Kettlebells can provide an intense, total-body workout.
George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Twice the calorie burn in half the time is certainly a bold claim, but that's what kettlebells can offer your training routine. According to the American Council on Exercise, or ACE, a kettlebell workout can burn 20.2 calories per minute - that's over 1,200 calories per hour. Compare this to an hour of standard weight training, which burns between 180 and 266 calories, and you're on to a winner.
Understand Kettlebell Exercises
There are many ways to work out using a kettlebell. ACE recommends straddling the equipment with your feet shoulder-width apart then swinging it up above your head and slowly lowering back down. You can also do figure eights with a kettlebell by bending over and moving it around one leg and then the other - with your feet spaced a bit wider than shoulder-width apart. Try behind the-neck-jumpsquats, as ACE calls them, for a workout that will probably tire you out swiftly. Take a minute or so to rest between jumps for this activity. Because all of these activities involve some amount of cardio, you'll get plenty of calorie-burning benefits.
Consider The EPOC Effect
Excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption - EPOC - is a real mouthful, but it has an important effect on calorie burn when training. After training, your body is in an oxygen debt, as the oxygen you breath is being used to help repair damaged muscle tissues and restore your natural processes. This means your body has to switch energy systems, raising your calorie burn for up to 24 hours. According to an ACE study, kettlebell training actually burned an average of 13.6 calories per minute, but the EPOC effect added an extra 6.6 calories per minute.
Examine Time and Intensity
The amount of time you're in an oxygen debt and burning extra calories depends entirely on the duration and intensity of your training, noted coach Brian Mackenzie. If your kettlebell workouts only last 10 to 15 minutes and you take it fairly easy, the EPOC effect will be much less and your average calorie burn per hour will be lower. If you go hard and train for 45 to 60 minutes, however, it'll be much higher. A workout that uses compound multi-joint moves such as swings, squats and snatches will also burn more than one that focuses on isolation exercises such as calf raises or triceps extensions.
Focus on Yourself
You could do exactly the same kettlebell workout as your training partner, but the two of you wouldn't necessarily burn the same number of calories. Along with intensity and workout duration, the amount of calories you burn in an hour of kettlebell training also depends on your genetics, metabolism and weight. Use kettlebells to push yourself and take your training to the next level, but realize that the exact number of calories you burn is an individual matter.
Intensify Your Kettlebell Routine
Pick challenging exercises, and don't be afraid to use a weight that makes you sweat. If you can perform 30 or 40 reps on an exercise, you're going too light. Base your routine around single- and double-handed swings, clean and jerks, presses, goblet squats, Turkish getups, snatches and high pulls to raise your calorie burn per hour. Although the number of calories you burn is dependent on many factors, kettlebells are an extremely effective all-round training tool for burning calories and building strength in a short space of time. A good starting point is a weight you can lift for 10 to 12 reps with good form but that takes you to the point of muscular fatigue.