Kettlebell HIIT workout

The Ultimate Guide To Kettlebell HIIT Workouts

March 10, 2021

The kettlebell is arguably the most dynamic functional training tool there is. Kettlebell training involves exercises that move you through multiple planes of motion, creating linkage and unison throughout your entire body and working many muscles at one time. It is an all-in-one implement for strength and conditioning, as well as mobility and stability, and thus, durability, or in other words, injury resilience. Furthermore, kettlebells are great for burning tons of fat and packing on lean muscle mass. One of the best ways to achieve that is through Kettlebell HIIT workouts. With just one kettlebell, you can get in an intense workout that burns tons of calories in 20 minutes or less. The best part is, you’ll keep burning fat long after the quick-yet-brutal workout is over thanks to HIIT’s after burn effect, which is only amplified when High Intensity Interval Training meets KETTLEBELLS. 

Learn all about Kettlebell HIIT training below so you can get lean and shredded fast. Plus, a lot of people find kettlebell HIIT more fun than bodyweight HIIT, but “fun” is a subjective matter. Kettlebell HIIT is killer. It is also incredibly effective. So either way it’s a win…

Table of Contents:
- What is HIIT?
- Can you do HIIT with Kettlebells?
- Why HIIT training with Kettlebells is so great
- 4 Types of Kettlebell HIIT workouts
- Best Kettlebell HIIT exercises
- 15 Minute Full Length Kettlebell HIIT workout that you can follow along to*
- FAQ about HIIT with Kettlebells

kettlebell hiit

WHAT IS HIIT?

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. As the name suggests, it is interval training with high intensity. It involves short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with an even shorter recovery period done in intervals. For example, 20 seconds intense work, followed by 10 seconds rest…or 30 seconds work, followed by 15 seconds rest...done for a set number of rounds. 

In regards to the recovery period, many HIIT workouts involve a recovery period where you can stop and rest, whereas others, usually sprint interval training, involves a less intense recovery period (instead of sprinting, you jog or walk during recovery). 

The idea of HIIT is to get your heart rate to 85-95% max heart rate during the working period and then not let it drop below 60-70% during the rest period, which is why rest periods are quite short. This kind of intense training has positive cardiovascular, metabolic, fat oxidation, and even cognitive (brain power) effects. Moreover, due to the intensity of the workout, you will have an EPOC effect (post-exercise oxygen consumption), which is also known as an “after burn”. In other words, you will burn a higher amount of calories after your workout is over (for up to 48 hours) than you would normally (i.e. a metabolism boost).

CAN YOU DO HIIT WITH KETTLEBELLS?

While HIIT is often done with bodyweight exercises, kettlebells are great for HIIT because kettlebell exercises used in HIIT workouts are very dynamic, moving you through a large range of motion and targeting multiple muscle groups. Moreover, the weight of a kettlebell adds intensity but as it is a sub maximal load, you can keep up the high, intense pace for the length of the workout. Finally, due to the nature of kettlebells, you can do explosive exercises that allow you to do a lot of repetitions in a short period of time. All of this combined means you will be able to do intense work intervals that spike your heart rate fast and are sustainable over the course of a HIIT workout, which usually lasts around 10-20 minutes usually.

You can think of Kettlebell HIIT like HIIT on steroids. You will be boosting your strength, cardio endurance, and metabolism, and you can even build muscle while burning fat thanks to the kettlebell's weight providing the perfect metabolic effect. 

As for how to do HIIT with kettlebells, the structure of a workout will be essentially the same as you would a bodyweight HIIT workout. We will show you a few ways to structure a Kettlebell HIIT workout and then we will present to you a 15 minute Kettlebell HIIT workout that we put together. It is full length so you can even follow along to it.

But first, let us dive a little more into the benefits of HIIT (if you’ve heard enough, and you want to crush some Kettlebell HIIT workouts, feel free to skip ahead).

kettlebell hiit workouts

WHY YOU SHOULD DO HIIT WITH KETTLEBELLS

The benefits of Kettlebell HIIT are the same as HIIT training in general, which means you will burn calories fast, boost your metabolism, lose weight, build muscle, lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and improve oxygen and blood flow. The additional benefits that come from doing HIIT with kettlebells are that you will optimize the strength and muscle building effect, take the intensity to the next level, and it is arguably more fun, as kettlebell exercises are very dynamic and powerful. 

Note: Kettlebells also enhance skills like balance, coordination, and proprioception better because you are moving in a dynamic, unilateral manner with an offset load. This will help you build a very strong core and stabilizer muscles. If you do the kettlebell exercises explosively, you will also burn calories quicker.

All in all, you don’t always have to use kettlebells for your HIIT workouts, but doing some kettlebell HIIT workouts will definitely keep things fresh and entertaining.

4 BEST KETTLEBELL HIIT PROGRAMMING

There are a few good ways to structure a kettlebell HIIT workout, which will look very similar to a normal bodyweight HIIT workout, but with kettlebell exercises. A kettlebell HIIT workout can involve one kettlebell exercise or multiple exercises done in circuits. They can be 5 minutes or as much as 30 minutes (although 15-20 is usually the sweet spot). 

Let us explain with a few examples…

1. Kettlebell Tabata:

A kettlebell tabata HIIT workout typically involves one exercise, done for 20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest for 5-10 times. This is one of the quickest HIIT workout protocols. Kettlebell tabata HIIT workout is great for after a regular strength training session - it's an intense finisher.

i.e. Kettlebell Swing Tabata

  • Kettlebell swing - 20 seconds of KB swings, followed by 10 seconds rest, repeat for 10 times. 

Note: If you are doing one handed swings, you can simply switch the hand each interval. 

That is a total of 5 minutes. It may seem easy, but trust us your heart rate is going to sky-rocket.

2. Kettlebell 60 x 60 HIIT 

This one involves 60 seconds intense work followed by 60 seconds of active recovery periods. This means you will need to mix in some bodyweight movements during the recovery period. An example…

60 seconds Kettlebell Snatch (right side)
60 seconds Jogging in place (you can do any kind of low intensity movement that works for you)
60 seconds Kettlebell Snatch (left side)
60 seconds Jogging in place (you can do any kind of low intensity movement that works for you)
- Repeat 5-6 times.

If you do an exercises like two handed swings, then you don't need to switch sides, so up the number of sets to 10.

Total time is 20+ minutes.

3. Kettlebell Every Minute On the Minute (EMOM)

This one you do an exercise (or exercises) every minute on the minute. You will set a rep target, but ideally you want the exercises to last around 30-40 seconds. Here’s an example:

Kettlebell Two-Handed Swing x 20 reps
Kettlebell Goblet Squat x 15 reps
Alternating Kettlebell Clean x 20 reps (10 each side)
Kettlebell Two-Handed Sumo Deadlift x 20 reps
- Repeat for 4-5 rounds.

Remember, you will be doing each exercise on the minute, so you only rest from when you finish the last rep until the minute is up. With EMOMs, you can go explosively, but keep the form proper. So, the more explosive you are, the longer rest time you will have. It works well because your heart rate will rise higher if you are explosive, and if not, you’ll have less rest time which also keeps your heart rate up.

Total time is around 20 minutes.

4. Kettlebell 30/15 or 40/20

This is a circuit based HIIT workout that involves either 30 seconds of work and 15 seconds of rest or 40 seconds of work and 20 seconds of rest.

i.e. 40/20:

Kettlebell Swing x 40 seconds, 20 seconds rest
Kettlebell Snatch x 40 seconds, 20 seconds rest
Alternating Bent Over Kettlebell Row x 40 seconds, 20 seconds rest
Kettlebell Goblet Lunges x 40 seconds, 20 seconds rest
- Repeat for 3-5 rounds.

Total time is 12-20 minutes.

Our full length 15 minute kettlebell workout below uses a 30/15 workout format with 6 different kettlebell exercises.

kettlebell hiit exercises

Best Kinds of KB Exercises for HIIT workouts

The best kinds of KB exercises for HIIT workouts are ones that are dynamic, explosive and involve large ranges of motion and multiple muscle groups.

Here are some of our favorite kettlebell exercises for HIIT workouts:

  • Kettlebell Swings (one and two handed, and alternating one hand swings)
  • Hang Cleans (and alternating hang cleans)
  • Swing Clean
  • Clockwork Clean
  • Hang Snatch (and alternating hang snatches)
  • Half Swing Snatch
  • Swing Snatch
  • High Pull Swing
  • Offset Swing
  • Swing to Goblet Squat
  • Racked Reverse Lunge (and front lunge)
  • Overhead Lunges
  • Goblet Squat Thrusters
  • Racked Squat Thrusters
  • Rotational Presses
  • Push Presses
  • Alternating Back Rows

All of these exercises can be found here - 50 best kettlebell exercises (it is organized well so you can easily find the exercises). 

15 MINUTE FULL LENGTH FOLLOW ALONG 30/15 KETTLEBELL HIIT WORKOUT #1


Workout Format

This is the above full length kettlebell HIIT’s workout format:

30 Seconds x 15 Seconds Rest x 3 Rounds total

  1. Kettlebell Swing
  2. Kettlebell Squat
  3. Alternating Hang Snatch
  4. Alternating Hang Clean
  5. Alternating Back Row
  6. Alternating Reverse Lunge

15 minute kettlebell high intensity interval training workout

So you will do one exercise after the other, 30 seconds work for each, with 15 seconds rest in-between, for a total of 3 rounds. You will only be resting 15 seconds between rounds as well.

Grab your kettlebell and follow along with Scott Viala. The video has a timer so you will know when to start and stop with each exercise. You can go at your own pace, just follow the timer with Scott!

Before we discuss what weight kettlebell for HIIT workouts, let us quickly go over the above exercises so you know how to do them correctly.

THE 6 EXERCISES IN OUR 30/15 KB HIIT WORKOUT 

1. Kettlebell Swing 

hiit kettlebell swings

  1. Stand about a foot and half behind the kettlebell. Feet shoulder-width apart, or even a little wider is fine, with toes facing forward, or slightly pronated outward (whatever feels more natural for you).
  2. Put a little bend in your knee, shoot your hips back, chest down, and back flat. This is a hinge pattern. So, with that, our hamstrings and glutes should be active immediately, before even touching the bell.
  3. Bring your hands forward and grab the handle of the kettlebell with both hands. Put the kettlebell at a slight angle towards you. Set your shoulder blades back so your lats are tight, core is braced, quads are tight, and glutes are engaged.
  4. Hike the bell back like its a football, so it goes between the leg.
  5. As soon as your hands go past your quads, drive your hips forward and propel the bell up and forward to about shoulder level, keeping your arms straight. Remember to keep tight and your shoulder back in this top position.
  6. Let the kettlebell bell fall in reverse as you guide it back under your leg. Repeat from Step 5.
  7. When your reps or allotted time is finished, don’t stop at the top, let the bell come down between your legs, and from them bring it forward and down to the floor. Don’t just bring it straight down from the top portion of the swing. See how Scott does it in the video above.

2. Kettlebell Squat

hiit with kettlebell

  1. Hold the kettlebell at the sides of the handle with your palms facing in then bring it up to a standing position (don’t arch your back when you do this, use your legs to pick it up).
  2. From the standing position, tuck your elbow in and rest your forearms against the bell. Your forearms should be shooting straight down, perpendicular with the floor, securing the kettlebell tight in position with the handle just below your chin level.
  3. With your feet a little wider than hip-width (and toes pointed slightly out if needed), squat down and then press back up from your legs. Keep your core braced and don’t lean forward as you squat down and up. You want to try to keep your back from arching and your knees shouldn’t go past your toes.
  4. When the allotted time is up, place the kettlebell on the ground carefully by squatting down, lowering your arms then releasing the kettlebell to the floor. 

3. Alternating Hang Snatch 

kettlebell hiit routine

  1. Pick the kettlebell up with your right hand on the left side of the handle with an over-grip. Let your arm hang down in-between your legs.
  2. Whip the kettlebell up to an overhead position in one smooth, dynamic motion using both lower and upper body force. You should use leg drive for this. Make sure your right arm is extended straight up and locked out with your shoulder stacked deep into the socket.
  3. Bring the kettlebell down by first moving it into a racked position then rotating your arm inward so you can bring the kettlebell straight down in-between your legs again.
  4. From there, switch hands by rotating the bell slightly so your left hand can grab the bell on the right side of the handle. It’s all a very smooth and dynamic motion.
  5. Repeat on the left side.
  6. Continue alternating side for the allotted time.

4. Alternating Hang Clean

kettlebell hiit training

  1. Pick the kettlebell up with your right hand on slightly more to the left side of the handle with an over-grip. Let your arm hang down in-between your legs.
  2. Whip the kettlebell to a racked position in one smooth, dynamic motion.
  3. In a controlled manner, drop the kettlebell down to about knee level, so your arms are nearly straight (just a slightly bend in your elbow), then rotate the bell slightly so you can grab the handle with your left hand slightly to the right side of the handle.
  4. From there, whip the kettlebell back up into a racked position on your left side.
  5. Each rep you will bring the kettlebell down to knee level, switch hands, and repeat on the opposite side.
  6. Make sure you have a slight bend in your knee so you can use lower body and upper body force to bring it back to the racked position each time. It may seem like an upper body movement, but the leg and glute drive is going to make this exercise more powerful and sustainable. 

5. Alternating Back Row

full body kettlebell workout

  1. From a bent over hip hinge position with the kettlebell held straight down, pull the kettlebell straight up so the handle and your hand is right about at the side of your chest. As you do this, rotate your hand so your palm faces in. Really feel this in your lats and back. 
  2. Lower it back down in the same motion, then switch the kettlebell to your opposite hand to repeat on the other side.
  3. Alternate sides with each rep.

6. Alternating Reverse Lunge

hiit kettlebell circuit

  1. Hold the kettlebell at the sides of the handle with your palms facing in then bring it up to a standing position (don’t arch your back when you do this, use your legs to pick it up).
  2. From the standing position, tuck your elbow in and rest your forearms against the bell. Your forearms should be shooting straight down, perpendicular with the floor, securing the kettlebell tight in position with the handle just below your chin level.
  3. With your feet about hip-width apart, step your right foot back to a reverse lunge. Keep your back straight as you lunge down.
  4. Press back up using your forward leg (left leg) to a standing position, then step your left leg back into a reverse lunge.
  5. Keeping alternating sides with each lunge.

23 MINUTE 30/15 KETTLEBELL HIIT WORKOUT #2

Here’s the breakdown of this kettlebell workout, check it out and then set aside 23 minutes ASAP to crush it!

Workout Structure:

5 Exercises (each side)
30 seconds work
15 seconds rest
3 Rounds

Total Workout Time: ~23 minutes

Please warm up before starting.

Kettlebell HIIT Workout Exercises:

  • Snatches (Right)
  • Snatches (Left)
  • One Hand Swings (Right)
  • One Hand Swings (Left)
  • Cleans (Right)
  • Cleans (Left)
  • Racked Squats (Right)
  • Racked Squats (Left)
  • Push Presses (Right)
  • Push Presses (Left)

So, when you complete all of the above exercises, that’s 1 round. Then you will do another two rounds. Again, 30 seconds on, 15 seconds off until all three rounds are completed.

WHAT WEIGHT KETTLEBELL FOR HIIT WORKOUTS?

This really depends on your strength and conditioning level. You'll want to choose a kettlebell weight that is challenging for the exercises within the HIIT workout but is also sustainable at an intense level for the length of the workout. It may take some trial and error to figure this out. Typically, you will be using a lighter weight than who you normally use with a standard workout that allows for more rest time. So if you use a 40lb kettlebell, a 20lb kettlebell will likely be a good start. Remember, you need to try to keep up a high level of intensity for the entire workout. 

If you have a set of kettlebells, don’t feel bad if you need to go lighter or heavier in the middle of your workout. When the rest period comes, switch the size and get back to it.

Ideally, you want to choose one kettlebell size that will work for all the exercises in the HIIT workout, because when you get that rest time, you won’t want to be using it to switch the kettlebell size for the next exercise.

kettlebell HIIT workout

HOW OFTEN CAN YOU DO KETTLEBELL HIIT WORKOUTS? 

Everybody is different in terms of their ability to heal and recover after a strenuous kettlebell HIIT workout. Some weeks are better than others as well depending on your sleep and diet. Overall, you need to listen to your body when making the call if it's time for a kettlebell HIIT workout or not. It also depends on which HIIT protocol you choose. A 5 minute HIIT session is easier to recover from than a 15-20 minute one.

All that said, generally speaking, people can do HIIT workouts anywhere from 2-4 times per week. We usually recommend at the most every other day and at the least once or twice per week spaced out evenly (i.e. M & TH or TU & F).

kettlebells for hiit

WHEN TO DO KETTLEBELL HIIT WORKOUTS? 

HIIT workouts can be done at the end of your regular strength training workout or as a standalone workout.

So, an example of a routine with Kettlebell HIIT added in.

Monday - Lower Body Strength Training / Kettlebell HIIT finisher (5 mins)
Tuesday - Upper Body Strength Training
Wednesday - Rest
Thursday - Lower Body Strength Training
Friday - Upper Body Strength Training / Kettlebell HIIT finisher (5-10 mins)
Saturday - Rest
Sunday - Rest

or…

Monday - Lower Body Strength Training
Tuesday - Upper Body Strength Training
Wednesday - Kettlebell HIIT Workout (15-20 mins)
Thursday - Rest
Repeat

If you like to do two workouts a day, do a HIIT workout a couple times a week as a stand-alone workout two-a-day-er.

Have question about Kettlebell HIIT training? Feel free to reach out to us.

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