A 4-Move Upper-Body Kettlebell Workout for Your Arms, Back, and Shoulders

Workouts don’t need to be complicated to be effective. Seriously. And this four-move upper-body kettlebell workout, created by personal trainer Samantha Ciaccia, M.S., P.A.-C., C.S.C.S., is pretty solid proof.

The workout targets your arms, shoulders, and back by alternating between exercises meant to train power (using quick, explosive movements) and ones that focus on muscular strength, Ciaccia explains. Both power and strength are important for helping you lift heavier and perform in your sports of choice, and will also keep you solid in your everyday movements—especially as you age. “Running, jumping, landing, and bracing falls all benefit from power training,” Ciaccia says. That’s because when your muscles have been “trained in the gym to respond quickly with force to external stimuli, or create a great amount of force to quickly move out of the way of an object or to move an object,” you can react to everything the weight room and/or life throws your way.

Ciaccia set up this workout so that you’ll alternate between using muscles on the front (posterior) of your body and the back (anterior) of your body. The reason for this is to give each muscle group the chance to recover before it has to work hard again. “If you choose exercises that only work the back (posterior), for set one and two, then come set two, they will be too exhausted and you’ll have to drop weight or rest during the working interval, which is not ideal,” Ciaccia explains. “If you are trying to work to muscular failure, then that is OK, but the purpose of this specific workout is to not make you go to muscular failure but to have a full-body, efficient workout, working all muscle groups at generally heavier weights.”

Next time you’re looking for a solid, no-frills upper-body workout, give this one a try.

The Workout

What you’ll need: Two medium-weight kettlebells. Choose weight according to the exercise that might be more limiting, Ciaccia says. If you can, keep a few options by your workspace so that you can alternate depending on the exercise. For example, you may need a lighter weight whenever you’re lifting it quickly overhead, like during the snatch and push press, but find you can go heavier for a slower back-focused move like the bent-over row.


Do circuit 1 three times, resting for 30 seconds in between each exercise. After the third time through, rest for 60 seconds. Then do circuit 2 three times, resting for 30 seconds in between each exercise.

Circuit 1:

  • Snatch: 10 reps each side
  • Rest 30 seconds.
  • Bent-over row: 5 reps
  • Rest 30 seconds.
  • Do 3 times.

Rest 60 seconds before moving onto circuit 2.

Circuit 2:

  • Push Press: 10 reps
  • Rest 30 seconds.
  • Halo: 5 reps
  • Rest 30 seconds.
  • Do 3 times.

Here’s how to do each move:

Demoing the moves below is Amanda Wheeler, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and cofounder of Formation Strength, an online women’s training group that serves the LGBTQ community and allies.

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