The kettlebell is an incredible tool, a good quality bell will last a lifetime (several lifetimes in fact), and it can be used for hundreds of exercise variations. Kettlebell training has become massively popular recently. In this article, we will be looking at twelve kettlebell shoulder exercises that you can add to your workout routine.
This exercise list will help to strengthen the shoulder girdle, the rotator cuff muscle, and it will help with scapular stability. It’s not just about shoulder health and mobility, you’ll also be building muscle and burning fat.
1. Seated Single-Arm Kettlebell Shoulder Press
This is a fairly straightforward twist on a dumbbell and barbell classic, and one of the best kettlebell exercises for the shoulder joint.
How to do it
- To perform it, you will need an exercise bench and a medium weight kettlebell.
- Sit upright on the bench, with a kettlebell resting on the outside of the hand.
- Push your chest out and then drive the kettlebell up in the air.
- You can bring your other arm out to the side to help balance you if you need to.
The exercise can also be performed from a seated position on the floor (as seen in the video). This is good if you don’t have access to a bench (perhaps you are at an outdoor boot camp?) but the bench version is superior as it allows you to generate power from your feet.
2. Two-Handed Seated Kettlebell Shoulder Press
This exercise is identical to the one-handed version but is performed with two kettlebells.
How to do it
- Sit on an exercise bench with a kettlebell in each hand (bell outside the wrist) at shoulder joint height.
- Push your chest out and start with the kettlebells at shoulder joint height.
- Take a deep breath and then drive both kettlebells up into the air above your head.
- Pause, and then lower them back down again.
- Ensure that you are getting the full range of motion with each rep.
3. Kettlebell Lateral Raise
The kettlebell lateral raise is not as effective as the dumbbell version, but it is still a good shoulder exercise that can be done when dumbbells aren’t available.
How to do it
- Stand upright with a small sized kettlebell in each hand, your chest out and shoulders back.
- Take a deep breath and then raise the kettlebells sideways until your arms are parallel with the floor.
- Pause, and then return them to your sides.
4. Kettlebell Front Raise
The kettlebell front raise is really effective, perhaps even more so than the dumbbell version.
How to do it
- For this exercise you hold a medium sized kettlebell in both your hands and rest it in front of your thighs.
- Push your chest out, pull your shoulders back, and take a deep breath. This is your starting position.
- Now raise your arms forwards until they are parallel to the floor.
- Pause, and then slowly lower them back down again.
- You may find it takes a lot of shoulder strength to perform the required range of motion.
- If it is too much then just lower the weight and use a light kettlebell.
5. Kettlebell Single-Arm Push Press
The push press is an excellent shoulder exercise, and the kettlebell version is a great twist on a classic.
How to do it
- Stand with feet shoulder width apart and a kettlebell at shoulder height in one hand (have the bell on the outside of the hand).
- Bend your knees, then drive the bell upwards as you straighten your legs.
- Pause with the kettlebell overhead, and then lower the bell back down and bend your knees again.
- You can use your other hand to balance yourself.
6. Kettlebell Push Press
No kettlebell training program is complete without a kettlebell push press! This is performed identically to the single-armed version, but with a kettlebell in each hand. You’ll definitely want the bells to be on the outside of your hands as this will prevent them from bashing into each other.
7. Kettlebell Standing Overhead Press
This exercise is performed almost identically to the kettlebell push press, but without the knee bend. This means that you will want to use a slightly lighter kettlebell as the lack of momentum makes the exercise more challenging.
8. Kettlebell Single Arm Overhead Press
This exercise is very similar to the seated single-arm kettlebell shoulder press but is performed standing up.
How to do it
- You want your feet to be shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent.
- Hold the kettlebell at shoulder height with the bell resting on the outside of your hand.
- Take a deep breath and then drive the kettlebell overhead.
- Stop when your arm is almost fully extended, then slowly return to the starting position.
9. Kettlebell Turkish Get Up
The Turkish Get Up is one of the most challenging and notorious kettlebell training exercises out there, a real test of strength, mobility, and fitness. The exercise is too complicated to satisfactorily describe here, so please check out the video for a demonstration, or better yet get a qualified coach to teach it to you. It’s an amazing whole-body exercise that hits pretty much every one of the major muscles, not just the shoulders.
10. Kettlebell Squat Press
This dynamic exercise is such a great shoulder exercise and calorie burner that it is beloved by coaches everywhere. It works best when performed one-handed, but it is certainly possible to do it with two kettlebells. Start with the bell at shoulder height while on the outside of your hand.
How to do it
- Squat down to parallel (or lower if you can manage) and then drive upwards, as you get fully upright continue to raise the kettlebell until your arm is almost fully extended above your head.
- Pause, and then lower the kettlebell back down to shoulder height and then lower yourself back down into a squat to start the second rep.
11. Kettlebell Clean & Press
As with the Turkish Get-Up, the kettlebell clean and press is a little too complicated to put down into words. It really is better to watch the YouTube video provided. You’ll want to know how to properly deadlift and how to get a kettlebell into the rack position. But once you’ve learned that the exercise is easy to master. It’s also a superb calorie-burner and perfect for stronger shoulders.
12. Kettlebell Kneeling Press
This exercise is a variation of the overhead press where instead of standing or sitting you kneel. It takes away the power from your legs, making it a more shoulder-specific workout. It’s definitely an extra challenge. A perfect addition to any full-body kettlebell workout.
The kettlebell lends itself perfectly to the shoulder muscles, more so than any other upper body muscle group. You can create a superb shoulder workout with a pair of kettlebells, or even just one. That doesn’t mean that you should just focus on the shoulders in a session though. The point of kettlebells is to be used as part of an entire body routine. So keep this in mind when designing your own workout program.
There are many other kettlebell exercises that we could have added here. The kettlebell snatch is a good example. But this exercise requires a lot of experience with kettlebells which is why it wasn’t included. Kettlebell training is highly technical when it comes to exercises such as that. Hiring a personal trainer may help you if you have limited experience and need help with the proper technique.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will Kettlebell Swings Build Shoulders?
Not particularly, while the shoulders do contribute to the kettlebell swing, they are a minor part. Also, kettlebell exercises aren’t really designed for muscle mass accumulation, they tend to focus on technique and require a light weight. More for improving your fitness and mobility, while burning calories.
Is Kettlebell Good for Core?
Absolutely, the kettlebell is one of the best tools for building a great core. So many popular kettlebell exercises work the core. Including many mentioned in this article. Keeping your core tight is crucial to performing most kettlebell exercises.
Can I Get Ripped With Kettlebells?
Yes, you can, but getting ripped is mostly about your diet. A kettlebell workout tends to burn a lot of calories, which lends itself well to fat loss. But diet makes up at least 80% of getting ripped, so place your focus there. A kettlebell full-body workout using a high-rep range and a well-maintained calorie-deficit diet will work wonders.