Typically when you think of "the best" strength-building exercises, an image of a barbell laden with a whole slew of 45s comes to mind. And sure, those bulbous handled weights can be heavy. But, kettlebells can be just as good of a muscle-pumping tool.

“Kettlebells build strength quickly because of how we train with them,” says Bob Garon, owner of Synergy Kettlebell Fitness in Northern Illinois. “The body must work to stabilize itself with each joint's smaller muscles supporting our big prime mover muscles, so they grow stronger as one unit.”

Not only that, they don’t even need to be insanely heavy to accomplish this. “Because kettlebell exercises provide much greater tension, a person can decrease their working load by 70% to 80% and still gain muscle strength and size because the overall recruitment of the musculoskeletal system is much higher,” says Philadelphia personal trainer Joe Kekoanui, owner of Huddle Reactive Sports Training and a certified Kettlebell Athletics instructor.

To choose your weight, start lighter and get your form down first. The most important thing is to be able to finish the work maintaining the same good form you start with. Once you’re a master at the swing/snatch/jerk, you can add weight from there. Try these strength-focused workouts, designed by Kekoanui and Garon.

Workout: 1

Warmup:

5 Inchworm into a low lunge and twist

25 Air squats

25 Shoulder rolls, forward and backward

20 Glute bridges

10 Judo sit-outs, each direction

Workout

With as heavy a kettlebell as you can manage, do 8-10 good reps each of:

Double-arm KB swing

Alternating KB renegade row

Two-hand KB goblet squat

Double-arm KB high pull

x4

Workout 2

Warmup:

5 Inchworm into a low lunge and twist

25 Air squats

25 Shoulder rolls, forward and backward

20 Glute bridges

10 Judo sit-outs, each direction

10 Judo sit-outs, each direction

Workout:

With as heavy a kettlebell as you can manage, do 8-10 good reps each of:

Single-arm KB swing, each side

Single-arm KB hanging lateral lunge, each side

Two-hand KB deadlift

Static goblet squat with curl (holding KB in both hands, curl while holding deep squat)

x4

Workout 3

Warmup:

5 Inchworm into a low lunge and twist

25 Air squats

25 Shoulder rolls, forward and backward

20 Glute bridges

10 Judo sit-outs, each direction

Workout:

With as heavy a kettlebell as you can manage, do 8-10 good reps each of:

Single-arm KB clean, each side

Single-arm KB hanging reverse lunge, each side

Single-arm KB military press, each side

Two-hand KB deadlift

x4

Workout 4

Warmup:

5 Inchworm into a low lunge and twist

25 Air squats

25 Shoulder rolls, forward and backward

20 Glute bridges

10 Judo sit-outs, each direction

Workout:

With as heavy a kettlebell as you can manage, do 8-10 good reps each of:

Double KB swing

Single-arm KB clean and forward lunge, each

Single-arm KB snatch

Single-arm KB clean into a push press

x4

Workout 5

Warmup:

5 Inchworm into a low lunge and twist

25 Air squats

25 Shoulder rolls, forward and backward

20 Glute bridges

10 Judo sit-outs, each direction

Workout:

With as heavy a kettlebell as you can manage, do 8-10 good reps each of:

Double KB front squat

4 Single KB windmills, each arm

6 Double KB clean and military press

8 Single-arm high pull, each side

x4

Workout 6

Warmup:

10-30 seconds each:

Alternating sidebends

Standing backbend to forward fold

Arm circles (both ways)

Hip circles (both ways)

Knee circles (both ways)

Alternating side lunges

Then:

5 minutes of cardio (run or row)

30 seconds lightweight KB swings

10 inchworms

Workout:

200 meter run or row

10 Wall balls (heavy medicine ball)

5 HEAVY KB double cleans

10 Wall balls

200 meter run or row

10 HEAVY KB swings

5 HEAVY KB double cleans

10 HEAVY KB swings

200 meter run or row

10 Hanging knees to elbows

5 HEAVY KB double cleans

10 Hanging knees to elbows

200 meter run or row

10 Renegade rows

5 HEAVY KB double cleans

10 Renegade rows

Workout 7

Warmup:

10-30 seconds each:

Alternating sidebends

Standing backbend to forward fold

Arm circles (both ways)

Hip circles (both ways)

Knee circles (both ways)

Alternating side lunges

Workout:

10 Double kettlebell cleans

100-step double KB farmer's carry

10 Double kettlebell cleans

50 Two-arm KB swings

x3

Then:

50 Star jumps

5 Double KB snatch

40 KB prisoner squats

5 Double KB snatch

30 HEAVY figure 8s to hold

5 Double KB snatch

20 KB jump squats

5 Double KB snatch

10 Double KB-weighed box jumps (or step-ups if cannot jump)

5 Double KB snatch

Workout 8

Warmup:

10-30 seconds each:

Alternating sidebends

Standing backbend to forward fold

Arm circles (both ways)

Hip circles (both ways)

Knee circles (both ways)

Alternating side lunges

Workout:

5 Double KB rack squats (beginners use one KB and do right then left)

x5

Then:

Do as many good reps as possible:

60 seconds Double KB squat thrusters (beginners use one KB and switch sides half way)

30 seconds rest

60 seconds Deadman burpees

30 seconds rest

30 seconds HEAVY figure 8s to a hold

x3