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If you can find a better combination of training methodologies, I’ll eat my gym shorts – (after this sweat sesh >). For forging what Dr Kenneth Cooper called ‘total fitness,’ kettlebells and cardio offer the most effective exercise tools. As we’ll see in the benefits section below, kettlebells build functional strength while cardio improves aerobic conditioning.
But as for the workout, it can be tailored and adapted to suit fitness goals of all shapes and sizes. For example, if you want to focus more on muscular strength, the training ratio between the resistance and cardio stations can be adjusted so that you spend more time on the kettlebells. The process is reversed for those pursuing aerobic conditioning.
What if your training goal is a little less specific? Say, you want to enhance your general fitness ability. The kettlebell and cardio workout has been designed specifically to confer that training effect. By engaging a broad spectrum of fitness components, this workout caters to a much wider audience.
In addition, and as you’re soon to find out, it also promotes a much wider range of health and fitness benefits.
Related: Need a Competition Kettlebell?
Kettlebell and cardio workout benefits
For forging dynamic strength and explosive power, kettlebells are a training tool par excellence. Exercises such as the snatch, swing, and goblet squat stimulate every muscle worth mentioning.
Moreover, they can confer ‘real world’ physical functionality – that, if you’re wondering, is the type of fitness that makes everyday tasks (such as carrying your shopping, getting on and off the toilet, and doing household chores) easier.
Cardio serves as the perfect accompaniment to kettlebells. Whereas kettlebells develop muscular endurance, strength and power, cardio improves aerobic capacity. That’s the ability to be able to sustain light to moderate-intensity output for protracted periods – such as running 5 miles or rowing 10k.
But as many leading health experts keep reminding us, cardio is good for more than strengthening our heart. Here are a few quick examples.
Related: The benefits of Cardio Training >
Health & fitness benefits of cardio
In the context of physiological benefits, regular cardio training improves the efficiency of the vascular system as well as triggering a cascade of highly advantageous adaptations. The most prominent being the morphological changes of the heart. In addition to augmenting the capacity and elasticity of the chambers, these changes also ‘increase cardiac output, the volume of blood pumped per minute,’ (Exercised: The Science of Physical Activity, Rest).
From a health perspective, studies have shown that cardio exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Not just CVD but also stroke, type 2 diabetes, and obesity (National Library of Medicine).
Furthermore, emerging evidence suggests that cardio exerts psychological benefits. A PeerJ journal outlined research suggesting that light to moderate-intensity aerobic exercise can improve mood and attenuate mild forms of depression.
In sum, you’ll get far more than you bargained for with this kettlebell and cardio workout.
Kettlebell and cardio workout
‘The warm-up phase is extremely important, but unfortunately, it’s often an activity that is ignored – and painful, frustrating muscle pulls and strains may be the result,’ (The Aerobics Program For Total Well-Being). Heed Dr Kenneth Cooper’s advice and warm up well before starting the workout.
To cater to a wider range of training tastes, I’ve created two workout plans. The first plan involves a series of timed kettlebell and cardio stations. After selecting your preferred duration (3, 4, or 5 minutes), work at whatever intensity suits your fitness goal. If you’re feeling particularly energetic, you can AMRAP (as many reps as possible) the kettlebell exercises and use the cardio bouts as active recovery.
The second plan is more involved. You’ll notice that there are fewer stations. However, each one features a fitness test. The objective is to achieve the best possible time/score. Concluding each test, document your performance for future reference. Of course, because you’ll be working at near-maximum intensities, ensure to take a 2-to-5-minute rest between tests.
Kettlebell cardio workout key points
Complete the progressive-intensity warm-up before starting the workout.
Select the plan that will best support you in reaching your fitness goals.
Option 1 consists of eight exercise stations, which are divided equally between kettlebell and cardio. Decide on the station duration then progress through the list of exercises as per the plan.
Option 2 is comprised of six individual fitness tests. The aim is to achieve the best possible score. On completion of a fitness test, make a note of your performance before taking a 2- to 5-minute rest.
Concluding the workout, remember to cool down and stretch off.
1 min mobility exercises (or a round of light shadowboxing) → 2 min cardio (rowing, skipping or the cross-trainer) → 1 min kettlebell goblet squats (use a light kettlebell) → 2 min cardio (rowing, skipping or the cross-trainer) → 1 min kettlebell swings (use a light kettlebell) → 2 min cardio (rowing, skipping or the cross-trainer) → 1 min kettlebell clean to press alternate hand cycle → Start the kettlebell and cardio workout!
Kettlebell and cardio workout hints and tips
Both plans are multi-trainer friendly. I’d go so far as to say that they work better when accompanied by a dedicated fitness partner. Why? Well, for starters, we tend to push the pace a little harder in the presence of others. You’ll recall the study briefly described in the Kettlebell 300 Workout showing that cyclists achieved better times and higher average outputs when training in groups. The need to compete is a human characteristic. Thus, when your partner puts a bit more oomph behind their kettlebell or increases their running speed, you’ll be inclined to match like for like. Have a go and see if I’m wrong.
Related: Challenge yourself to these Seven Kettlebell WODs
Should you bump into an exercise that you are any less than 100% confident at performing, you can – nay should! – replace it. This will likely be the case for the more complex double-kettlebell movements – jerk, cleans, and the long cycle. But, before you go and wipe the slate clean of the best exercises, consider converting them to a single kettlebell alternative. For example, you can jerk with one hand. As well as being easier, the single-arm jerk still engages the same muscles. The same goes for the single-arm clean and long cycle (called a clean and jerk).
Related: Need Kettlebell Exercise ideas?
If your fitness is not yet up to the task of sustaining output for protracted periods, you can reconfigure the first plan into a circuit format. Instead of completing each exercise once for, say, 3 minutes, reduce to one minute and cycle around the circuit three times. The total training volume is about the same, but you are able to take more breaks between stations.
Enjoyed this workout?
Then get your hands on over 80 more with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits and Workouts Volume 3 >
About Adam Priest –
A former Royal Marines Commando, Adam Priest is a content writer, college lecturer, and health and wellbeing practitioner. He is also a fitness author and contributor to other websites. Connect with Adam via LinkedIn or email@example.com.