Last Updated: 7th October 2016
If you want to have bigger, stronger arms, it’s going to take A LOT of work! Your arm muscles (biceps, triceps, and forearms) are actually fairly small muscles in comparison to your chest, back, and legs. Thankfully, when you train your upper body, your arms get a good workout. Throw in a few arm-centric exercises every week, and you’ve got a recipe for beautiful arms.
There are many ways to work out your arms:
- Bicep curls with a barbell for maximum muscle recruitment and loading
- Concentration curls with dumbbells for maximum isolation of the muscles
- Preacher curls with a cable machine for constant muscle tension
- Pull-Ups using your bodyweight for developing functional strength
But there’s one type of workout many people tend to forget: kettlebell workouts.
Kettlebells have become hugely popular in the last decade or so, but a surprising number of people still ignore them for the classic dumbbells and barbells. Kettlebells are the perfect addition to your workout, for some reasons:
- They can help you get your heart rate up more effectively than a regular dumbbell or barbell movements.
- Kettlebell training can help to reduce lower back, neck, and shoulder pain, and can improve lower back muscular strength.
- Kettlebell exercises can restore and enhance lower back function.
- Exercises like the Kettlebell swing can build maximum and explosive strength very effectively, and are great for overall conditioning.
- Kettlebell training can help to enhance posture, coordination, and reaction to sudden perturbation.
- Kettlebell workouts are better for fat-burning, power and endurance increases, and overall functional strength.
All pretty awesome reasons to start working out with kettlebells, right?
Make no mistake: kettlebell training is NOT a viable replacement for your classic weightlifting. You still need to use barbells and dumbbells, machines, and bodyweight exercises if you want to see serious results. Kettlebells are not as effective for overall strength gains.
But where kettlebell training DOES excel is regarding movement, coordination, balance, mobility, endurance, and cardiovascular conditioning. By mixing in a few kettlebell movements, you can change up the style of your workout and hit your arms from a different angle. At the same time, the active movements will push your cardiovascular system to its limits, leading to much better conditioning overall!
How to Use Kettlebells in Your Arms Workout Routines
Kettlebell exercises will not replace your regular arm workouts, but they will be an extra to enhance your training. Below you’ll find a list of the best kettlebell exercises to help you build bigger, stronger arms:
Two-Arm Kettlebell Row
This is a kettlebell variation of the classic Barbell or Dumbbell Rows. It’s one of the best exercises to help build middle back strength, but it hits your biceps and forearms beautifully as well. Best of all, it will increase the mobility and stability of your lower back.
Pretty easy, right? Working with kettlebells will make the exercise a bit harder, as the weight will hang down beyond the level of your hands. Talk about a killer middle back workout!
Kettlebell Figure 8
Be warned: this bad boy is going to BURN! Your abs are doing most of the work here, but your glutes and lower back are engaged to keep your upper body stable as you stay in the bent position. Your shoulders, arms, and forearms do all the work of moving the kettlebell around, giving them a great workout.
It starts out easy enough, but you’ll find yourself huffing and puffing in no time! You’ll feel the fire in your arms, glutes, shoulders, and abs. Definitely, a “finisher” to add to the end of your workout.
Push-Ups are one of the best upper body movements! They hit your chest muscles beautifully, but your shoulders and triceps do a lot of the work as well. By performing them from the elevated platform (the handles of the kettlebells), you make your chest and arms work a lot harder while taking the strain off your wrists. The result is a much more effective exercise and bigger muscles!
Warning: This can be dangerous if the kettlebells aren’t very stable. Be careful when performing push-ups, and make sure the weight is resting securely on the floor. The last thing you want is to twist your wrist if/when the weight topples.
Single-Arm Kettlebell Floor Press
This is another kettlebell variation of a classic dumbbell exercise. Floor Presses are ideal for developing upper body strength. The fact that you’re on the floor means that all the weight is on your chest, shoulders, and arms, and your legs do NONE of the work. It’s a killer upper body “pushing” workout that will help you build serious chest, shoulder, and triceps muscles!
The beauty of this workout is that it takes a lot of the strain off your shoulders. If you feel shoulder pain while doing bench presses, this is a good variation to reduce your risk of shoulder injuries while giving your arms one heck of an excellent workout.
Kettlebell Hammer Curls
Image Source: Shape Lift
Want to change things up?
Switching out dumbbells for kettlebells in this exercise places even more of the burden on your forearms, drastically enhancing your grip strength.
The movement still hits your biceps hard, but it increases the drag on your wrists–forcing the stabilizing forearm muscles to contract to keep the weight steady.
Note: You may find that the exercise causes wrist pain. If this happens, lower the weight for a few weeks to get your wrists used to the added strain. It’s the best way to avoid wrist injuries while developing your grip strength.
Image Source: Anokhi Media
Looking to kick your arm workout up a notch? This movement is more than just a great arm, shoulder, and core workout, but it will push your heart and lungs for a killer cardio session. The movement is beautifully simple, and you’ll have no trouble mastering it.
The constant passing from hand to hand will do wonders for your forearms. Every time your muscles contract to grip and swing the kettlebell, it will increase your grip endurance. Definitely, an excellent movement to add for not just your arms, shoulders, and core, but also your forearms!
Kettlebell Farmer’s Walk
The Farmer’s Walk is one of the best exercises to develop forearm strength. Your muscles are contracted for 45 to 60 seconds, increasing your grip strength and endurance. But by switching dumbbells for kettlebells, you make the workout even harder. Your fingers have to clench tighter to support the load, which is being dragged down by gravity.
Note: You may want to start with a bit less weight than you normally use for dumbbell Farmer’s Walk.
If you want to push your forearms to their limits, use a kettlebell with an extra-thick handle. The open grip will work your arms in a unique way.
Two-Handed Kettlebell Military Press
Military Press is one of the best exercises for your shoulders, and your triceps do a lot of the work when lifting the weights overhead. Using kettlebells will change the load of the workout, hitting your shoulders and arms in a new way. It’s a good variation on the classic exercise. You’ll see the results in no time!
Bonus: To recruit your core muscles, lift just one kettlebell at a time, with the other resting down by your side. Your side and abs muscles will have to work to keep your upper body stable as you raise the weight overhead.
Kettlebell Lunge Press
Lunge Presses are one of my favorite workouts! The Lunge portion hits your glutes, quads, and hamstrings, while the Press portion works your shoulders, back, and arms. All the while, your core is engaged to keep your balance as you are in the Lunge position. It’s not an easy exercise for beginners, but once you master it, you’ll see how awesome it is.
Talk about a wicked full-body movement! Throw this movement into your workout as a finisher, and it will hit your body HARD.
Kettlebell High Pull
Image Source: Girls Talking
The High Pull is an exercise meant to work your shoulders and arms like a boss. The fact that you’re lifting the weight from the floor up over your head means that your upper body gets one heck of a workout. It’s a classic “pulling” exercise that focuses on your anterior and lateral deltoids, biceps, and forearms. For sleeker arms and rounded shoulders, it’s definitely a movement to include in your workout!
Notice how there’s a bit of squat at the beginning of the workout? By performing that squat, you recruit the muscles in your glutes, hamstrings, and quads. This exercise combines a bit of lower body and core movement into your upper body workout. Winning
Kettlebell Renegade Row
The Renegade Row is a surprisingly difficult movement, but a highly effective one! There are many components: the Push-Up hits your chest, triceps, and shoulders; the Plank hits your core and promotes greater endurance, and the Row works your back and biceps.
Combining all these movements into one exercise all but guarantees better fitness!
Note: Kettlebells lack the stability of hexagonal dumbbells, so be careful when performing this exercise! The last thing you want is to twist your wrist or injure your ribs if the kettlebell topples.
Control your movements, and keep your form tight throughout the range of motion. Take a moment to pause between the Row and the Push-Up. That second of pause hits your core even harder!
The beauty of this movement is that you are pushing up from an elevated platform (the handles of the kettlebells). This means that you get a deeper Push-Up, so more focus on your triceps, shoulders, and the outside of your chest muscles.
Two-Handed Kettlebell Overhead Extension
Overhead Extensions are a classic dumbbell exercise to hit your triceps. It’s a fairly easy exercise to perform, and the fact that you’re using both arms means you can lift a lot more weight than you could with just one arm. Once you master the form, you’ll find that it’s one of the best triceps exercises.
Pretty simple, right? They’re an easy exercise even for beginners to master, and they’ll be one of the best to help you build serious triceps strength!
Kettlebell Reverse Curls
Image Source: Mike Mahler
Reverse Curls are a unique alternative to your classic Barbell Curls. You perform the exercise with a reversed grip–palms facing down instead of up. This means that you’re gripping the weight from above rather than supporting it from below.
The result is extra strain on your forearms, helping you to develop serious grip strength. It’s the perfect exercise to hit your forearms as you work your biceps.
Here’s how to do them right:
Note: You may encounter some wrist discomfort with this workout, but that’s to be expected. Be careful to keep your movements controlled and wear wrist braces if you need them, but don’t let a minor ache stop you.
Do this exercise right, and it will help you to develop serious wrist strength!
Since kettlebells are very handy, you can even do these exercises at home. It’s convenient and you should never feel too tired to do the routines.
Kettlebells can be a wonderful addition to your arm workouts if you know how to use them right. Include the exercises listed above in your daily routines, and you’ll see progress thanks to the unique design of the kettlebells!