CrossFit Kettlebell Workouts – For Strength, Skill, and Pure Fun
Can you keep a gym behind your couch? Yes, of course! Even one or two of these versatile weights can give you an awesome indoor kettlebell workout right in your living room (pants optional). More and more gyms are stocking a wide variety of kettlebells these days as well, which is great news if you want a simple way to increase your strength and build muscle without busting out the barbell.
Typical CrossFit Kettlebell workouts are limited to a few classic moves, such as the kettlebell swing (Russian for eye level and American for overhead), the goblet squat, or — don’t get too crazy now — the occasional kettlebell clean or snatch. But here at Functional Bodybuilding HQ, we use them in our online programs and our one to one work with clients for so much more:
- warmups that wake up your brain and body for training, without overtaxing your body before the workout even starts
- structural balance work to improve your muscle and joint strength and stability – and build better positions for other work you’re doing in and out of the gym
- full body workouts when a barbell or a full gym is inconvenient or unnecessary – kettlebell hotel workout anyone?
- progressive loading to make an exercise simpler or more complex; for example, changing whether you hold a kettlebell in a suitcase position at your side, a front rack position; overhead, or even bottoms up will greatly change the stimulus of a simple box step up.
Whether you’re a CrossFit fan, a bodybuilder, or a general fitness enthusiast, we all want to look good and move well at the end of the day – and having a few kettlebell-only workouts in your pocket will come in handy to provide variety to your training and help you out in a low-equipment situation. (If you need to stock up on kettlebells, try our pals at Kettlebell Kings for free shipping and great selection.)
We’re going to show you some typical CrossFit kettlebell workouts, and their Functional Bodybuilding alternatives that add more nuance and complexity to your training. Let’s get started!
CrossFit Kettlebell Workouts
3 Rounds for Time:
21 American Kettlebell Swings
15 Push Ups
8min AMRAP: (As Many Rounds As Possible)
4 Handstand Push Ups
8 Kettlebell Snatch (4/arm)
12 Sit Ups
CrossFit style workouts prioritize intensity by making the goal in each case to give maximal output to achieve either the fastest time and/or score. The movements generally lend themselves well to power output in CrossFit style workouts and therefore can feel like a big dose of intensity. Quality of movement is not usually the priority with a commonly referred to statement that “best movement will yield best times” but no clear strategy on how to get there. Lastly, there may or may not be any additional work to go along with the intensity work of the day.
So what to do? Give our Functional Bodybuilding kettlebell workouts a try and feel the difference!
Functional Bodybuilding Style Kettlebell Workouts:
Workout #2: Pump Factor 9000
A) Kettlebell Leg Complex:
5 Dual KB Cleans
5 Dual KB Rack Squats 40X0
3 Dual KB Cleans
3 Dual KB Rack Reverse Lunges 20X0 (per leg)
1 Dual KB Clean
1 Dual KB Thruster
rest 90sec x 5 sets
B. Kettlebell Core Upper Body Push Complex:
5 Single Arm KB Glute Bridge Floor Press
4 Quarter Turkish Get Ups (last repetition complete full Get Up – one quarter is from back to elbow)
3 Single Arm KB Push Press @ 40X0 tempo (4 seconds down, explode up, no pause at the top)
20m Single Arm KB Overhead Carry
rest 60sec between arms x 3-4 sets/arm
C. Conditioning Sets:
5 Sets – faster every set:
10 Push Ups
8 Goblet Squats
6 Push Ups
2 Push Ups
rest walk 1:1 (rest = work)
With Functional Bodybuilding workouts, we make an effort to prioritize your movement quality by providing opportunities to work on your positions with slower tempos in our resistance training supersets. High time under tension resistance training provides the athlete with a greater opportunity to build mind muscle connections, get a PUMP (muscle perfusion with blood = nutrients, growth, sense of well being). Additionally, with FBB workouts we can strategically manipulate work and rest periods in order to increase intensity for clients that are ready for it without losing quality.
In the second FBB workout, you get exposed to the use of movement pattern complexes that are a staple in our training style. They are a great strategy to help clients incorporate more movements into a single session that all have a common theme. Complexes extend the time under tension which has a similar impact as slow tempo prescriptions in that they keep loads down allowing for a focus on quality of movement as well as increase the PUMP factor of training.
Lastly, we place a strong emphasis on unilateral training in FBB, which plays very well with kettlebell work. This doesn’t show up as often in traditional CrossFit workouts and we feel like the benefits are far too great to overlook.
CrossFit Kettlebell Warmup
Maybe you’re ready to mix in more variety and structural balance into your training, but can’t upend the entire class structure at your gym or want an easy way to dip your toe in the water and try something new.
Functional Bodybuilding warmups are a fun and easy way to experiment, and it only takes a few minutes to wake up your brain and body with some fresh kettlebell moves.
Warmup for Shoulders, Back, and Core
30sec Forearm Plank
10 Side Plank Rotations/side
10 Kettlebell Jefferson Curls 3030 Tempo (use a light kettlebell, or even a dowel here if you are new to this movement – the focus is on mobility here instead of strength)
Rest as needed between sets
- Core movements will raise your temperature for training and wake up your midline for training
- Side plank rotations hit the core and shoulders, while challenging your brain to balance a bit and become alert for training
- Jefferson curls are a fantastic full body mobility drill to get the most out of your range of motion through the spine, shoulders, and hamstrings. Stay light here especially to begin!
The tempo here is fantastic for building strength, stability, and great positions – and your brain will work a little harder to stay connected to what your body is doing, which is always a good thing.
In this warmup, the 3030 tempo means move smoothly down for 3 seconds, then up for 3 seconds, with no pauses at the top or bottom for all 10 reps.
Warmup for Hips, Glutes, Core, Shoulders, and Scaps
6-8 Half Kneeling Single Arm Kettlebell Press @ 2111 tempo
12 Banded Monster Walks (forward and backward)
30sec Side Plank/side
rest as needed between sets
- The half kneeling position is an awesome way to introduce some instability that will wake up your brain for training and challenge your balance and ability to control your movement. Once you master pressing in this position, turn a lighter kettlebell upside down for a bottoms-up press that will challenge your grip and positional strength even more.
- The banded monster walk will activate your abductors – great for preparing for deadlifts for better glute recruitment, and your hips will be working some abduction which can support a strong pull! If you don’t have a set of mini bands already, you can get some cheap on Amazon and they’re a great addition to your gym bag or home workout equipment.
- Again, we see a core isometric movement to raise the full body temperature, get your midline primed to support your training session, and recruit some of the shoulders and hips here as well to keep you in a good position.
Kettlebell Full Training Session – Strength and Conditioning
Ready to put it all together into a full body kettlebell sweat sesh? Start with Warmup #1 above, then head into the following workout to hit some strength and structural balance work, then finish with a fun conditioning piece. This workout is a sample from our upcoming Functional Bodybuilding Foundations program, designed to bring you awesome workouts that you can do at home or at any gym with a few kettlebells on hand.
A) Goblet Squat
3331 Tempo; 10-12reps x 3 sets; rest 2mins
*Focus on moderate level weights so you can perfect the tempo and quality of the movement. That’s 3 seconds down, hold 3 at the bottom, 3 seconds up, pause 1 second before the next rep.
B1) Kettlebell Suitcase RNT Split Squat
2121; 6-8/leg; rest 60sec x 3 sets
B2) Single Arm Kettlebell Farmers Carry
30m/arm; rest 60sec x 3 sets
Superset (alternate) B1 and B2 before moving on to Part C.
C1) Pronated Strict Pull Up
21X1; 4-6reps; rest 60sec x 3 sets
*Use assistance as needed to ensure you hit the exact tempo prescribed – that’s 2 seconds down, 1 second pause, eXplode up, hold chin over bar for 1 second.
*For bodyweight exercises like the Strict Pull Up it is always assumed that if you have no issue performing the require reps at the specified tempo, you will add load by hanging weights from your weight or between your legs Other example movements include dips and push ups.
C2) Forearm Plank
30-60sec unbroken; rest 60sec x 3
*Go for a full 60sec. if you break and have to come down between 30 and 60sec then the set is over. Alternate C1 and C2 for 3 sets before moving on to Part D.
D) 3 sets – For Quality:
10 Kettlebell Suitcase Russian Step ups/leg (box height should be 3-6″ below knee cap for each athlete)
10 Ring Face Pull
*resting as needed between exercises and sets – if you feel good you can move through this without rest between sets.
Short and Spicy: 15 Minute Kettlebell Workouts
If you’ve got to squeeze a quick workout in at home or in the middle of a hectic workday, you can still get a great burn without the setup of a full body workout. Here are three short and spicy kettlebell-only workouts to get your pump on and get on with your day.
15mins @ Grinder Effort:
Grinder effort workouts will get your blood flowing, but the movements intentionally keep you from racing too fast. The intention here is to steadily move with purpose from movement to movement, but it’s not a redline effort. This keeps the quality of your movement high and leaves you with energy to go on with your day and come back to your training next time feeling fresh.
5 Rounds @ Grinder Effort:
*Increasing pace per set, not weight of KB. Substitute row as needed with any cardio equipment, running, or jump rope.
We send workouts like these weekly to our email list, so be sure to sign up for more. And be sure to check out Base Camp, our 8 week training program with a kettlebell only loading version included, as well as a version of each workout with dumbbells and kettlebells!