A lot of people will tell you that you can’t lose weight by lifting kettlebells. Up to a point, they’re right, even though the truth of the matter is a little more complicated than most people think.
Many trainers like to say that you shouldn’t use kettlebells for weight loss because by working out with kettlebells, you’re increasing muscle mass, which leads to weight gain.
The truth is that lifting kettlebells, even heavy ones, will not make you bigger. You get bigger by consuming excess calories from the wrong foods. You can lose weight by lifting kettlebells, but what might really surprise you is the amount of weight you can lose by adding some kettlebell exercises into your weekly workout regimen.
Why Kettlebells Are Effective For Weight Loss
To better understand why kettlebell workouts are effective for weight loss, it’s helpful to contrast kettlebells with regular free weights and machine weights.
On the face of it, kettlebells work the same as free weights or machine weights in that you lift the weight, and the motion and stress tear down your muscles and force them to heal and grow larger.
The first reason that a kettlebell is effective for weight loss is that it’s an oddly-shaped piece of equipment that requires a very different lifting motion that works out a wider range of muscle groups than a regular free weight.
The second reason that kettlebell workouts are such an effective tool for weight loss is the nature of kettlebell workouts themselves. Workouts with dumbbells or barbells confine you to a single pushing or pulling motion.
Simultaneously, the ability to swing a kettlebell or hold it in the goblet position makes kettlebell workouts more dynamic and intense, leading to a greater degree of muscle confusion.
Besides weight loss, kettlebell workouts also have several other health benefits. A 2019 study by the National Institutes of Health found a direct link between kettlebell workouts and increased aerobic strength. The same study also found that athletes who performed regular kettlebell workouts had better balance and posture and reduced blood sugar levels.
How Much Weight Can I Expect To Lose?
This is the million-dollar question, and it’s always a tricky one to answer because every athlete is different, and there are so many variables such as diet, height, and weight to take into consideration. A 2010 study by the American Council on Exercise and the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse found that, on average, a short-duration, high-intensity kettlebell workout of 20 minutes burned up to 400 calories.
Compared with other types of workouts, a reasonably healthy individual running three miles at a steady pace of ten minutes per mile can expect to burn a little over 300 calories. So as you can see, the kettlebell workout is the clear winner in terms of calories burned.
When we compare a kettlebell workout against other kinds of 30-minute workouts, the disparity in the number of calories burned remains. A moderate-intensity, 30-minute bike ride only burns about 270 calories, and 30 minutes of tennis only burns 240 calories.
Predicting the amount of weight loss due to one specific type of exercise or training regimen is difficult. A high-intensity kettlebell routine of 20-30 minutes, maintained consistently over several weeks with a regular caloric deficit, should result in an average weekly weight loss of one to two pounds per week, with weekly weight loss for the first few weeks being somewhat higher, at two to three pounds.
What Kettlebell Exercises Are Good For Weight Loss?
Now that we’ve explained the science behind using kettlebell workouts for weight loss let’s get to the important stuff and discuss what kinds of kettlebell workouts will help you start to shed those extra pounds.
Ballistic Exercises Vs. Grind Exercises
To maximize the amount of weight lost with your kettlebell workouts, it’s important to stick to what we call “ballistic” kettlebell exercises. When I say “ballistic” kettlebell exercises, I’m referring to a broad category of kettlebell exercises that are challenging, high-tempo, and involve some explosive motion, performed with a light-to-moderate weight kettlebell.
Ballistic kettlebell exercises are the more dynamic counterpart to “grind” kettlebell exercises, which are generally slower, more controlled, and involve heavier weights and some degree of constant tension.
When it comes to weight loss, ballistic kettlebell exercises are much more effective than grinds because by using a lighter-weight kettlebell, you can move faster and do more reps, which gets the heart rate up, which results in fat loss, which results in weight loss.
The other two factors that distinguish ballistic kettlebell exercises from grind kettlebell exercises are that ballistic routines will always workout multiple sets of joints and the heart and lungs. Ballistic workouts are also more dynamic and compel you to maintain proper form, breathing, and posture.
What Ballistic Exercises Will Help Me Lose Weight?
When it comes to ballistic kettlebell exercises, you more experienced gym rats probably already know a few. If you’re looking to put together a ballistic kettlebell workout, start with these tried-and-true exercises:
- the goblet squat
- the strict press
- the clean-and-push press
- the kettlebell snatch
If you want to go a step further and build an entire ballistic kettlebell workout, there are many great options out there.
If you want to use kettlebell workouts for weight loss but don’t want to confine yourself entirely to ballistic kettlebell exercises, then check out Visual Impact Kettlebells by Rusty Moore (see my Visual Impact Kettlebells review here). This is an amazing program especially if you’re new to kettlebells and want to appreciate what an effective and truly versatile tool they really are.
Final Thoughts on Losing Weight with Kettlebells
So by now, you should have a pretty clear understanding of the benefits of kettlebell workouts for weight loss. If you’re just trying to lose a few pounds, build muscle mass, or if you’re just trying to add a little more variety to your home gym, I hope this article has done a good job explaining the amazing benefits that come with any kettlebell workout.
As always, make sure to consult with your personal trainer or another qualified fitness professional before starting any workout or exercise regimen that you’re unfamiliar with or have limited experience in.