Kettlebell Back Workout – 15 Kettlebell Exercises for a Strong and Healthy Back

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Kettlebell Back Workout – 15 Kettlebell Exercises for a Strong and Healthy Back

If you are here because you are into kettlebells then we already got one thing in common – thumbs up for that!

If you are here not only because you are into kettlebells, but you also want to learn what kettlebell exercises can do for your back, then this is absolutely awesome.

I hope you aren´t in that situation already where we men usually end up, once we feel that something doesn´t feel right: that “now it hurts, so I got to do something about it” situation. That situation when your queen at home says: “Why didn´t you go to the doctor earlier…! ?”

I have been there and many others also have been there, but what finally got me out of that very situation was strengthening my back!

The one thing that cures back problems is muscle!

Have you ever heard this sentence before? If you haven´t then read it again and let it settle in your mind. Because this is so true for the vast majority of all people who have to deal with back pain on a daily basis.

Weak back muscles are a lifestyle problem

It’s no secret that a strong and healthy back is important. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize the extent of the problem until they start experiencing issues themselves.

Bad posture and back pain are all too common in our society, and they can be traced back to a number of factors.

One of the biggest culprits is our use of mobile devices. We spend so much time looking down at screens that we end up not only with poor posture but also an ever-increasing epidemic of neck and back problems.

Have a look at this illustration:

Another issue is the way many offices are set up. People are often forced to work in cramped spaces and sit in bad positions which leads to tension in the muscles and ligaments of the back.

Your back affects your mental health

You might say this is a bold statement, but let me explain: it is a proven fact that your posture mirrors your mental state. Just imagine a sad, frustrated, broken, beat-down person:

frustrated man

Another example is the typical posture one can observe very often with insecure people:

young lady with bad posture

On the other end of the spectrum, what will a strong, proud, confident person look like? Maybe something like this:

confident business woman

A straight back, chest pushed out, chin held up, shoulders pulled back – that is the definition of a confident posture.

The point is: just as your mental state will affect your posture, your posture will also affect your mental state.

If you feel down and frustrated, bring yourself into an upright, proud and confident posture.

This will affect your mind in a way that will help you to get over a phase of frustration.

A strong back equals no pain

One fantastic way to train your back is kettlebell back workouts. Down below we will list 15 best kettlebell back exercises that will improve your back strength and we will also give you several workouts to get you started on your journey to a strong and healthy back.

The muscles of the back can be divided into two main groups: the extrinsic and intrinsic groups.

Extrinsic muscle groups are located outside of the spine and their primary function is to move the shoulder girdle. These muscles include the trapezius, latissimus dorsi, rhomboid major, rhomboid minor, and levator scapulae.

The intrinsic muscle group is located within and close to the spine itself and its main function is to stabilize the spine. These muscles include the erector spinae, multifidus, and transverse abdominis.

All in all our back is a very complex system of several layers of muscles that interact with each other.

One little disturbance in the equilibrium of this well-functioning system can quickly show as an uncomfortable feeling in your back.

Why Kettlebells?

Kettlebells are “free weights” which means that you have to use not only isolated large main muscles to move the weight around.

Unlike training on machines where the stabilization of the weight is done by the machine itself, free weights need to be stabilized constantly by a whole chain of muscles in order to let you perform the intended movement properly.

Thus you will have to train much more focused, concentrate on stability, and put additional effort into those little stabilization movements while performing the main movement itself.

The result is a trained muscle chain consisting of deep and also superficial muscles instead of training one isolated muscle.

kettlebells

Kettlebell Training Tips

All the kettlebell exercises you find listed below can be done with only one kettlebell. You don´t have to invest in a whole set of kettlebells at all!

Stay away from anything below 8kg/18lbs as you won´t need these at all. That said, anything above 32kg/70lbs for male athletes and maybe 28kg/62lbs for females is not needed as well – at least at the beginning.

Also chose kettlebells with a nice wide handle that gives you space for a double-handed grip.

Regarding kettlebell weight:

Male beginners should start with a 12kg/25lbs Kettlebell for difficult kettlebell exercises that include a lot of stability like the Turkish Get-Up or the Windmill. For other kettlebell exercises that target power, beginners could go with a 16kg/35lbs kettlebell and work their way up from there.

Female beginners start out with an 8kg/18lbs Kettlebell and increase weight as they build more strength and power.

Have a training mat or some cushioning ready to save your floor if you work out indoors. You don´t want to drop 16-plus kilograms on a wooden floor or on some tiling…

Always keep in mind: Quality beats quantity! Make sure, you use proper form during your kettlebell training! If your chosen weight makes it impossible for you to perform your movement patterns in a controlled manner then step down to a lighter kettlebell.

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15 Best Kettlebell Back Exercises

#1 Kettlebell Halo

      • The kettlebell halo is a great kettlebell back exercise for your upper back. The Halo is also strengthening the rotator cuff muscles, as well as improving shoulder mobility and neck mobility.
      • To do this exercise, start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and holding a kettlebell close to your chest with both hands.
      • From here, raise the kettlebell overhead and circle it around your head.
      • Keep your core engaged and be sure not to arch your back or lean to one side.
      • Reverse the direction and repeat on the other side.
kettlebell halo

#2 Kettlebell Turkish Get Up

The Kettlebell Turkish get-up is a full-body exercise that not only strengthens the shoulder girdle but also improves core stability and hip mobility and works your whole back.

      • To do this exercise, start by lying on your back with a kettlebell in your right hand.
      • Press the kettlebell straight overhead, then roll onto your left side and use your left hand to support your head.
      • From here, push yourself up into a seated position while keeping the kettlebell in an overhead press position.
      • Stand up, then reverse the movement and return to the starting position.
      • Repeat on the other side.
kettlebell turkish getup

#3 Straight One Arm Overhead Kettlebell Walk

The straight one arm overhead kettlebell walk is a perfect exercise for strengthening the shoulder and upper back muscles and improving shoulder stability.

      • To do this exercise, start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, keep your core tight, and don´t lean back. Hold your kettlebell in the front rack position.
      • Bring your kettlebell into the overhead position by either using a strict shoulder press or a kettlebell push jerk.
      • Hold your kettlebell in the overhead position and by doing so, keep your elbow locked out. Try to hold your shoulder back and down – always away from your head and ear!
      • Hold your kettlebell in this position and start to walk. If you are new to this exercise and also depending on the weight of the kettlebell you are using, start with a 25m walk and from there work your way up.   
      • Change to the other arm and repeat.
illustration of stright arm overhead kettlebell hold

#4 Kettlebell Strict Press

The kettlebell strict press is an excellent exercise for strengthening the shoulder muscles. It also works your triceps and core muscles. The stabilization that is needed to perform this movement with the proper form also has to come from a whole range of upper-body muscles including deep and superficial back muscles.

      • To do this exercise, start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, keep your core tight, and don´t lean back. Hold your kettlebell in the front rack position.
      • Press the kettlebell overhead in a straight-up motion, keeping your elbows close to your sides.
      • Lower the kettlebells back down to your shoulders and repeat.
kettlebell strict press

#5 Kettlebell Clean

The kettlebell clean is a kettlebell exercise that strengthens your shoulder muscles, as well as the legs, hips, and core. To perform the clean you also need strong back muscles for the whole movement.

      • To do this exercise, start by standing with your feet hip-width apart and a kettlebell in one hand. Hinge at your hips and bend your knees to lower your kettlebell down between your legs.
      • From here, explosively drive through your legs and hips to stand up tall and swing the kettlebell up to shoulder height.
      • As the kettlebell reaches shoulder height, rotate your hand so that the kettlebell ends up in the front rack position.
      • Lower the kettlebell back down to the starting position and repeat the Kettlebell Clean on the other side.
kettlebell clean

#6 Kettlebell Single Arm Snatch

The kettlebell single-arm snatch is a full-body exercise that strengthens the shoulder muscles, as well as the legs, hips, and core. The kettlebell snatch includes an explosive movement and a strong back is needed to bring the kettlebell into the overhead position and finally stabilize the weight in that position.

      • To do this exercise, start in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart and a kettlebell in one hand.
      • Hinge at your hips and bend your knees to lower your kettlebell down between your legs.
      • From here, explosively drive through your legs and hips to stand up tall and swing the kettlebell up overhead.
      • As the kettlebell reaches shoulder height, rotate your hand so that the kettlebell ends up in the overhead position.
      • Lower the kettlebell back down to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
kettlebell snatch
athlete performing an american style kettlebell swing
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#7 Kettlebell Windmill

The kettlebell windmill is another fantastic exercise for stabilization and strengthening, as well as improving mobility in the thoracic spine and hips.

This is a rather advanced kettlebell exercise. If you have never done the windmill before, you may want to start without any weight at all.

      • Start in a standing position with your feet about double shoulder-width apart. Feet turned outwards by about 45 degrees.
      • Take a firm grip on the kettlebell with your right hand and extend the arm over your head with your right palm facing forward.
      • Extend the left arm out in front of your left thigh.
      • Bend your hips and follow with your left hand down your leg until you reach your ankle. During this movement keep your eyes on the kettlebell at all times.
      • You might find that this movement needs a lot of mobility in your hips. If you are unable to reach your ankle, you may bend your left knee a little.
      • Reverse back to an upright position.
kettlebell windmill

#8 Kettlebell Overhead Lunge

This kettlebell exercise is a combination of the Straight Arm Overhead Kettlebell Hold and classic Lunges.

      • Start with the same position as in the Straight Arm Overhead Kettlebell Hold and once again bring the kettlebell above your head with an overhead press, palms facing forward, arms straight.
      • From here make a lunge step forward (if you are holding the kettlebell with your right arm, make a right-forward lunge) until you end up in a half-kneeling position.
      • From here stand back up and repeat five times.
      • Then change to the opposite side.
one arm overhead lunge

The additional lunge forces you out of a comfortable two-legged stance. And this requires you to put even more effort into the stabilization of your one arm holding the kettlebell overhead.

Plus, your core also has more work to do in the whole process. Just perfect!

Kettlebell Swing – Important Instructions!

Kettlebell Swings are mostly associated with kettlebell exercises and many people falsely think that the kettlebell swing is a shoulder exercise. Very often one can even find people doing “how-to” videos showing kettlebell swings performed very slowly and with a lot of strain on their shoulders. Do not do this!

The kettlebell swing consists of very dynamic movement patterns that work your hamstrings, glutes and lower back, together with your core and – depending on which kettlebell swing variation you do – also your upper back and your shoulders.

The Russian Style Swing will bring the weight only up to about eye height while the American Style Swing goes all the way above your head.

To pick up your kettlebell and start swinging, always start with your feet and your kettlebell in a triangle pattern. This means, as your feet are about shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent, your kettlebell should sit on the ground about 70cm/30inches in front of your feet.

Now grab your kettlebell handle and as you pick your kettlebell off the ground, it will already start to swing back.

From there you start the swinging motion. Do not swing the kettlebell with the use of your shoulder muscles!

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#9 Kettlebell Swings – Russian Style

      • Starting position: feet shoulder width apart, knees bent, kettlebell in front of you – about 70cm/30inches in front of your feet
      • Grab your kettlebell with both hands, lift it off the ground and let it swing back
      • As the kettlebell has reached its aft-most position in the swing, stand up explosively, sending the kettlebell swinging out front
      • squeeze your glutes while explosively standing up
      • let the kettlebell swing back down between your legs and repeat the movement pattern
kettlebell swing russian style

#10 Kettlebell Swing – American Style

      • Starting position: feet shoulder width apart, knees bent, kettlebell in front of you – about 70cm/30inches in front of your feet
      • Grab your kettlebell with both hands, lift it off the ground and let it swing back
      • As the kettlebell has reached its aft-most position in the swing, stand up explosively, sending the kettlebell swinging out front and up
      • squeeze your glutes while explosively standing up
      • The kettlebell should get enough momentum to reach a position just above your head
      • For the last few inches, push the kettlebell up with your arms, until your arms are fully extended and your elbows are fully locked out
      • Let the kettlebell come back down rather close to your body instead of swinging it all the way back out in front of you
      • let the kettlebell swing back down between your legs and repeat the movement pattern
kettlebell swing american style

#11 Kettlebell Swing – One Arm

      • Starting position: feet shoulder width apart, knees bent, kettlebell in front of you – about 70cm/30inches in front of your feet
      • Grab your kettlebell with one hand, lift it off the ground and let it swing back
      • As the kettlebell has reached its aft-most position in the swing, stand up explosively, sending the kettlebell swinging out front and up
      • squeeze your glutes while explosively standing up
      • Place your other hand on top of the kettlebell to prevent your upper body from turning away from the kettlebell
      • let the kettlebell swing back down between your legs and repeat the movement pattern
One Arm Kettlebell Swing

#12 Kettlebell High Pull

The kettlebell high pull is a kettlebell back exercise that works your whole back, glutes, hamstrings plus your shoulder muscles.

      • Start with your feet shoulder-length apart and your kettlebell resting between your feet
      • As you get down into a squat position, keep your back straight and push your chest out. Look straight ahead
      • Grab your kettlebell with both hands and explosively stand up
      • As your kettlebell reaches about hip height, start pulling your kettlebell up to your chest
      • Bring the kettlebell back down to the starting position
kettlebell high pull

#13 One Arm Kettlebell Row

Muscles worked here are the lats (latissimus dorsi), glutes, hamstrings, and core muscles. The row itself is a typical bodybuilding exercise that we will use here.

As you will not use any structures to hold on and support your stability during the exercise, you will have to provide all the stability through your core, glutes, and back only.

      • Starting position: hinge forward, feet shoulder length apart, knees bent, kettlebell resting on the ground between your feet
      • keep your back straight and lock your body in this position
      • grab the kettlebell with one arm and start to pull it off the ground
      • important (!): keep your elbow close to your body and pull the elbow back – not out! Also, pull the kettlebell up to your hip inside your legs – do not pull the kettlebell up to your chest!
      • Bring the weight back down and repeat

Check out this excellent tutorial for the row by Lebe Stark:

#14 Kettlebell Deadlift

The Deadlift movement pattern incorporated into a kettlebell workout is perfect to work glutes, hamstrings, core muscles, but also upper and lower back muscles.

      • Starting position: lean forward, feet shoulder length apart, knees bent, kettlebell resting on the ground between your feet
      • Grab your kettlebell with both hands, keep your back straight and your core tight
      • First stand up, extending your legs before you start pushing your hip forward and bringing your upper body into the upright position
      • When coming back down, push your hip back, then lean forward with your upper body, then bend you knees until the kettlebell touches down

As a tougher version of this exercise you can also try the single arm deadlift.

Kettlebell Deadlift

#15 One Arm Farmer´s Carry

The One Arm Farmer´s Carry is an excellent stabilty exercise for your core and back. As many people tend to lean away from the weight they are carrying in one hand and at the same time pull their loaded shoulder up, we want to counter exactly these movement patterns.

When performing the Farmer´s Carry, focus on holding your loaded shoulder down and at the same time keep an upright posture.

This will force you to stabilize your upper body using your core and back muscles.

      • Starting position: pick your kettlebell up like a suitcase
      • Keep your loaded shoulder down and your upper body straight
      • do not lean away from the weight
      • do not pull your loaded shoulder up
      • walk 25m in one direction, swap sides and walk back
unilateral farmers carry

3 Kettlebell Workouts for a strong back

Always warm up before performing any exercises! For our purpose a mix of jumping jacks, circling arms, air squats, and spiderman stretches are perfect to get your body warmed up.

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Maybe you are also interested in Kettlebell Shoulder Workouts – then head over to our article here.

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