Kettlebells are fantastic for building muscle and losing weight.
In this article, we explain in detail whether you need multiple kettlebells or whether one is sufficient. We also provide some example workouts that you can do with only one, and two kettlebells.
Here’s how many kettlebells you need:
Having multiple pairs of kettlebells is great, but you can get an effective full body workout with just one kettlebell!
Is one kettlebell enough?
It can be. There’s an elegant simplicity to training with one kettlebell. Since the load is already decided, all you have to worry about is what exercises to do and how many of them.
With one medium weight, you may be able to perform all the major exercises:
- Turkish get-ups
- Goblet squats
- Kettlebell swings
- Presses (you might need to swap this for push press if your upper body strength lags behind)
- Farmers walks
Medium is different for everyone, of course, but I think for most people this would fall in the 16-24kg category.
As someone who is a little heavier and stronger (weight 95kg, pressing 32kg bells comfortably) I could still train very hard with a single 16kg bell by manipulating rep schemes and rest periods.
Do you need 2 kettlebells?
If you’re on a budget, one kettlebell is great to start out with. You absolutely don’t need two kettlebells.
But if you’re able to spring for a second bell, you have choices.
1. You can either go with a heavier weight that allows you to progress the exercises you’ve been learning.
2. You can buy a second bell the same weight. This doubles the weight you have access to for some exercises, and opens up a greater exercise selection:
- Double kettlebell front squat
- Double swing
- Double clean
- Double snatch
- Double press
You can also access alternate movements, like see-saw pressing and alternating cleans.
When should you buy another kettlebell?
It depends on your needs.
Of the two choices above, if you’ve already maxed out every movement and find the weight light for all movements, I would go for the heavier bell first.
Your only other option is to cut rest periods, but you’ll still need heavier weight to drive adaptation at some point.
If you’d like your workouts to be shorter, you’re working both sides of the body at the same time. If this is the case and you are still finding the weight you have challenging, go with a second bell of the same weight.
Example workout with one kettlebell
What might a beginners workout look like?
When you’re starting out, you can keep the training extremely simple. Turkish get-ups, swings and goblet squats cover most of the bases. That’s great… if you already know how to do Turkish get-ups, swings and goblet squats.
But the trouble with suggesting a beginners workout is that some of the key kettlebell movements are quite complex and challenging to learn. Once you’ve learned the movements, the workouts themselves are fairly rudimentary to put together.
It’s worth investing in coaching from a kettlebell instructor. Reputable instructors are listed with companies such as StrongFirst and Dragondoor.
But for the sake of this article, let’s assume you don’t have access to tuition where you are. You have one kettlebell in hand, and are self taught. Let’s put something together based on ease of execution.
Swings are one of the key players in kettlebell training. But they are complicated to learn, and easily butchered when trying to “DIY” it from videos. They are out.
Turkish get-ups look complex, but aren’t hard to learn with a good instructor. They are out.
Goblet squats are simple to learn and execute. We’ll keep them in.
Next, let’s look for a pressing movement. If you can press the bell you have, that’s the exercise. If you can’t, you may be able to floor/bridge press it. So we’ll keep one or both of these variations in.
Cleans and snatches? Out.
Rows are simple. In.
Farmers walks are dead simple. You hold the weight in your hand and go for a walk. In.
Putting it together
Let’s put our simplest movements together.
- Goblet squats
- Press/floor press/bridge press
- Farmers walk
Okay! That’s pretty good.
What rep ranges are appropriate per exercise? Keeping with the theme of simplicity, let’s say around 10 for the first three movements. That’s reasonable for a medium weight.
For farmers walks, you can use time or distance, or just go by feel. Because the weight isn’t going to be that heavy, this will be more long distance/endurance work, switching hands when the grip fatigues.
How many sets should we do?
Again, let’s set a reasonable limit. 3-6 sets for the first 3 movements. This would amount to a roughly 20-45 minute workout when factoring in rest periods and switching hands for the presses and rows.
Our super simple one kettlebell workout
- 10 goblet squats
- 10 press/floor press/bridge press (depending on your pressing strength) per arm
- 10 rows per arm
- 3-6 rounds
- One arm farmers walk, switching hands as needed
That’s about as simple as we can get, and it’s a pretty good start! You could train for quite some time like this before seeking more weight or more complicated movements.
Over time though, your body will adapt, so you’re going to need to seek out more weight in order to continue progressing.
Example workout with two kettlebells
These are a bit more advanced. Assuming you have sound technique in all these movements, they are all great options.
The two kettlebell, one exercise workout
One of the great things about double kettlebell training is you can just do one thing, and that’s the workout! Here’s you go:
Double kettlebell clean and press.
There you go! Can it be this simple? It can!
The double kettlebell carry workout
I’ve been enjoying this dead simple workout for nearly two decades now. These really work your midsection, as the asymmetric weight forces you to stabilise to stay upright.
You take a heavy bell and a lighter bell. You’re going to go for a long walk, mixing the following up:
Offset carry – both kettlebells at your sides, swapping hands occasionally for balance
Mixed carry – heavy kettlebell at your side, lighter kettlebell overhead
During the hard lockdown in 2020, I would go for a walk around the farm I was staying at with a 16 and a 24. I loved to do this when it was raining. I would slip and slide and land in the mud and laugh. I think I went a bit mad out there.
In my younger years I would carry a 24 high and a 32 low, doing laps of my garden in the snow.
It feels pretty rugged to get out in nature with a couple of kettlebells!
Bonus workout: The Eagle by Dan John
This workout is simple and brutal. It was invented by legendary strength coach Dan John.
Without putting the weight down, using 2 x 24kg kettlebells:
- 8 double kettlebell front squats
- Farmers walk 20m
- Repeat for 8 rounds
For most people, this is a real challenge. Enjoy!
I’ve been in the fitness and strength training industry for nearly a decade. In that time, I’ve gained 30 pounds of muscle, written hundreds of articles, and reviewed dozens of fitness supplements. As for my educational background, I’m a currently studying for my Active IQ Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training.