Burpees vs Kettlebell Swings? What is Better?


decision between burpees vs kettlebell swings

In this article, I will explain the difference between two great conditioning exercises. Burpees vs kettlebell swing. Let’s try to dive in to discover what are the benefits of one and another, and ultimately which one is more beneficial.

Kettlebell swings will burn more calories comparing to burpees. The average participant can burn about 10 to 15 calories per minute during burpees’ training. This equals 250 – 375 calories per 25-minute workout. Kettlebell swings can burn about 20 calories per minute of training. This equals 500 calories per 25-minute workout.

Just in case you’re interested, this data is based on the studies from the WebMD. But the problem with studies is that they aren’t always that accurate. This means we don’t really know all of the details.

Which Exercise Is Better? Kettlebell Swings Or Burpees?

I’m sitting here in my room trying to decide about my today’s workout. And the question that I have in my mind is about which exercise should I be doing today?

Burpees, or kettlebell swings?

WebMD says that you burn more calories from kettlebell swings. But here’s the problem with this estimate.

How many swings can you do in one minute?

Different people will have totally different numbers.

Doing 30 swings with a 25-pound kettlebell will have totally different results than doing 30 swings with a 75-pound kettlebell.

How many burpees can you do in one minute?

If you’ve done burpees then you know they are hard. So how many can you do?

It depends, right.

So forget the calories.

Plus, there is so much more to it than just the calories burned. In this post, I will show you all the pros and cons of doing both of those exercises.

And by the end, hopefully, you will be able to decide which one is worth your time.

The reality is that, as long as you like something, then you are much more likely to stick with it.

So your goal shouldn’t be what is the best form of exercise.

Your goal should be which exercise I like the most, and I can be consistent.

As long as you do it, it will work. And when it works, you will be happy.

It’s like when you buy a car.

There are hundreds of cars out there. Some of them may have more benefits than others. But, ultimately, they all do their job – they all drive, and they all move you from point A to point B.

That’s it.

The same with exercises. There is no point in looking at which will be more effective.

If you train hard every day for one year, you will look like a savage. Doesn’t matter if you do swings or burpees.

However…

What if we gonna go one step further, and really split the hair?

That means doing deep, dissect all the pieces to see what’s under the hood.

So let me walk you through the differences, advantages, and disadvantages of doing either one.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Kettlebell Swings?

I will be totally transparent with you here. I personally prefer kettlebell swings.

But I won’t get my ego in the way of reviewing those two exercises for you.

So I will keep the verdict totally neutral and help you decide on your own.

If you wanna know more about my journey with swings, and my what were my results after doing 200 kettlebell swings every day, here in this article you can read more about it.

What Are The Advantages Of Kettlebell Swings?

  • It Works On Many Muscle Groups

The kettlebell swing is a hip hinge, full-body movement. This exercise engages your lower back, hamstrings, glutes, arms, shoulders, and core.

Hip hinging is basically bending (breaking) your hips, and keeping the spine in the neutral position.

Just like you should pick up the box from the floor. A very similar exercise from the hip hinge family is deadlifting, which means lifting the bar from the floor.

So kettlebell swing is just the evolution of that. Here in this article, I show what to watch out for when you are choosing kettlebell swings versus deadlifts.

  • It Build Tons Of Muscle

Depending on the weight of your kettlebell, it can build some crwzy amount of muscle. But there is one rule.

To build muscles with kettlebell swings you must progressively add more weight.

You can get stronger with reps and volume.

And you will see the gains. But to maximize muscle grow you must add weight.

I’ve noticed that after doing 200 swing every day, my back, traps, and forearms got bigger and stronger.

But that’s because this was a brand new movement. I was doing regular swings (and deadlifts) for years.

  • It Builds Your Conditioning

There are many ways of doing kettlebell swings, specifically to target metabolic conditioning.

In the CrossFit world, you may have heard the term “finisher”. It describes the exercise that you do at the very end of your workout.

One of the most popular ways is doing the Tabata protocol.

Tabata is an interval workout.
4 minutes. 8 rounds.
20-second ON, 10-seconds OFF.

Here, in this study, they compared doing kettlebell swing in Tabata style versus the regular swing workout. Tabata had demonstrated significantly better results.

  • It’s Excellent For Home Workout

If you are like me, and you prefer to train at home, then a kettlebell is a great option. You can do your workouts, without wasting your time for commuting to the gym.

What about if you don’t have access to a kettlebell? Can you still do kettlebell swings with a dumbbell?

Here I wrote an article where I explain how you can do kettlebell swings with just a dumbbell.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Kettlebell Swings?

  • It Requires Rerfect Technique

To be honest, every exercise must be done with a good form. But, there are some movements, like walking, that you may get away with some bad habits. But in kettlebell swings, you don’t want to gamble.

The form here is critical. And, if you’re new to swings, you will probably make some mistakes.

And this is hard to know without some supervision. Because you don’t want to swing for a month or two and all of a sudden realize that your lower back hurts.

So, before you decide, make sure to consult with a trainer. The form is strongly determined by your flexibility, which leads us to the second disadvantage.

  • It Requires Good Hamstring Flexibility

This means that if you can’t touch your toes, you probably shouldn’t do kettlebell swings.

To perform hip hinge exercises in the correct form, you must have some level of flexibility.

That’s the only way to stay in a “neutral spine” position, without bending your lower back. And this is the most common problem that I see with people who are starting to do kettlebell swings.

Usually, people who sit most of the day (desktop warriors, and dashboard warriors) have stiff hamstrings. In that case, I would recommend working on the flexibility first, before attacking the swings.

  • It’s Difficult When Traveling

Obviously, you need access to the kettlebell for your workouts.

And, if you’re traveling a lot, then this option is out of the way. Unless you organize access to a gym, then you will be fine.

Otherwise, not recommended.

  • It Doesn’t Build Up Your Chest Muscles

This is also important to mention. Keep in mind that kettlebell swings won’t work on your chest muscles.

So you may want to add some into your routine. So if your goal is to develop strong pec’s here’s where burpees come handy.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Burpees?

Doing burpees wil make you stronger with pushups
Burpee push-up

To make a bit of a counter-balance for my preferences about kettlebell swings, let me just mention here that I used to do burpees.

A lot.

I’ve been a huge fan of Shaun T.

T25, P90x, Insanity, and all that high-intensity stuff. So I know that they can be really effective. Let’s see what are the pros and cons.

What Are the Advantages of Burpees?

  • It’s A Full Body Exercise.

Burpee, it’s really a combination of different movements.

A thrust, a push-up, and a jump.

A thrust is a phase when you go down from standing position into the full plank position. It requires a lot of energy to kick back the whole body and stay straight on your arms.

The push-up is when you lower yourself down to the ground and back up. This works your shoulders, arms, and core.

Finally, it’s the double-jump. The first jump is from the plank position as you go back up, and the second jump is simply the vertical jump. This will work on your legs like no tomorrow.

  • There Are Infinite Variations Of Burpees

If you scroll through Youtube, you can find almost a hundred different ways to do a burpee.

Full burpee, single-arm burpee, single-leg burpee, half burpee, and much more.

There are endless ways to embed burpees into your routine.

Plus there are an additional hundred ways to combine burpee, together with other exercises.

This means you end up doing several exercises, back to back. For example.

You can mix and match burpee with squat jumps, planks, walking planks, pike ups, back to burpees, sit-ups, and so on.

So it’s a long set.

The best part about it? It’s hard to get bored!

  • It Build Up Your Conditioning

With so many different variations and opportunities to progress, you can always be on top of your conditioning.

Similar to the kettlebell swings, you can use that as the main workout, or as a “finisher” at the end.

The more burpees you do, the more you will feel the heart rate going up extremely high. This makes it a great cardio exercise.

  • It Can Be Done Anywhere

Seriously. You can do it everywhere. At the hotel room, on the parking lot, on the beach, you name it.

It’s simple to do and doesn’t require carrying any equipment. This is a huge advantage.

Burpees is a brilliant alternative.

Especially at the beginning of the year (January) when the gym was packed with new years resolution people.

And every piece of equipment was taken, burpees saved my ass several times.

So it just proves that not having access to the gym isn’t an excuse really.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Burpees?

  • It must be done with a correct form

I know I may sound like a broken record. But. If you’ve ever heard about knee pain or back pain from doing burpees then pay attention. Let’s think about it for a moment.

The more complex the movement is, and the more multiple movements you do back to back, there is so much more room for error.

I will dissect each phase for you, so you may have a better understanding of what I mean.

  • Thrust – when you do the thrust, you must pay attention to keep your shoulders externally rotated, and butt squeezed at the end of the jump.
  • Push-up – during the push-up, also your shoulders wan to be externally rotated, core tight and butt squeezed.
  • Vertical Jump – with jumping, you start from the hip hinge position, then explosive jump up, and softly land on your feet.

Easy.

But. Imagine if you’re doing that together with other exercises, back to back. Then it’s a problem.

Because we like competition.

And we live in an environment that we like to get things done. To run faster, jump higher, to lift more weight.

So we lose the eye of the ball and forget about the form.

And trust me, when you’re out of breath, the last thing you do is paying attention to the correct form.

You want to get done with it asap.

So, you forget to hip hinge when jumping. And to keep your knees in line. Or to keep your core sucked in. Or to squeeze your glutes. And guess what?

After doing 5-6 exercises, back to back, we’re just asking for trouble.

  • It Requires A Lot Of Volume To Build Muscle

Even everyday volume.

If you want to build muscle, and burpee is your weapon of choice, then you need to do it often, with a lot of reps.

The more volume you do in a week (reps + sets) the better the results.

  • It Doesn’t Work Your Back Muscles

This is a great full-body workout, but with one tiny problem.

It doesn’t work your back muscles.

So, if you like doing burpees, make sure to add some pull-ups or rows into it.

Or why don’t you go completely bananas and combine burpees with kettlebell swings?

What If I Do Burpees And Kettlebell Swings Together?

200 swings a day for 4 months

This is where it gets interesting.

Because, for the best results, why don’t do both? This way you will stay balanced, and add some variety. You could mix and match those two workouts together. For example.

  • 20 Kettlebell Swings + 10 burpees

You simply perform one set of kettlebell swings (20 reps) and immediately after add-on with 10 burpees.

I guarantee this will put you out of breath. Then, rest until you feel you can do it again.

I like to take longer breaks. Even 3-4 minutes.

  • 5 Kettlebell Swings + 5 Burpees + 5 Kettlebell Swings + 5 Burpees (…)

Here you can go back and forth from doing 5 of each. 5 swings followed by 5 burpees it’s one round.

See how many rounds you could do.

Michal Sieroslawski

Michal is an exercise physiologist (MSc), nutrition coach, Ashtanga teacher, and fitness blogger. He shares his successes and failures to help busy men and women squash down 20, 50, or even 100 pounds of fat without leaving their home.

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