Kettlebell Swings vs Burpees

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Last updated on February 7, 2023

If you want to lose weight, get ripped and boost your aerobic fitness, you’ve got to burn calories. There two exercises will allow you to burn a whole lot of calories are. Of the two, the kettlebell swings (KBS’s) are seen far more frequently than burpees. However, does that mean that they are a better exercise?


Maybe not.


In this article we investigate these two exercises to see which provides the best bang for your buck by doing a head to head comparison.


This involves standing with your feet shoulder width apart in a half squat position with a kettlebell held in front of your body and both hands in palms facing your grip. The weight should be between your legs. Hinge at the hips as you swing the weight under your body and then use momentum to pull it back up with straight arms. The kettlebell should come up to the level of your shoulders.


The KBS is a surprisingly challenging exercise that will burn a lot of calories and get you puffing. The exercise is essentially a repeated squat with momentum. As we all know, squats are a very good calorie burner. It does work your shoulders, trapezius, and latissimus dorsi of the upper body along with the quadriceps of the lower body. In reality, however, a lot of the movement is provided by momentum, so the KBS is not an overly effective muscle builder for the upper body.


A benefit of the KBS is that it breaks up the monotony of your workout, taking you outside the realm of barbell and dumbbell training. Using a kettlebell provides a unique challenge to your body. The grip and balance requirements of the exercise give you benefits that you do not get with a dumbbell.


KBS’s are also a good way to train your body for explosive power. The power of your body is largely generated from the ability to generate a strong hip thrust. In addition, this exercise requires that you engage your core and keep it tight throughout. You will strengthen your rectus abdominis, obliques, intercostals and erector spinae when you do the KBS.


A final benefit of KBS’s is that they provide a good workout to your heart and lungs. Even doing a set of 20 KBS’s will get the heart rate going and have you puffing, which is a sure sign that your cardiovascular system has been challenged.


The Burpee

As we mentioned at the outset, you don’t see too many people doing the burpee in gyms nowadays. It’s not because it’s not an effective exercise. In fact, I would hazard a guess that the opposite is true – kettlebell swings are not done because they are damned hard work. And the reason they are hard work is because they are a very effective exercise. Most people would rather do an exercise that is comfortable and less challenging.


You, however, do not want to be the sort of gym goer who looks for the easier exercises. You need to be looking for the most effective exercises. And that quest should lead you to the burpee.


You may remember the burpee from your school days. It involves starting from a standing position, then jumping down to all fours, kicking your feet back so that you are in the top of a push up position. Now do a full push up. Then immediately spring back up to a standing position. Land in a squat stance and go directly into the next rep.


As you can see from this description, this is a very challenging exercise. It is, therefore, an extremely effective fat burner. The averagely fit person can do around 20 burpees in a minute. That will, depending on how much you weigh, burn up anywhere from 10 to 15 calories. So, if you could keep that up for an hour (good luck with that!), you will churn through a whopping 600 to 900 calories. That is as many as a rowing machine.


When put head to head with the KBS, the burpee burns more calories by a factor of around two to one.


Like the KBS, the burpee is a full body compound movement. However, there are a couple of differences. Firstly, the burpee is a bodyweight exercise, so that it does not require any equipment to perform. That makes it a very user friendly movement which can be done anywhere, anytime.


The second difference between the KBS and the burpee is that the burpee does not involve any momentum to power you through the movement, while the KBS does. As a result, you will get a more direct and effective workout for your upper body muscles, especially the pectorals, triceps and deltoids with the burpee than with the KBS.


Both KBS’s and burpees can be incorporated into a high intensity interval workout. However, the burpee, because it doesn’t involve dragging around any equipment, is more convenient for outdoor HIIT workouts.


Burpees are also a great way to train your cardiovascular system. You will end up puffing more after a minute’s worth of burpees than a minute’s worth of KBS’s. You will also feel more of your muscles after a burpee than a kettlebell workout.


Another benefit of the burpee over the KBS is that you can modify it for different fitness levels. You can do this by either cutting out the push up entirely or doing the push on your knees. The only way to modify the KBS is to reduce the weight of the kettlebell.

Verdict: Which is Best

Both the KBS and the burpee are effective compound exercise that will burn calories to help with fat loss while also working most of the muscles of your body. They both also make excellent metabolic finishers. Of the two, the burpee, though, is by far the better exercise. Unlike the KBS, it does not use momentum to complete its action. That means that your muscles alone are doing the work. It is also a more effective calorie burner. Finally, because it is a body weight exercise, you can do it anywhere, anytime without needing any equipment including your home gym.

All out articles are written by fitness professionals for womens and mens health, with how to videos and articles (for example how to do goblet squats, the shoulder press, sumo deadlift, squat jump, Russian kettlebell swing, use the jump rope, overhead press, bench press and many more), workout programs to suit your fitness objectives (for example if you want to burn fat, increasing muscular endurance, strength training, improving your size or stamina), and also excellent nutrition advice.

Steve Theunissen has qualified from the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and is a certified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist. He has over 30 years experience in fitness and nutrition and currently working with famous fitness professionals. He is currently living in New Zealand with is wife and daughter.

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