Kettlebell Swings for Fat Loss

Kettlebell Swings for Fat Loss

DO KETTLEBELL SWINGS INCREASE FAT LOSS? 

Kettlebell swings provide both intensity and total-body resistance training resulting in a greater amount of burned calories benefiting overall fat loss. Incorporating swings into a HIIT program can increase the amount of calories burned in a shorter period of time. 

HITT programs have been shown to burn more calories than steady-state cardio (e.g., walking and jogging at a moderate pace). It also increases your body's ability to burn calories for hours after working out, known as EPOC.

Research also shows that HIIT can burn more subcutaneous and abdominal fat compared to other forms of exercise, increase aerobic and anaerobic fitness, and improve glucose tolerance which is beneficial for blood sugar health.

One study focused on the effects of a 20-minute kettlebell workout including swings and other kettlebell exercises. Participants, men and women between the ages of 29-46, burned 20 calories per minute resulting in loss of 400 calories during the short workout.

Researchers concluded that the overall amount of calories burned was equivalent to a six-minute mile or cross-country skiing uphill at a fast pace. 

In this KB article, we'll go into greater detail about the kettlebell swing including the benefits, variations, and exercise instructions, in addition to a sample workout, and recommendations for the best weight to use…

KETTLEBELL SWING BENEFITS 

The kettlebell swing is one of the most functional and effective exercises out there. 

Known for its versatility and efficiency, the kettlebell swing provides an array of benefits that you may or may not be familiar with...including fat loss. 

Kettlebell swings increase cardio, build muscle, increase strength and explosiveness, and when consistently trained, burn fat. 

The benefits don’t end there though; KB swings are great for glute, hamstring, and core workouts that increases strength and trains hip hinge explosiveness; an essential component of athletic performance and overall development.

BUILDS MUSCLE 

Although the kettlebell swing resembles more of a cardio-type exercise, it can be an effective muscle-builder when progressive overloads are implemented. You'll never get results staying in your comfort zone, but increasing the load and reps will get you there.  

So you have to find a balance in how you increase the difficulty of the kettlebell swing to ensure that you are able to train with enough intensity to stimulate growth. For example, you want to use enough weight to challenge yourself but sometimes pushing through extra reps with less weight can be just as effective for hypertrophy.

INCREASES STRENGTH AND EXPLOSIVENESS/ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE

The kettlebell swing is a strength and power developing exercise. It may not involve handling close to the weight that you’d use with squats, deadlifts, etc. However, when you add an explosive functional element, you’ll get a lot of the same benefits.

One study compared the kettlebell swing to jump squat power training for increasing maximum (half squat-HS-1 repetition maximum [1RM]) and explosive (vertical jump height-VJH) strength. 

Researcher has shown that kettlebell swings increase maximum and explosive strength. It was concluded that swings are a useful alternative for strength and conditioning professionals who want to add variety in training their athletes. 

Swings also improve grip, core, and back strength. 

BURNS FAT 

Kettlebell swings provide both intensity and total-body resistance training resulting in a greater amount of burned calories benefiting overall fat loss. Incorporating swings into a HIIT program can increase the amount of calories burned in a shorter period of time. 

HITT programs have been shown to burn more calories than steady-state cardio (e.g., walking and jogging at a moderate pace). It also increases your body's ability to burn calories for hours after working out, known as EPOC.

Research also shows that HIIT can burn more subcutaneous and abdominal fat compared to other forms of exercise, increase aerobic and anaerobic fitness, and improve glucose tolerance which is beneficial for blood sugar health.

One study focused on the effects of a 20-minute kettlebell workout including swings and other kettlebell exercises. Participants, men and women between the ages of 29-46, burned 20 calories per minute resulting in loss of 400 calories during the short workout.

Researchers concluded that the overall amount of calories burned was equivalent to a six-minute mile or cross-country skiing uphill at a fast pace. 

Read: THE ONE HIIT WEIGHT TRAINING WORKOUT THAT BUILDS FULL-BODY STRENGTH AND STAMINA

IMPROVES METABOLIC CONDITIONING 

Kettlebell swings, when done at a good intensity, can also improve metabolic conditioning. What’s metabolic conditioning? It’s a process that occurs when your body uses carbs and fats to produce Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which can be made without oxygen to fuel high-intensity activities.  

ATP is what fuels muscle contractions but it can be used up rather quickly during intense exercise. So by engaging in high-intensity exercise, you’re challenging your body to produce more ATP rapidly to support your activities. You can also take creatine which increases ATP and therefore, will help to increase exercise capacity. 

Related: BURST TRAINING IS A CONVENIENT METHOD FOR FAT LOSS AND MUSCLE GAINS

KETTLEBELL SWING MUSCLES WORKED 

The kettlebell swing works the entire posterior chain and core muscles.  Take a look at the lists below and see all the muscles that the kettlebell swing works. 

Posterior Chain Muscles: 

  • Back (erector spinae, rhomboids, lats, traps, etc)
  • Rear delts
  • Hips (gluteal, lateral rotator, the adductor, and the iliopsoas group)
  • Glutes (butt)
  • Hamstrings (semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris)
  • Calves (gastrocnemius and soleus)

Core Muscles: 

  • Erector spinae
  • Rectus abdominis or abdominals (6-pack muscles)
  • Transverse abdominis  
  • Obliques (external and internal)

The kettlebell swing involves knee and hip flexion and extension which activates the muscles of the lower body including the hips muscles, glutes, quads, and hamstrings.

The hamstrings flex the knee and extend the hips, while the quads flex the hip and extend the knee. The glutes extend and externally rotate the thigh and also extend the thigh.  

Hinging forward at the hips and exploding upward engages the back muscles, especially the erector spinae which is a group of muscles along either side of the spine that runs the length of the back.

The core muscles are responsible for stabilizing the spine by compressing the core contents for rigidity during lifting. 

KETTLEBELL SWING VARIATIONS 

ONE ARM SWING 

The one arm swing is a highly recommended variation because it improves unilateral development (affecting one side). Performing the kettlebell swing using one arm at a time can help to identify and correct left to right imbalances; improve coordination and stability, and activate the core muscles to a greater degree. Athletes will especially benefit from unilateral training.

But we should mention that the one arm swing is much more challenging than the two arm swing the heavier the kettlebell.

The one arm swing requires more muscle recruitment overall whereas the two arm swing produces more hip power. During the one arm swing, the glutes and lats have to work harder to resist rotation to keep your shoulders and hips squared up. This is especially challenging with heavier kettlebells that are harder to control. 

It’s important for this variation to keep the quads and glutes tight so the lower body is squared up. You also want to externally rotate the arm and retract the shoulder down into the lats which keep the upper body squared up and tight, but also protects the shoulder. 

RUSSIAN KETTLEBELL SWING VS. AMERICAN SWING

The Russian kettlebell swing is what we know the kettlebell swing to be and what we’ve discussed in this article so far. But the American swing is a bit different as it requires the kettlebell to be brought overhead rather than chest height. 

In short, the American kettlebell swing requires more shoulder mobility and stability and you probably don’t want to be using as much weight as you would with the Russian swing. But it could offer some advantages such as working the shoulders and upper back muscles a bit more effectively. Although the Russian swing is better for most people. 

We wrote an article on the differences between the Russian and American kettlebell swing of which we’ve provided a link below. 

Related article: WHY YOU SHOULD USE THE RUSSIAN KETTLEBELL SWING INSTEAD OF THE AMERICAN

HOW TO PERFORM THE KETTLEBELL SWING 

The kettlebell swing is a phenomenal exercise... when done correctly. In fact, it’s really not that difficult to get the hang of, but you want to use good form to prevent injury and get the most out of this exercise. 

To ensure that you do it right, we’ve provided step-by-step instructions below. 

  1. Place the kettlebell on the floor a few feet in front of you.
  2. Keep your feet slightly wider than hip-width distance apart from each other and bend your knees a quarter of the way. 
  3. With your core tight, shoulders down, and back straight, hinge forward at the hips without bending your knees further, then grab the kettlebell with both hands using an overhand grip. 
  4. With your torso slightly above parallel to the floor, flex your lats and lock in your rear delts. Keep your arms close to your body.
  5. Swing the kettlebell between your legs while inhaling, then explosively thrust your hips forward into the standing position while exhaling. Your arms should raise to about chest level as a result of the hip thrust. You’re not using your arms to lift the kettlebell.

The momentum will allow you to perform the exercise in one fluid movement. So as the kettlebell comes back down you’ll hinge at the hips which will allow it to swing between your legs.  

But you want to make sure that you’re keeping your back straight which is easily achieved by avoiding bending too far down during the swing between the legs. 

200-REP KETTLEBELL WORKOUT 

OK, so you want to utilize kettlebell swings to burn some fat… great! You know what this means though, you’ll have to turn up the intensity a little but it’ll be totally worth it when you start dropping the pounds. 

We’re going to start off with 200 reps for now and this will equate to roughly 200 calories burned. It’s not a whole lot but it’s a start and you can also do other exercises too or you can do more reps if you want to burn more calories. But the good news is that you don’t have to do them all at once, although, you more than likely couldn’t anyway because it’s a lot!

Do them in sets of how many you can complete at once or set a timer and have a predetermined number of reps you want to complete per each set. Just make sure to complete 200 reps by the end of the day. 

For men, use a 24kg kettlebell and for women, use a 16kg kettlebell.

We also recommend giving yourself an hour after eating before you do a set, but you could also do a set before a meal. 

Use this workout as more than a challenge to do 200 kettlebell swings. It also makes for an excellent strategy to learn and improve self-discipline and mental fortitude, and you’re learning good habits.   

IS IT OKAY TO DO KETTLEBELL SWINGS EVERYDAY? 

Short Answer: Yes.

Keep the volume down and incorporate swings into your daily training to increase calories burned and ultimately increase fat loss. Kettlebell swings can be used as a cardio finisher at the end of your lifting sessions to increase your heart rate and improve your cardiovascular systems.

Now, there are a few factors to keep in mind regarding daily training; the intensity of your workouts, your current physical state, your typical recovery time, and the volume of your workouts. Basically, it comes down to listening to your body while keeping these factors in mind. 

If you're a lifetime athlete that incorporates resistance training into your regime, your recovery times will be shorter compared to a beginner.  However, if you're swinging a heavy load, your body may need more than a day to recover. 

If you're new to exercise and resistance training, your body will take longer to recover and you'll need to practice your technique before injuring yourself.     

Ultimately listen to your body and learn to recognize the signs of overtraining and overstress on the joints.

BEST KETTLEBELL WEIGHT 

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this and choosing a kettlebell weight is different than choosing regular dumbbells. If you’re new to kettlebell training, the exercises will work muscles in ways you’re not used to. But here are some recommendations that we feel is important to kettlebell training. 

When first learning swings, you can typically go a little heavier compared to other lifts, such as the power clean. We recommend practicing your technique and not 'muscling' the weight up. 

For beginner women; a 8-kg (18lb.) is the best weight to start with in general. It’s a comfortable weight to practice technique  and movement until you are ready to increase the load. 

For beginner men, the ideal starting weight is 16-kg (35lb.) for the same reasons. You don’t want to muscle through the exercises and a 16kg kettlebell will force you to use good technique. 

Once you perfect the swing and are ready to incorporate various kettlebell lifts into your training, it's a good idea to start building out your kettlebell collection. 

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