Whether you are a gym rat or casual fitness enthusiast, you’re most likely familiar with barbells and dumbbells; however, less is known about the kettlebell and its uses and benefits. It may surprise you, for instance, that kettlebells are excellent weights to use for chest exercises.
Below we’ll take you through the benefits of using kettlebells for chest exercises, including 5 different kettlebell chest exercises for you to try—complete with variations and reps to help you adjust your workout based on your experience and goals. We’ll also answer some common questions about kettlebell workouts and the advantages of using them for a chest day. Let’s get started!
Benefits of using kettlebells for chest workouts
In general, there are a lot of advantages of using kettlebells to work out, like more variety in your workouts, which can help push past plateaus, and burn more calories. There are also many specific benefits of incorporating kettlebell exercises into your chest workouts.
For instance, kettlebell training promotes better posture, which is incredibly important both outside the gym and inside it. In the gym, having good posture not only means completing exercises correctly, also reducing the risk of injury when carrying heavy loads. Kettlebell chest exercises also ensure controlled body movements so that you can develop the stability and balance needed for more targeted chest muscle development.
5 chest exercises using a kettlebell
We’ve included some of the most effective kettlebell exercises that you can include during your chest days. Before we get started, let’s discuss the rep ranges you’ll want to work within. First, it’s important to choose a weight that’s considerably challenging but still allows you to maintain proper form.
Once you select your weight, your reps will depend on the goal of your workout. If you’re looking to increase your power, 1-3 reps will suffice, while building strength will require 4-6 reps. For hypertrophy, or increased muscle growth, aim to complete 6-12 reps. Remember that form is vital. To achieve hypertrophy, you’ll have to choose a weight that makes it possible to complete your rep range while in good form. Finally, if you’re looking to develop your endurance, you’ll need to complete 12 reps and up.
With that in mind, here are 5 kettlebell chest exercises:
This kettlebell chest exercise can be completed with either one or two kettlebells at a time. Below are the steps for a single kettlebell:
Place your kettlebells on the ground approximately 6 inches wider than shoulder width apart.
Lay in the supine position (on your back) between the kettlebells.
Leaning to one side, hold your kettlebell using an underhand grip. Your ready position will be to have the kettlebell resting on the outside of your forearm, with your palm facing your body.
Hold the other kettlebell and place your arms at approximately 45 degrees and your shoulder blades pulled back and down.
Press straight up until your arms are extended and the kettlebells are around your upper chest.
Using controlled movement, lower the kettlebells back down until your elbows touch the floor, then press back out.
Repeat for reps.
This exercise will work your pec major. The upper head will get the most chest activation. It will also work your triceps and, to a lesser degree, your shoulders. If you need some support while completing this exercise, here’s a tip: try planting your feet on the ground with knees bent rather than extending them to the ground. This will give you more stability.
A kettlebell floor fly will require lighter weight than what you would normally use for presses. Here’s how to complete it:
Resume the supine position and hold a kettlebell at the side of your shoulder.
Hold the kettlebell using an underhand grip and place your arm at a 45 degree angle. Move your shoulder blades down and pull them back.
Push the kettlebell straight up, similar to the floor press, holding the kettlebell at upper chest level.
From this point, roll your shoulders inward so that your hand is pointing directly to your body. Be sure that your shoulders are still down, your back is pressed to the ground, and your elbow has a slight bend in it.
Slowly lower your arm until your elbow touches the ground. Your arm should be perpendicular with your body and your hand should be pointing straight.
Don’t allow your elbow to rest on the ground. Just touch it and then squeeze your chest in order to bring the kettlebell back up over your body to the mid way point.
Repeat for reps. On your final rep, roll your shoulder back to the press position and bring the kettlebell down to the floor.
The muscles that are worked in this exercise are the pec major and minor, with emphasis on your inner chest.
Crush Grip Push Up
This exercise uses a single kettlebell and it should be a heavier weight, relative to your strength level and experience:
Place the kettlebell on the ground and hover on top of it in a push-up position so that it’s at chest-level, with your forearms on the ground for support.
One arm at a time, hold the rounded part of the kettlebell with your hands. Once you’ve found your balance, your arms should be pointing straight out in front of you holding the kettlebell, and your body should be in a push up position.
Slowly relax your elbows and lower your body down as you would for a regular push up.
Before you reach the ground, push your body back up again so that your arms are extended once more.
Repeat for reps.
This kettlebell chest exercise works your pec major, along with your triceps and front delts. The emphasis of this exercise is on your inner and upper chest.
Incline Press out
This exercise is as much a chest exercise as it is a shoulder exercise. At an incline you’ll target your chest more, particularly at the upper head of your chest major. Here are the steps:
Stand upright, holding the kettlebell with a crush grip (holding the kettlebell on the bell with both hands). Alternatively, you may hold it by the horns with the bell pointing downward. Keep your core tight and your spine in a neutral position.
Hold the kettlebell at the level of your sternum and press it forward and up. You will be pressing at a diagonal angle. When your arms are fully extended, the bell should be raised above your head.
Bring the kettlebell back in the same path to the level of your sternum.
Repeat for reps.
This is another one of the kettlebell chest exercises that target the head of the pec major. It also engages your front and side delts.
Upright Front Raise
To end off our list of kettlebell chest exercises, we bring you the upright front raise. Here are the steps to complete it:
Standing straight, hold the kettlebell with your hand in between the handle and your palm to the top of the bell — the handle should be pointing down and the bell should be on top. Stand with your feet hip width apart and make sure your core is engaged and your spine is in a neutral position.
With your elbow bent slightly and the kettlebell positioned at your side, raise the kettlebell up and slightly inward so that it comes up to chest level at the midway point of your body.
Lower the kettlebell back down to your side.
Repeat for reps.
This workout will target your upper chest and front delt. As you raise the kettlebell, be sure that you are bringing it to your midline as this will provide more chest activation.
Are Kettlebells Effective For Training Chest?
Unlike dumbbells and barbells, kettlebells aren’t the most talked about exercise equipment when it comes to working out your chest muscles, although there are plenty of effective kettlebell exercises for developing your chest. A great place to start is the exercises we’ve mentioned. If you feel like your chest isn’t as engaged as you’d like, make sure to squeeze at the top of each exercise. This will help engage those muscles.
Can You Work Your Chest With Kettlebells?
As we’ve seen, there’s an abundance of chest exercises you can do using a kettlebell. While kettlebells are used as full-body training tools that focus on the posterior chain or back of the body, you can specifically target the chest using horizontal pushing movements. Different exercises will engage different areas of the chest. For instance, the floor press will activate your pec major while a floor fly will work your pec major and minor with an emphasis on your inner chest. Overall, kettlebells will provide you more variety in your workouts, helping you to train more efficiently.
Are Kettlebells Good For Bench Press?
If you happen to have access to a bench, it’ll widen your range of motion and increase the variations of exercises that you can do. Some of the most effective kettlebell chest exercises that require a bench include a kettlebell bench press and alternating stability ball press.
Elevate your chest workout
Your chest workout should be dynamic in order to avoid plateauing. Including kettlebells into your chest days can be a great way to introduce variety in exercises and movements. Whether your goal is power, strength, hypertrophy, endurance, or a combination of these things, kettlebell workouts can help you achieve your aims.
Montreal Weights has all of the exercise equipment you need to get in shape and work towards your fitness goals. If you’re looking to try kettlebell workouts, check out our adjustable kettlebells that you can customize depending on your workout and level of experience.