Is it possible to perform just one exercise a day and still achieve great results?
Could the simplicity of performing one exercise a day workouts be the answer to changing the way you look and feel?
With kettlebell exercises targeting so many muscles in one go they are a great candidate for quick and effective daily workouts.
Let’s dive a little deeper into single exercise workouts and see what the best kettlebell exercises are to use and why.
The benefits of one exercise a day workouts
Can performing the same exercise everyday be effective?
Let’s take a look at some of the advantages of one exercise a day workouts:
- Ease of workouts, just one exercise to learn
- More motivational due to the simplicity
- More time to focus and master one exercise
- Less equipment and weight changes
- Faster workouts, get more done in less time
Here are some of the negatives:
- Can get repetitive and boring
- Develop body imbalances
- Problems with overuse injuries
- Body adapts to the exercise so results plateau
- Exercises can be challenging for beginners
Using just one exercise a day workouts can be very effective for some people over the short term but when performed for long periods of time many of the problems listed above can start to occur.
If you could only do one exercise what should it be?
With so many exercises to choose from deciding on just one exercise isn’t easy.
Here’s a selection of considerations for the best single exercise:
- Will the exercise improve my cardio?
- Is the exercise effective for fat loss?
- Does the exercise address the total body?
- How will the exercise affect my posture?
- Does the exercise strengthen my abs and core?
- Is the exercise beneficial for sports?
- Will the exercise improve my joint mobility?
Careful thought needs to taken into exactly what goals the exercise should achieve along with how comfortable you are at performing the movement.
As kettlebells are mostly full body exercises and activate sometimes 600+ muscles in one movement they make an excellent candidate for the single best exercise.
5 best single kettlebell exercises for total body
Rather than choosing just one kettlebell exercise I thought I would offer up 5 different exercises that are all prime candidates for the position of best one exercise.
Here are my top 5 single exercises for the total body:
1 Kettlebell Renegade Row
Why you should perform the kettlebell renegade row
The renegade row works both the front and the back of the body.
The chest, triceps and shoulder muscles are used to maintain good alignment over the kettlebells whereas the core muscles have to work hard to prevent the body from collapsing.
As the kettlebell is rowed upwards the back of the body including the shoulders, trapezius, rhomboids and biceps are used. The spinal erectors and buttocks are also activated to maintain good alignment of the body.
Single arm rows generate tremendous rotational forces from toe to the opposite shoulder. You will need great core strength to deal with both the rotational demands and the plank position.
Variations for beginners
Performing the renegade row correctly isn’t easy. Beginners should first master holding the plank position before progressing to a single arm box row and finally the full on renegade row exercise.
Discover more: Master the renegade row with 5 progressions for beginners
Watch the kettlebell renegade row below:
2 Kettlebell Turkish Get Up
Why you should perform the Turkish get up
The Turkish get up activates most of the muscles in the body but more importantly takes the body through many of the essential movement patterns.
You will need good core strength, mobility and overhead stabilising strength in order to complete the exercise effectively.
Apart from the full body muscle activation the Turkish get up also acts as an assessment tool used to identify any movement and stabilising deficiencies.
Any movement weaknesses will be highlighted in other exercises and in daily life so they should be strengthened by repeating the relevant phase of the exercise.
For example, when sitting up from the lying down position a failure to keep the one heel on the floor could signal weak core rotational strength and an overuse of the hip flexors.
Variations for beginners
The Turkish get up is a complicated exercise that should be broken down into the relevant phases.
Beginners should practice the exercise without a kettlebell before adding load. Next the half get up can help strengthen the core muscles before progressing further.
Discover more: Ultimate guide to the kettlebell Turkish get up
Watch the kettlebell Turkish get up below:
3 Kettlebell One Hand Swing
Why you should perform the kettlebell one hand swing
The kettlebell swing will activate almost all the muscles in the body, strengthen the lower back and develop explosive hips for sports.
You can also challenge your cardio without the need to even move your feet with the kettlebell swing.
A good quality kettlebell swing will integrate the body perfectly resulting in an explosive hip thrust that drives the kettlebell up to chest height.
Unlike many favoured weight training exercises the kettlebell swing works the often neglected muscles in the back of the body improving posture and balancing out all our everyday forward flexing.
Performing the kettlebell swing with one hand also places rotational forces through the core demanding good core stabilisation and strength.
A vast improvement in grip strength is also achieved which is invaluable for maintaining healthy wrists, elbows and shoulders.
Variations for beginners
The kettlebell swing is a technical exercise requiring good timing and hip movement.
Beginners should start with the single arm deadlift exercise before progressing to the two hand swing and finally the one hand swing.
Discover more: 4 steps to master the kettlebell swing for beginners
Watch the kettlebell one hand swing below:
4 Kettlebell Side Lunge and Clean
Why you should perform the kettlebell side lunge and clean
The side lunge is an important movement pattern that enhances single leg strength, improves hip mobility and teaches the body to move laterally (frontal plane).
Many muscles are often neglected when performing exercises in the saggital plane (forwards and backwards) so learning to exercise sideways forces those sleepy muscles to wake up.
Adding the kettlebell clean to this exercise vastly increases the complexity and neurological load.
The clean will increase the buttock activation as well as strengthening the back, from lower to upper.
Variations for beginners
Beginners should master both exercises, the clean and the side lunge before putting them together into one movement.
Care should be taken with the side lunge as it requires good hip and groin mobility so start shallow and get deeper as you warm up.
Discover more: Stop banging your wrists and master the kettlebell clean
Watch the kettlebell side lunge and clean below:
5 Kettlebell Thruster
Why you should perform the kettlebell thruster
The kettlebell thruster takes the body from a flexor to an extensor movement working most of the muscles in the body.
The hips, quads, hamstrings, core and back muscles are activated during the squat and the shoulders, triceps, and upper back are used during the press.
Due to the dynamic nature and full body activation of this exercise the thruster is also very cardiovascular without the need to even move your feet.
Heavier weights can be tolerated by the shoulders because momentum is generated from the bottom of the squat to the overhead press.
The thruster is also excellent for opening up the lower back and pumping nutrients into the spine keeping it healthy.
Variations for beginners
Beginners should first learn to squat before adding in the overhead press element. The goblet squat is the best place to begin.
Squats must not be cut short and taken all the way to the bottom so that the thighs reach parallel with the floor to fully activate the buttocks. Two handed thrusters can be used before progressing to the one handed variation.
Discover more: 7 kettlebell squat variations you need to know
Watch the kettlebell thruster with two hands below:
Which one kettlebell exercise to choose?
Any of the 5 kettlebell exercises above will reward you will great results but in my opinion there is no one kettlebell exercise that you can just perform over and over again indefinitely.
Adding variety is important, not only to help alleviate boredom but also to balance out the body and continue to challenge the muscular system.
After all, the body is a master adapter that will get used to any type of movement quickly slowly diminishing the returns unless you continually change the reps, weight, speed of movement etc.
Repeatedly performing one exercise for a period of 3 – 4 weeks is fine but ultimately you are going to need to make some changes if you want the results to keep coming in.
One kettlebell exercise a day workout program
An effective way to use the above 5 kettlebell exercises is to focus on one kettlebell exercise a day but change the exercise each day.
Example of a weekly one exercise a day workout program:
- Monday: Swing
- Tuesday: Turkish Get Up
- Wednesday: Side Lunge and Clean
- Thursday: Renegade Row
- Friday: Thruster
Changing the exercise each day allows you to balance out the important movement patterns while at the same time performing just one full body kettlebell exercise a day.
How many reps and sets for your workout?
Just as changing exercises is important to prevent the body’s over familiarity with the movement so is amending the repetitions and sets of the exercise.
An easy way to work out your reps and sets is to total up your reps and then divide them by the amount of sets.
For example the Thruster reps could look like this:
50 total reps =
- Workout 1 = 5 x 10 reps
- Workout 2 = 2 x 25 reps
- Workout 3 = 1 x 50 reps
- Workout 4 = 2 x 15 reps + 2 x 10 reps
Deciding on the total amount of reps will depend on the exercise, here are the totals of reps I recommend for each exercise.
- Kettlebell Swing x 50 – 100 total reps each side
- Turkish Get Up x 5 – 15 total reps each side
- Side Lunge and Clean x 30 – 50 total reps each side
- Renegade Row x 20 – 50 total reps each side
- Thruster x 30 – 50 total reps each side
These numbers are just a guide for you to work with and may vary depending on your kettlebell weight and goals.
What size kettlebell to use?
Changing your kettlebell weight and rep ranges will deliver different results.
As a general guide the heavier the kettlebell the more strength focused the workout and the lighter the more endurance based.
- Heavy Kettlebell + 1 – 6 reps = Strength Workout
- Medium Kettlebell + 7 – 12 reps = Muscle Building Workout
- Light Kettlebell + 13+ reps = Endurance Workout
As we are all different you will have to make your own judgement as to what is a light kettlebell and what is heavy one.
My advice is to start off light and work on improving movement skills for a few weeks before adding more weight.
A good starting weight for women is an 8kg and for men a 12kg or 16kg.
Discover more: What kettlebell weights to use for what exercise
Conclusion to one exercise a day workout
Performing one exercise per day can be highly effective but using the same exercise over and over again can cause problems.
A better solution is to complete a single exercise every day but rotate through 5 different exercises in order to balance the body and avoid workout plateaus and overuse injuries.
If you follow the 80/20 rule then you can generate 80% of your results in just 20% of the time by using the correct exercises.
Above I have listed my 5 single best kettlebell exercises for the total body.
Each exercise works together with the others in order to prevent any muscle imbalances by addressing all our natural movement patterns.
You are also encouraged to work through the different reps ranges and weight selections in order to challenge your different muscle fibres.
Take care and enjoy the workouts.
Have you tried any of these one workout per day exercises? Let me know below….
Vincent Gaglio says
I so love your workouts. I take it very slow and need to purchase some kettlebells, I am needing to work on Balance, and core and leg strength, I am looking to start running, example. Couch to 5k, etc, sorry about the comment that is not what you asked. I recently bought a good amount of your workouts, I must start going through them,,, I hope you read the comment any exercises that you think I need to accomplish this. Please don’t hesitate to let me know.
Ricardo Corradini says
Loved the one exercise approach. And the suggestion of rotating these excellent exercises is great also. Thank you!
Phil Ruede says
Great new routine! I’m 70 so I made adjustments based on ROM still available. Doing: 1 arm swing; racked squat/press; renegade row; snatch; clean & press. One exercise per day. Results to follow. Completed 50 renegade rows today.👍
Hi Greg. Is it fair to say that the snatch as well as the clean and press could belong to this group of exercises? Are there any others?
Greg Brookes says