What Muscles Do Kettlebells Work A Quick Look at Kettlebell Moves

What Muscles Do Kettlebells Work? A Quick Look at Kettlebell Moves

If you are wondering what muscles kettlebells work, you may get a lot of different answers. That’s because, like many different types of weights, it depends on your particular exercise.

Since there is no one right answer, how do you know if kettlebells are right for you?

There are a few popular movements that target specific muscles. But because kettlebells are designed to work your total body, the target area won’t be the only muscles you work.

Keep reading to find out some popular exercises with kettlebells and their target areas. Just remember that these groups may be a primary focus, but you would actually use your entire body to do this movement.

General Muscle Groups Impacted by Kettlebells

As you may already know, the muscles impacted strongly depends on which kettlebell movements you choose to do. But these are the muscles impacted by most of the popular exercises:

  • Posterior chain – calves, hamstrings, glutes, and lower back
  • Core – upper/lower abs, internal/external obliques, and diaphragm
  • Legs – hamstrings, quads
  • Shoulders – traps, rhomboids, delts, and rotator cuff


Most kettlebell exercises engage the core. Even simply holding the weight causes you to engage your ab muscles. Exercises like the Swing causes your body to engage core muscles for stabilization.


Shoulder exercises work the traps and deltoids. These muscles stabilize the arm, especially during overhead movements. They are also the primary movers for pulling the weights over your head. Kettlebell movements that incorporate the shoulders are the Clean, Press, and Snatch.

General Muscle Groups Impacted by Kettlebells

Quads, glutes, and hamstrings

The quads and hamstrings allow you to straighten and flex your knees. Any kettlebell squat exercises will engage these muscles. Furthermore, the squatting motion also engages the glutes as you extend or stabilize your hips.

Back muscles

Lastly, any kettlebell exercise that involves a pulling motion towards your body will activate your back muscles. Doing movements such as the High Pull or Renegade Row with kettlebells are some examples of exercises that will work these muscles.

Popular Kettlebell Movements

Kettlebell Swing

By far one of the most popular exercises for the kettlebell, the Swing incorporates the following muscles:

  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Delts and traps
  • Pecs

As you can see, this isn’t just an “upper” body or “lower” body exercise. Instead, the swinging motion utilizes shoulders, back, and abs, as well as your hips and legs. This helps you create drive and power while still helping you balance out your body. And it’s a great exercise to improve your core.

Kettlebell Deadlift

The Deadlift is a good example of kettlebell exercises that target one area of the body. Unlike the total body workout of the Swing, the Deadlift works out the hips, glutes, hamstrings, and back. Because of the posture you assume for Deadlifts, it also helps with your hip joint.

Kettlebell Push Press

Kettlebell Push Press

Balancing out the Deadlift is the Push Press. This movement works the shoulders, traps, and triceps. But because this is a kettlebell exercise, those aren’t the only muscles you work. In addition, the Push Press also helps build stability in your core. And also enables you to practice generating power from the lower body.

Kettlebell Clean

The Clean, on the other hand, is more of a transitional movement. It swings the weight back into the rack position, something you would need to begin overhead exercises. However, just because this is a transitional movement doesn’t mean your muscles aren’t getting a workout.

The swinging motion is explosive, so it helps you build coordination as well as strength. Much like the Swing, this is a total body movement and doesn’t target one specific area. Furthermore, the Press is typically coupled with the Clean for a complete motion.

Kettlebell Snatch

Next, the Snatch engages the posterior chain of muscles. This includes the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back.

Additionally, it keeps your core engaged and stabilizes the shoulder. Like most of the kettlebell movements, this one also engages the entire body. It is also a supplemental movement to the Swing.

Kettlebell Windmills

Windmills sound daunting with heavyweights in your hand. But the movement may differ from what you imagine. When you do it correctly, these movements work out your obliques. They also help shoulder and hip strength.

Final Thoughts

There is no one answer to the question of what muscles kettlebells work. Like many weight exercises, it depends on your movements. However, unlike many other exercises with weights, the majority of movements with kettlebells engage the total body. So, even if a movement targets one muscle group, other areas will be impacted as well.

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