Are Kettlebells Better for Strength, Cardio or Toning?

Double Kettlebell Renegade Row Omaha Elite Kettlebell

“Are kettlebells better for strength, cardio or toning?” – The short answer: “YES”.  

The following post is a response to a question posted by Laura Spencer
“Anyone have any insight as far as kettlebell goes? Is it more cardio based than most yoga or barre? Does it compare in the toning you see from barre? I’d like to hear some input from people personally before doing a listless web search.”

I originally posted my response to her blog, but after further consideration I realize that there are probably MANY more people out there asking similar questions.


Laura,

Kettlebells are simply tools that can be programmed and utilized many ways.

Put simply, kettlebells can be used to improve both strength and endurance. Of course, “it depends” on how your workouts are programmed, using the appropriate weights, reps and sets, rest, and safe technique.

Caution: There are a lot of fitness classes out there utilizing kettlebells run by instructors who know next to nothing about how to perform or teach kettlebell techniques let alone how to program a kettlebell workout. To find what I consider to be the highest calibre of Kettlebell training visit http://www.StrongFirst.com

Kettlebells are a form of resistance training, and when you think about it… so are Barre and Yoga. In Yoga and Barre you use your bodyweight and manipulated leverages as the main source of resistance while kettlebell training relies on… kettlebells. Any form of training that builds strength improves muscle tone. The more resistance you can learn to overcome by either adding an external load or manipulating leverage the stronger you will become and you will improve the “tone” of the muscles being worked.

Tone = Tension. Tension = Strength. Therefore, Strength = Tone
Muscle tone is partly due to the amount of resting tension your muscles have throughout the day.
Tension is strength. When you flex you are temporarily increasing the amount of tension in the muscles involved. So, to lift a heavier weight you need the ability to “flex” harder or generate more tension, which when done with a sufficiently heavy enough weight to elicit an adaptation response builds a stronger muscle capable of generating even more tension. The stronger a muscle is, the more tension it can afford to have at rest (consider the rippling muscles of Bruce Lee, a tiger or even a chimpanzee at rest… THAT’s TONE!)

Additionally, there are many unique kettlebell lifts that develop flexibility like the Getup, Cossack Squats, Pistols, crooked press, arm bars, windmills and Bent presses that many people like to refer to as Yoga with Weights.

SAMPLE KETTLEBELL WORKOUTS

KETTLEBELL STRENGTH & CONDITIONING WORKOUTS
A Kettlebell Workout that does BOTH Strength/Tone & Conditioning can be viewed on my blog
here: https://omahaelitekettlebell.com/2014/09/11/15-minute-advanced-double-kettlebell-workout-no-gym-membership-required/

KETTLEBELL “CARDIO” WORKOUTS
Simple examples of Kettlebell “cardio” workouts that melt fat to reveal the underlying muscle tone could be something like

– Using a light kettlebell you can snatch overhead for 15 to 20 reps and doing sets of 10 per arm with a 1:1 work:rest ratio for 15 minutes. A similar workout was shown to burn more than 20 calories per minute by the average person (study:http://www.acefitness.org/getfit/studies/kettlebells012010.pdf)

– Alternating 20 seconds of kettlebell swings with 20 seconds of goblet squats.
(20 seconds of swings: 10 seconds rest: 20 seconds of goblet squats: 10 seconds rest) x 8
Shoot for 10+ swings and 8+ squats per round.
THEN
(20 seconds of double bell Clean & Push Presses: 10 seconds rest: 20 seconds of renegade rows: 10 seconds rest) x 8

KETTLEBELL “STRENGTH” WORKOUTS
Key features of a kettlebell STRENGTH workout is that the rest periods are longer, the reps are typically lower and the weights are much heavier.

Simple examples of HEAVY kettlebell STRENGTH workouts that increase muscle tone
– 1 getup per arm per minute for 10 minutes.
– A pair of bells you can lift & squat for 5 reps: 2 clean & press + 3 Squats, rest & repeat. 
– Two VERY heavy bells you can swing for 5-10 reps and perform sets of 5  

As you can see, there are many variables you can manipulate in your kettlebell training to target the results you seek. 

Hope that helps. ;]”

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