Kettlebells have come a long way from their beginnings as muscle-building tools for Russian strongmen. Now they're just as likely to be used by women in gyms across the country, not for building strength, but rather to burn fat. It’s no surprise when you consider kettlebell exercises burn similar calories to treadmill running.
Swing It Out
A 2010 study published in the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research" concluded that a 170-pound man can burn 160 calories in 12 minutes doing two-handed kettlebell swings. According to Healthstatus.com, a 170-pound person would have to run at a pace of 6-miles-per-hour to burn 155 calories in the same amount of time. That conclusion, however, isn't necessarily echoed by other research. In fact, a 2012 "Journal" article found that you will burn more calories running on a treadmill than swinging kettlebells at the same rate of perceived exhaustion.
Snatching Fat Loss
Another 2010 study, this one commissioned by the American Council on Exercise, concluded that kettlebell snatches can burn as many as 272 calories in 20 minutes or 20.2 calories per minute. The study equated that to the same amount of calories you would burn running at a 6-minute-mile. Snatches burn more calories than swings because they require you to lift the kettlebell higher over your head with one arm.
Cleaning Out the Fat
Another fundamental kettlebell exercise that burns fat is the clean and jerk. It uses so many muscle groups your body has to burn more calories to get it done. The exercise, which is a combination of a deadlift, upright row, squat and push press, is traditionally an Olympic lifting move done with a barbell. When performed with kettlebell, this ballistic movement is done quickly and repetitively, raising your heart-rate and burning more fat.
Get Up and Burn
The Turkish Get Up is a challenging kettlebell exercise that can burn a lot of calories. You begin by moving from a prone position on the floor to slowly standing and lying down again. While you do this, you hold a kettlebell with one hand over your head. While it’s a slower exercise than the snatch, swing or clean, it requires the use of all your major muscle groups, including your upper and lower back, glutes, quads and hamstrings. You also have to keep your abs engaged throughout the entire movement. Working all those muscles at the same time means you’re burning more calories as you exercise.
Before You Lift
If you're new to kettlebell workouts, get proper instruction from a certified trainer. Lifting weight with improper form can lead to injuries and many kettlebell exercises are complex, requiring practice. Once you have learned these kettlebell moves using light weights, progress to heavier weights. The more challenging your workout, the more calories and fat you will burn. Stop exercising immediately if you start to lose your form, feel dizzy or faint, or have any sharp pains.
- NCSA National Conference and Exhibition: The Science of Kettlebells: What Do We Know?
- Healthstatus.com: Calories Burned Estimation
- American Council on Exercise: Kettlebells: Twice the Results in Half the Time
- American Council on Exercise: 5 Kettlebell Exercises that Kick Butt
- Cream City CrossFit: Olympic Lifting: Training for Success
- KettlebellBurn.com: The Ultimate Kettlebell Fat Loss Workout
- FitnessRXWomen.com: Turkish Get Ups