try it out tuesday: killer kettlebell workout

Posted on Nov 13, 2012 in Fitness

You know that big ole stack of fitness magazines that are collecting dust in your living room? And inside those magazines, you know those dozens of dog-eared workouts that looked totally awesome at the time but never made their way into your actual workout routine? Yeah, well, I’m sick of that. So I decided that every-other-Tuesday, I’m going to test one of those workouts and share my review with you guys. Sound like fun? Let’s do it!

The Basics

  • The Workout: Killer Kettlebell Workout from Shape Magazine
  • Type of Workout: Strength and cardio circuit
  • Muscle Groups Worked: Full-body
  • Equipment Required: Kettlebells, yoga mat or soft surface
  • The Nitty-Gritty: Six kettlebell moves are done for a certain rep or time each. The whole circuit is then repeated for a total of 12 moves. This 15 minutes worth of activity is supposed to work all your muscle groups, give you a hefty cardio workout and burn around 300 calories.

The Results

I headed to the gym and did this workout on a morning when I was particularly crunched for time. My “usual” gym routine can take upwards of 90 minutes from warm-up to cool-down and I just didn’t have that kind of time. The pull of getting a full body cardio and strength workout in just a few minutes definitely sucked me in.

At the gym, I set myself up with an open area and three kettlebells (15, 20 and 25 pounds) and, after a 5 minute walking warmup, cycled through the moves in the order given. I was skeptical about the “torch 300 calories in 15 minutes” headline, but by the time I finished the first set of the first move, I knew I was definitely on track to hit a hefty calorie burn.

  • Calories Burned: 362 calories*
  • Total Time: 42 minutes*
  • Next Day Soreness: 3/5 (0=no soreness, 5=holy crap nuggets, I can’t walk)
* Includes five minutes each of a walking warm-up and cool-down.

The Pros

  • Speed, speed, speed. While I couldn’t quite power through the moves in the 15 minutes advertised, I did get through them all in about 30 minutes and felt like I got a really great strength and cardio workout. I do think I’ll get faster at them as I learn the circuit by heart and don’t need to consult a guide.
  • Full body strength and cardio. I’m a big fan of splitting up muscle groups and focusing on strength and cardio separately, but some days just don’t allow for that kind of committment and I think this workout is a great option for when that happens. My heart was racing, I was sweating and the next morning, almost all my major muscle groups were sore.
  • Adaptability to different fitness levels. The great thing about kettlebells? They come in different weights. Just starting out, you can use a 5-pounder. If you’re more advanced, try a 20+ pounder.
  • Combo of modern and traditional. I loved that these moves weren’t “typical” kettlebell moves, but didn’t 100% depart from the traditional moves either. It was a nice combo of both. I especially loved the Spider Drags. Big fan!

The Cons

  • Not a targeted workout. This con is also a pro. Each move gives you just a brief touch on the surface of each of the major muscle groups. If you want to get into some serious weight training, you’ll need to expand beyond just this routine.
  • Ketllebells are still scarce. Not everyone has access to kettlebells and these moves would be very difficult to do with other equipment.
  • Risk of injury. Like most workout equipment, when used improperly, kettlebells can cause serious (and not so serious) injury. If you have any questions about how to perform a move, consult with a personal trainer or kettlebell expert.
  • The burpees. Burpees always suck, but they especially suck when you add a kettlebell to them.
  • No guidance on weight. Kettlebells are funny little things. When you are swing and using momentum, you need a heavier weight than when you are doing just strict lifting. I would have liked to see the workout give more suggestions on how to figure out what weight is right for you. All they said about weight was to use one kettlebell, 5-15 pounds depending on your level. I used a variety of weights and my lowest was 15 pounds.

The Final Word

I was really impressed with this workout. From the “outside” it doesn’t appear like much—just 6 moves–but when put together back-to-back, with a heavy set of kettlebells, it was a good solid workout. It doesn’t replace heavy training of the major muscle groups or cardio-only exercise. But it is a great quick option when I’m running low on time. I’ll be adding this one to my repertoire.

Have you tried out any new workouts lately? How’d they go?

17 Comments

  1. I love new workouts! This week I tried a tabata workout, like you suggested last week in the November calendar. Holy crap nuggets, 2 days later I still HURT! But it felt really good to do an intense workout, that I was able to fit in when I was short on time!

    • YES! Tabatas are like burpees. Totally evil, but totally effective. I actually can’t do full-strength tabatas because of a lung condition, but I try to do a few circuits of tabatas at 80% or so and even that kicks my ass.

  2. Thanks for posting, I was about to plan my Tuesday night strength training work out!

  3. 1) I love this idea and I’m really looking forward to future posts.

    2) The fact that you said holy crap nuggets totally made me smile.

    • Hahah! Holy crap nuggets=one of my favoritest sayings ever.

      And YAY! I’m glad you like it. :)

  4. Yes! I love it. Of course I love anything that involves lifting weights.
    I know you mentioned that kettlebells are scarce, but you could do all of those exercises with a dumbbell instead of a kettlebell.

    Side note: what is the model lifting, a 1/4lb kettlebell? Come on. A swing with a kettlebell that small is pretty useless.

    • I KNOW, RIGHT?! Heavy weights are good!

      I haven’t tried them before, but do you think you can do swings with a dumbbell the same way? I guess I feel like you don’t get the whole momentum/swing-y motion thing if you are holding onto the whole weight with your hands. If that makes any sense.

  5. Kettle bells are my boyfriend’s sole source of exercise. He ordered some online and that’s what he does at home. It’s great! He’s lost weight and the kettle bell workouts helped his back pain.

    I do my own kettle bell workouts at the gym and it’s fun and hard work. I burn more calories doing that than most things!

  6. woo! I love kettlebells and I’ve been looking for a new routine so your timing is perfect :) I’ll be trying this out tonight… have to use dumbbells, though, no KB at the home gym yet.

  7. I haven’t tried a new workout in a while, but I’m going to have to take a physician-prescribed break from running soon. I am excited to try swimming in its place.

  8. What is your “usual” gym workout (roughly, just in terms of cardio/ lifting, you don’t have to be too specific if you’d rather not)? I’m just curious what takes up 90 minutes for you. If you’ve already told us, could you please link to it?

    What kind of HRM/ calorie counter is that? And again, if you’ve already told us or reviewed it, could you please link to it? I love the look of it.

    Thanks for the kettlebell review! And for your patience. :)

    • 5 minute warmup, 30-40 minutes strength, 30 minutes cardio, 5 minute cooldown and then a nice long stretch!

    • I was wondering about your calorie coutner too.

      • It’s a Polar HRM that they discontinued a few years back, but I actually own two different Polar HRMs (the lower end varieties) and am very happy with both.

  9. Love kettlebell exercises. Unfortunately, my new gym just doesn’t understand. Largest kettlebell is 15lbs and it is the size of a large watermelon. As if making it larger makes it more impressive that you’re lifting barely nothing. Nope, just more awkward. AND, the poster nearby gives the exercises girly names instead of the real names. Like, “teapot dip” instead of single leg RDL. *steps off soapbox* ok, I feel better. I knew you’d understand.

  10. Hi! Can you tell me about your heart rate monitor and what you would suggest? I really want something accurate that will help me track calories/motivate. Thanks!

    • Hi Estelle! I have a Polar brand model that was discontinued years ago, but I still love it! It was one of the lower end ones (under $75) and worth every penny. Good luck!

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