Can you lose weight with kettlebells?
Yes and no.
But that’s the same answer I’d give you if you asked me can I lose weight with dumbbells, hiking, gymnastics, swimming, eating fruit, or drinking Unicorn pee.
However, you’re not asking me that. So let’s dive into today’s article.
Can you lose weight with kettlebells? Here’s how to lose weight with or without them.
Note. For the sake of this article when I refer to calorie deficit I also mean energy deficit.
You can lose weight with kettlebells the same way you can lose weight with dumbbells, barbells, Peloton, walking, or any other movement you enjoy. By averaging an energy or calorie deficit over time. There are a number of ways you can do this.
Restricting a macronutrient or food group
This is not my favorite method but it’s worked well for a number of clients of mine
Restricting a macronutrient is what we could call a “diet.” The Keto diet restricts carbs. A vegan diet restricts animal protein. And the Paleo diet restricts grains, legumes, and dairy.
In the image above you create a calorie deficit by restricting a particular food group. Thus, reducing your overall calorie intake. If you don’t replace those calories and it puts you in a calorie deficit you may lose weight.
For example, let’s say you eat on average 2,000 calories per day and you’re maintaining your weight. Within these calories, you eat the following carbohydrates every day.
- Breakfast: 2 slices of toast (200 calories)
- Lunch: 1 apple (80 calories)
- Dinner: 1 cup of rice (200 calories)
- Total calories: 480
If you restricted carbohydrates you would not be eating 480 calories. This would now have you eating 1,620 calories per day. This puts you in a calorie deficit and you may start losing weight.
Skipping a meal or intermittent fasting (creating eating windows)
If you currently eat breakfast, stop, and don’t replace the calories. You may lose weight provided you create a consistent calorie deficit over time.
For example, let’s say you eat on average 2,000 calories per day and you’re maintaining your weight. Your first meal of the day includes the following
- Protein: 3 slices eggs (210 calories)
- Carbs: 1 apple (80 calories)
- Fat: Avocado (200 calories)
- Total calories: 490
By skipping this meal you’ve reduced your total calorie intake by 490 calories. You are now averaging 1,610 calories per day. You’re now in a calorie deficit and you may start losing weight.
Keep the same diet but eat less of it
You reduce serving sizes at one or more meals. Skipping snacks could be another way to eat less of what you currently do. The idea is to be 1% better. Simple swaps and adjustments can go a long way.
For example, let’s say you eat on average 2,000 calories per day and you’re maintaining your weight. Every day for lunch you grab a burger and fries from a favorite spot down the street.
- Cheeseburger (with bun): 350 calories
- Fries (medium): 340 calories
- Diet Coke: 0 calories
- Total calories: 690
And let’s say you have 2 glasses of wine each night as well.
- Wine: 240 calories
- Total calories (plus lunch): 930
What if you made the following 1% better swaps?
- Hamburger (with bun): 250 calories
- Fries (small): 220
- Diet Coke: 0 calories
- Total calories: 470 (-220 from your previous lunch)
Now those 2 glasses of wine turn into 1.
- Wine: 120 calories
- Total calories (plus lunch): 590
By making these small adjustments you’ve put yourself in a 340 calorie deficit. You may start losing weight.
Improve food quality (this usually leads to less calorie density)
Instead of a caramel macchiato and bagel with cream cheese, you now have water, apple, and scrambled eggs. Whole foods will usually be less calorie dense and more filling. Thus, helping to create a consistent calorie deficit over time.
- Caramel macchiato (grande): 220 calories
- Bagel with cream cheese: 400 calories
- Total calories: 620
- Apple: 80 calories
- Eggs(2): 140 calories
- Spinach and onion: 50 calories
- Water: 0 calories
- Total calories: 270 calories
If you average 2,000 calories per day and are maintaining your weight you’ve now created a 350 calorie deficit and you may start losing weight.
There are a number of other ways you can create a calorie deficit.
- Tracking calories or macronutrients
- Using your hands to estimate portion sizes
- Moving your body more (steps, exercise, etc.)
There’s a good chance you’ll use a combination of some of these.
When I asked can you lose weight with kettlebells I noticed you said you “may” lose weight. What’s that all about?
Very astute my friend.
As I talk about in the “How to lose weight with Peloton if you’re not and wondering why” article. There are a number of reasons why you may not be losing weight even when you think you’re in a calorie deficit.
Spoiler alert. It’s because you’re not in a calorie deficit.
Here are a few other reasons:
- Work week dieting. Creating a calorie deficit during the week and eating more than you think over the weekends. Thus, balancing out your caloric intake.
- Not accurately weighing and measuring foods if you are tracking calories in an app like Myfitnesspal
- Underestimating portion sizes and calories if you are not tracking.
- Dining out often. Meals out tend to be higher in calories and include larger portions than we would make at home.
- Assuming “clean eating” or “healthy eating” alone will lead to weight loss.
I dive deeper into 7 reasons you may not be losing weight in the video below.
Are kettlebells a good way to lose weight?
Yes and no.
Yes because if you enjoy exercising with them you’re likely to do it consistently. This means you may be using more calories and building muscle (if training with progressive overload). Both are important parts of losing weight and keeping it off.
No, because without a calorie deficit weight loss will not happen. It’s very possible to exercise and use enough calories to start losing weight without making changes to your diet. But you’re likely to only get so far.
In a systematic review conducted by James E Clark, it was shown that those who participated in both exercise and diet strategies lost the most weight. While those following a training or nutrition-only weight loss plan did not.
Will kettlebells help you lose belly fat?
It’s that annoying answer again. Yes and no.
It’s very similar to the answer above. Fat loss comes down to averaging a calorie deficit over an extended period of time.
You can’t focus fat loss on a particular area of the body by exercising certain areas, using specific equipment, or eating special foods.
You will lose body fat from all over the body. For some, they may lose belly fat at a faster rate. For others, this may be a stubborn area and take longer.
When working with fat loss clients we measure progress in a number of ways.
- Scale weight (daily)
- Girth measurements (monthly)
- Photos (monthly)
And non-scale measures of progress like:
- Sleep quality
- Important makers of progress specific to them (i.e. endurance when walking up the stairs)
Although it may be frustrating to hear. Some areas will take longer to lose fat. Spend time finding other meaningful ways to measure your progress or you’ll drive yourself bat shit crazy.
What kettlebell exercises are the best for weight loss?
Here are the top 9 best kettlebell exercises for weight loss.
While you might be able to argue that some kettlebell exercises burn more calories than others. The numbers would be insignificant at best.
You’re better off eating fewer slices of pizza and drinking beer than debating whether you should do kettlebell swings or kettlebell cleans.
Instead, here is a list of some of the best kettlebell exercises you can do in general that may help with burning calories, building muscle, and improving cardiovascular health.
Hip hinging kettlebell exercises:
Squatting or lunging kettlebell exercises:
Horizontal pressing kettlebell exercises:
Horizontal pulling kettlebell exercises:
Vertical pressing kettlebell exercises:
Other kettlebell exercises you may enjoy:
- Single kettlebell two-handed thruster
- Single kettlebell two-handed bent over row
- Single-arm kettlebell thruster
- Kettlebell staggered stance deadlift
- Kettlebell suitcase reverse lunge
- Kettlebell around the leg pass
- Kettlebell single-arm farmers carry
How many calories does a 20-minute kettlebell workout burn?
In a study involving 10 men ages 29-46 who had experience training with kettlebells. It was shown that a kettlebell workout involving swings and lifts for a 20-minute period burned on average 20 calories per minute. Or about 400 calories per 20-minutes.
But like I mentioned in the “How To Lose Weight With Peloton If You’re Not And Wondering Why” article. We may not be burning as many calories as we think when exercising.
In a study conducted at Stanford University, different fitness trackers were assessed to check their accuracy for calories burned. The results showed that the most accurate device was still off by 27%. While the least accurate was off by 93%
These overestimations can lead to overeating. You now believe you’re burning X number of calories and have room to eat Y number of calories.
If you are using a smart device to track your calories burned try this instead.
- Use these estimations as generalizations for how hard you may be working
- Treat them as a way to push yourself from time to time. Try and beat your calories burned.
- Use them as a fun metric to keep track of.
Don’t use them to determine how many calories you can eat. If you’re using food as a reward for exercise spend some time this week to see if there are other ways you can celebrate your exercise sessions.
- New workout clothes
- Watching your favorite show
- Spa day
Exercising more has become the default strategy for many when they’re not losing weight. Please keep in mind that exercise alone won’t lead to weight loss. The only thing that does is the consistent calorie deficit we’ve been talking about.
What is the best kettlebell weight for beginners?
This depends on a number of factors.
- previous training history
- ability to pick things up quickly
- current strength
- most importantly, technique with kettlebells
But generally speaking, I recommend the following kettlebell weights for beginners looking to get started.
- Men: 16kg (35 pound)
- Women: 8kg (18 pounds)
If it’s in your budget it may be best to pick two kettlebells of the same weight. Or to also pick up one heavier one for stable kettlebell exercises like swings and deadlifts. For most mean a heavier one of 50-55 pounds will do the trick. And for most women 35 to 40 pounds.
A few other things to factor in when starting to train with kettlebells.
1: Your lower body is going to be stronger than your upper body which will mean you can lift more weight. This may mean the 35-pound kettlebell deadlift is easier than a 35# kettlebell overhead press.
2: You’re going to be doing more single limb or unilateral exercises. If you only have one kettlebell you may only be able to work one limb at a time for some exercises.
3: Kettlebell training often requires using many parts of your body. Kettlebell training can be very taxing. Many exercises like kettlebell swings, kettlebell thrusters, and kettlebell clean or snatches require the full body.
Is a kettlebell workout cardio or strength?
I talk about this more in-depth in the “How To Do A Russian Kettlebell Swing” article. But generally speaking, kettlebell workouts can be both aerobic (with oxygen) and anaerobic (without oxygen).
Kettlebell swings, in particular, may elicit cardiovascular, neuromuscular, and metabolic responses sufficient for improvements in strength, aerobic power, and overall physical fitness. The Russian kettlebell swing can be used for strength and cardiovascular health.
In one study conducted researchers compared thirty minutes of kettlebell swings and deadlifts to walking on a treadmill at a slight incline. They looked at how each workout affected respiration, heart rate, calories burned, and rate of perceived exertion.
The kettlebell workout and treadmill cardio had similar VO2, blood pressure, and calorie burn markers, but the kettlebell workout had a higher rate of perceived exertion (it felt harder) and heart rate. What this tells us is that kettlebell workouts (and swings) could be a good method for cardiovascular training.
The Russian kettlebell swing can also be used to improve strength. The results of one study compared the effects of weight lifting and kettlebell training on vertical jump, strength, and body composition. Results showed that short-term weightlifting and kettlebell training were effective in increasing strength and power. However, the gains in strength using weightlifting movements were greater than that during kettlebell training.
How often should I work out with kettlebells for weight loss?
If weight loss is your goal you should emphasize creating a calorie deficit through nutrition.
2 to 4 workouts per week will be enough to build strength, improve cardiovascular health, and get body composition benefits.
There are a number of variables that go into how often you should work out.
- Training volume
- Training intensity
What are the best kettlebell workouts for beginners?
When starting something new you should try and get away from the “best” mentality.
I do get it. You want to make sure what you’re doing is going to be the most effective thing for you and your goals. But often two things happen when we get wrapped up in the best.
- We never get started because we’re always searching for the next best thing
- We get started but continue our search for “best” and jump from one new shiny object to the other
Instead of the best, I’m going to give you a beginner kettlebell workout to get you started.
The absolute newbie’s full-body kettlebell workout:
Complete 3 to 5 sets of the following exercises. Rest between 30 and 90 seconds between each exercise. This can be done as a circuit or you can do each exercise one at a time.
Kettlebell goblet squat: 8-15 reps
Kettlebell 3-point row: 8-15 per arm
Kettlebell push press: 8-15 per arm (or floor press or push up)
Plank: 10-30 seconds
Bonus work: Practice your kettlebell swings
More kettlebell workouts to learn from:
- How to do a Russian kettlebell swing and common mistakes
- Super simple 20-minute kettlebell workout
- 30-minute full-body kettlebell workout
Can you lose weight with kettlebells? Final thoughts.
After about 2,300 plus words. We can safely conclude that the answer to “can you lose weight with kettlebells” is a definitive yes and no. It all depends if you average a calorie deficit over time.
If you enjoy training with kettlebells you should do it. But not for the sole purpose of losing weight. Let your nutrition do most of the work there.
If you enjoyed “Can you lose weight with kettlebells.” You may also enjoy these articles.
- How to lose weight with Peloton if you’re not and wondering why
- How to lose weight without tracking calories
- How do I start my fitness journey? A 12-week beginners guide
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