Working out with a kettlebell may seem archaic and primitive but kettlebell workouts are fast becoming a favourite amongst many gym users around the world. Part of the reason for this resurgence are improvements in sports science and the resulting improved understanding into how these weights can really be used effectively. Kettlebells may seem, at first glance, to be a tool for muscle building but are they potentially any good for weight loss?
A Good Cardio Workout?
Kettlebells are a great cardio workout. The higher your heart rate the more calories you are burning. So if you can get a good cardio workout not only will you make your heart stronger but you will be burning loads of calories that will contribute to weight loss (so long as you aren’t replenishing the calories through your diet).
Why are kettlebells such a great cardio workout? Essentially these workout routines tend to be ballistic weighted exercises using movements that require co-ordinated use of numerous muscle groups all at once. These muscle groups call on the heart to pump oxygenated blood for fueling leading to an increased heart rate or a cardio workout.
One of the basic moves is the swing. The swing involves going from a squat position to a standing position whilst moving the kettlebell smoothly from between your legs to directly out in front of you at shoulder height with straight arms. You use momentum, so the weight is almost weightless at the top of the swing. During this swing you use the thighs to lift to standing position and shoulders, arms and core muscles to control the swing. Using all these muscles groups at once in high repetition elevates the heart rate. Of course there are numerous moves that can be connected together to get a really good workout going and keep your heart rate high for a great cardio workout.
Can Kettlebells Build Muscle?
A kettlebell workout is great for creating lean muscle. The beauty of creating lean muscle is that muscle burns calories all day, not just when in heavy use. A body with more muscle will burn more calories resulting in weight loss. You might say, “well I can build muscle on a bench with dumbbells and barbells so why bother with kettlebells?” You would be right, but these weights offer the ability to improve whole sets of functional muscles all at once in a single 20 minute session which static weightlifting does not. With kettlebells the weight gain from muscle growth will be spread over more muscle groups giving more even definition, improving overall tone as well as improving endurance, explosive power and improved resistance to injury.
How Many Calories Does A Workout Burn?
Cardio workout and muscle growth, all well and good, but if I can burn more calories using a treadmill why bother with kettlebells? Ah, but can you burn more calories on a treadmill? A recent ACE (American Council Of Exercise) study ran tests to see just how many calories people could burn using these weights. Surprisingly they came to the conclusion that you could burn 20 calories per minute doing a kettlebell workout. To compare that with other activities you have to consider that that calorie burn is similar to running on a treadmill at 6mph! Impressive stuff.
Do Kettlebells Burn Fat?
If you are in control of your diet and exercising with kettlebells, you will burn fat quickly. A pound of body fat equals 3500 calories, so if you control your diet and only eat the calories required for general existence you could burn off the recommended one pound of fat per week with as little as five thirty-five minute workouts a week. If you push yourself into a diet with a calorie deficit you could achieve the same weight loss with fewer or shorter length kettlebell workouts.
Can Women Use Them?
Anyone can use kettlebells, but for women you may be concerned at the prospect of muscle bulking. Do not worry, kettlebells are really about lean efficient muscle development (although they can be used for bulking). High repetitions at low weight will build strength and improve lean muscle without bulking and the spread of lean muscle growth will be evenly distributed giving great tone. If a body builder wants muscle bulk they generally need a calorie increase in their diet accompanied by lifting heavy weights to failure in low repetitions, that is not how kettlebell workouts are generally performed.
Are Kettlebells Good For Weight Loss?
Yes, you get calorie burn, muscle strengthening, toning and a great cardio workout. Try a kettlebell workout next time you are down the gym and feel the burn. Don’t be tempted to workout from a book or DVD, get a trainer who can spot your form and advise you on the best starting weights for you to avoid injury and make the most of your workout.