Consider This 6-Move, Hemsworth-Approved Workout the Beginner’s Guide to Kettlebells
The kettlebell's too important for you to be intimidated. Thor can help.
Learning how to properly swing a kettlebell makes a whole lot of sense right now. They can be used for an infinite number of at-home workouts, but we’d suggest starting with a 30-minute scorcher from our friends on the Centr app.
A couple months ago, my gym built a new rack on the strength training floor and piled it high with kettlebells. I’ve long been wary of kettlebells, for no reason better than I was too intimidated to use one incorrectly. They possess magical powers for building functional, full-body muscle, but I’ve been too worried I’d swing one the wrong way and blow out my back. Or worse: embarrass myself in front of the other lifters.
Then a couple weeks ago, I headed over to that rack and noticed actual dust on some of the kettlebells. Come to think of it, I’d rarely seen anyone use kettlebells at my gym, or any gym I’d belonged to before this one, unless instructed by a personal trainer. Determined to use one properly, I vowed I’d return with a proper kettlebell workout. I didn’t want to just mess around with one after a day using old reliables like the bench or EZ bar; I wanted a complete (perhaps even tricky) workout, one that would force me to learn the scales by jumping right into the song.
Enter: Chris Hemsworth and Luke Zocchi’s “Killer Kettlebell Sesh.” I’m a devoted user of Hemsworth’s training app, Centr, which is an all-purpose wellness app specializing in personal workouts, recipes, meditation … the works. While most of the app’s content is populated weekly by Hemsworth’s cast of friends in the training and dietary space, once in a while he makes an appearance himself, with Zocchi, doing some bananas workout.
But watching Thor wield a kettlebell finally gave me the confidence to try one for myself. Mostly because his (and Zocchi’s) workout style is endlessly accessible. Small rooms, little equipment, all work. And sure enough, my first attempt at the six-move workout went fairly well. I was drenched in sweat by the end, and my legs still hate me days later, but simply taking the plunge and learning a piece of equipment on the fly can pay off. It’s also more fun than trudging through the same register of bicep curls you do every night at the gym — variety is the spice of a great workout.
The full workout is below, along with my notes on how to perform each move. (If you want the video, go join Centr. It’s a monthly subscription, and it’s worth it.) Perform these six moves with 60 seconds of rest in between, six times. Pay special attention to weight (it varies based on what you’re trying to accomplish/what you’re targeting with each move), and when in doubt, stick your butt out a little more and slow down. Your back will thank you 30 years from now.
Kettlebell reverse lunge to hammer curl
Pick up two kettlebells (choose a weight on the lighter side) and stand up straight, holding them at your sides. Reach back with your right leg into a right-side reverse lunge, then push back into center, simultaneously swinging the kettlebells forward (keeping your elbows at a 90-degree angle) so the bottoms are facing the mirror in front of you. Then repeat, reaching back with your left leg. Do six reps for each leg. Try to get into a good rhythm, but don’t worry about speed. You want to take your time and give your muscles time under tension.
A more conventional kettlebell move, which you’ve probably attempted before. Go with a heavier option here, and hold the kettlebell with both hands at the center of the handle. Lean down into a squat, dropping the kettlebell between your legs, then explode up, pulling it straight with you, all the way up to your chin. Your elbows should be pointing straight out from your body when you reach this position. Then drop back down, and repeat. Six reps.
Kettlebell clean with alternating reverse lunge
Okay, first tricky one. This one involves a kettlebell clean, which is worth studying online if you’ve never attempted it before. Basically, it’s a fluid motion where you’re “racking” the kettlebell — scooping it from the ground, and letting the handle swing back against your forearm, without banging your wrist. For this move, I’d recommend starting with one of the lightest kettlebells available and trying to establish a rhythm, as it takes some serious concentration at first, not to mention footwork. Place the kettlebell in the middle of the floor in front of you, then scoop it with your right hand into a clean while lunging your left leg back. Return it to the floor, then scoop it with your left hand into a clean while lunging your right leg back. Alternate back and forth until you have the motion down. Then, get a heavier kettlebell and do the real thing to the tune of six reps.
Goblet squat to kettlebell halo
Goblets are great: you hold either side of the kettlebell handle, lock your shoulders in, and get into a deep squat. But for these, though, there’s a bonus. Once you stand back at full height, rotate the kettlebell around your head like so. Head right to start, until it reaches your chest, then rotate back, until it reached your chest the other way. Six reps again, and make sure you’re going heavy here.
Grueling? Fun? A little bit of both. Find a medium-weighted kettlebell here (if it’s too light, you can switch it out for the next round), get yourself a mat or a patch of reliable ground, and hold the kettlebell between your legs, like you did during the squat portion of the upright rows. Instead of slowly rising up, though, you’re leaping off the ground, letting the kettlebell travel with you. It should hold firm during the jump. Don’t try to break any high-jump records. You just want to create some separation, and focus on landing safely. Do six good ones.
These are a unique way to target the biceps while focusing on your balance. Get down into a simple squat, and hold a heavy-ish kettlebell with the handle facing you. You should be holding either side of the handle, where it meets the weighted ball. Keeping your elbows locked in, slowly curl it up towards your chest. As usual, do six.
Originally published October 9, 2019