In my previous articles, I talked about the strength and conditioning benefits of doing kettlebell swings. Here I will share my insights on how I use kettlebell swings for cardio.
In brief, a kettlebell swing is a full-body movement and can be easily used as an effective cardio workout on its own or as a part of multiple exercises. One of the best methods is to insert a kettlebell swing with other compound movements, also called complexes.
In this article, I will show you many options on how to can use this great tool.
Kettlebell swing and plank
Instead of doing 20-minute cardio on the treadmill or elliptical, why don’t you try this simple, yet very demanding complex.
Kettlebell swing with the plank.
- The kettlebell swing is a dynamic, explosive movement. So it requires you a lot of energy.
- Technically, you could do only swings, but if you’re looking for your heart rate to stay elevated, add some plank into the cycle.
Plank is a great abdominal exercise, that brace the muscles in your core area, including glutes and erector spinae. So it works synergistically with the swing.
- 20 reps of powerful kettlebell swings followed by 20 seconds of plank, no rest.
- Try to aim for 5-8 rounds.
- For kettlebell swings, use your hips as your main engine. This is a hip hinge movement. Each time when you swing KB up high, squeeze your butt. This will keep the glute activation on and help you feel the muscle working.
- For planks, as soon as you get down on the mat engage your core, squeeze your butt and push your heels back.
The total workout shouldn’t take you more than 10 minutes. But don’t think lightly about it. This will give you so much more results compared to ecliptical.
|Kettlebell Swing||20 reps||–|
Kettlebell swing and bear crawls
For more results, you can change planks for bear crawls. This will get you out of breath like no tomorrow.
- Bear crawls are simple but extremely effective (For most of my clients, they are hard enough on their own).
- It’s one of those moves that are high-intensity, but low-impact at the same time. So you get a good cardio workout without running or jumping.
- As you move they will challenge every single joint in the body.
- Start from 15 reps of swings and immediately go down on the floor.
- From there, when you do bear crawls, you can move either forward or backward.
- You can count seconds or steps.
- Try to aim for 5-8 rounds, and take a rest only when you feel it’s needed.
- For kettlebell swings, don’t swing your bell over your head. Just stay in line with your shoulder. As you lower the weight, don’t go below your knee level.
- For bear crawls, make sure you have enough space around you. If you can only do few steps forward, and a few steps backward, that’s good enough. If this move is too hard, then feel free to just stay in the box position, with your knees off the floor.
If done properly, you should be already cooked by rounds 3-5.
|Kettlebell Swing||15 reps||–|
|Bear Crawls||20 seconds||–|
The 10,000 swing workout
This workout was created by an elite-level strength and conditioning coach, Dan John. He is the founder of a very popular goblet squat.
- This workout is all about swings. It’s designed for 4 weeks and the goal is to complete the whole 10,000 swings within that time.
- Apart from being great cardio, this can also add a substantial amount of strength, if done to the T.
Every week you are looking for 5 workout sessions. For every session, you aim to do 500 reps of swings plus one additional lift.
It may sound enormous to do 500 swings, but the workout is done in a way that you have only 2 high-intensity sets and 2 low-intensity. For additional compound exercise, you can choose from front squat, goblet squat, pushup, dip, or pullup.
- For kettlebell swings, use a weight that will be challenging enough but not too demanding. Find your sweet spot.
- For best results, do this routine 5 times per week.
- After 4 weeks you should complete the whole 10,000 swings.
|Kettlebell Swing||Repetitions||Additional |
|Set 1||10 reps||1 rep||1-minute|
|Set 2||15 reps||2 rep||1-minute|
|Set 3||25 reps||3 rep||2-minute|
|Set 4||50 reps||4 rep||5-minute|
In between sets, add just one exercise with a low-volume rep. This additional exercise can be changed with each day.
- On Monday, you can do swings with goblet squats.
- On Tuesday you can do swings with pull-ups. On Thursday you can do swings with pushups.
Kettlebell Swings and Treadmill
This is borrowed from the popular CrossFit workout “Murph”. It’s my own modification that will require a kettlebell and a treadmill. Alternatively, you can do it outside if you have access to an area where you can run.
- CrossFit is all about the tempo and heart rate.
- The more you can control your breathing, and more effectively you will supply your cells with oxygen.
Here is no different.
- In this “modified” Murph, the goal is to start from a 400m (0.25 mile) run.
- Then, immediately after, you want to grab your kettlebell and perform 20 powerful swings.
- To finish off, get down on the floor and stay in the plank position for 20-seconds.
It is a very demanding complex.
Normally, when you start from swings you have a “full tank” of energy. But here you jump into the swings after 400m run.
So you will be already out of breath before you even started. This a powerful weapon to hit that metabolic conditioning, and burn more fat.
- Start from running first. It doesn’t matter what’s your speed, but you want to be done as soon as possible.
- That’s when the treadmill comes in handy. Because you can see how many meters you did on the dashboard.
- If you run outside, aim for 2-3 minutes.
- After the run, you want to start with the swings.
- Plank is additional. If you find yourself struggling too much, you can skip the plank.
Also don’t stay fixed on the numbers. If you can’t do 400m then lower the bar. Over time, once you get better at it, you will find it much easier.
|Kettlebell Swing||20 reps||–|
Swing, Thruster, and Lunge Complex
This is one of my favorite complexes. It will put your lungs on fire. Doesn’t matter if you are a pro, or you just getting started. The goal is to get you moving with the kettlebell without the rest.
- When you start, it may feel like no biggie. In the end, you just hate your life.
- It’s a long set because is made of 2 rounds where you do 3 exercises, all done back to back.
- First-round is when you do 10 reps of kettlebell swings, followed by 10 reps of kettlebell thrusters. Then you pick the side you want to do lunges.
- After you’ve done with the lunges, you simply repeat the whole circuit again, with the second lunges done on the opposite side.
This will not only build your cardio but will also develop functional strength.
The most important part here is choosing the right weight. If you go too low, you won’t feel anything. If you go too heavy, you won’t be able to finish.
- For women, I recommend going for 8-10kg (16-22 lbs)
- For men, I recommend going for 12-16kg (26-35 lbs)
|Kettlebell Swing||10 reps||–|
|Kettlebell Thruster||10 reps||–|
|Lunge (right side)||10 reps||–|
|Kettlebell Swing||10 reps||–|
|Kettlebell Thruster||10 reps||–|
|Lunge (left side)||10 reps||5-minutes|
- For kettlebell swings, don’t go all out. Safe some energy for the rest.
- For kettlebell thrusters, hold the weight as you would for a goblet squat. The thruster is basically a goblet squat with an overhead press at the top.
So first you go down holding the weight close to your chest. Then as you stand up, keep your belly tight and move the weight up as you would do a shoulder press.
- For lunges, you can start from either side. The goal here is to hold the weight with one hand only on the side.
- This means if you are doing the right side, then you simply do alternate lunges, and you hold the kettlebell with your right hand.
Kettlebell swing and burpee
This is a simple, yet brutal combination. Burpee is a perfect solution to implement into your kettlebell swing routine. It fills out the gaps that swing can’t do.
A kettlebell is like a swiss army knife. You can do a lot of things with it, however, it’s not perfect.
It can do most things, for most people, most of the time. But it’s not the only thing that you want to train with.
- For swing, you work on multiple muscle groups. But not all.
- Burpees can really fill that empty space and work on your chest and shoulders.
In this workout, you will be going back and forth from doing 5-10 reps of swings followed by 5-10 reps of burpees. It’s a brutal combo. And it’s a great assessment tool at the same time. If you wanna know how strong men can be, see how many rounds of burpees and swings he can do.
This is a very simple, yet hardcore setup. You start by doing swings and immediately after that you jump into burpees. And then you do it again.
It’s not easy (and it shouldn’t be). That’s the point.
|Kettlebell Swing||5-10 reps||–|
Try to go as many rounds as you can. You don’t have to kill yourself. But chase for the challenge. Once you feel you got enough, take a rest. And then continue. This can be done at the end of a session, or by itself.
The minimalistic workout
This one was brought to my attention by Russian strength and conditioning legend, Pavel Tsatsouline. He is the guy who introduced kettlebells to the rest of the world.
In the Soviet Union, kettlebells were used since the eighteenth century. There was just a commodity that people use.
- So before Pavel introduced his first workouts, nobody knew about those little devils.
- Later on, it spread worldwide, and today you can see them in almost every gym.
The workout is about doing just two moves. Kettlebell swings and dips.
It’s not a typical cardio per se, but it will get your heart rate going. The goal here is to take a long rest. Longer than usual. I like this approach because it doesn’t feel like it’s beaten up my body.
- You dedicate 40-50 minutes of your day, maybe even more, and continue to do a set of swings followed by a set of dips, with enough rest in between.
- The rep range shouldn’t be too high.
- It’s not the complex, where you challenge yourself to the max.
- You want to use that workout to feel more energized rather than exhausted.
- For kettlebell swings, stay with the 15-20 reps. Remember that you will do almost an hour, so focus on the quality form.
- Pay attention to your posture. Squeeze your butt at the top, and don’t bring the kettlebell above the shoulder level.
- For dips, make sure you keep your chest up and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- This will externally rotate your shoulders and prevent any injuries.
|Kettlebell Swing||15-20 reps||2-minutes|
Also, pay attention to the rest between each exercise. No need to jump from one exercise to another.
- Kettlebell swings can be used alone, as well as in combination with other exercises.
- The goal of each workout is to challenge yourself by increasing your heart rate.
- My favorite kettlebell routine is with thrusters and lunges becasue it’s effective and it can be done by people of all fitness levels.