Kettlebells and calories

I posted yesterday about my usual warm up, and wondered aloud what effect it had on my workout length and calorie burn.  So during yesterday’s session I made a note of time and calorie count for the warm-up/cool-down, as well as keeping track of reps & sets.  It went like this:

  • Warm-up (as posted yesterday)
  • 5 dead cleans x 1 set
  • 3 clean & press, 3 L snatches, 3 R snatches with 16kg bell.  3 sets
  • 5 clean & press, 5 L snatches, 5 R snatches with 12kg bell.  3 sets
  • TGU-windmill combo, 2 L & 2R, 12kg bell. 2 sets.
  • Cool-down (as posted yesterday, plus some static glute & hamstring stretches)

All of that took 43 minutes and burned 428 calores; the warm up accounted for 5 mins, the cooldown for 8 and the warm up and cooldown accounted for around 50 calories each.  Which means I was actually working for exactly 30 mins, and burned around 328 calories in that time; not too shabby.

All this was pretty much just for my own curiosity, but I read a great article on the subject today that’s worth sharing; “Kettlebells, Calories, Heart-rate Monitors and the Disgrace of Aerobics” (with thanks to @KettlebellWall, where I first saw the article).  The article echoes my own experience, in that many of my friends think they need to do cardio to burn body fat, and their idea of cardio is inevitably a spinning class, a run on the treadmill, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, those things are great if you enjoy them (I spin a couple of times a week, and do the occasional body combat class – they’re fun!), but they’re not the be-all and end-all.  When I tell people that my heart rate goes higher doing swings (or many other kettlebell exercises for that matter) than in spinning, and that I burn at least as many calories, they are usually gobsmacked; the idea that you can get a great cardio workout using nothing but a ball of iron is totally alien.

And that’s without considering the benefits of increased strength, stability and the myriad other things that KB training (and other kinds of weight training) improve.  These endurance cardio sessions that people subject themselves to so often are catabolic, and they often don’t realise that a fair portion of any weight they lose is likely to be muscle.

Just to re-iterate, I don’t want to put a downer on forms of exercise that people enjoy – it’s far better to be active than totally inactive after all.  But there’s such a profusion of myths surrounding fitness, and I think for me the most annoying is weight loss = cardio = mindless tedium.  Fitness should be fun!

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