Behind dumbbells and barbells, kettlebells sometimes feel like the forgotten member of the strength training family, but they can definitely be your friend should you be looking to burn off some calories or shape and tone your body. Kettlebells have all the portability and ease of storage that make dumbbells such a great option for those looking to work out at home, but they also offer something else; flexibility. The different range of movements used with kettlebells works your muscle differently, including some that dumbbells don’t get to so effectively.
What are the Benefits of Kettlebell Workouts?
In the broadest possible sense, standard kettlebell training offers the same benefits as dumbbells: burning fat, building muscle and increasing fitness, and many kettlebell and dumbbell exercises are interchangeable. But it’s in the smaller margins that you start to see the real differences and the advantages of using kettlebells.
Full body kettlebell workouts can be found for building muscle strength, building lower body strength, and for fat loss. And for those who want to turn things up a notch, kettlebells are ideal for high intensity interval training, which involves exercising at a strenuous pace for a fixed period of time (typically between 20 and 90 seconds), followed by a period of low intensity exercise or complete rest (typically between 20 and 120 seconds), all repeated for a total of 10 to 20 minutes. This form of at home full body kettlebell workout can have dramatic effects. A 20-minute kettlebell snatch workout burns at the equivalent rate to running at a “6-minute mile pace". High intensity can mean as high as your body can tolerate.
Understanding Calorie Burn and Weight Loss With Kettlebell Exercises
There is perhaps no other piece of resistance training equipment as versatile as the kettlebell. With their first recorded use being dated to 19th-century Russia, they are known for their versatility. With a completely different centre of gravity to a dumbbell, a high rate of calorie-burning—and therefore weight-loss—can be attained through at home full body kettlebell workouts.
The link between burning calories and weight loss is well known and well established. The equation is simple. If you eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight. And if you eat fewer calories and burn more through physical activity, you lose weight.
How many calories can you burn with a kettlebell workout?
The average person burns 700-935 calories per hour with a kettlebell workout, though this will vary according to your build and the length & intensity of your workouts.
Can kettlebell workouts help with weight loss?
The unique shape of kettlebells makes them a powerful tool in a fat loss programme. Full-body kettlebell workout programmes are based around movement patterns rather than specific muscles, and this results in working many muscles at the same time.
Key Principles of Full Body Intense Calorie Burn Kettlebell Workout
It should go without saying that all exercising should be carried out using proper technique. Start with appropriate weights and build up gradually. Focus on breathing and balance. You may, for example, be tempted to hold your breath while you're lifting weights. Don't hold your breath. Instead, breathe out as you lift the weight and breathe in as you lower the weight. Work all of your major muscles, including the abdomen, hips, legs, chest, back, shoulders and arms. Strengthen the opposing muscles in a balanced way, such as the fronts and backs of the arms.
Warm up and Cool down
You’ll get a more effective warmup by performing a few mobility drills—a combination of stretching and more dynamic movements. Mobility work prepares your joints for the range of motion you’ll use while exercising while also raising your core temperature, which drives blood into the muscles you’ll be working. For any full-body kettlebell routine, you’ll want to focus specifically on preparing the shoulders, T-spine (the upper part of your back), and hips.
Cooling down afterwards can also be important. If you stop exercising abruptly without cooling down, your muscles will suddenly stop contracting vigorously. This can cause blood to pool in the lower extremities of your body, leaving your blood without as much pressure to be pumped back to the heart and brain. As a result, you may become dizzy and lightheaded, and you may even faint.
Full Body Engagement
Kettlebell exercises involve full-body movements that engage multiple muscle groups at once, such as the legs, core, and upper body. This results in a more comprehensive strength-training workout than exercises that isolate individual muscles.
The kettlebell swing utilises several muscle groups and moves the body in multiple ways. Compound exercises are great because they allow you to do more in less time, as compared to isolating muscles. They also improve coordination between muscles, improve functional movement, elevate the heart rate, burn calories, and improve flexibility.
Progressive overload is an essential component of building muscle, and this applies to any kind of training. By employing progressive overload you can reduce body fat and build muscle with just your bodyweight alone, so, of course, you can do it with kettlebells to an even greater effect.
Building muscle requires adequate resistance, time under tension, and muscle adaptation through progressive overload. Progressive overload simply means you need to continually place more stimulus on your muscle as you progress through your training. So, each workout should be a little harder than the previous if you want to build muscle and burn that fat off.
Correct breathing is essential for proper kettlebell training, and the most difficult aspect of higher levels of training is proper breath work. The ability to synchronise one's breathing with the movement of the kettlebell is critical to attaining elite performance levels. At competition level, breathing is always in through the nose, and out through the mouth. Breathing should always precede movement. Inhaling through the nose reduces tension in the upper body and lowers your blood pressure. Inhaling through the mouth creates excessive tension in the upper body and raises blood pressure. Proper breathing and relaxation go hand in hand.
In this context, relaxation means that you do not tense up more muscle fibres than are necessary for the particular movement that you are performing. You can actually lift more weight by being relaxed and breathing properly than by generating high tension throughout your entire body and breathing incorrectly. High tension lifting impedes the way you breath. It creates blockages and allows power to leak out rather than to flow.
The next time you are working out with kettlebells, try this experiment. Take a medium to large sized kettlebell and swing, clean, high pull or snatch it for one minute continuously while "power breathing." Rest long enough to recover your heart rate and then do the same thing while breathing in through your nose and exhaling through your mouth without making any loud noises and scrunching your face.
Be aware of any tension in your body, particularly your upper torso, neck and face. If you identify any tension in these areas, reconnect with your breathing and remove the tension by relaxing. Over the course of a few weeks repeat this experiment a few times until you become comfortable with both types of breathing and compare how you feel at the end.
Consistency and Variety
To make the most of your workout, be sure that you’re not isolating any particular muscle groups, and in order to achieve this you’ll want to do compound exercises or movements that involve multiple muscle groups. To get results, you’ll need to keep it up, too. This combination of consistency and variety is the key to maximising your full body kettlebell workouts for weight loss.
Mastering Technique and Form: The Foundation of Kettlebell Exercises
Make sure you give yourself plenty of room for movement, meaning there should be at least four to five feet in front and two to three feet behind you of free space. If you’re doing this from home make sure all breakable items are not too close with the risk of destroying them.
Once your space is cleared, stand over your kettlebell with your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart as if you were starting from a deadlift position. The kettlebell should be aligned evenly between your ankle bones. While keeping your back flat and your toes forward, squat with bent knees to grab the handle of the kettlebell. Remember to inhale while lifting the kettlebell weight off the ground and keep your shoulders rolled back and engage those muscles by pretending you are going to squeeze the kettlebell handle apart.
Essential Kettlebell Exercises for a Full Body Intense Calorie Burn
Upper Body Exercises
Stand with your back straight and feet shoulder-width apart. Lower into a half-squat and pick up the kettlebell with both hands so your palms are facing your body. Keep your core tight and a slight bend in your knees as you straighten your legs pushing from the heels and explode through the hips and swing the kettlebell to chest height. As you swing the kettlebell down between your legs, return to the half-squat position. That's one repetition (rep).
Start with the kettlebell in the rack position, in which the kettlebell is held comfortably against the chest with the arm tucked in, wrist straight and shoulders down. Make sure your elbow is tucked into your chest, then press the weight directly up overhead. Lower the weight by reversing the bell path and repeat the move.
Grab a kettlebell, place it on the floor in front of your right foot with the handle in a parallel position to your body. Step back with your right leg, then hinge forward at the hips until your torso is parallel with the ground; grab the kettlebell handle with your right hand, using a neutral grip.
Lift through your elbow while keeping it tucked to your side until your hand reaches your ribcage. Keep your core engaged and back straight throughout the movement. Squeeze your lats at the top, hold briefly, then slowly lower the kettlebell until your arm is fully extended. Complete the number of desired reps, then switch sides and repeat.
Lower Body Exercises
Start by standing tall, feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointed forward. You should be looking ahead with your hands at your side. While keeping your back flat and your core braced, push your hips back as you bend your knees. Lower your body until your hips are parallel to the floor. Don't bend forward with your waist as it will increase the stress on your spine and put you off balance. Instead, keep your chest high and back as straight as possible.
Pause for two seconds in order to ensure that your squat is level and you don’t dip too far down or lean too far forward, then push yourself back up to the starting position, repeating the squat movement over and over until your set is finished. Make sure to breathe once per squat, inhaling on the way down and exhaling on the way up.
Grab two kettlebells and hold them by your sides, and stand up straight with your feet close together. Look forward and keep the torso straight, placing your feet about a shoulder-width apart. Take a big step forward and lunge down on that leg, keeping the torso straight, gently touch your back knee to the ground, then push backwards and get back into your starting position, and repeat this motion pattern on the opposite leg.
With your feet a shoulder's width apart push the hips back maintaining a straight back. Keep your weight back on your heels and chest up, and allow the kettlebell to lower to the floor with a straight arm. Pause at the bottom of the position, then drive your hips forwards and stand tall. Squeeze your buttocks tight and don’t lean backwards.
Kettlebell Russian Twists
Start by sitting on the floor, bending your knees and feet flat on the ground. Lean back so that your upper torso is at an angle of 45-degree with the floor.
Keep your back straight. Position your hands in front of your chest and engage your core. Hold your kettlebell at the centre. Lift your feet off the ground and rotate your arms to one side, moving as far as you can, then repeat on the opposite side.
Grip the kettlebell with your right hand and extend the right arm over your head. Your right palm should face forward. Extend the left arm down in front of your left thigh with the palm facing forward. Hinge at the hips to lower the upper body down and to the left side. Your left hand stays facing forward while it slides down near the front of your left leg toward your foot.
Keep the right arm steady and fully extended overhead. In the lowest position (with the left hand close to the left foot) your torso will be tipped to the left but slightly rotated to the right. Then reverse the movement, lifting the body while keeping a strong straight spine. Keep the weight steady and elevated over the right shoulder. Return to the starting position and begin again. Be sure to maintain a strong, straight spine throughout this move.
Assume a plank position with your elbows tucked in and grasp the handles of a pair of kettlebells with your hands. Raise one of the kettlebells to hip level, keeping your elbow in as you go. Lower the weight and do the same movement with the other arm. Perform repetitions on each arm as you feel able, but do bear in mind that this is a more challenging exercise, so don't over-exert yourself.
Full Body Kettlebell Workout Routine
Maximising Calorie Burn and Weight Loss with Kettlebell Workouts
Kettlebell swings work almost every major muscle in the body, but this level of efficiency in exercising doesn’t come without some degree of risk, and it is important to achieve good form, to understand the lop-sided weight distribution of the kettlebell, in order to achieve consistency with your swings.
Increasing calorie burn is the route to fat reduction, weight loss and body toning. Muscle development and weight loss depend on hypertrophy—that’s to say the enlargement of an organ or tissue from an increase in the size of its cells—and increasing the intensity of your exercising by upping the weight of your kettlebells or the pace at which you go will increase your muscle gain or weight loss is a shortcut to increasing that burn. You should also mix up your exercise patterns, while interval training—short bursts of harder exercise followed by short rest periods—has also been proven to burn more calories.
But it should also be added that it is important to take care of yourself while exercising. Good nutrition is important for weight loss. It can enhance sporting performance. A well-planned, nutritious diet should meet most of an athlete’s vitamin and mineral needs, and provide enough protein to promote muscle growth and repair. Foods such as whole grain bread and cereals should form the basis of the diet, but any sports nutrition plans should be tailored to your specific needs, taking into account your specific goals, food preferences and metabolism. And tempting though it might be to just keep on ploughing through, rest is also important. Your body needs time to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues. The risk of not doing so is a highly elevated likelihood of injury.
Portable enough to be stored just about anywhere, versatile enough to work more than 600 muscles throughout your body and varied enough in size and weight to be able to push you as far as you’re able to push yourself, kettlebells are an essential addition to the home workout set-up. They should be handled with care. Take your time over your posture, weight distribution, and learn the way they feel in motion, because if you can master these simple steps, the kettlebells can be an ideal way to turbocharge your weight loss programme.