Kettlebells are going to notch up your workout.  They are going to challenge you metabolically.  They will work your cardiovascular capacity at the same time that they tax your muscular endurance and your mental stamina.

That’s what I keep telling you. That’s what all the anecdotal evidence indicates.  Surf the many voices of kettlebells on the internet and you will read one amazing story after another of the positive changes wrought by kettlebells and you’ll see people in amazing shape working with kettlebells.

Nadine:  I can’t even express how Kettlebell has changed my life for the better. I never exercised with enjoyment until KB. Even struggling with surgeries I have never stopped. It makes me feel confident, strong and … fitter. The encouragement from every class is exceptional. ….Bring on the STEAM….

We are getting used to hearing about the qualitative nature of kettlebell workout efficiency.  And  let me tell you, qualitative changes in your health, your fitness level, your sport performance, and your sense of self  are really all that count.

Debbie:  [I’m] a beginner Kettlebeller, but can see the addiction forming. Love it!! It is intense and then when you make it to the end of class the sweet satisfaction sets in.

Oh, I know we are stuck on numbers.  We want quantitative data.  How much we weigh, what we can bench.  Our BMI, percent body fat, and other body measurements.  Our max kettelbell snatch test, how many calories we eat, how many we expend, our BMR.  Our daily grams of fat, grams of carbs, grams of proteins.

We strap on heart rate monitors and download blackberry apps and twitter our METS. We wear split timers, count flights climbed, kilometres biked or run, reps and sets.  We bookmark websites that count and calculate and manage our numbers for us.

We count out a lot of cash in the pursuit of our numbers.

In general, we human beings/doings seem to have a special affinity for numbers – counting, recording, comparing.  Any numbers are good.  We feel like numbers are somehow ‘real’ and validating.  It isn’t enough that we feel better, sleep better, cope with stress better, have more energy in our day to days and have better guns.  Can I live with more vitality?  Greater peace?  Increased productivity?  More compassion?

Oh no.  Give us the numbers! And we want them to change in a desired direction.

Remember, numbers only provide us with a portion of our story; and not necessarily the most important part.

However, when this tiny piece of science regarding kettlebell effectiveness was brought to my attention, I was initially kind of excited.  Finally, folks were going to run the numbers on working out with kettlebells.  Yes, the research has to be done.  Yes, there is value in it (at least after a body of sound, ethical scientific knowledge has been amassed).

Researchers at the La Cross Exercise and Health Program, University of Wisconsin, were funded by the American Council  on Exercise to conduct a study of the energy cost and aerobic workload of a Kettlebell Snatch test.  This study, published by ACE in Fitness Matters,  used a very small sample size – just 10 men and women – who were experienced in the use of kettlebells.

The baseline kettlebell fitness levels of the subjects were established with a 5 minute kettlebell VO2 max snatch test.  The weight they snatched in the baseline measure was based on an unelaborated formula based on gender, body weight, fitness level and experience level.  Based on the results of this baseline, the cadence was set for the experimental test.

The 20 minute snatch test these test subjects underwent sounds rather vigorous and perhaps a bit grueling.  Based on their baseline, they performed a specific number of snatches for a 15 second interval and rested 15 seconds (this is a pretty typical VO2 Max repertoire in the kettlebell world), continuing for a 20 minute total.

This gives you some idea of the VO2 Max protocol.

The results?

During the 20-minute workout, the average calorie burn was 272 calories, not counting additional calorie burn due to the substantial anaerobic effort.

We estimated oxygen consumption and how many calories they were burning aerobically, and it was 13.6 calories per minute. But we also measured the blood lactate, so anaerobically they were burning another 6.6 calories per minute. So they were burning at least 20.2 calories per minute, which is off the charts. That’s equivalent to running a 6-minute mile pace. The only other thing I could find that burns that many calories is crosscountry skiing up hill at a fast pace.

The researchers credit the high caloric burn to the fact that the kettlebell snatch workout is a total-body movement that is done very quickly due to the interval-training format. It is a format which should only be employed by experienced kettlebell users.

The heart rate (in bpm) for the experimental subjects ranged from 128 to 180 with the % heart rate max being 86% on the low end and 99% on the high end.

“Any time you’re using that much muscle effort, it’s going to be a vigorous workout”  said Porcari.

Compared to research findings of standard weight training, the kettlebell snatch routine used in this study provided a workout of higher intensity.  In fact, this routine exceeded accepted standards/recommendations for improving aerobic capacity.  Resistance training combined with cardiovascular challenge:  Kettlebells = sweet.

So, take those numbers and plug them in to your bodybugg.

The rest of us? We already knew that.