Five moves to build full-body muscle, and all you need is a kettlebell

This short routine works your upper and lower body and strengthens your core with a single weight

Man performing kettlebell swings outside
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Putting your workout on the back burner can be tempting when you're tight on time. But you don't need a gym full of equipment or hours to spare to work your whole body, just 20 minutes and a single kettlebell. 

Whether you regularly work out at home or want to add short blasts of exercise into your day, investing in one of the best kettlebells is a great idea. These off-center weights help develop your core, a section of mid-body muscle responsible for balance, stability, and circulation. 

That's one of the reasons personal trainer Rhiannon Bailey's short routine is so effective. There are just five moves, and you'll do four rounds of each; two holding the weight in your left hand and two with the weight in your right hand. 

Bailey has designed the routine to engage multiple muscles simultaneously, which helps you pack an effective session into just 20 minutes. The aim is to train for 45 seconds, take a 15-second rest, then start on the next exercise. 

You'll need to perfect your form to get the most from your training and avoid injury (a particular concern when working with weights). Fortunately, you can follow along with Bailey's demonstrations to practice your technique before you start. 

Watch Rhiannon Bailey's five-move kettlebell workout

This exercise style is known as high-intensity resistance training (HIRT), where you work intensely in short bursts with minimal rest. This works your muscles hard in a short time, which is ideal if you find your time squeezed by work, social commitments, or family events. 

Plus, it raises your heart rate more than during an equivalent steady-paced routine and burns more energy, too. Short breaks mean your heart rate stays high, which helps create longer-term changes, like boosting your metabolism (the amount of energy you burn during the day). 

If this sounds like high-intensity interval training (HIIT), it is but with a focus on strength-building moves rather than cardio-focused exercises. Both techniques are an effective way to lose weight sustainably, which is why many people also take on a HIIT workout for fat loss

Bailey's choice of exercises also plays a role here, as squats and push-ups are great examples of compound exercises that work muscles all over your body for improved efficiency compared to single-muscle exercises like biceps curls.  

But the most bang for your buck comes from the kettlebell swing. This single move works your upper and lower body, strengthens your core, boosts your metabolism, and burns fat. This is also why you'll probably feel the effects of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) the next day.

Small tears in your muscle fibers cause this post-workout pain, and your body needs protein to repair and strengthen your muscles. You can get your daily intake from your diet, but the best protein powders for weight loss are a great way to stay topped up and build lean muscle. 

James Frew
Fitness Editor

James is a London-based journalist and Fitness Editor at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.

In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.