The kettlebell may not seem like much of a gym tool, but don’t let the funny shape fool you. Unlike traditional weights, kettlebells allow you to perform longer, more dynamic repetitions of certain exercises. This can lead to strength gains and more endurance. Kettlebells are also particularly well-suited for building and supporting shoulder health. Learn more about some of the best kettlebell shoulder workouts and how they may help you.
Don’t Shrug (Off) Your Shoulders In The Gym
Your shoulders are filled with dozens of different muscles. And, they also happen to be your body’s most flexible joints. This flexibility allows you to move your arm in tons of different directions. But, all that flexibility and movement also makes your shoulders prone to injury.
Fortunately, you can help support good shoulder health with regular shoulder exercises. Performing kettlebell shoulder workouts, in particular, builds shoulder strength which supports shoulder strength, particularly around the rotator cuff muscles.1
Major Muscles Of The Shoulder
The rotator cuff is the largest and primary group of muscles and tendons in the shoulder. It provides a majority of the structural support for your shoulder joint. So, keeping these muscles tuned up with kettlebell shoulder exercises may help support your whole shoulder and provide rotator cuff stability.2
Why Kettlebells Are A Great Gym Tool
Kettlebells may not lead to the largest muscle gains in the gym, but they are an amazing tool for burning fat, building endurance, and gaining general strength. The size and shape of kettlebells allow you to do fast, body movements and repetitions for extended periods of training. This engages multiple muscles at once to help support your metabolism and burn body fat.3
Five Dynamic Kettlebell Shoulder Workouts
These kettlebell shoulder exercises make up Tony Horton’s go-to shoulder routine. They target key areas of your shoulder to help support shoulder strength and flexibility. You can integrate them into a general upper body workout or make them a standalone kettlebell routine.
Note: Always speak to a physician or physical therapist before beginning any new workouts.
Kettlebell Shoulder Press
The kettlebell version of the shoulder press requires more balance than with dumbbells. So, it’s a good idea to start out with a lightweight kettlebell. That doesn’t mean you’ll be getting less of a workout. The balance required to hold the kettlebell upside down will force your arm’s stabilizers and shoulder girdle to work overtime.4
- Stand with your feet flat and about shoulder-width apart.
- Hold one kettlebell by the handle at shoulder height. The kettlebell should be upside down, so the bell points up at the ceiling.
- Press your arm straight up by extending your elbow. Keep your wrist straight and your core tight while you push the kettlebell up.
- Slowly lower your arm back down until the kettlebell is at shoulder level. Repeat for 5-10 reps.5
Snatches showcase the dynamic workout you can get from a kettlebell. You’ll get plenty of full-body exercise as you lift the kettlebell all the way from the floor to an overhead position. Proper form is key with this workout, so follow the instructions carefully for optimal results.6
- To begin, place the kettlebell on the floor in front of you. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your knees slightly, and hinge at your hips to grab the kettlebell.
- Hold the kettlebell handle with your thumb pointing back, then swing it behind you between your legs.
- Using your hips, swing the kettlebell forward and up. As the kettlebell passes your upper chest, let it slide in your fist, so that the kettlebell rests against the backside of your arm.
- Bring the kettlebell above your head with your arm extended up.
- Slowly lower the kettlebell, allowing it to slide back to the front of your arm. Bring it back to start, and repeat the move for 8-10 reps.7
The kettlebell swing is a fundamental move in the kettlebell line-up. It is similar to the kettlebell snatch, but it puts extra focus on your hips. Building muscle here can help with everyday activities, like sitting and standing. Plus, it may help with other weightlifting workouts, like deadlifts.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Place the kettlebell in front of you.
- Bend down to grab the kettlebell with both hands, palms facing you, using a firm grip.
- Keep your head down and your core muscles nice and tight.
- Swing the kettlebell back between your legs, then swing it up and away from your chest.
- When the kettlebell reaches chest height, let the weight swing back down between your legs.
- Repeat for 10-12 reps.8
The circular, overhead motion of this exercise makes it great for supporting shoulder mobility. Proper technique and posture are crucial to ensure the right muscles work to keep your shoulder joints strong.
- Kneel down onto your left knee, and pick up a kettlebell with both hands. Hold the handles with the bell facing up and level with your face.
- Spin the kettlebell overhead in a halo shape, keeping it close to your head. Keep a tight core through the entire movement to focus the resistance on your shoulders.
- Pause the kettlebell when you return to the starting position, then repeat the halo in the opposite direction.
- Repeat this move for 5-8 reps for each direction.9
Turkish Get Up
This kettlebell exercise requires you to go from a supine position to a standing tall position — all while holding a kettlebell above your head. The dynamic movements involved in this progression can work wonders for your shoulder stability and coordination.
- Lie down on your back with your legs and arms spread out at a 45-degree angle.
- Bend your left leg, and put your left foot flat on the ground outside of your hip.
- Lift a kettlebell by the handle with your left hand above your head. Keep your arm straight and your gaze fixed on the kettlebell.
- Push into your right arm and elbow to prop yourself up on your elbow. Your left arm will stay straight and lifted above you.
- From this position, use your right hand and abs to push into a seated position. Then, slide your right leg toward you and place your right knee on the ground.
- Slide into a half-kneeling position. Push through your right foot to arrive at a standing position. The whole time your left arm should be held up above your head.
- Repeat 3-5 times.10
Kettlebell Training For Shoulder Health
Your shoulders are an amazingly flexible set of joints and muscles. They let you move your arms in all sorts of directions. But, all that mobility can put them at risk of injury or fatigue. One of the best ways to support shoulder health is with regular shoulder exercises.
Kettlebells are particularly well-suited for shoulder training. They let you perform dynamic exercises for extended periods of time to build muscle, endurance, and flexibility. This kind of full body workout can help support your shoulder health and general fitness. That’s why Tony Horton does these kettlebell shoulder workouts regularly. They help maintain his shoulder mobility and may do the same for you. So, grab a bell and see what it does for your shoulders.
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