March 15, 2010

Want to burn 20 calories per minute during a kettlebell workout? Really?

Filed under: kettlebell fat loss — Tags: , , , — @ 9:27 pm

Want to burn 20 calories per minute during a kettlebell workout? Really?

Lately, every kettlebell instructor in the land is touting the recent ACE (American Council on Exercise) study that revealed that caloric expenditure during intense kettlebell training is up to 20 calories per minute.

What most of the would-be kettlebell instructors are failing to point out, is that what is being done during the workouts will feel like 20 calories per minute, and you have to be using a significant weight to put that kind of load on your body.

Note: this is not some sissy “kettlebell bootcamp” workout using small women’s kettlebells and doing nothing but stupid things like bicep curls and walking lunges with them.

The test is described as experienced kettlebell lifters more or less continously snatching kettlebells ranging from 26lbs to 44lbs. This is tough.

I can easily get my heartrate to 180bpm+ doing this with a 53lb kettlebell. This is not for everyone, and certainly not for someone new to kettlebell training.

The 10 minute workout described in the ACE article is akin to what the US Secret Service uses to test their special operations team’s fitness level. Trust me those guys are doing a little more than the local Globo-Gym’s “kettle-robics” class with cute, 18lb kettlebells.

The enclosed video is a short example of what this exercise looks like, but is only a few minutes long.

The actual study was done doing precise intervals of rest and work, and this a short continuous set using a 53lb kettlebell, rather than a 44lb.

I was gratified to find that a laboratory study confirmed what I already knew: That intense kettlebell snatch sets will smoke you faster than anything you can do in a gym. I know that when I was wearing a Bodybugg calorie monitoring device, I burned 16 to 18 calories per minute while doing hard “man-maker” workouts consisting of 53lb kettlebell snatch sets followed by ¼ mile runs.

Now, every trainer that has ever touched a kettlebell thinks their training is producing that type of load. It simply does not. And neither does every kettlebell workout I do.

For a kettlebell instructor to advertise that their training burns 20 calories per minute is misguided at best and false advertisement at worst, unless their folks are actually working at that intensity.

The bottom line is this: 20 calories per minute is hard work. Don’t think just because you are using a kettlebell you are automatically burning that much.

It takes discipline and guts to dig that deep. Not everyone has that type of motivation. I’m very happy to say that many of my Idaho Kettlebells Superwomen have it.

Here is one example:Jenny J. doing 1/4 mile runs, followed by a set of 40 snatches with a 35lb kettlebell, followed by 8 knees-to-elbows (on a 3″ pipe, no less).

She did this for 4 rounds, then threw up. That is what 20 calories per minute looks like.


  1. Wow, intense training! No way! Can’t you just kind of hold them and get skinny rich and good looking 😉

    Comment by Dan — March 16, 2010 @ 2:10 pm

  2. Yeah, sorry.

    I guess there is no free lunch after all.

    Comment by Administrator — March 16, 2010 @ 2:15 pm

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