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Burn Fat And Build Muscles With This Kettlebell Cardio Routine

A fitness woman completing a kettlebell cardio routine.

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By blending kettlebell and cardio exercises this workout will help you build muscle and burn fat. In addition to sculpting a defined physique, combining resistance and CV in a single session can promote many health and fitness benefits. I explore these benefits in a bit more detail below. But here’s a quick taste to whet your appetite.

As I discuss in the new Hungry4Fitness book Atomic Kettlebells, the kettlebell is one of the few training tools that target the full register of your physicality. What that means is kettlebells, unlike static weightlifting, possess the capacity to improve functional strength, muscle endurance, explosive power, agility, coordination, and balance. And if you AMRAP your kettlebell exercises (or tackle these Girevoy Sports Competitions), you’ll likely experience elevated levels of aerobic fitness.

But as Professor Daniel Liberman argues, the best way to increase your aerobic capacity and lose weight is by regularly participating in cardio. In support of his argument, Liberman outlines an important study that investigated the fat-loss effects of cardio and weights on obese people. Researchers showed that those ‘prescribed just weights’ lost little to no fat while those prescribed cardio ‘lost substantial amounts’ of ‘harmful organ fat,’ (Exercised: The Science of Physical Activity, Rest & Health – p304).

If you’ve had your fill of the ways this kettlebell cardio routine can enhance your health and fitness, skip straight to the plan. But if you want to know more, read on . . .

Kettlebell cardio routine benefits

For those new to kettlebell training, it’s hard to believe that a ‘cast iron weight which looks like a basketball with a suitcase handle’ can develop all those fitness components listed above. I’ll be honest, I was sceptical when I first clapped my eyes on a kettlebell. But don’t be fooled by its unconventional appearance. Many leading proponents claim that the range of possible training applications makes owning a competition kettlebell like having an all-in-one gym.

Pavel Tsatsouline, who gave us the above description, argues that ‘kettlebell lifting is one of the best tools for all-around physical development,’ (The Russian Kettlebell Challenge). He bases his argument on experimental research that demonstrates the diversity of fitness attributes that kettlebells can confer.

Accordingly, a group of students were randomly assigned either a conventional weightlifting programme or a kettlebell training programme. Before starting their new resistance regime, the students were put through a ‘barrage’ of ‘armed forces PT tests’ – pull-ups, press-ups, and a timed run.

After several months of pumping iron, the students were retested. Researchers found that ‘the group that just lifted kettlebells . . . showed better scores in every one of them [the tests]!’ These unexpected outcomes inspired sports scientists at a leading Russian research centre to further investigate the effectiveness of kettlebell training.

Concluding a series of controlled experiments, the scientists ‘found a very high correlation’ between regular kettlebell lifting and a ‘great range of dissimilar’ fitness outcomes. For example, using kettlebells could help boost your one-repetition max, increase power outputs, enhance whole-body muscle endurance, and augment your aerobic stamina.

Benefits of cardio

I’ll confess. The discussion on the benefits of kettlebell training ran longer than planned. And to think, we didn’t even scratch the surface. Conscious that enough of your time has been taken up already, the benefits of cardio have been confined to a list.

But if you want to delve deeper into the fascinating ways that cardio can improve your health, fitness, and wellbeing, check out our article The Benefits of Cardiovascular Training.

Improves body composition – reduces total body fat
Strengthens the muscle of the heart
Enhances aerobic efficiency
Increases stroke volume and lung capacity

Kettlebell cardio routine

You have three different training plans to choose between. Each plan features an assortment of kettlebell and cardio exercises – no surprises there. But what distinguishes them is the objective and organisation of the training tasks. An explanation of the plans can be found below.

Kettlebell cardio routine #1:

Workout one consists of a fitness competition. First, select the difficulty level commensurate with your current ability. Then, after a progressive intensity warm-up, proceed through the list of exercises in the shortest time possible. Because you are competing against the clock, rest periods have not been stipulated.

Kettlebell cardio routine #2:

The second workout sees you transition through a series of short-duration AMRAPs. Your objective is to accrue as many reps as possible in 5 minutes. (For the cardio stations the focus is on covering as many metres as possible.) Concluding an AMRAP, you are entitled to a 2-minute rest.

Kettlebell cardio routine #3:

Our final workout observes a conventional training structure. The kettlebell exercises have been assigned a range of sets and reps. Your training goals will determine the range you select. For example, if you want to build strength, you’ll keep the sets and reps low. In addition, you’ll need to use a heavy kettlebell. Reverse the protocol if your goal is to enhance muscle endurance. The resistance section concludes with a bout of cardio.

KB and CV routine key points

  • Before starting any of the workouts, ensure to complete this warm-up: 1-2 min mobility exercises → 5 min low to medium intensity cardio (rowing or the cross-trainer) → 1 up to 10 reps air squats to kettlebell swings → 2 min medium to high-intensity cardio → Start the routine!

  • Select the plan that aligns with your training preferences and fitness goals.

  • Progress through the list of training tasks as per the workout instructions.

  • If you are pitting yourself against the competition (Routine #1) or the AMRAPs (Routine #2), I recommend documenting your time and scores. These can be used as benchmarks to compete against when you next undertake the routine.

  • Don’t forget to cool-down and stretch off after you’ve trained. 

Kettlebell cardio routine #1

Warm-up - select the level suitable – aim = complete all the exercises in the plan, including the two cardio stations, in the shortest time possible.

Kettlebell cardio session plan #1.

Kettlebell cardio routine #2

Warm-up – 6 x 5 min AMRAPs – Rest for a maximum of 2 mins between stations – Aim = establish a score (metres-/reps/jumps) for each exercise.

Kettlebell cardio session plan #2.

Kettlebell cardio routine #3

Warm-up - select the preferred training protocol = strength or muscular endurance – apply the appropriate set and rep ranges – progress through the plan until you have completed all the exercises.

Kettlebell cardio session plan #3.

Kettlebell cardio routine hints and tips

By way of a general tip, any exercise in the plans is replaceable. Beginners or those just learning their way around a kettlebell, probably won’t be at the ‘snatching’ stage yet. This is understandable. The snatch is a complex movement. Mastering the technique requires months of persistent practice. Until you can execute the exercise safely, it is wise to substitute it for something else – such as the snatch pull or the dumbbell variation. This one example can, of course, be applied to any exercise that you are not confident in performing.

A method to maximise your performance through a workout on it to compete against a training partner. If you can’t recruit a willing participant, another way to improve your time is to rescue rest periods and maintain a consistent output. Once you established a time and got a ‘feel’ for the workout, give it another go at a later date.

As many reps as possible

The advice advanced above holds for the AMRAPs. Achieving a respectable score is more a matter of consistency than sweat and toil. Okay, maybe it’s a mixture of the three. However, applying the ‘slow and steady’ strategy is (usually) more effective than working in fits and starts. Again, establishing a score on each exercise will provide you with a benchmark to compete against when you next tackle the workout.

Kettlebell circuit

Compared to its predecessors, workout three is like a walk in the park. However, if you like the look of the plan, but feel the need for a more challenging training experience, there are a couple of ways to turn up the intensity. First, you can arrange the exercises into a circular circuit. Decide on the station reps (10 is optimal), set a 30-minute countdown timer, and aim to complete as many laps as possible. Another way to increase the intensity is by ascending a repetition ladder. Similar to the circuit, the objective is to climb as high up the ladder as you can in 30 minutes.


Never be without a kettlebell workout
Kettlebell and cardio routine concludes with Atomic Kettlebells.


About Adam Priest –

A former Royal Marines Commando, Adam Priest is a content writer, college lecturer, and health and fitness coach. He is also a fitness author and contributor to other websites. Connect with Adam at

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