Kettlebells vs. Cardio: More Evidence That Kettlebell Training is All You Need

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.”

 Or….

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

=>Start Swinging with the TT Kettlebell Revolution

 

  • Carl

    I bought your deluxe version today, will be printing it off soon and start with my brand new 16kg kettlebell! :D

  • g lee

    Hi coach..

    I want to buying your Ebook program. Can you let me know about the benefit of your program rather than another KB program…

    I am beginner and want to start the KB trainning. Cause, I was boring with cardio machine..

    Can you give some tips.. How to kick out my bad habbit like fell lazy to workout.. And how to making tough our mental (spirit of workout..)..

    I wish you luck…

    Thanks

  • Clement

    Hey Chris, great post! I’m about to start doing 30-30 intervals for 12min and I hope it does improve my soccer-specific fitness, being a recreational athlete myself.

    I recently sent you an email regarding your TT kettlebells sale. Please take the time to look through it. Thanks!

  • tia

    this is a post for “g lee”… i have not purchased the official kettlebell program either but i wanted to share with you that in the past when i have recieved emails from chris or craig sharing free workouts using kettlebells, it is effective and worth it. with or without a kettlebell, you can pick up a dumbbell and do swings and “snatches” turkish get ups with a dumbbell and get an amazing workout that combines multi joint compound movements and some serious cardiovascular work. after one of those workouts i am totally spent, and i can literally see myself getting leaner after a few days. forget about hours on treadmills and eliptical, kettlebells will work more muscles in a lot less time. i hope this convinces you :)

  • http://kettlebellplanet.com Nathan

    Nice post. Great point about the lack of impact with kettlebell swings. I watch joggers with a strange fasciniation. Why do they kill their joints and work so hard to look, well, normal?

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  • tom

    hello above on this page it says i can buy the kb revolution for women for a special price of 35.00 until midnite tonite ,but when i click buy it now the price jumps to 57.00 i whoud love to pay 35.00 ,also does this program come with any dvds thanks tom 845-304-7952

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  • Rick

    I am ready to purchase the program today for the $35.00 promotional price but every time I try to check out is only offers it at the regular price of $57.00. Please advise on how I can get the program with the promotional discount.

  • Jim

    I just printed out the first two pages comparing kettlebell swings to using a treadmill. Going to make copies and attach it to every treadmill at the gym where I teach KB classes.

  • Kylie

    @Jim – ha ha, that’s a great idea!
    But will the treadmill users a) just put their latest copy of Who Weekly down on top of it; or b) not look down from the tv screen??

    Hmmm… or just say “VO-what?”

    Thanks Chris for bringing the ‘science geeks’ to us!

  • Torgeir

    Hi Chris,

    I’ve done the Viking Warrior Conditioning from Kenneth Jay.
    He also had the same science conclusion. But he meant the snatch was better than the swing. And I have to agree with him.
    For my home workout, I will never do anything else than Kettlebell workout.
    Just bought your TT Kettlebell Revolution. Can’t wait to get started.

    Thanks for sharing Chris:-)

  • Eddie

    Hi!! Great information!!! I just bought two KBs by TROY and I’m going to try your recommended workout!!! Thanx again!!!

  • George

    Great post. Trying to use KB’s more and more in my workouts. Swings are definitely butt-kickers. Tim Ferris touches on the usefulness of the KB Swing in his book “The Four-Hour Body.” Nice to see the message being the same from different sources. There is way to much confusion in the fitness and diet areas already. Thanks and keepo it coming.

  • Patti McFadden

    I am a woman who is 50 years old and in the wonderful time in my life called peri-menipause. I have tried other workouts to have the end result being no weight loss. Please tell me that if I invest the time and money that the end result will be better.

    • http://KettlebellWorkouts.com Chris Lopez, RKC

      Hi Patti,

      thanks for reaching out. You’ll get great results so long as you manage your entire life, not just your workouts. Stress, lifestyle and especially nutrition will contribute to weight gain and so it is of utmost importance that you choose to live your most excellent life. I’m here to help. Just let me know what you need!

      Chris

  • http://www.melisaanderson.com Melisa

    I just started doing your recommendation of 100 2-hand swings per day a couple of days ago. WOW! I can definately feel it.
    I broke my lower leg bones 6 months ago and have really struggled to find something that doesn’t hurt too badly. This has been my saving grace.

    • http://KettlebellWorkouts.com Chris Lopez, RKC

      That’s great to hear, Melisa and what you’re experiencing isn’t uncommon. Because swings provide little to any impact on your joints, your legs will recover nicely and will even get stronger! Great choice!

      Chris

  • Lizzie

    Hey Chris, great info! One question: how many times per week should I perform this KB swing workout?? Also, I had a laminoplasty done to my C1-C4 lamina (upper vertebrae) in Jan of 2011 and was wondering if KB workouts are safe for me. Thanks Chris!