One of the many touted benefits of kettlebell training is that it can supposedly help you burn body fat, making you a weight loss machine.
However, we’ve already seen that the kettlebell will increase strength and is a good conditioning tool. It would seem that it would help you lose weight if matched with a proper diet, but does it?
Well, I decided to take a quick look at any studies I could find on the topic, and what I found was fascinating.
One group of more than 400 students engaged in the traditional training methods of the military academy while another 58 engaged in KB training instead. Here’s what they found:
Physical development was investigated on the basis of height, body weight, body mass index and the ratio of the number of cadets in each group that were overweight. The body weights of cadets in their senior academic years who trained via kettlebell lifting were significantly lower (P<0.05) than those of cadets who were engaged in the current system of physical education by 4.2–6.7%. Additionally, an analysis of the body mass index showed that the percentage of cadets who were overweight in group A during their 3rd–5th year was 35.2–38.5%, whereas there was a decrease in the number of cadets with excess weight from 25% during the 1st year to 8.3% during the 4 th year in group B. During the 5th year for group B, none of the cadets were found to be overweight, which confirms the positive effect of kettlebell lifting exercises
Now, this is interesting because of the numbers involved. While the two groups aren’t even, both are large enough that I would think we’d see minimal statistical noise.
Let’s be honest, 4.2-6.7 percent is a good bit of a difference, in the grand scheme of things. That’s like losing an extra half a pound of fat for every 10 pounds of fat you lose. If you’re talking about a morbidly obese person…
Of course, this is far from enough information to say definitively that kettlebells help one burn body fat and lose weight. We need to see more studies looking at this to know for sure. While this is a sizeable study, it’s still just one study.
Further, we don’t know what kind of training was used. For example, was it a Tabata protocol or something similar? Was it more of a strength-based program? What was the training specifically?
Additionally, what I have on the study makes no mention of diet. As it’s a military college, one would think the meals would be fairly standardized, but that’s an assumption I’d rather not make. Instead, it’s a variable we can’t answer and account for, so that’s something else to consider.
However, there’s plenty of science behind weight loss in general and some of that is actually applicable.
For one thing, we know that weight is dependent on caloric balance. We also know that certain kettlebell exercises–the snatch, in particular–have a huge caloric burn.
If you need to burn more calories than you take in, then you have two choices at every stage of your weight loss journey. You can eat fewer calories or you can burn more calories.
While it’s impossible to out-train a bad diet–after all, running a marathon reportedly burns somewhere around 2,600 calories and that’s 26.2 miles and you can’t do that all the time–you can use exercise to burn a few extra calories to help you lose weight.
If nothing else, it’ll let you enjoy a bit more in the way of food and still lose weight.
With that in mind, we can see that if burning more calories than you take in is the key to weight loss and if KB training is great for burning calories, guess what that means?
That’s right. KB training, when matched with a proper diet, will help you lose weight. Further, since it’s resistance training, you’re likely to also retain more lean body mass as you do so. While I haven’t found the studies myself, I’ve heard that some do suggest that maintaining lean body mass is a key to keeping weight off long-term.
So with one study in hand, coupled with what we know of the science of weight loss, I can say with a great deal of confidence that kettlebell training will help you lose weight.
However, it bears repeating that it can only do so if you do your part. You can swing for days if you want, but if you’re downing a couple of Big Macs and a large pizza every day, you’re probably not going to lose weight.
I wish I didn’t feel obligated to point that out but think about how dumb the average person is. Now, remember that half the population is even dumber than that. It would put me in that category to assume no one reads this blog who is part of that category as well.
All that out of the way, it’s time to grab a kettlebell or two and get to work.