Complete Kettlebell Shoulder Workout

The shoulders are one of the most commonly injured joints in the body. This is why it is important to treat your shoulders well and exercise them regularly. A kettlebell shoulder workout will provide an excellent outlet for working on building up strength in your shoulders to help prevent injury and shape your body the way you want it.

Your Complete Kettlebell Shoulder Workout

Follow our complete kettlebell shoulder workout listed below. As with many of our kettlebell workouts, you might want to combine this routine with another to work out your abs or your arms.

Repeat it if you feel you need a more challenging workout. You can also follow new exercises by downloading kettlebell apps on your smartphone or by watching a kettlebell workout DVD.

Stay fit and healthy with this full-body exercise program.

Shoulder Shrugs: 16 reps, 3 sets

Shoulder shrugs are a great way to warm up your shoulders for the whole circuit while working the trapezius muscles. To do shoulder shrugs, stand up straight with your feet shoulder width apart.

Hold a kettlebell at your side in each hand and then lift the shoulders as high as you can, holding for a second at the top. Then lower the kettlebells into the original position and repeat.

Throughout the movement only the shoulders should be moving, and your arms should remain straight the whole time.

Silhouette of a person trying to lift a kettlebell on the floor

Kettlebell Shoulder Press: 15 reps, 2 sets

Any kettlebell upper body workout would be enhanced by shoulder presses. They work your main shoulder muscles to help you increase the size and strength of your shoulders.

Start the move by cleaning two kettlebells to your shoulders to get into the starting position. Press the kettlebells up until your arms are in the lock out position. Then, with control, lower the kettlebells back to your shoulder and repeat.

Be sure to contract your core and glute muscles for extra stability.

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Kettlebell Arm Bar: 4 reps each side, hold for 5 seconds each

The arm bar is a necessary kettlebell shoulder exercise to promote flexibility and stability in the shoulder joint. Doing this movement regularly should help alleviate any pain or stiffness in the shoulder.

To do an arm bar, start by laying on your back with a kettlebell in your left hand. Next, press your arm into a lockout position. You will keep your arm in this position for the entire duration of the movement.  

Get into your starting position by bringing your left knee up, keep your right leg straight, and bring your right arm straight above your head with your palm up. Then drive your left leg into the ground to roll your left leg over your right. Your left knee should be on the ground at a 90-degree angle from your hips and your head should be on your right bicep.

Once in this position, slowly extend your left leg as far as you can. You will then use your lat to pull your shoulder blade down for stability, and contract your left glute. Hold this position and then slowly reverse the movement to do the other side.

Hold the weight with both hands when switching arms to avoid getting hit by a heavy kettlebell. For this exercise it is best to pick a weight that feels lighter than what you would usually choose.

Arnold Press: 10 reps, 3 sets

Arnold presses are very similar to shoulder presses but with a rotation added in. This upper body kettlebell exercise works the main shoulder muscles. In the dumbbell variation it is done on a bench, but if you are using kettlebells it should be performed standing.

Start by cleaning two kettlebells to your shoulders. Next, press the kettlebells above your head into the lockout position. As you return to the starting position rotate your arms so that your palms are facing you and your forearms are side by side.

Rotate your arms so the palms are facing away from you as you press the kettlebells up again and repeat. Throughout the movement keep a neutral spine and keep your chin tucked so you don’t extend your neck.

Woman trying to swing a kettlebell with both hands

Two Handed Swing: 20 reps, 2 sets

The kettlebell swing is a great kettlebell workout that fits perfectly into an upper body routine. The move works almost every muscle in the body including the shoulders. If you want a serious calorie torcher that will also build your muscles, you can’t go wrong with the swing.

To do a swing, start with your feet shoulder width apart with the kettlebell in front of you. Then begin to bend over by hinging your hips and moving them backward, while keeping your back straight. Next grasp the kettlebell with an over hand grip and quickly “hike” the kettlebell backwards between your legs.

Then, quickly reverse the direction of the kettlebell by bringing your hips forward, straightening your legs, and squeezing your glutes. The momentum of this movement will allow the kettlebell to swing out in front of you. When the kettlebell reaches your chest height, contract your abs and let the momentum take it back down, while guiding it back between your legs.

Remember to keep your chest lifted and back straight throughout the entire movement.

If done incorrectly a swing can hurt more than help you. The most common mistake made when attempting the swing is to turn it into a squat. Remember to hinge from the hips not the knees, and keep your back straight for proper form.

Lateral Side Raises: 12 reps, 3 sets

This kettlebell shoulder exercise is a really popular one because it engages the trapezius and deltoid muscles. Plus it is pretty simple!

Lateral side raises are great for people who want to build width in their shoulders, but can benefit everyone. For this exercise make sure you pick a weight you can comfortably lift because if you are struggling to lift the kettlebells, the wrong muscles will take over and you won’t be getting the full effect of the move.

Start in an athletic stance holding a kettlebell at your side in each hand.

Begin to lift the kettlebells straight out to both sides until they are about shoulder height. Then lower them back to your sides with control. Let your elbows lead the motion and always keep the kettlebells parallel to the floor.


Doing kettlebell shoulder exercises are great to help build up your upper body, but regularly working your shoulders with kettlebells can also help to prevent injury. The shoulder is a common source of pain for people because it not properly exercised. This complete kettlebell shoulder workout will help to stop stiff shoulders and build up your muscles for your ideal physique.

Robert Lemus has been a natural competitor for 6 years, starting in Men’s Physique, then Bodybuilding, and then into Classic Physique. He is the Orange County Bodybuilding champion in 2016 for the Musclemania Organization. In 2018, he received his Pro Card with the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) in Classic Physique.