Kettlebell workouts are becoming wildly popular today. They’re everywhere from your local Target to NBC’s, “The Biggest Loser.” But what kind of results are people seeing?
I guess that depends on the kettlebell routine. Some are hit, and some are miss. Here’s what you absolutely must know about kettlebell workouts in order to burn fat.
Kettlebell Workouts – 3 Necessary Principles Of Fat Burning
When you search for kettlebell workouts on the internet, you’ll never know what you may find. Many kettlebell workouts look like they’re just thrown together haphazardly, with little or no purpose other than to get “a workout in.”
When your using kettlebell exercises to burn fat (and to a certain extent – any exercises), you need to pick not only the correct exercises, but also the correct set up, or loading parameters for those exercises.
Here are the three things you must do with your kettlebell workout routines in order to burn maximum calories, and therefore, fat.
1. Lift Heavy (for you)
2. Lift Explosively
3. Manage Fatigue
Now before any of those ideas scare you, let’s take a closer look at “why” these are the best methods to incorporate into our kettlebell workouts.
3 Kettlebell Workouts Secrets Stolen From Elite Athletes
When we look into the world of elite athletes, we see that they are lean, muscular, and strong. (Not the endurance ones like marathoners – they’re skinny and weak.) These athletes have very little if any belly fat, leg fat, or chest fat. Their bodies look and work the way they’re designed to and coincidentally are the way we want ours to look and feel.
Secret #1: Lift Heavy.
The first thing you need to know about these athletes, is that they train for strength in order to make their performance in their sporting events better.
Because training for strength allows you to do more work. And for athletes, more work means running faster, or lifting heavier weights, or jumping higher.
And the way you train for strength is to lift heavy – or heavy for you. Take a look at elite middleweight powerlifters, weightlifters, and even track and field athletes. All of them are strong AND lean.
Getting stronger, especially with kettlebells, means that you can ultimately do more work.
And doing more work means you will burn more calories. And burning more calories means you’re burning more fat.
So that’s one reason to lift heavy kettlebells.
The second is even cooler – lifting heavy targets very specific parts of your muscles that use a ton of energy. These are called Type 2 muscle fibers. And they are only activated when you lift heavy.
So by actually lifting heavy, you are burning more calories than when you lift lighter weights.
But it gets even better than that!
Third, When you lift heavy, not only do you use the energy-gulping Type 2 muscle fibers, but you are also using the rest of the muscles in your body a lot more. That’s because these muscles have to stabilize your body to keep it from bending or twisting in the wrong way.
In essence it’s almost like you’re using twice the amount of energy you would with lighter kettlebells.
And the really cool thing about using kettlebell routines that incorporate heavy lifting, is that the kettlebell itself makes your body work harder, due to it’s offset handle. This makes those stabilizer muscles work harder than if you used a dumbbell or any other piece of exercise equipment.
So, by lifting heavy kettlebells to burn fat you are making all the muscles in your body work harder than they normally would using any other piece of equipment. And that means you’re going to burn more calories – calories that will come from your stomach fat, your leg fat, and all the other fat on your body.
Secret #2: Lift Explosively.
Here’s another little secret that virtually no one knows – elite athletes move explosively, or at least as fast as they can.
On the surface, that seems kind of a strange thing to say, but the athlete who can move the fastest, more often than not wins.
And moving fast requires producing a lot of power. And the best way to produce a lot of power is by moving explosively. And producing a lot of power requires a lot of energy - energy that comes from calories stored as fat on your body.
Unfortunately, the only way to lift explosively with conventional exercises and routines is to sprint, jump and throw medicine balls around or learn the Olympic lifts. For many, those options are impractical at least, and dangerous at worst.
Kettlebell training allows you to train explosively without having to overcome those impractical options, by incorporating specific explosive kettlebell exercises (called ballistics) like the Kettlebell Swing and the Kettlebell Snatch into your routine. And by using these explosive kettlebell exercises, you can perform literally hundreds of explosive fat-burning repetitions each week, literally melting the fat off your body.
But it gets even better that that.
Not only does lifting explosively help you burn more calories, but it also lets you eat more carbs than normal because your muscle cells become more sensitive to the powerful storage hormone, insulin.
This means you can eat more of your favorite foods and still lose body fat!
There’s one more secret that when combined with kettlebell training will help you burn maximum amounts of fat…
Secret #3: Manage Fatigue
If most people don’t know about lifting explosively, I’d say 99% of all people working out to lose fat miss this secret.
The key is to learn how to manage your fatigue levels. See, when you (your muscles) get tired, they can’t contract as hard, which means they can’t produce as much force. And when they can’t produce as much force, you’re not using as much energy as you were before.
This of course then means you’re not burning as many calories, and therefore fat, as before.
So, the best kettlebell workouts will be structured in such a way as to allow you to lift heavy, and lift explosively, and therefore burn a ton of calories (fat) without killing you each and every set.
Now that we’ve seen how to structure your kettlebell workout routines, what are some of the best exercises to include in your fat-burning kettlebell workouts?
Best Kettlebell Exercises To Include In Your Kettlebell Workouts
Every kettlebell workout designed to burn fat should include at least one, if not most of these kettlebell exercises.
The Kettlebell Swing
The Kettlebell Swing is the most basic and foundational of all the kettlebell exercises. It works your legs, your hips, your abs, your arms, and your grip, especially when you go heavy. You should spend a lot of time working with the Kettlebell Swing to help refine your technique on the other kettlebell exercises. It should be the foundation of your kettlebell routine when you first start out, and probably a long while after that.
Here’s a video:
The Get Up / Turkish Get Up
The Get Up is another fundamental kettlebell exercise. It teaches you how to move your body under your arm and is great for shoulder rehab. Not only that, but it’s good for teaching you how to lock your hips to your torso by way of your abs (core).
Here’s a video:
The Kettlebell Clean
The Kettlebell Clean is one of the kettlebell exercises that’s often overlooked. Primarily you can think of it as the “delivery system” to get your kettlebell to your shoulder so you can Press or Squat. But it can be so much more than that. It’s a really good exercise to put some muscle on your arms if you’re a guy or tone them up if you’re a girl.
Here’s a video:
The Kettlebell Press
The Kettlebell Press is one of THE best upper body strength exercises. It strengthens all the muscles around your shoulders, including your chest, upper back, lats, and arms – both biceps and triceps. And when you perform it correctly, with your shoulder packed, it really works your lats hard, taking the strain off the shoulder joint and transferring it to the muscles.
The Kettlebell Press does this more so than any other form of pressing that I’m aware of, and that’s due to the shape of the kettlebell, with its offset handle. It pulls the shoulder down into the socket and makes the lat work harder than with dumbbells or barbells.
Here’s a video:
The Kettlebell Snatch
The Kettlebell Snatch is often called “The Tsar (King) of Kettlebell Lifts” because of it’s technical requirements and the phenomenal results it produces. It works the entire body, especially your hips, abs, shoulders, upper back, arms, and grip. And when you perform it for enough reps, it literally melts the fat from your body.
Here’s a video:
The Goblet Squat
The Goblet Squat is the fastest, easiest way for anyone to learn how to squat. It will literally having you squatting almost butt-to-heels in minutes. It’s also a fantastic mobility drill for the hips, ankles, and knees. More mobility in the lower body is absolutely a must in order to burn more fat. More mobility = more muscles used = more energy used = more calories burned = more fat lost. The Goblet Squat will get you there.
Here’s a video:
The Kettlebell Front Squat
The Kettlebell Front Squat is a step up from the Goblet Squat. You hold the kettlebell in the “rack” position – a combination of your upper arm, shoulder, and chest – and then squat. Because the kettlebell is off-center and only on one side, this makes your abs work overtime. Again, creating that demand for stability we talked about earlier that burns extra calories.
Any time you work your legs, you’re going to burn more calories, especially in the Kettlebell Front Squat.
Here’s a video:
Putting Your Kettlebell Workouts Into A Routine
At this point you’re probably wondering how you put these kettlebell exercises into a routine.
Here’s what I recommend:
- Pick a time and a place you can do your kettlebell workouts on a consistent basis. Consistency trumps intensity.
- Pick the number of days you can commit to your kettlebell workouts. 3 days a week, every other day is usually best.
- Pick the length of time you can commit to working out on each day. 45 minutes is about right. More is not necessary.
- Pick 3 to 5 kettlebell exercises to do each workout.
- Train your technique first on each exercise, then push the “workout” mentality later on.
Kettlebell Workouts FAQ
Here are some frequently asked questions that I’ve had to answer, so I thought I’d just put them here.
What are the best kettlebell workouts for women?
Most kettlebell workouts for women are no different, or shouldn’t be much different than kettlebell workouts for men. They should all include the basic exercises, such as the Kettlebell Swing and the Kettlebell Press to work the lower and upper body respectively.
Since women have weaker upper bodies then men, women should incorporate more direct strength work in their kettlebell routines for their upper body.
And finally, the only difference I would suggest in kettlebell workout routines among women is for women who have just had a baby. They should focus on getting their pelvic floor, abdominals, and gluts working again before taking on any aggressive kettlebell training.
What are the best kettlebell workout routines for weight loss?
The best kettlebell workout routines for weight loss are principle based – like the 3 mentioned in this article. Here’s one that lots of people have done with great success.
Should you learn from kettlebell exercise videos?
You most certainly can learn all the kettlebell exercises from specific kettlebell videos. But not all are created equal. There’s a ton of crap on the market. Look for one by a certified kettlebell instructor – an RKC.
Here’s a good kettlebell video for beginners.
Are there any advanced kettlebell exercises that burn fat faster than the ones you listed here?
There are a ton of advanced kettlebell exercises that burn fat faster than the ones shown here – they usually just the ones listed here but you do them with two kettlebells – holding one in each hand. This makes it much more challenging. And you’ll burn a ton more calories. Hence the label “advanced.”
Should I learn how to do kettlebell exercises from a certified kettlebell instructor and if so, who do you recommend?
Finding and working with a certified kettlebell instructor – and RKC – is your best bet. I used kettlebells for 3 years on my own, just working from video. I didn’t really “get it” until 2005 when I went to the RKC – The Russian Kettlebell Challenge – a kettlebell certification course in 2005
Other Kettlebell Workouts Resources:
If you’re looking for the best kettlebell workouts for burning fat, get Kettlebell Burn.
It uses all the secrets elite athletes do to look the way they look. The only difference is that you can look that way without ever leaving the comfort of your own home.