Kettlebell Shoulder Workout

If your goal is to cut body fat and build more muscle, kettlebells are the key. Kettlebells are a staple in any strength and conditioning program, amplifying your power output, mobility, core strength, and functional movement. With a constantly changing center of gravity, there is no better tool to create full body engagement and functional strength. We’re going to discuss the best kettlebell shoulder workouts, to define your delts, build more strength, and optimize your training performance.

Shoulder Anatomy

Kettlebells are an amazing training implement to build bigger stronger shoulders. Not to mention total body functional strength. The muscles in your shoulders help with mobility, and provide a critical role in stability of the shoulder joint. 

Several muscles are part of your shoulders, however 4 main muscles control the majority of movements, in the shoulder joint, including the subscapularis, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and teres minor. 

Other major muscle groups., which also assist the muscles in your shoulders, include the trapezius, rhomboids, and deltoids. 

Best Kettlebell Shoulder Exercises 

1. Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebells create full-body tension, which is key to developing a strong core and fundamental to any kettlebell movement. The kettlebell swing is the most basic fundamental kettlebell shoulder workout. Tried and true, it’s a great way to build stronger delts and burn body fat.

How To Kettlebell Swing 

  1. Beginning with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes facing towards 11 and 1 (like on a clock).
  2. Place the kettlebell on the ground in front of your toes. Similar to the deadlift, with your shoulders tucked back and lats pulled down, hinge at the hips pressing the booty to the wall behind you.
  3. Reach out (not reach forward) and grab the kettlebell with two hands on the handle.
  4. From this position, your knees should be directly over your ankles, creating a substantial amount of tension in your quads and hamstrings in order to ‘load’ the muscles before you generate force. 
  5. Take a deep breath in through your nose, brace the core and hike (like a football) the kettlebell back between your legs with your lats until your forearms are touching your inner thighs.
  6. After you reach the full extension, generate force and power THROUGH THE HIPS (not the arms or upper body) by snapping the hips, standing up, and keeping tension throughout the entire body, opening the hips at full extension/top of the swing.
  7. You want to see the kettlebell reach chest/shoulder height before gravity takes it back down.
  8. On the descent, gravity will bring the bell back down and you’ll want to engage your lats to speed it up.

2. Single-Arm Kettlebell Swing

Similar to the traditional kettlebell swing, this movement is a bit more advanced. Greater tension and isolation will help you develop a stronger stance, body awareness, and core engagement, to ultimately build bigger and stronger shoulders. Single-arm kettlebell swings, also demand more hand-eye coordination, creating better awareness and athleticism.

How to Single-Arm Kettlebell Swing

  1. Stand with feet about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Place the kettlebell on the ground in front of your toes
  3. With your shoulders tucked back and lats pulled down, hinge at the hips pressing your glutes to the wall behind you.
  4. Reach out (not reach forward) and grab the kettlebell with one hand on the handle, the other out parallel to the floor for stability and balance.
  5. Brace your core and hike (like a football) the kettlebell back between your legs with your lats until your forearms are touching your inner thighs.
  6. After you reach the full extension, generate force and power through your hips (not the arms or upper body) by snapping the hips, standing up, and keeping tension throughout the entire body, opening the hips at full extension/top of the swing.
  7. You want to see the kettlebell reach chest/shoulder height before gravity takes it back down.
  8. On the descent, gravity will bring the bell back down and you’ll want to engage your lats to speed it up.

3. Kettlebell Shoulder Press 

Muscle isolation is crucial when you’re focusing on aesthetic goals. Kettlebell press is one of the best shoulder workouts for complete shoulder isolation. In addition to isolation, the kettlebell press will improve your range of motion, mobility, core strength, and posture. 

How To Kettlebell Shoulder Press

  1. Standing or sitting the kettlebell in the front rack position right below the chin and full-body tension.
  2. Engaging the shoulder, keeping a tight core, and standing nice and tall, press the kettlebell into an overhead position.
  3. When pressing, the elbow stays facing forward and up.
  4. Keeping the elbow facing forward will build a full range of motion strength and muscle memory that will translate into many other movements of your training (including push press).
  5. At the top of the movement, make sure that your palm is facing the front, your knuckles are facing the ceiling, and your hand is relaxed.
  6. To bring the KB back down, bend the elbow and track the weight down into the rack position with the fist under the chin, the lats engaged with the armpit, and the bell resting between the forearm and the bicep in the ‘nest’.
  7. For a shoulder press, you want to keep tension throughout the body and not use the momentum from the legs for the entire movement. 

4. Kettlebell Vertical Row/Upright Row

The kettlebell vertical row is, is an outstanding movement to build stronger shoulders and bigger traps. With an upward pull and wrist rotation, not only does is it a great kettlebell shoulder workout, it helps develop wrist mobility and core strength.  

How To Kettlebell Vertical Row

  1. Stand with feet about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold the kettlebell with both hands
  3. Leading with the elbows, raise the kettlebell along the body
  4. As you ascend the kettlebell, rotate your wrist towards the body
  5. At the top of the movement, make sure that your palm is facing the front, your knuckles are facing the ceiling, with the kettlebell over your head

5. Single-Arm Kettlebell Z Press 

The Kettlebell Z press provides muscle isolation to build more strength and mobility, while focusing on your posterior core strength. As one of the best kettlebell shoulder workouts, the z press belongs in every great functional bodybuilding routine.

How To Single-Arm Kettlebell Z-Press

  1. Start in a seated position, with your legs out in front of you.
  2. Using one arm at a time, pick a moderate weight, which will not strain your lower back
  3. Holding a single kettlebell with your palm facing toward you, press the kettlebell overhead with a slight twist of your palm facing away from you
  4. Raise your arm until your elbow is locked
  5. Lower your arm back to starting position, tucking your elbow and bracing your core. 

Best Kettlebell Exercises: Takeaway

Kettlebells can help you build more functional strength, improve your body composition, and help you crush your fitness goals. Add these kettlebell movements, to your high-intensity functional training protocol, add them in between sets, or use them in your training day split on shoulder day, to build bigger stronger shoulders. 


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