The Kettlebell Halo: The Best Core Exercise You’re Not Doing

By Matt Walter
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Learn how to perform the kettlebell halo

The kettlebell halo is a great exercise to improve your shoulder mobility and core stability. It also torches calories! In this blog post, we will provide step-by-step instructions on how to perform the kettlebell halo, as well as a video demonstration. We will also discuss some variations of the kettlebell halo that you can try. Let’s get started!

Kettlebells are hugely popular right now and for good reason! They can be a substitute for just about any other piece of equipment in your home gym. That’s one of the reasons I recommend them as one of the first pieces of equipment you buy if you’re looking to get in more workouts at home.

Once you’ve got the basic kettlebell movements down (exercises like the kettlebell swing, kettlebell clean and jerk, kettlebell snatch, and a basic bodyweight plank), the Halo can be added to push your strength, balance, and coordination to new levels. It ranks right up there with my all-time-favorite core movements. This exercise will also help strengthen your rotator cuff muscles and improve shoulder mobility.

Enough talk. Let’s learn how to perform this movement.

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Table of Contents

Video: Kettlebell Halo Demonstration

How to Perform the Kettlebell Halo: Step-by-Step Instructions

We’ll start with the basic Halo, and advance from there.

Step 1: Place a kettlebell on the ground and stand about a foot behind it. Lean the horns toward your body and grasp the horns so that your thumbs and index fingers are against the body of the kettlebell. Like holding it upside down.

Step 2: Hike the KB between your legs and drive your hips forward, swinging the KB up and ending with the KB upside down in front of your chin. Your arms should be pinned against your sides. This is your starting position.

Step 3: Begin to rotate the KB around the right side of your head by pinning your right arm hard against your side and moving your left forearm up and just over your head. If you were to take your left hand off the kettlebell at this point, your right arm should easily be able to handle the weight as it should be neatly stacked under the kettlebell.

Step 4: Bring your right elbow up in front of you as your left arm begins to move behind your head. Pull/push the KB behind your head. You are halfway around.

Step 5: Pull/push the KB to continue moving around your head. Bring your left elbow down tight against your side and your right forearm up above your head.

Step 6: Finish by pulling the KB down and around so that both arms are pinned against your sides and your hands are resting on your upper chest. You have completed one Halo rotation. Reverse and follow the same steps to continue another Halo, in the opposite direction.

Kettlebell Halo Coach’s Notes

This movement is not designed to be fast. Keep the movement slow and controlled, deliberately using your muscles to move the kettlebell, not momentum. Feel all of your core muscles grabbing and working

The body of the kettlebell should stay in line with your ears throughout the movement, except at the very start, and should finish with the bell right in front of your chin. Try not to let the kettlebell drop too low, especially when it is behind your head, or too high, as you make your rotations.

Your body should remain rigid throughout the movement. The main function of our core is to stabilize the trunk while the arms and legs move during functional movements. That is why this is such a great core-strengthening movement! Try and avoid leaning forward, backward, or side-to-side during the performance of this exercise.

Kettlebell Halo Muscles Trained

The kettlebell halo is a core strengthening exercise. It primarily targets the abdominals and obliques, as well as the lats, traps, deltoids, biceps, and triceps.

If you try any of the following variations you will activate additional muscles as well.

Kettlebell Halo Variations

Here are several alternatives to the standard kettlebell halo, which is performed while standing. Master the standing version first, and then give these next versions a shot.

Tall-Kneeling Kettlebell Halo

This version doesn’t require much explanation and you may find it simpler or harder to complete than the standard Halo.

Begin by picking up your kettlebell exactly as with the standard Halo. Once the KB is in position, drop down to a tall kneeling position. Both knees will be on the ground, and you will be kneeling tall, not sitting back on your heels.

Now, perform the Halo exactly as described before.

Kettlebell Goblet Squat With Halo

This is an advanced variation and should be your next step once you’ve mastered the standard and the tall-kneeling versions. This is a quad killer!

Step 1: Pick up your kettlebell as described above.

Step 2: Slowly drop into a full squat (or as far down as you can safely go while maintaining an upright posture without pain in your back).

Step 3: While at the bottom of the squat, begin to rotate the kettlebell around your head. Once you have made one full rotation, rotate in the opposite direction.

Step 4: Once the KB is back in front of your face, slowly return to a fully standing position. I consider this one repetition. Repeat as necessary.

Half-Kneeling Lunge With Kettlebell Halo

Once you’re comfortable with the goblet squat halo, try this variation. The half-kneeling lunge position will put additional stress on your balance, coordination, and core. And you’ll feel this one a lot in your hips and glutes!

Step 1: Pick up your kettlebell as described above.

Step 2: Step one leg behind you and drop into a lunge. Your front shin should be vertical and your knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Your back knee should remain just off the ground throughout the rest of the movement.

Step 3: While at the bottom of the lunge, begin to rotate the kettlebell around your head. Once you have made one full rotation, rotate in the opposite direction.

Step 4: Once the KB is back in front of your face, slowly return to a fully standing position by pushing with your front leg and bringing your back leg in line with your front. I consider this one repetition.

Step 5: Now lunge back with the other leg, and repeat the above steps for a second repetition.

Walking Lunge With Kettlebell Halo

This is my favorite kettlebell halo variation! These are fun, and add a bit of a cardio component to the movement.

Step 1: Pick up your kettlebell as described above.

Step 2: Step forward with your left leg into a lunge. Once you are at the bottom of your lunge position, perform a KB Halo by rotating the bell to your right. Once you complete your ration and the KB is back in front of you, stand and walk forward into a lunge with your right foot forward. This time, rotate the bell to your left. One step, one rotation, walk for distance or for reps.

*You can perform these either with your back knee touching the ground or just above the ground, as in the half-kneeling lunge with Halo.

*To add an extra level of coordination, perform the KB halo at the same time as you are completing your lunge! Meaning that the KB will end up behind your head at the same time you reach the bottom of your lunge, and then will be back in front of your body by the time you are back to a fully standing position. Each step will then rotate the KB in the opposite direction.

Don’t have a kettlebell? Try the dumbbell halo or the plate halo. Same movements, different names.

Titan Fitness Cast Iron Kettlebells – These are my favorite style of kettlebells. If you are just getting into kettlebells, start with a 16 kg (35 lb) or 24 kg (53 lb) bell. I bought my 35-kg kettlebell from Titan Fitness and I love it. And you can’t beat free shipping!

Rogue Fitness Iron Kettlebells – These are great, high-quality kettlebells. I have two 16-kg and one 24-kg from Rogue.

Rogue Fitness E-Coat Kettlebells – These are slightly cheaper than the cast iron kettlebells but are of the same quality and are shaped from the same mold as the cast iron. I have one of these and I use it often with my cast iron version. They are the same height, weight, and feel, which is important if you are doing dual kettlebell work.

Conlusion: The Kettlebell Halo

The kettlebell halo is a great exercise for improving your balance, stability, core strength, and shoulder mobility. Add the halo as part of your overall kettlebell, weightlifting, or general fitness routine to strengthen these muscles and improve coordination.

Let us know your experience with the kettlebell halo.

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Matt has been a Certified Personal Trainer for more than 18 years. He is also a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, has a master's degree in teaching, and is a former competitive powerlifter and CrossFit athlete. His passion is helping others get in shape from mid-life and beyond.

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