The Potency of Kettlebells in Strength and Conditioning Programming

Mindith Rahmat


Women's Fitness, Yoga, Bodyweight Exercise, Kettlebells


Kettlebells are often used in training by recreational athletes, elite athletes, and sports professionals. Strength and conditioning coaches train their athletes with kettlebells to increase muscular strength, muscular endurance, and cardiorespiratory fitness. However, to date there is very little research examining the validity of the use of kettlebells in strength and conditioning programming.


New research in Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research examined the cardiorespiratory workload of a kettlebell workout. Researchers measured the heart rate and oxygen cost of performing a workout using a 16kg (35#) kettlebell for a duration of 12 minutes. Ten men were studied and completed an average of 265 kettlebell swings during the 12 minute workout, for an average of 22 swings per minute. 



The Potency of Kettlebells in Strength and Conditioning Programming - Fitness, strength and conditioning, KettlebellResearchers concluded from measurements taken from the athletes that the kettlebell swings provided a definite metabolic challenge which was enough to to effectively illicit an increase in V?o2max.  Simply performing the kettlebell swings elevated and maintained the subjects heart rate and V?o2max at an average of 87% and 65% of their maximum. According to researchers ..."The American College of Sports Medicine recommends an optimal intensity of 60-85% V?o2max to improve and athletes cardiorespiratory fitness”.


Another study examined the translational effect of kettlebell training to Olympic Weightlifting. Researchers explained that because kettlebells are ballistic in nature they may react similar to Olympic lifts in training. Ballistic training or power training can be used by elite athletes to develop power and explosiveness. Researchers studied the translational effect of a 10 week kettlebell program to the strength, power and endurance of Olympic Weightlifting. Researchers tested a sample of 15 athletes using a standard periodization model, with a 2 day per week training program using only kettlebells. Measurements in overall strength, power, and endurance were recorded using clean and jerk 3 rep max, bench press 3 rep max, vertical jump, and a back extension exercise to failure. Researchers concluded that the kettlebell programming did result in a translation of strength, power and endurance similar to the effects of Olympic Weightlifting. *It should be noted the kettlebell programming produced a highly significant difference in the measurements of the clean and jerk.


Overall this research supports using kettlebells as a potent tool to improve an athlete's cardiorespiratory capacity, strength, power, endurance, and provide a significant transferability to Olympic weightlifting.

See more about: ,
Breaking Muscle Newsletter

Breaking Muscle Newsletter

Get updates and special offers delivered directly to your inbox.