I’m about to head over to the gym to film a kettlebell and bodyweight demonstration for a nationally syndicated TV show up here in Canada (yes, we have TVs up here in our igloos :-).
But before that, here’s a study that recently came out from Truman State University studying the cardiovascular "effects" of swinging a kettlebell…
Farrar, RE, Mayhew, JL, and Koch, AJ. Oxygen cost of kettlebell swings. J Strength Cond Res 24(4): 1034-1036, 2010.Health & Exercise Sciences Department, Human Performance Laboratory, Truman State University, Kirksville, Missouri.
The subjects were asked to swing a 16kg kettlebell (using 2-handed swings) as many times as possible within a 12-minute period. The swings did not have to be continuous and there were no scheduled rest periods (so they could rest whenever they felt the need to). They just had to do as many reps as they could within the allotted time.
The researchers found that the test subjects completed anywhere between 198 – 333 swings and they worked at an average of 86% of their max heart rate. What’s more (and here’s where it gets interesting), the subjects worked at 65% of their VO2 Max (which was measured before the test).
So what does this mean for you and me?
"Continuous kettlebell swings can impart a metabolic challenge of sufficient intensity to increase Vo2max. Heart rate was substantially higher than Vo2 during kettlebell swings. Kettlebells provide a useful tool with which coaches may improve the cardiorespiratory fitness of their athletes.”
Continuous kettlebell swings can improve cardiovascular fitness.
This is good news for those of us who can’t afford the time to get on a treadmill for hours at a time and jog to try improve our heart health.
It also can provide a healthier alternative to traditional cardio because of the low impact that kettlebell swings have on your joints.
Looking into swinging vs cardio further, 3 of the most common forms of cardio training (running, cycling & ellipticall-ing…I don’t know what to call that) are mainly quad-dominant activities.
KB Swings primarily work your posterior chain (back, glutes, hamstrings) and your abs more effectively. Those posterior chain muscles are key for not only posture and joint health (primarily for your oft vulnerable knees & hips), but are essential for athletic performance, strength & power.
Think: being able to throw your 3 year old up in the air and catching her without the fear of "pulling" or "straining" something.
Be warned though, don’t set your timer for 12-minutes and start swinging. Just like every exercise, you need to start at a realistic level and progress gradually.
My suggestion is to start with 2-minutes of swings and work your way up to 12 minutes, increasing the duration of your swing workout by 1 minute per week.
OK, time to get to my trailer and get my make-up on 😉
-Chris Lopez, CSCS, CTT