If you’re after a high-intensity exercises that torches fat, can be completed in 20 minutes, works your entire body and can be done by beginners to advanced athletes, then kettlebells are the equipment you’re looking for.
Recently, I was diagnosed with Morton’s neuroma, a painful, non-cancerous growth that surrounds the digital nerve of the second and third toes. This painful condition means that I’m no longer able to do the high intensity interval training that I’ve always loved.
Of course, I wasn’t willing to just give up exercise completely, so I set out to find an alternative to HIIT that torched calories and was just as fun.
Enter – kettlebells!
They say that every cloud has a silver lining, right? Well for me, the cloud of my morton’s neuroma allowed me to discover the awesomeness of kettlebells.
Since then, kettlebell workouts have completely replaced my HIIT, and I now workout with kettlebells 3-4 times a week on average.
Kettlebell Workouts for Weight Loss
Kettlebell workouts are fast, fun and extremely effective at torching calories and burning fat!
Burn 400 Calories in 20 Minutes
The American Academy of Exercise found that the average person can torch 400 calories in just 20 minutes with kettlebells. That is INSANE. When I first learned that, my mind was blown. I don’t even know how long it takes on the treadmill to burn that many calories, but it’s sure as heck more than 20 minutes.
How to Avoid Injury Using Kettlebells
Here’s the only downside about kettlebells – basically everyone uses them incorrectly when they first get started. And this means that not only is your workout not as effective, you can actually risk injury.
If you really want to learn proper form, we have some clear recommendations.
Here is the best kettlebell book.
And if you are more of a visual learner, or really want to see a woman going through the routines so you can follow along, this is the best kettlebell DVD.
What are Kettlebells?
A kettlebell is a cast-iron ball with a handle attached to the top. They kind of resemble a cannonball (and are often incorrectly referred to as kettle”balls.”)
Where did Kettlebells originate?
Fun fact – kettlebells originate in Russia way back in the 18th century. Called “girya” in Russian, a kettlebell was actually a metal weight used to measure crops.
Eventually, kettlebells began to be used by farmers in strength competitions. Kettlebell sport (known as girevoy sport) is incredibly popular in Russia. While girevoy sport hasn’t really gained mainstream popularity outside of Russia, the use of kettlebells as part of an exercise regime is rapidly gaining popularity in the United States.
Kettlebells vs. Dumbells
One of the most common questions people have about kettlebells is “why do I need kettlebells if I have dumbbells?”
It’s a valid question, but in reality, kettlebells and dumbbells are two entirely different pieces of equipment.
While there are some movements that can be done with either a kettlebell or a dumbbell, a kettlebell allows a ballistic or explosive style of movement as opposed to a dumbbell which is most commonly used for slow, measured movements like dumbbell curls.
In addition, the uneven center of gravity of a kettlebell works your core muscles, which helps to tone and flatten your tummy.
Benefits of Kettlebells
There are dozens kettlebell benefits, including:
- Excellent at torching calories and burning fat
- Provides strength and cardio training at the same time
- Relatively inexpensive to buy
- Gives an intense, full body workout in a very short amount of time
- Can work completely different muscle groups at the same time
- Can be used in a small space and don’t need much space to store
- Increases your metabolism
- Can be done anywhere
- No additional equipment needed
What Kettlebell Weight Should I Choose?
Kettlebells vary in weight from 9lbs all the way up to over 200lbs.
When you’re first getting started, it’s important that you choose the right kettlebell weight.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” weight when it comes to kettlebells. Just like any other piece of gym equipment, there are a variety of factors that go in to choosing the right kettlebell weight for you.
However, here’s something to keep in mind with kettlebells – choosing a weight that is too light can actually cause injury due to incorrect form.
You might be tempted to “start small” and choose a very light weight. I’d recommend that you do not do that, otherwise you will increase your injury risk.
Kettlebells used to be quite rare, so they were very expensive even just a few years ago. But now they are very affordable and you can get great deals on Amazon for usually around twenty five to forty five dollars.
10 Kettlebell Exercises for Weight Loss
Ok, now onto the kettlebell exercises for weight loss!
Before you attempt any of these exercises, I highly recommend you watch the video entirely through. Once you’ve gotten a good grasp of how the movement is performed, then go ahead and give it a go!
A Kettlebell swing is a core move when you are doing kettlebell workouts.
It is a ballistic exercise (dynamic motion) that by itself can give you a full body exercise. A swing involves moving the kettlebell in a pendulum like motion from between your knees to eye level. You can perform it with both hands, or a one handed technique if you become advanced!
If you want to torch fat or build a better butt, this is a great exercise. Also despite the fact it is a core exercise, people are likely to do it incorrectly if they have not been trained properly. Be sure to watch this video to learn popular technique.
The Kettlebell Windmill is another full body movement. It works your shoulders, strengthens your core muscles and helps with overall joint mobility.
This exercise is more advanced so it’s not for beginners, but you can learn how to do it fairly quickly.
Overall it is more of a stabilizing and mobilizing movement vs. a strength building exercise like some of the others listed below.
It is a unique full body movement that will help increase your overall body strength, your flexibility and will help you improve your overall fitness.
Kettlebell Windmill Benefits
- Full body exercise
- Helps strengthen the body
- Helps Improve Hand-Eye coordination
- Helps to condition the small stabilizing muscles which makes sure your larger muscles can be more effective and not limited by weakness in those muscles
- Helps with full body mobility and stability
Kettlebell deadlifts are a fitness move that is different from how it appears. They are the kettlebell version of doing a deadlift in the gym with a large barbell. If you use proper form with the kettlebell, this exercise really focuses on building the muscles in the lower body as you lift. Specifically, your glutes, hamstrings, core, and lower back – are the key muscles worked.
Because the weight is smaller and more focused than a large barbell, it makes the exercise more like lifting a box and it also will help with your grip strength.
If you do this exercise correctly, it will help you lift things in daily life (functions strength) so you will find those Costco runs easier. If you learn the proper technique with this exercise you will engaged your abs, oblique and lower back muscles at the same time.
Another interesting thing about the exercise is that once you have mastered the basics, you can make small adjustments with your stance to change the exercise – for example instead of standing with feet square you can use an offset stance and place greater focus on your front leg.
Kettlebell Figure 8
The figure eight is a relatively simple kettlebell exercise that works many muscle groups simultaneously. When you first start it is much easier to do with a lighter weight bell to master the movement. And as you master the technique, you can increase the weight slowly.
What is the Figure 8? It is a compound exercise that will activate many muscle groups and also elevate your heart rate.
This exercise is difficult to explain in words – it is easier to watch the video below to see it performed correctly.
Benefits of the Figure Eight
- Targets the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, biceps and erector spinae.
- Activates the calves, upper back and shoulders
- Full Body compound exercise.
Kettlebell Shoulder Press
The kettlebell press is a great exercise to strengthen and build muscle in your upper pectorals, deltoids, and triceps. The shoulder press is a foundational exercise in all full body strength routines. People often use higher weights than their body can really manage and this can lead to injury.
The beauty of this exercise with a kettlebell is that you use a much lower weight on this exercise. When you use one arm to balance the kettlebell upside down it is essentially unstable and that forces your body to activate the stabilizers in your arm and shoulder girdle. This helps you get a solid focus on your shoulder without lifting more weight than your technique can support.
This exercise will help strengthen your shoulders and make you less prone to injury.
Benefits of the Kettlebell Shoulder Press
- Improves your overhead strength for daily tasks such as lifting things over your head
- Helps condition your shoulders and upper body
- Helps increase your core activation
- Prevents you from cheating on reps due to weight dangling below the handle of the bell
Kettlebell Around the World
This is a whole body exercise that is best performed by more experienced weightlifters.
Muscle groups involved include the lower back, middle back, forearms, obliques, gluteus Maximus and hamstrings.
Kettlebell Sumo Squat
This squat is called sumo because it is a traditional squat that focuses on a wider stance with a different toe positioning. It resembles the posture we associate with sumo wrestlers, hence the name.
Because of the change in positioning and the wider stance, it more effectively activates your inner thighs (adductor muscles) more than you are used to in a regular squat.
You will feel the sumo squat in your quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus muscles, adductors (inner thighs), calves, and hip flexors.
And if you do it with proper form, it will recruit your core muscles throughout the movement.
Benefits of a sumo squat
- Increases activation of your adductor (inner thigh) muscles without any special exercise equipment.
- Lower weight vs. a regular squat so less likely to injure yourself.
- The extra wide stance forces you to keep your upper body more upright and that forces you to engage your core muscles throughout the movement
Kettlebell Goblet Squat
What muscles do kettlebell goblet squats work? Like other squatting movements, goblet squats mainly work your quads and glutes. Your core stabilizes our trunk during the movement since you hold the weight at your chest height. And the lats and upper back muscles re engaged to keep the kettlebell in position.
Overall, the Kettlebell Goblet Squat is an effective exercise to develop full lower body strength. If you perform it correctly it is easy on the back. One of the advantages of using a kettlebell vs. regular weights is that it essentially forces you to use a lower weight and make sure your form is good and you are not lifting more than your body can handle.
Benefits of the Goblet Squat
- Great for Beginners – it can help you improve your regular squats as it increases your awareness of the individual muscles and stabilizers involved in the movement.
- Improved balance and stability at the bottom of the squat. If you do barbell squats, the KB version will help you
- Quadriceps Development – since the exercise is front loaded, it targets your quads more than a typical squat.
- Improved Squat Mechanics – it will help you with your balance and stability.
The snatch is a more advanced exercise that really works the whole buddy. More advanced kettlebell users love it because it helps develop your entire posterior chain (rear side-butt, hamstrings, and back) while also building strength, power, coordination, and even your cardio fitness – all at the same time!
It helps to be able to do swings and Turkish get ups before you get into this exercise. That will help you with proper form and avoid injuries.
Benefits of the Kettlebell Snatch
- Exercise involves most muscles of the body
- Can be used as part of a high intensity cardio workout because it will really get your heart rate going!
- Develops power so good for martial artists and athletes
- Helps you develop core stability and connect your upper body movements with your balancing muscles
25 Minute Kettlebell Workout for Beginners
This is a great short kettlebell workout for beginners – suitable for both men and women!
Kettlebells for Weight Loss – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can you lose weight with kettlebells?
Yes, Kettlebells as part of an exercise routine are a great way to lose weight. You can use hundreds of muscles at a time and the exercises will increase your muscle mass, burn calories and can even be cardio exercise with some of the techniques. Also kettlebell training can help you burn calories for many hours after exercise.
How long does it take to see results from kettlebells?
If you add kettlebell routines to a proper diet, you can see impressive results in your first 30 days as you gain muscle and lose fat.