Updated: Aug 1
If you want to lose weight but are not keen on cardio, this workout is for you. Kettlebells offer an alternative way to burn fat from conventional sweat sessions. Pavel Tsatsouline identifies this as one of the chief attributes of kettlebell training.
‘The fat loss power of kettlebells,’ Tsatsouline tells us, ‘is explained by the extremely high metabolic cost of throwing a weight around combined with the fat burning effect of the growth hormone stimulated by such exercise,’ (The Russian Kettlebell Challenge).
But while kettlebells are a recognised method of shifting those stubborn pounds, they are still no match for cardio. In his book Exercised, Daniel Liberman outlines a ‘study that compared the effects of cardio and weights on overweight and obese adults.’ The study found that aerobic exercise was a significantly superior method of facilitating weight loss.
It’s for this reason that I’ve included short bouts of cardio. However, as well as diversifying the exercises, cardio has been kept to a minimum.
In addition to helping you transition to a healthier body weight, kettlebells are also an effective tool for developing lean muscle mass. This coveted combination of outcomes can enable you to build a body that looks as good as it performs.
Related: Best Competition Kettlebell for the home gym
Kettlebell weight loss workout benefits
The primary benefit of this workout is that it can help you lose weight. Reducing total fat will do more than improve body image – which is one of the main motivational factors for why people want to trim up. Studies have shown that those with a healthy body weight are less likely to develop chronic diseases such as CVD, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.
Because the workout involves both resistance and cardio, it can bring about a wider range of physiological adaptations. For example, resistance training enhances the strength of muscles and connective tissues. An additional benefit of forging a more robust body is a reduction in injury risk (The Complete Guide To Strength Training).
Cardio isn’t just ‘the best method for decreasing excess body weight.’ According to Lieberman, aerobic exercise confers many desirable outcomes such as increased heart strength, improved efficiency of the circulatory system, enlarged lung capacity, and increased bone density (Exercised).
How to get the most out of this workout
Having reviewed a handful of health and fitness benefits associated with this kettlebell workout, it’s worth considering how to integrate it into your training routine. After all, no workout will deliver the intended results if it’s not completed frequently enough.
The simplest way to include the workout into your routine is by setting aside a specific day. You could do this by replacing an old workout or, you have space in the week, extending your routine. For example, if you currently train for four days a week, consider opening a fifth day.
Another option is to use the workout multiple times across the week – Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. However, to avoid training tedium you could make minor iterations to the workout each time you do it. I explore modification ideas in more detail in the hints and tips section below.
Related: When you're done here, try these 7 Kettlebell WODs
How to do this kettlebell weight loss workout
The workout is organised into eight distinct sections – four comprised of kettlebell exercises and four cardo stations. Each section has been assigned a range of time durations: beginner (2 minutes), intermediate (3 minutes), and advanced (5 minutes). Your level of fitness will determine the length you select.
The mechanics of the workout are relatively straightforward. Kettlebell exercises have been banded together in pairs. Performing 5 reps on each exercise, you are to oscillate between the exercises without pausing for the stipulated duration.
So, taking the first pairing (goblet squat and deadlifts) as an example, you will perform 5 squats followed by 5 deadlifts. The aim is to maintain training consistency throughout.
To spice things up a bit we’re observing the Girevoy Sport rule that forbids downing the bell until the time elapses. If a girevik downs their bell during a competition, they are prohibited from amassing any more reps. However, for the purposes of this workout, breaking the 'down bell' rule will be rewarded with 25 burpees.
Once you’ve completed the first kettlebell section (and any outstanding burpees), progress straight to the cardio section. In truth, the cardio was installed to keep your core temperature elevated while your muscles recovered after the kettlebell onslaught. As well as serving this purpose, bouts of cardio will also help burn off a few extra calories.
Throughout the CV section, you have the choice of coasting to the next pairing or grafting for some additional fitness gains. When I did this workout, I selected skipping. I made it my goal to sustain a moderate output for the first 40 seconds of each minute before doing double unders for the remaining 20 seconds. This approach enabled me to work hard but not fatigue myself prior to picking up my kettlebell for the next pairing.
Kettlebell workout key points
Complete the warm-up below before starting the workout.
Select the level most suited to your fitness ability. A reminder of the levels: beginner (2 minutes), intermediate (3 minutes), and advanced (5 minutes).
To help maintain training motivation, set a countdown timer with a 60-second inner periodic reminder. Also, ensure that you can see the timer.
When you’re warm and ready, and your countdown timer is set, start at the first kettlebell pairing – goblet squat and deadlifts.
You are completing 5 goblet squats before transitioning to deadlifts. Aim to maintain a consistent output for the duration of the time.
Remember, breaking the downed bell rule comes with a 25 burpee penalty which should be paid before starting the cardio section.
After each kettlebell pairing, progress to the cardio exercise.
10 minute warm up
1 min mobility exercises → 3 minutes cardio (low intensity) → 5 reps of each exercise in the plan → 2 minutes cardio (moderate intensity) → 10 reps of each exercise in the plan → 1 minute cardio (high intensity) → Start burn calories!
Kettlebell weight loss workout hints and tips
As with all Hungry4Fitness workouts, you can swap and change any exercise in the plan to suit your ability and training preferences. For example, beginners may find the workout over-weighted with kettlebell exercises. Even a few minutes of non-stop resistance training can be quite challenging for those just starting to build up their strength. But you can easily adjust the workout to suit your level of strength. Here are two suggestions for you:
1: Reduce the weight of the kettlebell(s)
2: Replace one of the kettlebell exercises with a bodyweight movement
The cardio station features a range of exercise options. This serves three purposes. First, those that aren’t keen on cardio get the choice of selecting the exercise they dislike the least. Second, you can change exercises after each bout. In addition to stimulating novelty, this also works the body in different ways, thus broadening the health and fitness benefits. Third, it makes the workout accessible to a wider audience. For example, if you have a single kettlebell in your home gym but no cardio equipment to speak of, save the open road, you can still do the workout. You’ll just be running (or jogging on the spot).
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