Taking care of yourself becomes critical as you age—a big part of that is exercise. People in their 60s and older should make exercise part of their daily and weekly routine because it can delay common health problems. Exercise can also lower blood pressure, lower your risk of heart disease, help you get better sleep, and improve balance.
Just moving your body regularly is enough to feel the positive effects of exercise, but if you’re ready to make progress in your training, a great way to do it is to build muscle strength. Weight training is one of the best ways to do this, and using kettlebells (or KBs) is a safe, easy way to use weights.
Kettlebell exercises for older adults can increase muscle and bone density, improve grip strength, improve mental health, and increase confidence. Kettlebells are convenient, compact and require only a little space, and the five movements below cover all major muscle groups to ensure you get the most out of your kettlebell workouts.
Be sure to use the kettlebell correctly as instructed. There are some safety precautions for older adults when doing kettlebell exercises: If you have heart problems, avoid excessive exercise to avoid stress on your heart; if you have wrist or knee problems, kettlebells may not be for you. Of course, you should always get a medical certificate before starting any new exercise program.
Kettlebells are usually labeled and sold in kilograms, so keep an eye on this to make sure you don’t pick up too much weight. A weight of 8 to 12 kilograms (or 17 to 26 pounds) is recommended when starting a kettlebell training program—but depending on your fitness level, you may want to start lighter.
1. Seated Box/Bench Squat
Squats are a great lower body exercise that works almost every muscle in the legs. Adding kettlebells can help focus balance and keep your joints supple. Using the seat as a squat depth target is a great way to get an idea of how low you should be aiming.
- Find a sturdy surface (like a chair, bench, or box) and stand in front of it.
- Hold the handle of the kettlebell or the bell at chest level.
- Feet shoulder-width apart, with balanced weight on your feet.
- Keeping your chest elevated, push your hips back and down toward the chair or box while shifting your weight onto your heels. Touch the chair or box with your buttocks.
- Press with your heels to resume standing.
Once you are able to squat below the depth where your hips are parallel to your knees, or you have established good balance, you can advance the movement by getting off the bench.
2. One-legged squat to the bench/box
This single-leg squat takes the seated squat a step further by isolating each leg and builds your single-leg strength. Keeping your heels on the ground will help with balance and allow you to focus on using the right muscles (you should really feel this in your quads, glutes, and hamstrings).
- Stand in front of a bench or box. Extend your left leg and place your heel on the ground. (This will be the still leg.)
- Put your weight on your right leg and push your hips back toward the point of contact (box/bench). As you lower, bend your right leg to 90 degrees, with your knee aligned with your toes. Keep your left or stationary leg straight.
- Once your hips touch your point of contact, push your hips up and finish forward. Repeat 8 times, then switch sides.
To make this move work best for you, try lifting the legs off the ground (beginners), lowering the box (intermediate), or removing the box entirely (advanced).
3. Bend over and row to KB Fly
Focusing on both the upper and lower body is important for total body strength, and this move will help develop the muscles in your back and shoulders. In rowing, really focus on pulling your shoulders back. You want the pull back from the muscles around the shoulder blades.
- Hold the kettlebell in your right hand and stand about two feet in front of the bench/box. Bend your waist and knees and place your left hand on the bench/box so that you are in a standing tabletop position with your knees under your hips and your left wrist under your shoulders. Try to keep your back straight.
- Holding the kettlebell in your right hand, pull your right shoulder back from your ear. Make sure your elbows are close to your body and pull your right elbow back.
- Complete the bent-over row by extending your arms fully down. Then, complete the flight: Keeping the right arm straight, pull the arm laterally away from the body until the hand is in line with the shoulder.
- Bring your arm back to your side and repeat 8 times, then switch sides.
To make this exercise easier, you can start with a staggered pose and split the exercise into two parts. If you want a challenge, buy time within 30 seconds on each side.
The goal of the intensely named “cranium shredder” move is to work your triceps, an often weaker muscle. Make sure you start with a lower weight and work your way up to that weight – you might be surprised how tired your triceps get after a few repetitions.
- Lie on your back on a bench or on the floor.
- Hold the bell of the kettlebell.
- Place your arms straight in front of your chest and bend only your elbows.
- Pull the kettlebell toward your forehead.
- When your elbows reach 90 degrees, push the kettlebell up.
5. Reverse Lunge Knee Press
This is the most advanced of these knowledge base exercises. We are working on mobility, strength and balance. On its own, it’s a full-body move: you’ll feel the kettlebell pressing on your shoulders, while the lunge is on your quads and glutes.
- Begin by holding the KB’s bell at chest level.
- Step your left foot back about three feet and bend your knees to 90 degrees while pressing your left knee down. You don’t need to touch the ground with your left knee, but the closer you get, the more effective this move will be.
- Push the kettlebell overhead at the same time as you take a step back.
- Push your right leg apart and push your left leg forward and up. Your left knee should end up toward your chest. Hold for 1 to 2 seconds to establish balance. That is a representative.
- Repeat 8 times before switching legs.
To make this exercise easier, break it into two separate parts. First, study the mobility of the reverse lunge. Once you feel strong, start your knee drive.