The Russian kettlebell is well known for its ability to whip the body into shape and often mesmerize onlookers watching a workout in progress. In stark contrast, there’s nothing really interesting about watching someone run—be it on a treadmill or outdoors.
When you compare these two forms of exercise, they actually have about an even number of similarities and differences. Let’s go a little deeper and flesh out the intel.
Weight loss ranks high on the list of key motivators for a lot of people that start running. It’s no secret that you can experience a high caloric expenditure by moving your legs quickly in an upright, scissor-like fashion, but the burn you get from kettlebells should not be overlooked.
On average, you can burn between 250 to 270 calories, running at 6 miles per hour for 20 minutes. That sounds pretty good, but not when compared to a 20-minute kettlebell interval workout. Given the same time frame, you can expect to burn nearly 400 calories. The work might be more intense, but the effect is far greater.
As an added bonus with kettlebells, you can burn more calories without suffering a pounding on your joints. This is very beneficial for people who cannot experience impact from past injuries or current joint conditions.
The repetitive stress of running causes your ankles, knees and hips to continually endure shock. Since your feet stay rooted to the ground with most kettlebell exercises, you feel zero impact. The only exceptions are exercises that involve stepping, like lunges and Turkish get-ups. However, this isn’t considered impact. It’s just transitional movement.
Muscular strength is another area where kettlebells win out. While you run, it’s true you are incorporating your glutes, calves, hamstrings, hip flexors and quadriceps, but you are really just improving muscular endurance in these areas. That’s because running is primarily a cardiovascular exercise.
With kettlebell workouts, you get the best of both worlds at all times. Not only do they improve muscular strength, but they also improve muscular endurance and cardiovascular endurance. Even if you run up hills, the amount of strength you build in your lower body will be minimal. By doing double kettlebell squats, on the other hand, you will develop strength, bulk and power in one motion.
Additionally, due to the large recruitment of the major muscles in the legs, as well as the fact that you have to balance the bells in a rack position, your caloric expenditure will be extremely high.
And the strength gains don’t end with legs. When you run, you might get a little bit of core recruitment, and your arms swing back and forth, but the overall upper-body work you get is minute. With kettlebells, you can target your shoulders, abs, arms and back in one workout with exercises like cleans, presses, snatches, bent presses, renegade rows and high pulls.
Lastly, kettlebell workouts can be performed in very little space. In fact, you can target your entire body in as little as a 10 x 10 room. At the bare minimum, you need a treadmill to run on, which takes up a lot more space than a kettlebell. You do not even need to go outside to work out either.
If you don’t own a treadmill or belong to a gym, you might have to fight inclement weather to get in your workout. That’s not the case with kettlebells.
On the flipside, you can still go out to your backyard or a local park and do a kettlebell workout when the weather is nice. You would still get the same environmental chi hit as well.
All and all, both kettlebell training and running are great forms of exercise. Just know the facts about both and choose the one that best fits your needs and requirements.