The kettlebell swing is one of the foundational movements of kettlebell exercises and has many benefits. Not only can it help you burn fat and increase your fitness, it can also improve postural reactions.
Not familiar with the kettlebell? It’s basically a cannon ball with a handle on it that has gained popularity as an exercise and rehabilitation tool. The kettlebell is nothing new. Popular folklore is that the kettlebell was born out of Russia. Russian farmers used them as a counter weight to measure grain at the market. They then began throwing them around and developing competitions to pass the time.
Why incorporate the kettlebell swing into your workout
The kettlebell swing is a great way to increase heart rate and burn calories. It’s been used often as an exercise to improve cardiovascular health and shed those unwanted pounds. The key is to do multiple sets for higher repetitions and to be consistent.
While there are hundreds of ways this can be organized a few examples are: Start with 15-20 swings and add 10-20 swings each day, do 5-10 rounds of 30-50 swings, or mix them with another exercise like 30-50 swings and 10 push-ups for 10 rounds.
How many calories will kettlebell swings burn?
There are a number of factors involved when it comes to calories you’ll burn, such as the size of your kettlebell, as well as how you do the swings and whether you do them all at once or spread them out.
Performing swings with a heavy kettlebell will definitely burn more fat - not just during the workout but also afterward due to a concept called post-exercise oxygen consumption, or what’s commonly known as the “after burn effect.” This “after burn effect” is the energy your body uses to recover from the short, intense bout of exercise you just completed. So, while your fitness tracker or heart rate monitor reports you burned a couple hundred calories during your 10-15 minute workout, you may burn another couple hundred in the next few hours after your workout is complete due to this concept.
The kettlebell swing can be an effective alternative to other popular fitness activities like running and biking. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research compared 12 minutes of kettlebell swings to a progressive run test on a treadmill. Heart rate and VO2 max were measured for each. Keep in mind, the American College of Sports med recommends exercising in the 60-80% heart rate range to optimize cardiovascular fitness. According to this study, doing 12 minutes of a self-selected pace of swings led to an average of 85% heart rate max and 65 % VO2, which puts it in the “hard” category of exercise.
The kettlebell swing can be a great solo exercise or addition to an existing program to help burn fat, get fit and even improve your postural reactions. So if you aren’t currently a swinger, I highly recommend you become one. And in the spirit of a famous animated fish; just keep swinging, just keep swinging.
Chris Kolba is a physical therapist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.