Incorporating Kettlebells into High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Workouts - Foundry Personal Training Gyms

Incorporating Kettlebells into High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Workouts

High-Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, has gained significant popularity over the past decade among fitness enthusiasts and professionals. Its effectiveness in burning calories, improving cardiovascular health, and enhancing muscle tone, all within a relatively short workout time, is well established. But how can you amplify the benefits of your HIIT workouts even further? Enter kettlebells – a versatile, all-encompassing tool that can take your workouts to the next level when incorporated into your HIIT regimen.

Kettlebells, recognisable by their round shape, handle, and substantial weight, offer a unique blend of strength training and cardiovascular exercise. They are powerful tools that improve strength, flexibility, and balance. But the magic happens when you blend HIIT’s dynamic, high-energy movements with kettlebells’ muscle-building power. This combination can boost your calorie burn, increase your metabolic rate, and improve functional strength – meaning the strength that helps you perform everyday tasks more efficiently.

So why should you consider incorporating kettlebells into your HIIT workouts? It’s about optimising your workouts for maximum efficiency and effectiveness. With the proper use of kettlebells, your HIIT sessions become a comprehensive training method, targeting multiple components of fitness at once – strength, endurance, balance, coordination, and cardiovascular health.

The Nuts and Bolts

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High-Intensity Interval Training, often shortened to HIIT, refers to a type of workout that alternates between intense bursts of physical activity and short periods of less-intense recovery or complete rest. This form of training is known for its efficiency, often yielding substantial health benefits within a condensed timeframe.


Kettlebells are a type of weight training equipment originating from Russia. They are spherical, with a flat base and a curved handle at the top. Kettlebells offer a different kind of resistance training than traditional weights like dumbbells, as their weight isn’t evenly distributed. This feature allows for a wide range of movements and simultaneously engages multiple muscle groups.

Why Incorporate Kettlebells into HIIT

Incorporating kettlebells into HIIT workouts isn’t a random fusion of fitness trends; it’s a deliberate combination providing specific, powerful benefits. Here’s why this potent blend can be beneficial for your fitness journey:

Increased Calorie Burn

One of the most compelling reasons to incorporate kettlebells into your HIIT workouts is the potential for increased calorie burn. HIIT is already well-known for its capacity to torch calories in a short amount of time due to its high-intensity nature. When you add kettlebells into the mix, the effect is amplified. The additional weight and the full-body movements common in kettlebell exercises further increase the intensity of your workout, which, in turn, boosts the energy your body uses, leading to a higher calorie burn both during and after your workout.

Muscle Building and Toning Benefits

Kettlebells offer an excellent way to build and tone muscles. Unlike traditional dumbbells or barbells, the off-centre weight of kettlebells forces your muscles to work harder to maintain balance. This stimulates a broader range of muscle groups, including often neglected stabilising muscles, improving muscle tone and strength across your entire body.

Enhanced Cardiovascular Fitness

HIIT workouts are renowned for their cardiovascular benefits, and kettlebells can take this advantage to the next level. Combining rapid, high-intensity kettlebell movements with short rest intervals elevates your heart rate, providing an effective cardio workout that can improve heart health, lung capacity, and overall stamina.

Improved Strength and Flexibility

Kettlebell exercises often involve dynamic movements that require and build both strength and flexibility. For example, kettlebell swings engage your leg muscles while promoting hip flexibility. Similarly, exercises like the kettlebell snatch build upper body strength and shoulder mobility. Hence, incorporating kettlebells into your HIIT workouts can contribute to a well-rounded fitness regimen that promotes strength and flexibility.

Promotion of Functional Fitness

Functional fitness is an exercise that improves the muscle groups and joint movements you use in everyday activities. Because kettlebell movements mimic many natural body movements – like lifting, pulling, or pushing – they enhance your functional fitness, making daily tasks easier. Combined with HIIT’s intense, varied nature, kettlebell exercises can significantly improve your overall strength, stability, and mobility, leading to better performance inside and outside the gym.

Choosing the Right Kettlebell for Your HIIT Workout

Picking the right kettlebell is critical in successfully incorporating this tool into your HIIT workouts. The following are factors to consider when selecting a kettlebell:


Selecting the right weight is crucial to ensure both effectiveness and safety. Too light, and you won’t get the full benefits of the exercises; too heavy, you risk injury. Your fitness level, strength, and the specific exercises you plan to do will dictate the appropriate weight.

As a general guide, beginners to kettlebell training might start with weights of 8-12 kg (18-26 lbs) for men and 6-8 kg (13-18 lbs) for women.

Intermediate users who have developed a level of comfort and strength with kettlebells could opt for weights around 16-20 kg (35-44 lbs) for men and 12-16 kg (26-35 lbs) for women.

Advanced kettlebell users, who have a high level of strength and have mastered the form of various kettlebell exercises, might choose weights of 24 kg (53 lbs) and upwards for men, and 18 kg (40 lbs) and upwards for women.

Remember, these are general suggestions. The correct weight for you will depend on your current strength level and the specific exercises you plan to perform.


The size of the kettlebell is another crucial factor. Standard competition kettlebells maintain the exact dimensions regardless of weight, benefiting consistency in form and grip. However, many non-competition kettlebells increase in size with weight. Make sure to choose one that feels comfortable and secure in your hand.


Kettlebells are typically made from cast iron or steel. Cast iron kettlebells increase in size as they get heavier and can have a more textured grip, which some find helps secure the kettlebell in their hand. Steel kettlebells, often used in competitions, maintain the same dimensions regardless of weight and usually have a smoother handle, reducing the potential for grip-related fatigue.

Suggested Kettlebell Exercises for Your HIIT Workouts

Some suggested kettlebell exercises that you can incorporate into your HIIT workouts.

Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is a foundational kettlebell exercise that works your hamstrings, glutes, hips, core, and back.

How to do it:

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes pointed slightly outward, and the kettlebell on the floor about a foot in front of you.
  • Hinge at the hips, grasp the kettlebell handle with both hands and pull the shoulders down and back.
  • Keeping your back straight, swing the kettlebell back between your legs.
  • Drive your hips forward, straighten your legs, and swing the kettlebell to chest height. Your body should form a straight line at the top of the swing.
  • Let the kettlebell fall, guiding it back between your legs.

Safety tips:

  • Ensure you use your hips, not your arms or back, to drive the movement.
  • Keep your core tight throughout the exercise.


Kettlebell Clean and Press

The kettlebell clean and press is a full-body exercise that works your legs, core, and upper body.

How to do it:

  • Start with feet shoulder-width apart and the kettlebell between them on the floor.
  • Squat down and grab the kettlebell with one hand.
  • In one motion, stand up, pull the kettlebell to your shoulder (the “clean”), then push the weight straight up overhead (the “press”).
  • Lower the weight back to your shoulder, then to the start position.

Safety tips:

  • Keep your back straight and core engaged throughout the exercise.
  • Use your legs and hips to generate power for the “clean” and “press” movements rather than relying on your arm strength alone.


Kettlebell Goblet Squat

The kettlebell goblet squat targets your lower body and core and can help improve lower body mobility.

How to do it:

  • Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart and hold the kettlebell by the horns at chest level.
  • Push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body as far as possible, keeping your back straight and chest up.
  • Pause, then push back up to the starting position.

Safety tips:

  • Ensure your knees are in line with your toes, and don’t let them cave in.
  • Keep your weight on your heels and make sure your back is straight throughout the movement.


Kettlebell Snatch

The kettlebell snatch is a body exercise that develops power, strength, and coordination.

How to do it:

  • Begin with the kettlebell on the floor between your feet, which should be shoulder-width apart.
  • Squat down and grab the kettlebell with one hand.
  • Quickly stand and pull the kettlebell up, finishing with the weight above your head in a straight-arm position.
  • Return the kettlebell to the starting position and repeat.

Safety tips:

  • Ensure that your movement is fluid and controlled.
  • Keep your core engaged throughout the exercise to protect your back.

In a HIIT regimen, these exercises can be performed for a set period, such as 30 seconds, followed by a short rest period of 10-15 seconds. You can choose one or two exercises for a single workout or perform all four in a circuit, repeating the course 2-3 times.

Sample HIIT Workouts Incorporating Kettlebells

Sample workouts for different fitness levels.

Beginner HIIT Workout with Kettlebells

This beginner-friendly HIIT workout focuses on mastering form and building foundational strength. Always remember, it’s better to perform an exercise correctly with a lighter weight than to lift heavier with improper form.

Kettlebell Goblet Squat: 30 seconds
Rest: 15 seconds
Single-arm Kettlebell Swing (right): 30 seconds
Rest: 15 seconds
Single-arm Kettlebell Swing (left): 30 seconds
Rest: 15 seconds
Kettlebell Deadlift: 30 seconds
Rest: 60 seconds
Repeat the circuit 3 times.

Intermediate HIIT Workout with Kettlebells

This intermediate workout introduces more complex movements and reduces rest times to boost intensity.

Kettlebell Swing: 40 seconds
Rest: 20 seconds
Kettlebell Clean and Press (right): 40 seconds
Rest: 20 seconds
Kettlebell Clean and Press (left): 40 seconds
Rest: 20 seconds
Kettlebell Goblet Squat: 40 seconds
Rest: 60 seconds
Repeat the circuit 3 times.

Advanced HIIT Workout with Kettlebells

This high-intensity advanced workout includes complex, challenging movements for those ready to push their limits.

Kettlebell Snatch (right): 45 seconds
Rest: 15 seconds
Kettlebell Snatch (left): 45 seconds
Rest: 15 seconds
Double Kettlebell Swing: 45 seconds
Rest: 15 seconds
Kettlebell Clean and Press (alternating arms): 45 seconds
Rest: 15 seconds
Kettlebell Goblet Squat to Press: 45 seconds
Rest: 60 seconds
Repeat the circuit 3-4 times.

Kettlebell & HIIT Recap

Incorporating kettlebells into HIIT workouts can powerfully amplify your fitness regimen, boosting calorie burn, enhancing muscle tone, improving cardiovascular fitness, and promoting functional fitness. The versatile and dynamic nature of kettlebell exercises makes them a perfect addition to the high-intensity, varied movements of HIIT, offering a potent combination for both strength and cardio training.

If you have any questions on the above or would like some advice on how we could help you with your fitness goal, don’t hesitate to visit one of our gyms in London and try one of our small group personal training sessions.

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