Kettlebells stand out in how many exercises you can do with them. Find out whether this versatility also applies to the fitness components you can train.
For popular fitness goals like toning your body, losing weight, building upper body muscle, improving cardiovascular health, and improving mobility, kettlebells of the right weights could be the only pieces of fitness equipment you need.
At the same time, you need to keep in mind that other lifestyle habits like nutrition and sleep play a big role in many of these fitness goals too.
Suboptimal habits in these other areas can help you prevent you getting fit with a good kettlebell workout program.
Additionally, just because you can use kettlebells to improve many of these fitness components and just because many people can see nice results does not mean kettlebells are the number 1 fitness equipment option for everything.
For example, for improving cardiovascular health, exercises like running tend to be more effective than kettlebells.
Lastly, for growing and strengthening strong muscles like the glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps, the weights and handling of kettlebells are often suboptimal.
Can you get toned from kettlebells?
Toning body parts comes down to losing body fat and growing the muscles in these areas.
To get to the first point, you need to make sure you are absorbing less energy from the food you eat than your body needs. This makes it so your body starts using energy stores like body fat to get the extra energy needed.
In what area you will lose this body fat is generally not something you can influence in very significant amounts. Additionally, other lifestyle habits like nutrition will play an important role.
Next, as will be explained more in-depth below, kettlebells can be challenging enough for many people to grow the muscles in many areas.
One thing to note is that this may not apply to the leg muscles due to the weight limits and handling of kettlebells in the relevant exercises.
In short, kettlebells can help you get more toned, especially in upper body areas with weaker muscles. At the same time, other lifestyle habits like your diet will play a big role in whether you lose body fat.
Can you lose weight with just kettlebells?
As mentioned above, you can say that kettlebells help weight loss because they can help you use more energy. This can get you to the point where you need more energy than your diet is offering you and/or increase the difference.
There are also ways to put the results of kettlebells in this area into more specific numbers.
For example, a 155-pound (70 kg) person will burn around 179 calories when doing continuous kettlebell swings for 15 minutes.
Of course, this is a very rough estimation that depends on things like body composition, the weight of the kettlebell, body weight, hormone levels, etc.
The number of calories burned above is derived from a study where the men used a 16 kg (35-pound) kettlebell and the women used an 8 kg (18-pound) kettlebell.
Something else to note is that while kettlebell workouts can help you lose weight, other exercises like running, cycling, and swimming may be more convenient and effective to burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time.
Can you build muscle and get big with just kettlebells?
To grow and strengthen muscles you have to put them under enough pressure, do the right number of repetitions, give your body enough nutrients, and rest enough.
They are not necessarily the number one option but kettlebells can be used relatively conveniently in upper-body exercises like shoulder presses, bench presses, crunches, etc.
However, in the case of exercises for stronger muscles, the shape, lack of knurling (grooves on the handles), and upper weight limits of kettlebells can stop you from building muscle and getting big.
For example, to do kettlebell squats, you have to either hold the weights suitcase-style or rack them at shoulder height.
Even if you manage to find enough weight, your grip, shoulder, or bicep muscles will likely fatigue before your strong leg muscles had a good workout.
Similarly, you can do kettlebell deadlifts but the lack of knurling makes the exercise harder on your forearm grip muscles. Potentially too hard to really train your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and quadriceps.
In short, just kettlebells could be enough to build a lot of muscle in a variety of upper body areas. To do the same in the stronger leg muscles, kettlebells could be lacking.
Can kettlebells improve cardiovascular health?
Your cardiovascular system includes your heart, lungs, and blood vessels.
Similar to other body parts, you can strengthen this system by putting it under enough pressure, giving your body enough nutrients, and resting enough.
The way you challenge your cardiovascular system is by moving more intensely for an extended period of time.
You can do this by moving your body more intensely or making it so your body has to move more weight with for example a kettlebell.
One thing to note is that while heavy resistance training exercises do get your heart beating faster, they only do this for a short amount of time.
On the other hand, something like kettlebell swings with a somewhat lower weight will engage your cardiovascular system a lot for a nice amount of time.
At the same time, again kettlebells are likely not the number one equipment option/exercise. Exercises like running, cycling, and swimming tend to have more potential for improving cardiovascular health.
Can kettlebells improve mobility?
Body mobility basically comes down to how far your body parts can move. Similar to other fitness components, this is something you can often improve.
Certain kettlebell exercises like the Turkish get-up can benefit mobility in areas like your hips, knees, shoulders, and core.
Similar to many other fitness areas, you don’t necessarily need kettlebells to improve mobility in many parts of your body.
At the same time, just kettlebell exercises can already be helpful for improving mobility in areas like your shoulders, hips, knees, and core.
One thing that can benefit your mobility workouts is investing in good soft kettlebells. These could make any mistakes less painful and give you more confidence during your workouts.
Can kettlebells improve flexibility?
Flexibility is a bit different from mobility. It comes down to how far your muscles can move instead of the whole joint.
Stretching is generally the best way to improve flexibility.
And while there are some stretching exercises you could do with kettlebells, these are typically not great for this purpose.
Luckily you often don’t need stretching equipment either. Bodyweight stretching exercises done consistently can already offer nice results in this area.