Today I’d like to help answer a question I’ve been getting asked a lot recently, “Are Kettlebell Workouts Cardio or Strength?“.
First let’s start by defining the difference between cardio and strength.
Cardio or Cardiovascular exercise relates to the Cardiovascular System, the heart and lungs. So any exercise that puts demands onto the heart and lunges for a extended period of time could be classed as cardio.
Traditionally, cardio relates to exercises like running, cycling, hill walking, rowing etc. all activities that keep the heart rate elevated and make you breathe hard for long periods of time.
Strength based exercise involves developing the muscular system so you can jump higher, run faster, punch harder, lift heavier etc.
Exercises that are classically related to strength training include, lifting weights, performing bodyweight exercises such as squats, lunges, push ups, pull ups etc.
Are Kettlebell workouts cardio or strength?
The short answer to whether kettlebell workouts are cardio or strength will depend on how you use your kettlebell.
Kettlebells for strength
Kettlebells are certainly heavy objects just like dumbbells, medicine balls and barbells.
Kettlebells traditionally come in the following weight sizes: 8kg, 12kg (25lbs), 16kg (35lbs), 24kg and 32kg.
So as kettlebells are a weight they can certainly be classed as a tool for developing strength.
Any type of kettlebell workout, providing you use a kettlebell that challenges you, can be classed as a strength based workout.
A classic strength based kettlebell exercise would include the Clean and Press with a challenging kettlebell:
Kettlebells for cardio
Kettlebell exercises use a lot of muscles during each movement.
The more muscles that you use for a movement the move oxygen you require to fuel the movement.
By their very nature kettlebell exercises can very quickly become cardiovascular.
So, how you program your kettlebell workouts will depend on whether the workouts are classed as cardio or not.
For example, if you use a weight that is not very challenging and you perform an exercise slowly, then your heart will not have to work very hard.
However, if you use a challenging weight and put together a selection of kettlebell exercises into a circuit then you will raise your heart rate and keep it elevated for a long period of time.
Kettlebell Cardio Based Workout:
- Two Handed Swing – 20 reps
- Goblet Squat – 10 reps
- Reverse Lunges – 10 each side
- Clean & Press – 10 each side
- Rest 30 – 60 seconds and repeat
A kettlebell circuit like the one above will not only build strength but also keep the heart rate elevated making it a cardio workout too.
Here’s a video showing how kettlebell exercises can flow keeping your heart rate elevated for great cardio:
Conclusion of whether kettlebell workouts are cardio or strength
Kettlebell workouts are inherently strength based because you are lifting a weight that challenges the muscular system. The more weight you add the more strength based they become.
Kettlebell workouts can also be cardio too.
As most kettlebell exercises involve the use of hundreds of muscles at a time they require a great deal of energy produced by the heart and lungs.
If programmed in a circuit format kettlebell workouts can promote both strength and cardio gains at the same time.
It is due to this fact that kettlebell training is becoming more and more popular as a tool for saving time while generating some great results.
Related: 25 Kettlebell Cardio Workouts