrists.

This means not only will targeting them give you a thicker, fuller arm development overall, but it will also help you to improve in your other arm exercises too.

Behind The Back Kettlebell Wrist Curls

Take a pair of heavy kettlebells and hold them behind your back, with your arms fully extended and the backs of your hands resting on your buttocks.

Using only your wrists, raise the weights by trying to bring your fingers as close to your forearms as possible, making sure to really squeeze each time.

Farmer’s Walk With Kettlebells

Farmers walks are an extremely straightforward exercise but one which will set your forearms and traps on fire.

Simply pick up the heaviest kettlebells you can manage with an overhand grip and, with your arms fully extended at your sides, walk with them as far as you can.

Kettlebell Forearm Deviations

Take a light kettlebell and hold your arm around 30 degrees out in front of you while it is fully extended.

Using only your wrist, try to bring your thumb as close to your forearm as possible, which will raise the weight towards the ceiling.

Once you have completed the desired number of reps, move your arm to around 30 degrees behind you and repeat the movement, only, this time, you will be brining your little finger towards your forearm.

Once you have completed the same number of reps, switch arms and perform the same number both in front and behind on the other side. This exercise can be done from either a seated or standing position.

Kettlebell Forearm Curls

Take a pair of kettlebells and sit on a bench with the backs of your forearms resting on your things and the backs of your hands on your knees.

Allow the weights to pull your hands as far down as possible then, using only your wrists, curl the weights up as high as you can, bringing your palms towards you.

Hold the tension for a few seconds before repeating for the desired number of reps.

Reverse Kettlebell Forearm Curls

Reverse kettlebell forearm curls are almost identical to regular kettlebell forearm curls.

However, this time you will have the insides of your forearms resting on your things, with your hands bent forward so your fingers are touching your knees.

You will then again use only your wrists to raise the weights back up, pausing for a second between reps to maximise the contraction.

Reverse Grip Kettlebell Curls

Reverse grip kettlebell curls can be performed using either one large kettlebell or two smaller ones.

Either way, stand holding your chosen weight with an overhand grip, with your arms at full extension by your waist.

Keeping your upper arms still, use your elbows to raise the weights as high as you can.

When you reach your full range of motion, flex the wrists and move your knuckles towards your biceps, to add even more tension to the forearms.

Hold this position for a few seconds before returning to the starting position and completing the desired number of reps.

Kettlebell Shoulder Exercises

While not necessarily considered a part of the arm, the shoulders do make up the upper portion of the limb and will require a similar level of development if you intend to achieve the kind of appearance that will make your friends jealous when you break out the vests in the summer.

Focusing primarily on the anterior, lateral, and posterior heads of the deltoids, throwing one or two shoulder exercises into your arm workout, in addition to your regular shoulder session, is a great way to achieve maximum aesthetic improvements in the area.

Bent Over Kettlebell Raises

Take a kettlebell in either hand and bend over until your torso is parallel with the floor, with your arms straight and pointing at the ground.

Keeping your arms as straight as possible, use your rear delts to raise your arms out to your sides, until they too are parallel with the ground.

Hold this position for a second before repeating for the desired number of reps. This exercise can also be performed from both a standing or seated position.

Front Kettlebell Raises

Stand holding a kettlebell in each hand, with your arms fully extended, and the weights resting on the front of your thighs.

Keeping your arms completely straight, use the front deltoids to raise the weights up out in front of you, until your arms are parallel with the floor.

Hold at the top of the movement for a second, before lowering the weights back down and repeating for the desired number of reps.

You can either perform this exercise with both arms at the same time or alternate with one rep on each arm.

If you decide to alternate, try to get in a rhythm, so that your arms cross at roughly the halfway point of the movement.

Lateral Kettlebell Raises

Lateral kettlebell raises can be completed from either a seated or standing position.

With a straight back, you need to take a kettlebell in each hand and allow them to hang by the waist, with arms at full extension.

Using only your shoulders and keeping your arms completely straight, raise the weights up and out to your sides, until your arms are parallel with the floor.

At this point, try to slightly tilt your hands, so that your little fingers raise, and your thumbs get closer to the ground.

When you have twisted your wrists as far as you can, hold the tension for a second before slowly returning to the starting position and completing the desired number of reps.

Kettlebell Corkscrew Press

A kettlebell corkscrew press can be performed from either a seated or standing position, and begins where a bicep curl ends, with the weights at shoulder height and your palms facing you.

From here, drive the weights directly upwards and twist your hands as you go.

By the time your arms are fully extended, you should have rotated your hands 180 degrees, so your palms now face away from you. You then want to raise your little fingers and tilt your thumbs down towards your head.

Hold this position and really squeeze, before returning to the starting position and repeating for the desired number of reps.

Kettlebell Shoulder Press

A kettlebell shoulder press begins by raising two kettlebells to shoulder height, just outside of shoulder width.

You will hold the weights with an overhand grip, your palms will face forwards, and the weighted sections will hang down the backs of your forearms.

From here, you will use the shoulders and triceps to drive the weights up and, using an arcing motion, bring them together above your head as your arms reach full extension.

Tilt your hands so your little fingers raise and your thumbs lower and really squeeze the deltoids for a few seconds.

Slowly return to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of reps. This exercise can also be performed from both a standing or seated position.

Upright Kettlebell Rows

Take a single kettlebell and hold it in front of you with both hands by your waist, and arms fully extended.

The objective here is to raise the weight up to your chin while keeping your hands together.

As you pull the kettlebell upwards in a straight line, begin to flare your elbows out to the sides.

At the top of the rep, your elbows should be higher than shoulder height and you won’t be able to move the weight any higher.

Try and squeeze the traps together throughout the movement and pause for a second at the top, before slowly lowering the weight and completing the desired number of reps.

Those wanting to shift more of the emphasis onto the traps can also perform the exercises using two smaller kettlebells and a wider grip.

How To Build A Complete Kettlebell Arm Workout

The ideal kettlebell arm workout will include one exercise that targets each of the individual muscles in the arms.

With 3 muscles in the triceps, 2 in the biceps, and 2 distinct sets in the forearms, that gives us 7 muscles or groups of muscles to train.

Throw in one exercise for the shoulders and a complete kettlebell arm workout will consist of around 8 exercises.

The muscles in the arms are also of the smaller variety and are used to doing quite a lot of work. As a result, they have been proven to respond better to greater volume.

With that in mind, you want to target 8 to 12 reps per set, and around 4 sets of each exercise.

Example Of An Ideal Kettlebell Arm Workout

An ideal kettlebell arm workout will consist of exercises that hit all three heads of the triceps, both heads of the biceps, all of the forearms, and even a little of the shoulders.

It will also include enough volume to effectively stimulate the muscles and make them grow.

As a result, an example of an ideal kettlebell workout will look something like this:

  • Kettlebell Curls – 10 reps, 4 sets (targets short bicep head)
  • Kettlebell Hammers (Single Kettlebell Version) – 10 reps, 4 sets (targets long bicep head)
  • Overhead Kettlebell Extensions – 10 reps, 4 sets (targets long tricep head)
  • Kettlebell Skull Crushers – 10 reps, 4 sets (targets lateral tricep head)
  • Kettlebell Dips Behind The Back – 10 reps, 4 sets (targets medial tricep head)
  • Kettlebell Corkscrew Press – 10 reps, 4 sets (targets front and lateral deltoid heads)
  • Superset: Kettlebell Forearm Curls / Reverse Kettlebell Forearm Curls – 10 reps, 4 sets (targets entire forearms)

While this kettlebell arm workout hits all of the necessary areas, it too can still grow stale.

If you plan to use it, make sure you intermittently swap exercises in and out with other options from this article, to help keep things fresh and effective.

Conclusion

A kettlebell workout is a great way to shake up your arm training, keep things fresh, and help you to smash through plateaus.

While many of the exercises will be the same as those you do with barbells or dumbbells, the variation will encourage the muscles to grow all the same.

Once you start to see the impressive results you achieve in your arms, you will likely even want to try a kettlebell leg workout or a kettlebell session for your entire body as well.

That way, you can get maximum development in your entire body.

For those that want to take kettlebell training to the extreme though, I would recommend you consider getting yourself some of the best shoes for kettlebell training as well.

This will help to ensure that your sessions are all as safe and effective as possible.

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