Upper-Body Kettlebell Interval Workout

Upper-Body Kettlebell Interval WorkoutMy last upper body workout using kettlebells was a big hit, and I got a reader request for another one so she could switch it up. Ask and you shall receive…eventually (my turnaround time with workout requests is glacial, I know).

I would consider this workout to be a little more advanced than the first upper body kettlebell routine I blogged because you’re doing dynamic movements with heavier weights (the high-pull swings and high-pull to plank rows in particular). Form will be important for injury prevention with those, so if you’re newer to working out or kettlebells, start with a lighter weight—lighter than you think you need, trust me. Practice the exercises with little-to-no weight before upping it.

Granted, I am a whiney baby when it comes to upper body workouts, but OH MAN this one killed me…

Upper Body Kettlebell Interval Workout

Equipment I Used:

Set an interval timer for 21 rounds of 45 seconds of work and 15 seconds of rest. You’ll go through the following circuit of exercises three times. As you’ll notice, you work the right side completely before moving onto the left: three exercises on the right, a two-hand exercises, then the starting three exercises on the left.

Upper-Body Kettlebell Interval Workout

  • High Pull Swing RIGHT: The best way to understand this swing is to watch this YouTube video demo (@2:40). It’s essentially a basic one-arm swing, but at the top of the swing, you pull your elbow back and slightly up and then lightly punch the bell back forward towards the top of the swing arch. To break it down: Start holding the bell in your right hand, feet shoulder-width apart with a soft bend in the knees. Swing the bell back between your legs, thumb-first, leaning forward with a straight back and bending the knees a little deeper. As you explosively swing the bell forward and up, thrust the hips powerfully forward, rotating your hand so that knuckles face forward, bringing the bell up to chest-to-face height as you bend the elbow, pulling it back behind your body at a slight upward angel. Push the bell back out front, straightening the elbow, and swing it back down, rotating the bell so that your thumb leads the way.
  • Clean ‘n Press RIGHT:Start standing tall with feet shoulder-width apart, holding the kettlebell in one hand, arm straight, bell hanging in front of your body. Bend knees into a half squat, and bring the kettlebell from a straight-arm hanging position to being closely held by the center of your chest with arm bent, fingers facing up. It’s a smooth movement, pulling the bell straight up and flipping your grip around the handle from an overhand grip to underhand (it will be cradled in the crook of your thumb and index finger at the end). Use your legs to help you achieve the clean: push up from your feet, straightening your legs for added power as you pull the bell up, and landing softly back into that half-squat as you catch the bell in its new hand position. From there, straighten legs as you stand up and extend your hand and the bell 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.
  • High Pull to Plank Row RIGHT: This exercise is almost like an upper-body burpee. Start standing tall will the kettlebell placed a little in front of you on the floor to your right. Squat down, placing hands on the floor (next to the bell) and jump your feet back into a plank position. From there, holding a plank and trying not to rotate your hips, grab the kettlebell with your right hand and row it off the ground, pulling your elbow straight up towards the ceiling and slowly returning it back down. Resting the bell back on the floor, jump both feet back up towards your hands, shifting your weight into your heels so that you’re squatting next to the bell. From here, it’s time for the high pull. Grab the kettlebell with your right hand and power up to a standing position using your legs. As you do, pull the kettlebell striahgt up by your armpit, leading with the elbow. Bring the kettlebell back down to the ground softly, and as you do, place your hands on the ground next to it and jump back into your next plank, starting from the beginning.
  • Serve the Platter to Front Raise: You’ll do one serve the platter and then one front raise, flipping your grip at the bottom of each movement to transition to the next. Start holding a kettlebell in each hand at hip height, palms facing up. From there, reach your hands up and out in front of you to shoulder height. Careful not to the shrug the shoulders as you do this. Keep a soft bend in the elbow at the top, and then slowly return the bells back to hip height. Smoothly flip the bells so that your palms are now facing down gripping the top of the handles. From here, raise your hands straight up in front of you to shoulder height, keeping just a soft bend in the elbows (don’t lock your arms straight). Slowly return down to starting position, transitioning back to serve the platter.
  • High Pull Swing LEFT
  • Clean ‘n Press LEFT
  • High Pull to Plank Row LEFT

Upper-Body Kettlebell Interval Workout

WEARING | top: c/o Lucy // leggings: c/o Forever21 // sneakers: Nike

The tank I’m wearing in today’s workout is another gift from lucy (you might remember the leggings I wore a few weeks ago, also from them). Isn’t the back of this top adorable?? It’s their Perfect Core Halter (retail at $65), and cute back detailing aside, is also comfortable and functional. And the built-in bra is supportive enough that I can run/jump/cartwheel/play on trampolines without feeling like I need a sports bra underneath. 🙂

Alright that’s all for me today—enjoy this kettlebell killer! You all seem to love upper body workouts (personally my least favorite haha), so hopefully this will be a perfect addition to your weekly workout routine.


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  1. Well you did it again 🙂 Awesome workout and amazing pictures – no doubt what you want us to do 🙂 I love kettlebells – they are just fun (until they start kicking your ass). Saving this – thank you 🙂

  2. Nice workout! I love kettlebells. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  3. Omg I pulled out a 30 min KB workout from the archives (7/18/12) and it was NO. JOKE. Still sore from Monday–25# swing punches?! Holy abs! I look forward to trying this one once I’ve recovered…

  4. Looks awesome – will give this a try on Friday!

  5. I love kettlebells, once you get used to the feeling, they are addicting. Good moves!

  6. You always take such great photos when working out! If someone took pics of me swinging a kettle bell around or doing any sort of physical activity, I think I would be making all kinds of awkward faces. lol! Anyways, looks like a killer KB workout.

  7. Ugh, can you say inspiration! This looks like such a good workout that is worth your time! I cannot wait to get this going tonight! Keep them coming!

    Sincerely, Shelbi


  8. bumpandrunchat says:

    Love it! My arms are the one area I’d love to strengthen, so thanks for the motivation!

  9. This looks killer, can’t wait to give it a try! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  10. I love your blog girl! Keep up the good work! x x (http://fitbabefiles.com)

  11. Just wanted to say hello! I’m a new reader (found you on Pinterest) and I love your site. Thank you and keep up the great work!

  12. HI Nicole!

    I’m Lee, an Australian who has just completely stuffed her knee whilst snow skiing 5 weeks ago.

    I’ve “shredded” (according to the surgeon) the ACL in my left knee, and have a grade 2 tear on my medial. I’m now awaiting surgery on to reconstruct the ACL.

    When I don’t have a buggered knee, I’m keen runner (though not particularly fast…!) and I love doing triathlons and swimming over summer. I’m a fan of interval/HIIT workouts at home as I live on a farm and not near a gym, so I absolutely love your blog for workout options.

    What I am wondering is if you might have a couple of exercise drill routines to still be able to work out my upper body and get in some form or cardo, even though running/leg work won’t be an option for a while? I’ll be able to swim once the weather warms up, and also get on the bike once the medial is healed, but I was thinking you might have some good workout options concentrating on upper body in the meantime, that would get my heart-rate up for some cardio, as well as some basic strength move options.

    Thanks so much!!

    Lee 🙂

    • Hi Lee! I’m sorry to hear about your injury–wishing you a speedy recovery! Some of the upper-body and core workouts I’ve posted would be do-able (depending on amount of weight-bearing your leg will be able to do) so you could start by browsing those categories: http://pumpsandiron.com/workouts/ab-workouts/ and http://pumpsandiron.com/workouts/upper-body-workouts/. I’ve had a couple readers reach out to me in a similar situation as you (knee and foot injuries) so I’m actually working on a few new workout routines as we speak that will be perfect for this! Stay tuned–I’ll try to get one posted in the next couple weeks. 🙂

  13. Fantastic Workout! I shared it to my blog and linked back to your detailed workout! I hope others are able to check it out!


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