Marcus Filly shares: His favorite upper body kettlebell exercises

Marcus Filly shares 7 essential moves to build your arms, chest, and shoulders.

If you’re short on equipment and time, all you need is one kettlebell to get a great upper body pump with these exercises, courtesy of trainer Marcus Filly, a former CrossFit Games competitor and proponent of “functional bodybuilding”.

“The kettlebell is perhaps the best tool in the entire gym for minimalist training,” says Filly. “With a single implement, you’re going to get a wide variety of training completed. All you have to do is just change the grip on the kettlebell, the position of your lower body, the cadence of your repetitions, and suddenly you can create hundreds of training variations.”

Add the following seven exercises (which include both compound and isolation exercises) to your workouts to help you build upper body strength and muscle. If you want one standalone hypertrophy session, Filly outlines a superset structure below as well.

Want more variety? Filly has also outlined his favorite lower body kettlebell moves, too.

Crush Grip 90/90 Floor Press

“Placing your hands and knees at a 90 degree angle is going to demand more stability from your core and your upper body in this exercise,” says Filly. “The crush grip simply means applying pressure to the outsides of the kettlebell. That inward pressure is going to mimic the contraction of a dumbbell or cable fly.”

He notes you should feel a full chest and triceps stimulus during this exercise.

Dual Grip KB Pushup

For this drill, you’ll place your hands in two different positions: a hammer and a narrow grip. This move targets your chest and triceps, but you should feel it mostly in your triceps.

“The hammer grip has one hand in front of the other. This is going to promote a narrow elbow position in the pushup, while the other grip will promote a wider elbow position,” says Filly.

Horn Grip Curl

“The horn grip curl is similar to a rope cable curl. It’s a very, very strong position for your upper arms,” says Filly. “It’s going to allow you to lift a heavier kettlebell, and also go deeper into your repetition count on the curl to get a greater stimulus.”

Tall Kneeling Hammer Grip KB Curl

“This subtle variation of flipping the kettlebell upside down and moving to the knees will change the stimulus in the bicep considerably,” says Filly. “Tall kneeling positions like this demand more stability from your hips and your trunks, and also add a slight degree of difficulty to the curl itself. The hammer grip places a different tension on your biceps and your forearms.”

He notes by turning the kettlebell over and pointed up, it pulls your arms forward opposed to directly underneath your hands like in the horn grip for a stronger forearm workout.

Half Kneeling KB Curl Eccentric

“The controlled slow eccentric is a powerful way to overload any muscle, in particular the bicep,” says Filly. “The half kneeling position provides a very stable platform so you can easily clean the kettlebell back up to the top of the repetition, and you can press your elbow into the side so that it really isolates the body on the way down (like a preacher curl).”

Filly wants you to think about getting your upper arm pressed into your ribs so you can really isolate the bicep.

Upright Row to Strict Press

“This unilateral is going to bring a rotation. You have to navigate the bell around your forearm to arrive into a pressing position,” says Filly. “The long range of motion, the multiple angles of force, and the time under tension of this exercise place a lot of demand on the shoulder. You are sure to hit just about every muscle from your deltoid to your traps and to your rotator cuff. “

Tall Kneeling Hammer Grip Tricep Overhead Extension

“With this added reach over your head with the kettlebell, your core and your trunk muscles are going to be getting yet another great workout,” says Filly. “The grip and the position of the bell in this tricep exercise is key. You want that weight of the kettlebell positioned above the hands when your arms are extended overhead, you’re going to find that your triceps are under constant tension throughout this entire lift, giving them a great workout.”

For a 20 to 25 minute hypertrophy workout, Filly suggests the following supersets:

Superset 1

3 sets of each back and forth
Crush Grip 90/90 Floor Press: 10 to 12 reps
Dual Grip KB Pushup (Hammer + Narrow Grip): 6 reps per grip

Superset 2

2 sets of each back and forth
Horn Grip Curls: 10 to 12 reps
Tall Kneeling Hammer Grip KB Curl: 8 to 10 reps
Half Kneeling KB Curl Eccentric: 6 reps per arm

Superset 3

3 sets of each back and forth
Upright Row to Strict Press: 8 reps per arm
Tall Kneeling Hammer Grip Triceps Overhead Extension: 10 to 12 reps


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