The 4 Best Kettlebell Circuits to Build Muscle Without a Full Gym

Kettlebell athletes come to the workout floor with any number of goals. You might want to become stronger or more mobile. You may want to enjoy moving more (and kettlebells certainly are a fun way to move). And — yes — you might also want to Hulk out of your shirt. Can you get jacked with kettlebells? Absolutely.

Credit: Pressmaster / Shutterstock

The beauty of kettlebell training is that you can customize it to suit your interests and goals. That includes programming that can help you look as strong as you feel. And there are few better ways to spur hypertrophy with kettlebells than taking it to the limit with circuits. Here, you’ll level up with the best kettlebell circuits to build muscle.

Best Kettlebell Circuits for Building Muscle

Best Kettlebell Circuit for Building Upper Body Muscles

Best Kettlebell Circuit for Building Lower Body Muscles

Best Kettlebell Circuit for Core Muscles

Best Beginner Kettlebell Circuit for Building Muscle

Best Kettlebell Circuit for Building Upper Body Muscles

Kettlebells and EMOM (every minute, on the minute) workouts are excellent matches. And with upper body moves, you’ll need this style of training to help build some rest into the mix.

Don’t be fooled by the seemingly low volume here. You’re stringing together six upper-body exercises and packing in a lot of punches within just 12 minutes. Don’t be surprised if you approach failure sooner than you expected. But that’s okay — training to failure is helpful for muscle growth, so it’s your friend here.

The Workout

Kettlebell circuits are effective and efficient, making them particularly useful when you’re short on time. 

Use light to moderate weights here. Yes, you may be able to do more reps with heavier weight, but these are all upper body-focused moves strung together. This means that fatigue will build quickly.

[Read More: 7 Undeniable Benefits of Kettlebell Training]

Lighter kettlebells are often underestimated but as you proceed through this workout, you will quickly feel the challenge. Set a timer and start your reps at the top of each minute.

12 Min EMOM 

Minute One:

5 Kettlebell Push-Ups

5 Gorilla Rows

Minute Two:

4 Double Kettlebell Cleans

4 Double Kettlebell Push Presses

Minute Three:

5 Kettlebell Curls

5 Kettlebell Triceps Extensions

Repeat each complex on the minute for 4 sets.

Coach’s Tip: The suggested rep ranges should leave you more than a few seconds to rest each minute. If not, reduce the reps or reduce the weight to ensure you can recover between complexes. On the other hand, if you find yourself moving very quickly, you can add a rep or two for an even bigger challenge.

Movement Modifications

For the kettlebell push-ups, balancing on the kettlebell handles may not be accessible depending on the style and size of your kettlebells. You may also not have the wrist stability required for this.

Alternatively, you can select a push-up variation below:

Offset Kettlebell Push-Up

Push-Up (no kettlebells)

If gorilla rows require too intense of a range of motion, try:

Kettlebell Bent-Over Row

Single-Arm Bent-Over Row (just keep reps even on both sides)

This workout uses double kettlebell complexes — a kettlebell in each hand. If that doesn’t work for you, substitute the double-bell moves for single-bell complexes. Do this by performing two sets on the left and two sets on the right. 

So, instead of double kettlebell cleans and double kettlebell push presses, you can do:

Single Kettlebell Clean

Single Kettlebell Push Press 

Best Kettlebell Circuits for Building Lower Body Muscles

If you want to build muscle, failure is an excellent option. Pushing yourself toward failure is a great way to spur muscle growth, and kettlebells are a great tool to do it with. You won’t have to bail out like you do with a barbell, and you won’t need a squat rack with safety spotter arms.

[Read More: 10 Kettlebell Exercises Every Athlete Should Master]

This workout is intense. You’ll be performing three circuits for the price of one, each of which is challenging on its own. So, you might only want to perform this massive circuit once or twice per week. Make sure you don’t skip your warm-up — your hamstrings, glutes, quads, and calves will all thank you.

The Workout

This lower-body kettlebell circuit workout targets and builds muscle in your lower body. And if you’re worried that kettlebells won’t hit your calf muscles, we got you. Your calves will not be neglected. 

With this huge circuit, you’ll tackle a combination of compound and isolation exercises to ensure comprehensive development. You’ll first perform a circuit with one kettlebell; then a circuit with two kettlebells, and finally, tackle a finisher flow with one bell. 

Move from one circuit to the next with as little rest as possible.

Single Kettlebell Circuit:

Heel-Elevated Goblet Squat: 10 

Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift: 6 per leg

Lateral Goblet Lunge: 6 per leg

Repeat circuit for four total rounds (two left side, two right side for the Romanian deadlift and lateral goblet lunge).

Double Kettlebell Circuit:

Double Kettlebell Deadlift: 8 

Front-Rack Bulgarian Split Squat: 5 per side

Standing Calf Raise: 15

Repeat circuit for four total rounds (two left side, two right side for the Bulgarian split squat).

Finisher Flow: 

Kettlebell Swing: 20 

Front-Rack Walking Lunge: 10 reps per side

Repeat circuit for two to four total rounds.

Movement Modifications

Remember that workouts done primarily with barbells don’t require you to use a barbell the whole time. Similarly, you can always put down the kettlebells and crank it out with just your body weight.

Some of these movements require a great deal of mobility and balance — for example, the single-leg Romanian deadlift, lateral goblet lunge, the Bulgarian split squat, and the front-rack walking lunge. Whether you get too fatigued to continue with weight during the circuits or you want to start this way, you can perform these movements with just your body weight.

[Read More: The Best Kettlebell Strength Workout for Heavier, More Powerful Lifts]

Similarly, if the front-rack position is uncomfortable for any move calling for it, you can always opt to use the suitcase carry position instead. 

Focus on the quality of your form, move with intent, and decide when to apply full-body tension when finishing a lift to amplify the intensity. 

Best Kettlebell Circuits for Building Core Muscles

Even if you’re focusing on your upper or lower body, rest assured — your core will pretty much always be challenged with kettlebells. The instability of the kettlebell demands that you recruit your stabilizer muscles and core in just about every kettlebell exercise

Credit: Alones / Shutterstock

[Read More: 5 Kettlebell Circuits That Will Maximize Your Endurance]

Add this core kettlebell circuit to your routine two or three times a week. Just make sure you don’t program this right before a very heavy loading day — you might find your trunk too sore to adequately support your one-rep max squat attempt.

The Workout

Here, we are adding rotational and anti-rotational movements to strengthen your overall core. Yes, your abs will be getting a lot of challenges from front-racked exercises, kettlebell swings, and unilateral kettlebell exercises. But this circuit will hone in on your core specifically for an intensive kettlebell ab workout.

This circuit is broken into two blocks — a simple circuit and a flow.

Kettlebell Core Circuit:

Plank Pull-Through: 20 reps alternating sides

Kettlebell Russian Twist: 20 reps alternating sides

Kettlebell Front-Rack March: 20 reps alternating sides

Repeat circuit for two or three total rounds.

Core Finisher Flow:

One-Arm Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell Snatch

Kettlebell Windmill

Perform one rep of each exercise on the left side.

Perform one rep of each exercise on the right side. That’s one round.

Repeat circuit for five total rounds.

Movement Modifications

Here are some of those plank pull-through alternatives. Remember, not all movements have to be completed with a kettlebell.

Kettlebell Renegade Row


Incline Plank (with your hands on a weight bench or plyo box)

Side Plank

Side Plank with Rotation

Side Plank with Hip Dip

Similarly, you can perform Russian twists without a kettlebell and just use your body weight

The one-arm swing is a powerful anti-rotational movement. But if you are still working on the technique, use heavy (two-handed) kettlebell swings instead. At the top of your swing, brace your core with a powerful exhale through pursed lips. This will help elevate your core connection in the swing.

[Read More: What Are the Different Types of Kettlebells?]

You can swap out the kettlebell snatch for a kettlebell clean & press if you haven’t yet mastered the snatch technique.

If preferable, try performing your windmill from a seated position.

Best Beginner Kettlebell Circuits for Building Muscle

When you’re just starting out, you likely move more efficiently, build muscles, and enjoy the process without having to think too much to get it done. Kettlebell circuits are a great way to plan a full-body workout that is beginner-friendly and easy to scale as you get stronger.

Credit: Sarayut Sridee / Shutterstock

This beginner kettlebell circuit is designed for newbies to kettlebell training who want to build muscle while improving overall strength and endurance. Perform each exercise with proper form and control, and focus on feeling confident with each movement before increasing the intensity.

The Workout

Start a beginner exercise circuit by choosing a weight that challenges you but allows for proper form. Focus on controlled movements and engage your core throughout the circuit.

If any exercise feels uncomfortable, you can choose a lighter weight. 

Perform each exercise consecutively with minimal rest between exercises. 

Goblet Squat: 10-12 

Kettlebell Deadlift: 10-12 

Alternating Kettlebell Row: 10-12 reps per arm

Alternating Suitcase Carry Reverse Lunge: 10-12 reps per leg

Kettlebell Swing: 20 

Repeat circuit for three to four total rounds.

Movement Modifications

Props are a great way to support your kettlebell journey. Use wedges or weight plates to elevate your heels during squats to improve your technique for safer lifts.

As you learn to perform a kettlebell deadlift, elevate the kettlebell off the floor with a yoga block or weight plate to help find your ideal hinge position and get a lot of training in while you’re still learning.

Credit: Microgen / Shutterstock

[Read More: 9 Kettlebell Benchmarks To Strive For]

Try a staggered stance for rows or modify by using a bench to brace your free hand while you row.

Lunges can be performed with a chair for support. Lightly rest your free hand on the back of the chair while the kettlebell will be in the other hand. Start your reverse lunges with the leg closest to the chair for the most support. 

What Are Kettlebell Circuits?

Circuit training is when you perform several exercises in a row with minimal rest in between. Kettlebell circuits allow you to perform multiple consecutive exercises without having to stop and change weights or reposition too much. 

Simple Circuits

With a simple kettlebell circuit, you will perform multiple reps of one exercise before moving on to the next exercise. You can rest between exercises if you need to, but the goal with a circuit is to rest as little as possible. Complete all the reps in one set of a single exercise before you move on to the next exercise.


When kettlebell exercises are strung together with multiple reps of one exercise followed by multiple reps of another exercise, without any rest, this is called a kettlebell complex. There may be a brief transitional movement, like a kettlebell clean, or quick setdown between exercises, but there is no rest until you have completed all the reps of every exercise


A kettlebell flow is also referred to as a chain. Think of each exercise as a single loop in the chain. The flow represents a multi-repetition sequence where each exercise is completed one rep at a time with no rest between reps until you’ve completed the entire chain.

Benefits of Kettlebell Circuits for Hypertrophy

Hypertrophy, or muscle building, is about creating an environment that stimulates muscle growth through volume, intensity, and variation. Kettlebell circuit training is a perfect way to generate that environment in your training. Here’s why.

Increased Metabolic Stress

The nature of kettlebell circuits, with their emphasis on continuous movement and varied exercises, creates metabolic stress on the muscles. This type of stress signals the muscles to adapt and grow, leading to hypertrophy. 

Effective Full-Body Workouts

Kettlebell exercises are often compound movements that engage multiple muscle groups at the same time. When you focus on compound exercises, such as kettlebell swings, goblet squats, and lunges, you recruit large muscle groups and require coordination of various muscle fibers.

Time-Efficient Workouts

Complexes and flows are kettlebell circuits that involve performing a series of exercises consecutively with little to no rest between sets. This is a high-intensity method, but also a time-efficient format that can help you achieve a significant training volume in a shorter amount of time. 

[Read More: Can You Train With Kettlebells Every Day?]

The continuous nature of the circuit keeps the muscles under tension, promoting muscle fatigue and metabolic stress — two factors associated with hypertrophy.

Warm-Up for Kettlebell Circuits

Kettlebell circuits are dynamic, full-body workouts. Getting a full-body warm-up and adequate recovery is essential to the effectiveness of your workouts. Your warm-up increases your heart rate, promoting circulation and warming your muscles to be ready for the demands of your workout. 

Including dynamic stretches that articulate all your joints will allow you to mobilize your body for a more comprehensive workout. Your hips are used considerably in kettlebell ballistic exercises like swings to generate power. This makes it important to feature hip mobility in your warm-up routine.

Choose warm-up exercises that reflect the movements that will be included in your workout. Use your body weight or light weights and short sets to warm up.

Light Jog or March in Place: 2-3 minutes

Leopard Crawl: 1-2 minutes

Quadruped and Adductor Rocking: 20 seconds

Cat-Cow: 5 deep breaths

Plank to Downward Dog: 5 deep breaths

Glute Bridge: 10 reps

World’s Greatest Stretch: 6 per side

Kneeling to Standing: 8 per side

Kettlebell Around-the-Body Wrap: 8 per side

If your warm-up is longer than the workout or tiring you out before you’ve even started the workout, it’s gone too far. Scale back as needed to make sure you’re giving your body what it needs. You want to feel ready and energized but you shouldn’t feel like you’ve already completed a workout.

How to Program Kettlebell Circuits for Building Muscle

Here are the programming considerations that can help you determine how to fit these muscle-building kettlebell circuits into your routine:

When these circuits are your primary form of training: You can simply perform each of the four workouts once a week to start. If there’s an area of your body that you want to emphasize and your body has the capacity, consider repeating that workout an extra time, bringing your training frequency up to five workouts per week. Still, make sure you’re getting enough rest for maximal muscle growth. 

If you’re using these kettlebell hypertrophy sessions to supplement another program: Consider adding them onto the appropriate training day as a finisher. So, your lower body circuit can serve as a finisher to leg day. Just make sure you can handle all that volume, and reduce the kettlebell load accordingly. 

Thoroughly warm up before each kettlebell session: To get the most muscle growth requires stimulating as many muscle fibers as possible. Your warm-up acts as an on-ramp or bridge to those fibers. The more thoroughly you warm up, the more muscle fibers you can recruit. This isn’t about adding intensity, it’s about representing the movement patterns and planes of movement that you will use within your workout.

If you’re performing these circuits as a finisher to other workouts, still take a few minutes to prepare the specific joints and movement patterns. Just like you do ramp-up sets for heavy lifts, you still want to prep your body for these circuits.

Emphasize recovery: Full recovery gives your muscles the nourishment they need to grow. Nourishment includes food and water with adequate vitamins and minerals to support muscle growth. It also means you are getting enough rest and sleep. 

Focus on proper form: Building muscle means engaging as much muscle as possible in your workout. If the warm-up is the bridge, your technique drives the car. Proper form means actively engaging the targeted muscles of the selected exercise. It won’t help if you’re performing lower body exercises, like lunges, but you only feel them in your arms through your front-rack position

Build Those Muscles

Don’t rush the process by trying to push every day or double up these kettlebell circuits to build muscle. Especially when you’re first starting, give yourself a day or two of rest between workouts for the most benefits. 

These circuits are designed to be adaptable based on your fitness level. Adjust the weight and repetitions as needed along the journey, and always listen to your body. And don’t forget to enjoy the process — having fun means you’ll stick with it. And when you make movement a habit, the gains are likely to follow.


We’ve scoured the web for the questions you’re asking most. Here we go:

What is a kettlebell circuit?

A kettlebell circuit is when you perform a series of exercises back-to-back with little to no rest in between. For example, you might do 10 kettlebell goblet squats, then immediately (or with minimal rest) transition into 10 kettlebell push presses, followed by 10 double kettlebell swings. 

How do you build muscle with kettlebells? 

You build muscle with kettlebells the same way you build muscle with any other tools: you put your muscles under mechanical tension and gradually increase the intensity of your lifts over time. Train with good form and approach failure — AKA, work really hard during each and every set. Make sure you’re eating and sleeping enough to help your body grow that muscle in response to your training.

How long do you do kettlebell circuits?

Kettlebell circuits don’t have to be long — they can be as short as a minute or two if you’re doing a flow and extend all the way up to 20 minutes or more. It all depends on your work capacity and how long you’re able to sustain your training safely and with good form. 

Featured Image: Pressmaster / Shutterstock

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