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She may have played a technologically advanced super soldier in 2019’s Terminator: Dark Fate, but when it came to getting into prime fighting shape for the role, Mackenzie Davis sometimes needed nothing more than one very low-tech kettlebell.
Often left with only what they could scrounge up at hotel gyms during filming, Davis and her trainer, Oxygen Elite Ambassador Josefine Holmberg, got creative, with many of the following one-kettlebell moves making their way into the regular workout rotation. “They are some of my favorite upper-body exercises, and I also ended up leaning on them when I was in lockdown during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic,” Holmberg adds.
As with her lower-body-focused kettlebell routine — which you can check out by clicking here — NPC Bikini competitor Holmberg offers two options for this kettlebell upper-body workout. The first is a more endurance-oriented “AMRAP” approach, in which you do as many total rounds of the six-move circuit as you can in 20 minutes, and a more standard muscle-building style, in which you do four sets anywhere from eight to 20 reps of each exercise.
Equipment Required: One kettlebell or dumbbell (or more if you want to have various weight levels to choose from) and an exercise mat if you prefer to use one while lying on the floor.
Josefine Holmberg’s 20-Minute Upper-Body Kettlebell AMRAP Circuit
Set a timer for 20 minutes and do as many rounds as possible of the following six exercises:
|Half-Kneeling Shoulder Press||6 reps (per arm)|
|Tripod Row||8 reps (per arm)|
|One-Kettlebell Chest Press in a Glute Bridge||12 reps|
|Squat-Position Concentration Curl||10 reps|
|Kneeling Overhead Triceps Extension||10 reps|
|Kettlebell Russian Twist||30 seconds|
Josefine Holmberg’s Upper-Body Functional Muscle Routine
Do the following six exercises bodybuilding style. Complete all sets and reps of one movement at a time, resting 30 to 60 seconds between sets:
|Half-Kneeling Shoulder Press||4||8 reps (per arm)|
|Tripod Row||4||15 reps (each arm)|
|One-Kettlebell Chest Press in a Glute Bridge||4||20 reps|
|Squat-Position Concentration Curl||4||15 reps|
|Kneeling Overhead Triceps Extension||4||15 reps|
|Kettlebell Russian Twist||4||30-60 seconds|
Half-Kneeling Shoulder Press
How-To: Get into a half-kneeling position, one knee on the floor and the other bent 90 degrees with your front foot planted. Hold a kettlebell in the side rack position at shoulder level on the same side as the leg that’s back with your knee on the floor. From here, keep your torso upright and core tight as you flex your deltoids and triceps to lift the kettlebell straight overhead. Repeat for reps, then switch leg positions and perform the press with the opposite arm.
Holmberg’s Pointers: “Slow and controlled reps are the best way to approach these to keep the tension in your delts — you don’t want to be jerking the weight, shifting your body or leaning to the side in your efforts to press the kettlebell.”
How-To: Get down into a modified plank position, your lower body balanced on your toes behind you, your legs slightly wider than hip-width apart, and one hand holding the handle of a kettlebell while the other is placed firmly on the floor. From this position, pull the kettlebell up to your flank and then slowly lower it back to the floor. Complete the prescribed reps per set for one side, then switch arms and repeat the sequence.
Holmberg’s Pointers: “The position for this is essentially a plank, except you’re balancing on one arm. As with a plank, the idea is to keep your body straight from head to heel without letting your hips collapse downward. Your feet should be set a little bit outside hip width for balance.”
One-Kettlebell Chest Press in a Glute Bridge
How-To: Assume a modified glute bridge, with your shoulders and head on the floor and your glutes elevated, your knees bent and both feet planted. You’ll hold a kettlebell securely in both hands at your lower chest. From here, press the weight straight up over your lower chest to full elbow extension (but not hyperextended lockout), squeeze your pectorals for a brief one-count, then lower the kettlebell back to the start. Continue repping while maintaining the bridge throughout.
Holmberg’s Pointers: “It’s easy to let the triceps take over, so you’ll want to concentrate on the pectoral muscles contracting to drive the weight upward. While I cradle the kettlebell in my hands in the photos, you can instead grip it by the handle with both hands for additional safety if that’s more comfortable for you.”
Squat-Position Concentration Curl
How-To: Assume a deep squat position, your elbows on the inside of your knees and holding the sides of the kettlebell handle in each hand. Remaining in the squat, flex your biceps to curl the weight up to your chest, then lower it back down. Don’t let the kettlebell touch down to the floor between reps in order to keep the tension on the working muscles.
Holmberg’s Pointers: “Throughout the exercise, keep your chest up and shoulders shifted back and down — your eyes should be focused forward. The benefits of this move are just as much from the curling of the weight as they are from the holding of the deep squat, which works your core and lower body isometrically.”
Kneeling Overhead Triceps Extension
How-To: Kneel with your legs tucked directly underneath your hips. Hold a kettlebell with both hands, securely gripping the handle, thumbs around the point where the handle meets the round body of the weight. Cup the kettlebell firmly with all your fingers.
Keeping your core engaged and torso fully upright, you’ll start by extending your arms to lift the kettlebell straight overhead in an upside-down position, with the handle facing downward. Next, lower the kettlebell slowly and carefully behind your head until your elbows reach a 90-degree angle. Reverse the motion by strongly flexing your triceps to retrace the arc until the kettlebell is overhead and your elbows are again fully extended. Repeat the sequence for reps.
Holmberg’s Pointers: “Stabilize your shoulder joints, keeping them locked in place throughout, and keep your elbows tucked in close to your head — don’t let them flare outward as you lower the weight.”
Kettlebell Russian Twist
How-To: Sit balanced on your glutes with your knees partially bent and your heels touching the floor while your torso is up, forming a 45-degree angle with the ground. Hold one kettlebell in both hands on your lap, elbows bent and hands on each side of the handle. First, twist your torso to the right as far as you can, then slowly twist all the way back to the left, keeping the weight elevated above your hips and thighs throughout.
Holmberg’s Pointers: “To increase the difficulty, you can try doing these with your legs elevated off the floor so that you’re only balancing on your glutes as you bring the kettlebell back and forth to each side of your body.”