Cardio gets a bad rep in the strength and conditioning world. Coaches love to demonize it and mainstream media glorifies it. I for one, love all forms of cardio training, especially any that uses kettlebells or other form of weights as the primary tool.
This article is mainly about some fun cardio routines you can do with kettlbells, but before we even dive into that, let’s look at what cardio actually is.
The most effective types of cardio
Whether you’re Team Barbells or Team Ellipitcal, cardiovascular training is necessary for every body. It improves your heart health and circulation, strengthens the lungs and blood vessels, and can really help improve stamina for activities like snowboarding, skiing, swimming, and hiking. It can also help tremendously with body composition and sports performance, so it’s worth getting to know what is best for you right now given your goals.
How you structure your cardio training depends on your goal and of course, what you enjoy. If you hate running but love indoor cycling, figure out how to add that to your routine in a way that supports your goals. If you hate traditional cardio of any sort, then learn how to lift weights in a way that illicits your desired response.
3 Fun and Effective Cardio Options Using Kettlebells
If you’ve seen my Instagram stories, you know that my primary form of fitness is lifting weights. However, I still love to jump into a CrossFit class here and there, and I have been using more kettlebells as a way to increase fat loss, keep things interesting, and improve my overall work capacity.
If you’re new to kettlebells, I recommend doing this first:
- Find a certified coach that can teach you the basics. Kettlebells are not dumbbells – there’s a way to hold, swing, and press this awesome tool that looks and feels a lot different. If you can perform the squat, press, swing, and clean with good technique I’d say you can start doing some basic kettlebell work (Turkish get-ups, windmills, and snatches are a bit more complex). Check out local one-day course that teach kettlebell basics if you’d prefer that over 1:1 coaching.
- Follow kettlebell experts who can help your technique. I love StrongFirst coach, Karen Smith, StrongFirst founder and author Pavel Tsatsouline (he has tons of books on kettlebell training), or any of Dragon Door’s resources for ongoing tips on form, drills, and techniques.
While I’m not a certified kettlbell instructor (yet), I do take time to practice a lot of the basic techniques I mentioned earlier, and have learned directly from certified experts at various fitness seminars and workshops for many years. Again, if you’re brand new to this, please see my advice above. Otherwise, proceed for some fun.
Workout # 1 The Double Monster
How to do this: This one requires two kettlebells of moderate weight for two exercises to be completed back to back:
- Double loaded front squat x 8 reps
- Double kettlbell swings x 8 reps
No rest in between. Just death 😉
- Choose the structure that works best for your goals. I’ve been using this as part of a density set (8 minutes total) in my workout but you can also use it as a finisher for 4-5 rounds or as a timed AMRAP.
- Choose a weight that works for both exercises, so you can move from one exercise to the next fluidly
- If the double kettlbell isn’t quite on par with your experience level yet, you can always scale back to a single kettlbell goblet squat and two-arm swing. However, you’ll need to increase the weight you’re using.
Workout # 2 The Triple Hitter
How to do this: This is a full-body tri-set that can be used as a circuit, a finisher, or as a standalone. Again, structure it the way that works best for you. If it’s a circuit, 3-4 sets is plenty. If it’s a standalone, maybe you go for 8-10 rounds or you clock in 20 minutes of total work (the rest period will count as part of the full 20 minutes).
A1) Front loaded alternating lunges for 10-20 steps
A2) Kneeling Alternating Overhead Press x 10 (5/each arm)
A3) Farmer’s Carry (for distance, not filmed)
Rest: 1 minute
Note: This video was sped up and does not demonstrate the Carry.
- Ideally you can complete all three exercises with the same weight, but if you are weaker with the overhead press (this will be the case for many), I suggest using a lighter weight on the first two exercises and going heavier on the third exercise
- This is a great mini-workout when you’re short on time (it tackles single-leg work, core stability, vertical pressing and the carry)
Workout # 3 Full Body Circuit
I borrowed this one from the pros over at Nerd Fitness and I love it because aside from the swings, it’s very beginner-friendly and is full-body. To watch the workout video, GO HERE
- 8 Halos (each side)
- 10 Goblet Squats
- 8 Overhead Presses (each side)
- 15 Kettlebell Swings
- 8 Bent Over Rows (each side)
- 6 Front Rack Reverse Lunge (per side)
- In the video, you’ll note that this routine is a full 20-minute workout, so this would be a great choice for a full-body training session when you’re short on time and can’t make it to the gym.
- Make sure you’re warm-up effectively!
- You might need a few different kettlebells to accommodate difference movements
Kettlebell training is seriously some of the most dynamic, and most fun pieces of equipment I have ever used in my training. I’ve been playing with it a lot more lately seeing as it’s the only piece of exercise equipment I keep at home so I tend to use it as both a cardio/conditoning tool as well as muscle-building tool.
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