Kettlebells, a Russian training tool, have been used by weightlifting Olympians for centuries. They are cast-iron balls, similar to a cannonball, with a handle attached. The original weighed one "pood," or about 36 pounds. More recently, they have become available coated in plastic and in a variety of colors. Today you can find gyms, classes, certifications and fitness DVDs explaining how to exercise with a kettlebell.
The International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation claims that consistent kettlebell training will result in improved strength, improved work-capacity, improved flexibility, coordination and balance, weight loss, improved core strength and mental toughness. Traditional weight lifting improves strength and endurance. Professional fitness organizations were not convinced that kettlebell training, primarily a strength-training activity, could also improve aerobic capacity and burn significantly more calories compared to other methods.
In June 2010, a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine released the results of a study, sponsored by the American Council on Exericse, that found that kettlebell training evoked a positive aerobic training effect. In fact, the study found that the number of calories burned was equivalent to jogging at 6 mph or biking at 15 mph.
Strength and Cardio
The ACE study analyzed energy cost and intensity of kettlebell workouts. It found that with each minute of kettlebell training, participants were burning 13.6 calories per minute aerobically and 6.6 calories per minute anaerobically. That is at least 20.2 calories per minute, a burn rate, which ACE noted, that matched swift cross-country skiing uphill.
The ACE study attributed its results to the large amounts of muscle mass used during kettlebell training. Most of the traditional moves involve the legs, back, abdominals, arms, back and shoulders, which equates to a total-body workout. Because of its impact on all the major muscles of the body, kettlebell training provides a solid avenue to get a strength-training session with aerobic training in one short session. Most people spend hours in the gym splitting their time between the weight room and cardio machines. Kettlebells are proving to be an efficient way to get a single, effective workout.
Kettlebells range in weight from 5 to 100 or more pounds. And because the entire body is engaged during the movements, it is crucial that each exercise be performed correctly. The lifts often involve swinging the weight. Therefore, you are best off working with a certified kettlebell or fitness trainer to get started. If the movements are performed incorrectly, you increase your chance of injury.