We’re diving deep into one of the most effective and exciting workouts out there, the kettlebell cardio workout.
Kettlebells are a favorite in the fitness world, and for good reason. They’re compact, versatile, and can offer an all-around workout that combines strength training and cardio. They’re perfect for those of us who want to maximize our workouts without spending hours in the gym.
Let’s start with the basics: what makes kettlebells so special?
The Kettlebell Advantage
The design of a kettlebell is unique. Unlike dumbbells, the weight of a kettlebell isn’t evenly distributed. This imbalance requires more stabilizer muscles and body balance to control, giving you a fuller workout.
Kettlebells are excellent for compound movements (exercises that target multiple muscle groups at once) due to their design and handle. This allows for movements that mimic real-world physical activities, thus making them incredibly functional.
Muscle Groups Targeted
Here’s the magic of kettlebell workouts: they’re all-encompassing. They target various muscle groups in a single workout session. The big movers like the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and back get the main action, but the smaller stabilizer muscles in your arms, shoulders, and core get a workout too.
But where kettlebells really shine is in their ability to give your heart a great cardio workout. It’s like strength training and a marathon wrapped up in one neat, kettle-shaped package!
As we dive into the world of kettlebells, let’s kick things off with some basic yet incredibly effective movements. These exercises form the cornerstone of any kettlebell regimen, and mastering them will unlock a new dimension in your fitness journey. They’re versatile, they’re challenging, and best of all, they offer a unique blend of strength and cardio training.
Kettlebell swings are a staple of any kettlebell workout. They target your lower back, hips, glutes, hamstrings, and quads, with your shoulders and core acting as stabilizers.
Start with the kettlebell on the floor in front of you. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, squat down and grab the kettlebell with both hands. Push through your heels to stand up, driving your hips forward and swinging the kettlebell up to shoulder height. Allow the kettlebell to swing back down between your legs as you bend your knees and hinge at the hips. That’s one rep!
Kettlebell High Pulls
High pulls are fantastic for working your shoulders, upper back, and hamstrings, while getting your heart rate up.
Start in the same position as the kettlebell swing. Instead of swinging the kettlebell to shoulder height, pull it directly up, leading with your elbows, until your hands come up to your chest. Lower it back down and repeat.
Kettlebell Goblet Squat
Goblet squats target your quads, glutes, and hamstrings, while the hold at the top works your arms and core.
Hold the kettlebell by the handles at chest height, keeping your elbows close to your body. Squat down, keeping your chest lifted and your knees over your toes. Push through your heels to return to standing.
Kettlebell Clean and Press
This is a compound exercise that targets multiple muscle groups including the quads, glutes, shoulders, and arms.
Start with the kettlebell between your feet, bend at your hips and knees, and grab the kettlebell with one hand. In one smooth motion, pull the kettlebell up to your shoulder (the “clean”) and then press it overhead. Lower it with control and repeat.
Kettlebell Russian Twist
This is a killer exercise for your core and obliques and will have your heart rate soaring.
Sit on the floor with your knees bent and hold the kettlebell with both hands at your chest. Lean back slightly and lift your feet off the ground. Twist your torso to the right and touch the kettlebell to the ground next to your body. Twist to the left and do the same thing. That’s one rep!
I personally find myself ending a kettlebell cardio workout with a few sets of these. Russian twists are always challenging and a great way to target your core.
Zone 2 Cardio Training Benefits & Workouts
Zone 2 cardio refers to training in a heart rate zone where you’re working at 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. It’s often described as a “conversational” pace. You should be able to speak in full sentences, but your heart rate is elevated enough that you’re still getting a good cardio workout. This level of training helps build your aerobic base, improve endurance, and increase fat burning, without putting too much stress on your body. It’s sustainable, and most importantly, it’s where most of your training should occur.
Now let’s dive into five fantastic ways you can knock out a kettlebell cardio workout. Whether you’re a seasoned fitness pro or just starting, these workouts are customizable to your fitness level. I’ve also designed these with zone 2 cardio in mind – so they’re challenging but doable!
1. Swing, Clean, Press Circuit
- Kettlebell Swings: 15 reps
- Kettlebell Clean and Press: 10 reps each side
- Rest: 60 seconds
Perform these exercises in a circuit, one after the other with minimal rest in between. After you complete one round, rest for 60 seconds. Repeat for 4 rounds. This should take you about 15-20 minutes.
2. Kettlebell HIIT
- Kettlebell Goblet Squats: 20 reps
- Kettlebell High Pulls: 15 reps
- Kettlebell Russian Twist: 20 reps
- Rest: 60 seconds
Again, perform these exercises in a circuit, one after the other with minimal rest in between. After you complete one round, rest for 60 seconds. Repeat this circuit for 5 rounds. This high-intensity interval training (HIIT) should take you around 20 minutes.
3. Kettlebell Pyramid
- Kettlebell Swings: 10 reps, then 15, 20, 15, and 10
- Kettlebell Goblet Squats: 10 reps, then 15, 20, 15, and 10
- Kettlebell High Pulls: 10 reps, then 15, 20, 15, and 10
Perform the kettlebell swings, followed by the goblet squats, and then the high pulls. Start with 10 reps of each, then move to 15, then 20, then back down to 15, and finally 10. This forms a pyramid structure. This workout can take around 20-30 minutes.
Each of these workouts can be done with a single kettlebell. Depending on your skill level, choose a heavier or lighter kettlebell that will allow you to finish all of the reps and movements in a timely manner while maintaining a zone 2 heart rate.
If you’re interested in understanding the difference between all the kettlebells out on the market, check out our blog post all about it.
The beauty of kettlebell workouts is their flexibility. You can adjust the weight, reps, or speed to make them as challenging or as simple as you need. It’s about finding what works for you, pushing your limits, and most importantly, enjoying your journey to health.
So, there you have it, folks! The kettlebell cardio workout is a comprehensive, adaptable, and highly efficient way to improve both your strength and cardiovascular health. Once you start incorporating it into your routine, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it. Until next time, stay fit, and keep swinging!