Upper Body Kettlebell Workout

Upper Body Kettlebell Workout

I’ve gotten a couple requests for upper body workouts, and after creating my new workout page, I can see why—in the year and a half or so that I’ve been blogging, I’ve never posted one. Oops. The majority of the workouts I post are full-body, so I still incorporate arms/shoulders/chest in some way, but rarely have I focused solely on this area.

Well, I love the challenge of coming up with a workout that fits a particular set of goals, so an upper body workout it is. You can, by the way, always reach out to me with a workout request. Leave a comment, write on the P&I Facebook wall, tweet at me, email me—I love coming up with workouts I know you guys actually want!

And speaking of things you guys want, if you haven’t yet stocked your workout wardrobe with the basics, allow me to direct your attention to what I’m wearing today. Neon, zebra-striped, cut-out, 3-D workout gear is fun and all, but you also need to have some basic, match-everything, go-to pieces. I’ve mentioned Cory Vines before here, but I’ll say it again: their tops are so comfortable, and perfect for working out as well as everyday wear.  And the black Champion leggings I have on are the full-length version of the capris I was wearing last week—so essential seeing as they match literally everything!

Upper Body Kettlebell Workout

Upper Body Kettlebell Workout

Equipment I Used:

  • 25-lb kettlebell
  • 20-lb kettlebell
  • 15-lb kettlebell
  • 10-lb kettlebell

We’ve got lots of shoulder, upper back, and arm moves for this one. But don’t be fooled—you’ll still be working your core the entire time! Complete 3 rounds of the following exercises. If you’re a beginner, reduce the amount of reps you do for each move.Upper Body Kettlebell Workout

  • 15 Clean & Press (each side): With feet a little wider than shoulder width apart, bend knees and bring kettlebell from a straight-arm hanging position to closely held by the center of your chest with arm bent. From there, straighten legs as you extend your arm skyward. Reverse the moves to bring yourself back to starting position. Try to keep the kettlebell towards the center of your body throughout this move. When done correctly, this isn’t just an upper-body workout, but great for your core. I used a 15-lb bell.
  • 15 Hovering Plank Rows (each side): Get into a plank position, holding onto a kettlebell with one hand (I used a 10-lb bell). Row the kettlebell off the ground, pulling your elbow straight back towards the ceiling. Lower it back down, but don’t let it touch the ground before rowing back again. Try to complete all 15 before letting kettlebell come to a rest on the floor. While you do these rows, try to resist the urge to twist towards the stabilizing side. Keep hips square and chest facing the floor.
  • 15 Triceps Presses: Hold a kettlebell (I used a 10-lb bell) in both hands behind your head (elbows bent, arms held in close to either side of your head). Keeping your upper arm in place, straighten out your forearm, bringing the kettlebell up over your head. Lower back down. Keep those elbows in tight and facing forward the whole time—resist the urge to let them flop out away from your head.
  • 15 High Pulls (each side): Start with feet hip-width apart with kettlebell on the floor in front of you. I use a 20-lb bell for these. Bend with your knees keeping back straight, grab and kettlebell, and power up, standing as you pull your elbow up, bringing the kettlebell up towards the side of your face. In a controlled movement, lower back to starting position.
  • 20 Kettlebell Swing Punches: This is just like a regular swing except for at the top, bend your elbows wide, bringing the kettlebell in towards your face, and punch it back out. I use a 25-lb kettlebell for these.
  • 10 Lift ‘n Pull Apart: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, holding a kettlebell in both hands, arms extended. Slowly lift the kettlebell up towards your chin, bringing your elbows out wide as you do so. The kettlebell should stay close to your body throughout the whole movement. As you reach the top of the lift, really pull those arms out wide as if you’re trying to tear the kettlebell in half. Slowly lower, reversing the motion. I used a 20-lb kettlebell.
  • 30-second Two-Arm Extension Hold: Holding a kettlebell in both hands at chest height, extend arms straight out in front of you, keeping only a slight bend in the elbows. Hold position for 30 seconds. I used a 10-lb bell.

WEARING: V-Neck: c/o Cory Vines // Leggings: c/o Champion // Sneakers: New Blanace

While we can’t spot reduce (chose where we lose fat), we can focus on strengthening certain muscle groups. Working my entire body throughout the week is always the goal, but I admittedly tend to focus on abs when it comes to strength training. What’s your favorite area to work out?



  1. I need to invest in some kettlebells. There’s a bunch of different workouts you’ve posted and I that I want to do on my blog that’ll involve using kettlebells but I still haven’t gotten around to picking some up. Do you have any brands you recommend?

    • They’re a great investment! I have a couple different brands of kettlebells myself and really like GoFit and Gold’s Gym brands. The main things to look out for are bells with a wide enough handle to comfortably hold with two hands (if 20lb or heavier) and ones that are dense (some brands use a cheaper plastic material and so the heavier bells are MASSIVE in size).

      • Thanks for the info on these simple yet very good exercises, easy to remember and do it at home !

        I just got myself some Primal Bells from Onnit.

        Great kettlebells with a wide thick grip, they have a variety of primate models and zombie models.

        Highest quality and are perfectly balanced, even the sculpted ones.

        Pretty good for motivation when working out with these. Having an angry chimp staring at you will keep you going till the last rep.

  2. Awesome workout – thank you! I’m always looking to tone my arms 🙂

  3. Just finished this workout, and it was a great. I was a bit of a slug this week so I needed to incorporate legs. Started with a 4-minute turbulence training full body workout (great program if you aren’t familiar with it), followed by your KB workout and then 15 reps of KB plié squats, goblet squats, and ten reps of reverse lunges with a KB pass under. Used a 20 KB for all three exercises. Completed three sets in just under 40 minutes. I would caution beginners doing a snatch. Start with light weight until the movement is mastered. Overhead work can really mess up a shoulder if not executed properly.
    Love seeing what you come up with! Thanks!

    • I haven’t heard of turbulence training–I’ll have to look into it! And thanks for sharing some advice for beginners–glad you liked this workout!

  4. What are the primary muscles used in the two arm extension hold and the sister movers?

  5. This is the first time I’ve tried KB swing punches. At first, I was pretty scared I was going to punch myself in the face with the KB, but I think I’m getting the hang of it!

  6. I’ll try this workout. I was googling to find kettlebell exercises that help me fit back into a gorgeous evening gown I had fitted (tightly :-/) before I got pregnant with my 2nd child. I’ve been doing kettlebells for a few months now and see great results – but the gown still won’t close over the ribcage.

  7. Caitlin says:

    This just kicked my ass. I only have a 15 lb. and a 30 lb kettlebell. So I tend to often be a little under weight or very over weight. Those hovering plank rows were killer!

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