Are Kettlebells Effective?

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    “Are Kettlebells Effective?”

    That’s a great question, and one that newcomers should ask, but the answer is not simple. Whether they’re effective or not depends on whether they can meet your goals, whether you put in the effort, and, most importantly, whether you use them correctly. Thus the final answer lies with you. Can they be effective? Without a doubt, yes!

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    Research citations

    You will not be tested on any of the content below. If you’re interested in scientific research to answer whether kettlebells are effective, read:

    Comparison of Two-Hand Kettlebell Exercise and Graded Treadmill Walking: Effectiveness as a Stimulus for Cardiorespiratory Fitness

    F. Thomas, James & Larson, Kurt & Hollander, Daniel & Kraemer, Robert. (2013). Comparison of Two-Hand Kettlebell Exercise and Graded Treadmill Walking: Effectiveness as a Stimulus for Cardiorespiratory Fitness. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association. 28. . 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000345. Prevailing interest in the use of kettlebell (KB) exercises for rehabilitation as well as improvement of muscular strength has led to several recent studies, some suggesting that KB exercise may be useful for improvement of cardiorespiratory fitness. The purpose of the study was to determine whether KB exercise would produce similar cardiovascular stress to that of walking, and thus provide an additional exercise mode for improvement of cardiorespiratory fitness. It was hypothesized that a moderate-intensity, continuous KB protocol, would produce similar metabolic and cardiorespiratory responses as a brisk bout of graded treadmill walking, but greater rating of perceived exertion (RPE). Ten novice volunteers (5 men; 5 women) completed a preliminary session to determine body composition and VO2max and to familiarize participants with standardized, KB exercise technique. Subsequently they completed a 30-min KB session that included 3, continuous 10-min sets of 10 KB swings followed by 10 sumo deadlifts, with 3-min rests between 10-min exercise periods. The third session was a 30-min treadmill regimen that began at the walking speed and 4% grade that matched the VO2 from the KB session and included 3-min rest intervals following 10-min treadmill exercise periods. VO2, RER, kcal/min, and blood pressure were similar for KB and moderate-intensity treadmill exercise, but RPE and HR were greater during KB exercise. Data indicate that a KB routine consisting of two-hand swings and sumo deadlifts with 3-min rest periods, produces similar metabolic responses to those of a moderate-intensity treadmill walking protocol designed for improvement of aerobic fitness.

    Hamstring myoelectrical activity during three different kettlebell swing exercises

    J Del Monte, Michael & Opar, David & Timmins, Ryan & Ross, James & Keogh, Justin & Lorenzen, Christian. (2017). Hamstring myoelectrical activity during three different kettlebell swing exercises. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 1. 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002254. Kettlebell exercises have become an increasingly popular form of resistance training and component of lower body rehabilitative training programs; despite a lack of scientific literature illustrating internal mechanisms and effectiveness of these approaches. Participants (n=14) performed three different styles of kettlebell swings (hip hinge, squat and double knee extension) and were assessed for medial hamstrings (MH) and biceps femoris (BF) myoelectrical activity via surface electromyography (sEMG). Bipolar pre-gelled Ag/AgCl surface electromyography (sEMG) electrodes (10mm diameter, 20mm inter-electrode distance) were placed on the participant’s dominant limb after correct skin preparation.There was a main effect for swing type (p = 0.004), where the hip hinge swing elicited a greater overall MH and BF sEMG in comparison to the squat swing (mean difference = 3.92; 95% CI = 1.53 to 6.32; p = 0.002) and the double knee extension swing (mean difference = 5.32; 95% CI = 0.80 to 9.83; p = 0.020). Across all swing types, normalised percentage of MH sEMG was significantly higher compared to the BF (mean difference = 9.93; 95% CI = 1.67 to 18.19; p = 0.022). The hip hinge kettlebell swing produced the greatest amount of hamstring sEMG for the three styles of kettlebell swings assessed. These findings have implications for the application of kettlebell swing exercises in strength and conditioning, injury prevention and rehabilitation programs.

    Neuromuscular Coordination Deficit Persists 12 Months after ACL Reconstruction But Can Be Modulated by 6 Weeks of Kettlebell Training: A Case Study in Women’s Elite Soccer

    K. Zebis, Mette & Andersen, Christoffer & Bencke, Jesper & Ørntoft, Christina & Linnebjerg, Connie & Holmich, Per & Thorborg, Kristian & Aagaard, Per & Andersen, Lars. (2017). Neuromuscular Coordination Deficit Persists 12 Months after ACL Reconstruction But Can Be Modulated by 6 Weeks of Kettlebell Training: A Case Study in Women’s Elite Soccer. Case Reports in Orthopedics. 2017. 1-7. 10.1155/2017/4269575. The aim of the present single-case study was to investigate the effect of 6 weeks’ kettlebell training on the neuromuscular risk profile for ACL injury in a high-risk athlete returning to sport after ACL reconstruction. A female elite soccer player (age 21 years) with no previous history of ACL injury went through neuromuscular screening as measured by EMG preactivity of vastus lateralis and semitendinosus during a standardized sidecutting maneuver. Subsequently, the player experienced a noncontact ACL injury. The player was screened again following postreconstruction rehabilitation, then underwent 6-week kettlebell training, and was subsequently screened again at 6-week follow-up. Prior to and after postreconstruction rehabilitation the player demonstrated a neuromuscular profile during sidecutting known to increase the risk for noncontact ACL injury, that is, reduced EMG preactivity for semitendinosus and elevated EMG preactivity for vastus lateralis. Subsequently, the 6-week kettlebell training increased semitendinosus muscle preactivity during sidecutting by 38 percentage points to a level equivalent to a neuromuscular low-risk profile. An ACL rehabilitated female athlete with a high-risk neuromuscular profile changed to low-risk in response to 6 weeks of kettlebell training. Thus, short-term kettlebell exercise with documented high levels of medial hamstring activation was found to transfer into high medial hamstring preactivation during a sidecutting maneuver.

    The short term effect of kettlebell swings on lumbopelvic pressure pain thresholds: a randomized controlled trial

    M. Keilman, Brandon & Hanney, William & Kolber, Morey & Pabian, Patrick & Salamh, Paul & Rothschild, Carey & Liu, Xinliang. (2016). The short term effect of kettlebell swings on lumbopelvic pressure pain thresholds: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 1. 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001743. The purpose of this study was to investigate the short-term effect of kettlebell swings (KBSs) on lumbopelvic pressure pain thresholds (PPTs) in healthy adults. Sixty participants (male=23, female=37, mean age=25.12 years ±2.86, height=170.73 cm ± 9.2, mass=70.49 kg ± 13.32) were randomized into one of two groups. The experimental group performed a warm-up followed by eight consecutive 20-second rounds of KBS with 10-second rest periods. The control group performed the warm-up alone. An evaluator blinded to group assignment, assessed PPTs immediately before and after the intervention using a handheld pressure algometer. The algometer was applied to the regions of the right paravertebral (PVM), quadratus lumborum (QL), and piriformis (PF) muscles perpendicular to the skin based on standardized palpation procedures. The participants were instructed to report when sensation changed from “comfortable pressure” to “slightly unpleasant pain.” No significant between group differences existed at baseline for PPTs (PVM p=.068; QL p = .134, & PF p=.105). Significant group by time interactions existed for each site following the interventions (PVM, p=.018; QL, p=.004; PF, p=.026) favoring the KBS group. Results suggest that KBSs create a reduction in muscle sensitivity to noxious pressure based on pressure algometry measurements. These findings may be due to the unique cyclic muscle contraction associated with KBSs, which has been proposed to facilitate removal of muscle metabolites. The findings of this study provide a foundation for future studies to examine the use of this type of training in patients with low back pain of a muscular etiology or post-exercise muscle soreness. Furthermore, future studies should evaluate specific mechanisms for these effects.

    Comparison of Cardiorespiratory and Metabolic Responses in Kettlebell High-Intensity Interval Training versus Sprint Interval Cycling

    Williams, Brian & Kraemer, Robert. (2015). Comparison of Cardiorespiratory and Metabolic Responses in Kettlebell High-Intensity Interval Training versus Sprint Interval Cycling. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 29. 3317-3325. Williams, BM and Kraemer, RR. Comparison of cardiorespi-ratory and metabolic responses in kettlebell high-intensity interval training versus sprint interval cycling. J Strength Cond Res 29(12): 3317–3325, 2015—The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of a novel exercise protocol we developed for kettlebell high-intensity interval training (KB-HIIT) by comparing the cardiorespiratory and metabolic responses to a standard sprint interval cycling (SIC) exercise protocol. Eight men volunteered for the study and completed 2 preliminary sessions, followed by two 12-minute sessions of KB-HIIT and SIC in a counterbalanced fashion. In the KB-HITT session, 3 circuits of 4 exercises were performed using a Tabata regimen. In the SIC session, three 30-second sprints were performed, with 4 minutes of recovery in between the first 2 sprints and 2.5 minutes of recovery after the last sprint. A within-subjects’ design over multiple time points was used to compare oxygen consumption (V _ O 2), respiratory exchange ratio (RER), tidal volume (TV), breathing frequency (f), minute ventilation (V E), caloric expenditure rate (kcal$min 21), and heart rate (HR) between the exercise protocols. Additionally, total caloric expenditure was compared. A significant group effect, time effect, and group 3 time interaction were found for V _ O 2 , RER, and TV, with V _ O 2 being higher and TV and RER being lower in the KB-HIIT compared with the SIC. Only a significant time effect and group 3 time interaction were found for f, V E , kcal$min 21 , and HR. Additionally, total caloric expenditure was found to be significantly higher during the KB-HIIT. The results of this study suggest that KB-HIIT may be more attractive and sustainable than SIC and can be effective in stimulating cardiorespiratory and metabolic responses that could improve health and aerobic performance.