American Council on Exercise by American Council on Exercise

If you’ve taken a kettlebell class you know that in a short amount of time you will be exhausted on both a muscular and cardiovascular level. If you haven’t worked out using kettlebells, there’s research that shows why you should.

To analyze the aerobic efficiency of a kettlebell workout and to see how many calories are expended, ACE enlisted the help of the research experts at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse Exercise and Health Program. The team, led by John Porcari, Ph.D., and Chad Schnettler, M.S., recruited 10 volunteers, male and female/ages 29 to 46 years, all of whom were experienced in kettlebell training.

Prior to beginning the actual study, each volunteer was given a maximal exercise test on a treadmill while oxygen consumption and heart rate were constantly monitored.

In addition, they surveyed each subject and their ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) for the treadmill test. On another day, the volunteers performed a five-minute kettlebell VO2 max snatch test to establish a baseline for their kettlebell fitness. Heart rate and oxygen consumption were measured during each stage. A peak RPE was taken following the test as well as blood lactate levels, which were tested using the finger prick method three minutes after completion of the test.

On testing day, each volunteer performed a pre-determined 20-minute kettlebell snatch workout typical of a common kettlebell routine. The workout consisted of a brief warm-up, then 15 seconds of snatches, followed by 15 seconds of rest. There was a five-minute cool-down, as well. Researchers monitored each subject’s heart rate at 60-second intervals and completed a blood lactate test immediately following the workout.

The results of this total body workout did not disappoint. During the 20-minute workout, volunteers burned an average of 272 calories which turns out to be 13.6 calories a minute. When you also take into consideration the blood lactate measurements, they found that they were burning another 6.6 calories per minute. This equals approximately 20.2 calories per minute! That’s equivalent to running at a 6-minute mile pace.

The average heart rate during the kettlebell snatch workout was between 86 percent and 99 percent of the kettlebell heart rate max. As for VO2max, the treadmill VO2max was 23 percent higher (38.9 ml/kg/min vs. 31.6 ml/kg/min) than the VO2max attained during the kettlebell VO2max test.

These finding attest to the hype of kettlebell workouts, which easily meet industry recommendations for improving aerobic capacity and serve as a fast and functional way to strength train. Just remember that proper technique is vital in preventing injuries. For a complete kettlebell workout, please view the PDF.

Get more and save more
with CEC Power Pass

CEC Power Pass gives you unlimited access to the
knowledge you need to be your best.

See How