Kettlebells might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to targeting specific muscle groups.
And most people would probably struggle to put together a kettlebell shoulder workout.
But kettlebells are more than just a ballistic exercise tool.
And they can certainly do more than just cardio.
In fact, it’s almost like they had shoulder health in mind when they designed them.
The weight being below the handle on a kettlebell means you have to be more careful when you move it around.
The center of gravity is not the same as will a standard dumbbell.
This forces you to do most exercises in front of you, which funnily enough is how the shoulder joint operates best.
Being a ball and socket joint, your shoulder is safest out in front of you rather than behind you.
Before we look at how to put together the perfect kettlebell shoulder workout we need to understand the 3 main muscles in the shoulder and how to train them.
To get an effective shoulder workout you need to make sure that you are targeting all three of the heads that make up your shoulder.
These make up the front of your shoulder and are responsible for moving your arm forward.
Exercises that target these are front raises, and kettlebell swings.
You’ll find these guys out the side of your shoulder and they help you lift your arm out to the side.
You can focus on this with lateral raises and overhead press.
Found at the back of the shoulder, your posterior delts are what move your arm backward.
You can hit this with rear flies and shoulder press also.
Kettlebell exercises like the swing, the snatch, or a clean and press all build strength and stability in the shoulder.
And you can also do more targeted exercises like shoulder press, push press, and seesaw press.
You can get down on the floor and do floor press and kettlebell pullovers which will also improve the strength in your shoulders.
You can try Turkish get-ups which require a great amount of strength in not only your shoulders but you’re how body!
Overhead squats and lunges will also do wonders for your shoulders.
Kettlebell swings are one of the best exercises to improve shoulder function.
And you will build size and strength in your shoulders as well.
Being a ball and socket joint your shoulder very much prefers it when your arm is out in front of you.
And swings are doing just this.
Your shoulder can handle the load when swinging the weight out in front of you, meaning the reps add up quickly before fatigue kicks in.
Kettlebell swings build lateral stability in your shoulder.
Meaning they will be stronger when lifting out to your side.
They also reduce the risk of shoulder injury by eliminating muscle imbalances in the shoulder.
With a standard movement like a shoulder press with the bar just press straight up and down you build muscle.
All the big muscles in the shoulder are firing.
But with the kettlebell having its weight below the handle the center of gravity changes.
And when you swing the kettlebell forward and back all the smaller muscles and connective tissues in the shoulder fire as well.
There’s a lot more going on in the shoulder joint during a swing.
And all the little parts being forced to move just further improves strength, stability, and mobility in the shoulder joint.
Now your shoulder muscles are not the primary movers in a kettlebell swing.
Your hips and back are what are sending the bell up.
But your shoulders are controlling the movement, especially on the way back down.
And if you were to swing the kettlebell all the way above your head all the little stabilizers are firing to get it in place and safe even if just for a fraction of a second.
Your rotator cuff is responsible for keeping everything in place in your shoulder.
So that’s what I’m talking about when I say the stabilizers in your shoulder.
So 100% Kettlebell swings are good for your rotator cuff.
With or without kettlebells the only way you are going to get big shoulders is by exercising them at least 2 times a week.
Eating enough protein and sticking with progressive overload in any of your workouts.
The kettlebell swing is a great exercise because it works multiple muscle groups at once, including your lower back, hips, and core.
It also burns lots of calories in a short amount of time!
To do the kettlebell swing correctly, start by holding the kettlebell with both hands between your legs.
Then push your hips forward and lift your chest up as you swing the kettlebell up to shoulder height and then down towards the ground between your legs again.
Make sure that you keep your knees bent throughout this entire movement so that you don’t put too much pressure on them.
The key here is to keep moving; don’t pause at any point during this exercise or it won’t be as effective!
Kettlebell overhead lunges are a great way to build strength in your lower body.
You can do them at home or at the gym!
To do this exercise, hold a kettlebell by its handle in one hand and lift it above your head.
Step forward with one leg and lower yourself down into a lunge position so that your back knee touches the ground and your front thigh is parallel to it; make sure that your front knee doesn’t go past your toes!
Then push yourself back up again using your rear leg, keeping your core tight throughout the movement.
Repeat this motion for 10-12 reps on each side.
The kettlebell windmill is a great exercise for working on your core strength and stability.
To do this exercise, hold a kettlebell in one hand and stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
Keeping your core tight, as you press the kettlebell above your head.
Run your opposite hand down your leg and bend your body down in the same direction.
Keep your hand above your head through the whole movement as you straighten back up into the starting position.
The kettlebell Turkish get-up is an exercise that strengthens your core while also working on balance and mobility.
To do this exercise, you will need to start laying on your back with a kettlebell held above your head in your right hand and your right knee bent with your foot on the floor.
Push up through your left hand as you raise your hips off the ground so you can bring your left leg underneath you while you stand up into a lunge.
Now stand up straight with your right hand still straight and about your head. Slow lower back down through a lunge to the starting position.
The kettlebell shoulder push press is an excellent exercise for building upper body strength.
To perform this exercise, stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and hold a kettlebell in each hand at chest level.
Bend at the knees slightly and then straight out explosively as you press the kettlebells above your head.
The momentum from your legs is what gives this movement its name push press.
The kettlebell thruster is a variation of the classic push press that uses a kettlebell instead of a barbell.
With a kettlebell in both hands at chest height lower yourself down into a full squat.
Next, explode up as you press the kettlebell above your head before lowering back down into a full squat again. Repeat for reps.
The kettlebell overhead sit-up is a great exercise that works your abs and upper body at the same time.
First, grab a kettlebell and hold it above your head with both hands.
Then lie down on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground about hip-width apart.
Next, lift your torso off the ground while keeping the kettlebell held above your head.
Lower yourself back down into the starting position.
The kettlebell clean and press is a great exercise for building strength and power in your upper body.
Start by performing a single-arm kettlebell swing.
The only difference is, as the bell comes up you want to tuck your elbow under the swing so it lands in the crook of your elbow.
Now press the kettlebell above your head before starting again.
The kettlebell shoulder press is a great way to build strength in your shoulders and upper back.
Start by holding a kettlebell at chest height with your arms bent at 90 degrees.
Next, lift the kettlebell up above your head while keeping your elbows tucked in towards your body.
Then lower the kettlebell back down to chest height again before repeating this movement.
Make sure that you keep your core tight throughout this exercise so that you can get the most out of it!
The half kneeling press is an excellent exercise that works your chest and shoulders while also engaging your core muscles.
To do this exercise, hold a kettlebell in each hand and get into a half-kneeling position with one knee on the ground and the other leg bent behind you for support.
Then press the kettlebells up above your head while keeping your elbows close to your body.
Lower them back down again under control, then repeat for 10-12 reps on each side.
The kettlebell bottoms-up press is a great exercise for building strength in your shoulders and arms.
To do this exercise, hold a kettlebell by its handle in one hand, keeping the bottom facing upwards.
Press the kettlebell up overhead while keeping your core tight and a solid grip on the handle.
Then lower it back down again while keeping it parallel to the ground. Repeat this movement for 10-12 reps per set.
The kettlebell see-saw press is a great way to build shoulder strength and mobility at the same time.
To do this exercise, hold a kettlebell in each hand and stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
Keeping your elbows bent, lift both kettlebells up until they’re above your head.
Now lower one hand down to the starting position while keeping your other hand above your head.
Repeat this motion for 10-12 reps on each side.
The kettlebell overhead squat is a great exercise that targets your lower body while building strength and mobility at the same time.
To do this exercise, hold a kettlebell in one hand above your head while standing with feet shoulder-width apart.
Then bend your knees and lower into a squat position while keeping the kettlebell above your head throughout the movement.
Once you reach about 90 degrees of knee bend, push back up to starting position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
This exercise can be done with or without weight depending on your level of fitness and strength goals.
The kettlebell jerk is a great variation of the traditional overhead press.
To do this exercise, stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and toes pointing forward.
Dip down like you do for a push press and explode up to push the kettlebells above your head.
Only this time you are going to drop under the momentum and finish the movement with your arms locked out and in a semi-squat position before standing up straight.
Once you’ve mastered that move, it’s time to add some weight!
Start by holding a kettlebell in each hand and then gradually work your way up from there as you get stronger and feel comfortable with the exercise.
Well, there we have it. Everything you need to know about training your shoulder muscles with kettlebells.
All you need to do is get a mixture of these movements in a couple of times a week and you are a long way towards building yourself some boulder shoulders!
If you haven’t got yourself a kettlebell yet then make sure you go see my friends at DMoose and get yourself an adjustable kettlebell to get yourself started!
And if you want to know more about training when you want, and where you want, then make sure you get your FREE copy of my Ebook.
Leave a comment below and let me know if you have any questions.