Try this six-step kettlebell arm workout for lean, toned arms

Swing and press your way to lean, toned arms with this kettlebell arm workout

kettlebell arm workout
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Want stronger, more toned arms? This kettlebell arm workout will deliver the results you're after. Kettlebells are great fun to workout with, especially when targeting your upper body, because you can swing and throw them with relative ease compared to other weights – probably not dumbbells but throwing barbells around would be definitely more challenging.

Of course, always take note of how much room you have, and how many valuable items – or people – are around you before swinging a kettlebell. Also, some of the below exercises – like the kettlebell swing – involves bending forward a lot so if you have any lower back problems, be extra careful and always warm up with a resistance band beforehand. 

Don't try any movement where the kettlebell leaves your hand until you're totally comfortable with the weight you're using. Several of the exercises in this guide require swinging, but throwing is only ever a way of increasing the challenge. 

8kg kettlebell in a gym

(Image credit: ZOE-Animation-Studio from Pixabay)

This kettlebell arm workout will take you about 15 minutes. You'll work your arms using your kettlebell for between 90 and 120 seconds per exercise, with a minute rest in between. 

The time is just a guideline though as we're going to be working in reps rather than for a set time, because it's easier to keep track of if you're working out on your own. You don't want to drop a kettlebell on your smartphone while trying to reset a stopwatch... trust. 

Of course, if you use a running watch or fitness tracker it's much easier to keep track of time, so feel free to do each exercise for 30 - 40 seconds in place of 20 reps. 

We advise having two different weight kettlebells for this routine, one for single arm exercises like shoulder presses, and one for double arm exercises like swings. For the former we'd suggest starting at 4kg, and for the latter we'd suggest starting at 8kg. If you have worked out your arms with a kettlebell before then you'll know if you can manage more than this.  

We really recommend being able to switch weights for single and double arm exercises so you're always working at max capacity, but if you're working out at home and only have one weight we'll note where you can make the single arm exercises double arm instead.

Woman swinging a kettlebell to shoulder height

(Image credit: Pexels)

Exercise: Kettlebell swings 

Reps: 20


Start with your kettlebell on the floor in front of you, handles up. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, bending your knees slightly as you're about to deadlift (you're looking just to soften your knees, rather than squat).

Pick up your kettlebell with both hands and as you do, pull it back between your legs. Next, swing the ball from this low point to shoulder height (as shown above). As you swing the weight, push your hips forward and straighten your legs. 

Remember that you're not squatting, and that the momentum is coming from your arms and your hips, not your legs. 

If you want to make this exercise harder, swing the kettlebell with one arm at a time, changing at the high point of the swing (when the weight is shoulder height). And if you're feeling really brave, you can add in a small throw.

If you can't manage the weight with one hand then either drop down to 10 reps, or stick to the two-handed swing.

Exercise: Figure of eight 

Reps: 20

Sets: 3

This exercise is similar to a single arm kettlebell swing (the upgrade of the two handed kettlebell swing, as described above), only instead of changing hands at the high point, you change at the low point when you hand passes between your legs. 

Stand with your feet shoulder-width and hold your kettlebell in one hand. Swing as you did before, but as the kettlebell comes down allow it to go in between your legs and change which hand you hold it with at that point. Your arms cross through your legs in a figure of eight. 

If your weight is too heavy for you to do this on one hand at a time then you can either do 10 reps instead of 20, or stick to three sets of regular kettlebell swings. 

Athletic woman using kettlebell

(Image credit: 5132824 from pixabay)

Exercise: Shoulder press 

Reps: 10 per arm 

Sets: 3

If you have two kettlebells, you'll likely want the lighter one for the next part of this kettlebell arm workout. 

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and pick up your kettlebell by the handle, with one hand. Hold the weight so that the ball part (the round, hefty bit) is closer to the ground than the handle (as shown above).

Bring your weight-baring hand to shoulder height and then extend your arm to full length, pressing the kettlebell towards the ceiling, before returning back to your shoulder. That's one press. 

If your weight is too heavy for a single-arm movement, hold the weight in front of your chest in both hands and do the same movement. If you're doing it this way you may find it easier to flip the weight so the handles are above the bell, but still grip the handles. 

If on the other hand you want to upgrade this exercise and bring in your glutes, add a squat before each press. 

Exercise: Kettlebell overhead extension

Reps: 20


Hold your kettlebell by the handles behind your head, with your arms fully extended.

Slowly bend at the elbow to lower the weight until the kettlebell is roughly inline with the base of your neck. Keep your elbows pointing forwards, and your upper arms close to either side your head. That's one dip.

Woman in athletic gear lunging

(Image credit: Pexels)

Exercise: Single arm row 

Reps: 10 per arm


Come down into a lunge position, with your left leg in front of you and bent at 90 degrees. Your back should be straight, but sloping.

Pick up the kettlebell in your right hand (always the one that is opposite your bent leg) and pull it up until your elbow is in line with your waist; there is no need to go higher than this. Then release the weight back down towards the ground. 

Exercise: Bicep curl

Reps: 20

Sets: 3

The last exercise in our kettlebell arm workout is the classic bicep curl, which is usually done with a dumbbell. Have you ever tried it with a kettlebell?

Once again stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Hold your kettlebell by the handle with both hands, bell closer to the ground. Slowly lift the weight up towards your chest, bending at the elbow. 

Keep your elbows close to your sides to ensure they don't lift: all the work is being done by your biceps. 

More kettlebell workouts

Esther Docherty
Esther is a new addition to the team, covering Fitness and Outdoor content.