Can you lose weight with kettlebells? Are kettlebell swings an effective fat-burning workout? And what kind of kettlebell exercises are best for weight loss?
These are the burning questions we’ll tackle in this post, which also includes a very effective kettlebell weight loss workout which only takes 20 minutes.
Table of Contents
Kettlebells for Weight Loss
Kettlebells have taken the fitness world by storm. Although they have a long history of use by Russian strongmen and Okinawan Karate practitioners, it’s only fairly recently that they’ve entered the mainstream.
One of the reasons they’re so popular is because of the way they engage your whole body during movement, especially the large muscle groups throughout your legs, back and core.
The most famous exercise, the kettlebell swing, is super effective for weight loss exactly because it forces you to use your whole body to drive the movement. This makes the exercise a super high calorie burner, which is the key to losing weight.
How to Lose Weight with Kettlebells
In order to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume. Experts generally agree that a deficit of around 3,500 calories is equivalent to one pound of fat, and a safe weight loss target is one to two pounds per week.
This means, on average, you need to be using between 500 and 1000 more calories, per day, than you are eating. If you can do this over a sustained period, you will lose weight.
Losing weight means making changes to your eating and exercise habits. Effective weight loss usually requires you to eat fewer calories and burn more through exercise. It follows that doing exercises that burn the most calories are the ones that will help you lose the most fat.
Daily jogging is a fine way to make gradual progress on your weight loss journey. But kettlebells are more like a rocket ship that can blast massive amounts of calories in a very short space of time.
Doing a high-intensity kettlebell weight loss workout just two or three times a week will burn more calories than gentle jogging every day. Leaving you with more time to do the things you love (as long as that doesn’t involve eating cheeseburgers).
How Much Weight Can You Lose with Kettlebells?
The number of calories you burn during any workout varies according to factors like intensity and duration.
A kettlebell workout is very intense, but this intensity means that you are unlikely to be able to keep up the work rate for a long period of time. Therefore, workout duration is likely to be short – around 20 minutes is usually the sweet spot for high-intensity workouts.
- The good news is that during this 20 minutes you can burn as many as 400 calories. This is equivalent to running at a 6-minute mile pace.
- A standard strength training workout will burn about 150 calories in 20 minutes.
- Running will burn approximately 250 calories in the same time.
Compared to many other methods, kettlebell exercises are a faster calorie burner. However, you need to ensure you are maintaining a high level of intensity throughout the whole 20 minute period. Which means maximum effort and shorter rest breaks.
If you are able to sustain your workout for a whole hour, it’s unlikely that you’re working at the optimum level of intensity. So you need to step up your efforts and reduce your rest time so that you pack as much work as possible into the 20 minute time frame.
If after 20 minutes of exercise you’re completely drenched in sweat – you’re probably doing it right.
Kettlebells Cause Muscle Gain
It’s also worth noting that 20 minute kettlebell workouts will result in more muscle mass. So it’s possible that at first your scales will be telling you you’re not actually losing weight.
This may be true, but remember: muscle weighs more than fat. So even though the needle isn’t moving in the right direction, your body is becoming leaner, your waistline slimmer, and your overall energy levels will be increasing.
Gaining muscle mass with kettlebell exercises will also help you burn fat, because having more muscles means you naturally burn more calories. Your body will become a more efficient fat-burning machine.
How Often To Do Kettlebell Fat-Burning Workouts
As we’ve seen, kettlebell training offers one of the highest rates of calorie burn per 20 minute session of any exercise regimen – as long as you maintain the intensity throughout the workout.
We recommend that you aim to do this workout three times a week, which will burn around 1200 calories.
If your target is to burn 3500 calories a week through exercise, this will use up a large chunk of that, leaving you with only another 2300 calories to burn per week.
The remaining 2300 calories can easily be used up through your daily activities, as long as your days aren’t spent lying on a sofa eating potato chips.
A super important weight loss strategy is simply to move more in your daily life – like cycling to work, using the stairs instead of the elevator, walking instead of driving etc.
Kettlebell Weight Loss Workout
For losing weight, try these kettlebell exercises as a 20 minute workout, two or three times a week:
The Kettlebell Swing
The kettlebell swing is great for weight loss because it works most of the muscles in the body, especially the legs, hips and back.
Stand with your feet slightly wider apart than your hips and knees slightly bent. Bend at the waist and hold the kettlebell between your knees. Thrust your hips forward and raise your arms so that the kettlebell reaches chest height. Bring the kettlebell back between your legs and repeat.
One Arm Kettlebell Swing
The one arm swing is the same basic motion as the traditional swing, but you only hold the bell with one hand. This activates the core and it can improve stability as well as your strength. Make sure you work both sides by doing the exercise equally with both your arms.
Turkish Get Up
The Turkish Get Up is a more complex exercise, but it activates muscles in the whole body in a single exercise.
Lie face up with one arm to the side and holding the kettlebell straight up with the other. Keeping your kettlebell arm raised, stand using only your legs. This is a challenging move to perform but will exercise virtually all of the muscles in your body. This video will help you master the movement:
The kettlebell windmill exercises the obliques. It activates the core and improves flexibility in the hips when performed regularly. It can also help to alleviate back discomfort, so is especially useful for office workers and those with back pain.
Clean and Press
The clean and press is a variation on the deadlift technique used to safely pick up heavy objects. It exercises most of the muscles in the body. This exercise comes in two stages, and if you’re just starting on your weight loss and kettlebell exercise journey, you should master the clean before adding the press.
Stand with your feet slightly wider apart than your hips, with the kettlebell on the floor between your legs. Keep your back straight, reach your empty arm behind you, and bend your knees to pick up the bell. Stand upright and bring the bell to your chest. If you’re just starting out with the clean, lower the bell back to touch the floor before repeating.
When adding the press, lift the bell from the chest position vertically upwards so that your arm is straight above your shoulder. Lower the bell back to chest height before lowering it to the ground.
Where To Buy Kettlebells
Kettlebells are easy to buy online, but there are so many to choose from. Check out our buyers’ guide to the best kettlebells, and also the best adjustable kettlebells.
Other Weight Loss Exercises
Your body adapts to movements quickly. If you perform the same routine day in, day out, it not only becomes boring, but your muscles will also become accustomed to the workout and your gains will start to plateau.
You can maintain your gains by gradually increasing the intensity and duration of your workouts. But a better way is to add variety to the exercises. Mixing in other forms of exercise, like running or calisthenics, will keep your muscles guessing and prevent boredom.
Resistance bands are an excellent strength training tool for weight loss because they can be used to increase the difficulty of any exercise, either alone or in combination with weights. They’re also cheap and easy to use at home or while travelling.
Check out our guide to how to lose weight with resistance bands. And you can follow our YouTube and Instagram accounts for exercise videos like this back workout: