In this article, we’ll be covering some factors that affect your rate of progress with kettlebell training, along with some tweaks you can make outside of the gym to speed progress.
Here’s how long kettlebells take to work:
The amount of time kettlebells take to work depends on what your training goal is. But for most common purposes, expect to see results in 8-12 weeks.
If you are looking to lose weight with kettlebells, you can expect to see results within 6-8 weeks, when paired with a diet that has a caloric deficit.
If you are looking to gain muscle with kettlebells, this could take a little longer.
You might expect to see some tangible changes in around 6-12 weeks, when paired with a diet that has a caloric surplus and adequate protein intake.
Of course, if you are just looking to increase your heart rate and get a sweat on, kettlebell training can do this in a couple of minutes!
How long does it take to lose weight with kettlebells?
There are multiple factors that determine how long it takes to change how much you weigh.
The number one modifier has nothing to do with exercise! It doesn’t matter if you use kettlebells, dumbbells, running, acro-yoga or anything else, if you aren’t in a caloric deficit you won’t lose weight.
A caloric deficit means consuming less energy through food than your body spends.
The size of the deficit matters – a more aggressive deficit will lead to faster weight loss than a moderate deficit.
Keep in mind that too aggressive a deficit can deprive your body of essential nutrients for repair and growth. This can be hazardous to your health.
If in doubt, please consult a registered dietician to help you manage your weight loss.
How active are you outside of the gym?
Unless you are undertaking intense endurance training, the amount of calories you burn during exercise are negligible.
Your gym sessions probably won’t really “move the needle” with respect to losing weight.
That being said, there is a big difference in the amount of energy a body spends sitting, compared to walking around.
The person who is active and moving around all day long will spend far more energy compared to a sedentary desk worker.
This is called NEAT: Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.
This is a fancy term for energy spent doing things that aren’t exercise.
Of course, if you spend two hours per day in the gym, five days per week, that’s a very different amount of movement compared to three hours per week.
How much muscle mass do you currently carry?
Think of skeletal muscle as “expensive” for the body to maintain. Muscle burns more energy at rest than fat.
Just by adding more muscle to your frame, you spend more calories sitting than you would if you weighed the same amount but had less muscle.
This explains why bodybuilders feel hungry all the time!
There is some evidence to suggest that as we age, we get less efficient at processing calories, which leads to increased fat storage.
This is why any calculators for caloric intake factor age into their formulas.
There’s not much we can do about our age, so outside of calorie calculations there’s no point worrying about it!
Genetically, women carry higher body fat percentages than men. Sex is also factored in to calorie calculators.
Assuming a moderate caloric deficit paired with a regular exercise regime, you can expect to see change on the scales in around 6-8 weeks.
How long does it take to tone up with kettlebells?
Pro tip: whenever you hear the term “tone up”, substitute it for “gain muscle” in your mind.
That is what is actually happening! Muscles either grow in response to the stimulus of doing work against resistance, or atrophy (shrink) in response to inactivity.
How “toned” your muscles appear is a function of your body fat percentage, which is a function of your caloric intake.
Once again though, the question of “how long” is multifaceted. You can include everything we just discussed above with regards to weight loss, however:
When looking to change the size and shape of our muscles through training, we benefit from a caloric surplus. This means consuming MORE calories than we burn.
In addition, our diet needs adequate protein intake to allow for repair and growth.
Recommendations on how much protein to consume vary. It’s widely accepted that 30% of your daily caloric intake through protein covers the bases.
Assuming your training is hitting all of the major muscle groups several times per week, you can expect to see noticeable differences around the 6-12 week mark.
How to get faster results with kettlebells
Train more often
Training more frequently can help. The important thing when adding sessions is to listen to your body and only add more if your recovery (sleep/food) allows for it. Otherwise, you run a higher risk of injury.
Signs of not being fully recovered include lethargy, repeated decreased performance in the gym, and chronic soreness.
If you can recover from it, you can train it!
Training with heavier weights makes a difference. Once the body has adapted to a weight, it no longer has the same stimulus on your body.
You should strive to increase the weight you lift over time in order to keep making progress.
Outside of load, some ways to modify the difficulty of your training are:
- Decreased rest periods.
- Increased the number of repetitions per set.
- Increased total volume of training.
- Slowing down the repetitions.
- Speeding up the repetitions.
Improve your diet
The number one culprit here is inadequate protein intake. This can be especially problematic with vegan diets. Shoot for 30% protein as part of your overall caloric intake.
Some people do very well on a low carb/high fat diet, but the majority do better with a reasonable carb intake.
Many people who attempt a low carb diet who find themselves listless and foggy in the brain feel much better once adding some carbs back into their diet.
These are general guidelines. We recommend consulting a registered dietician before making any changes to your eating.
Improve your sleep quality
There are a ton of articles and books out there touting sleep advice. The most commonly recommended low hanging fruit here are:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
- Use blackout curtains to reduce light in the bedroom
- Establish a sleep routine to prepare for bed
- No devices/blue light at least 30 minutes before bed
- Use a dedicated alarm clock and keep your phone out of your bedroom
Technique matters. If you get hurt and have to take time out of training, your progress will be slowed. It may be worth considering hiring a fitness professional to show you the basics.
Exercise choice matters.
Your training should be based around compound movements – kettlebell swings, squats, presses, cleans, snatches and get-ups. These movements work the entire body.
What to do if you’re seeing slow progress
Exercise is a bit like brushing your teeth.
Imagine you’ve been brushing your teeth all your life.
You don’t just wake up one day and say “My teeth are clean enough now!” and then never brush again. That’s just not how the body works.
So it is with exercise. The body takes time to adapt. In order to reap the benefits, we have to play the long game.
This may require a mindset shift beyond “6 weeks to this” or “12 weeks to that”.
A lifelong approach to healthy movement will serve you far better in the long run.
One of the number one barriers to exercise is inconvenience. Humans are wired to seek the path of least resistance by default.
There is a statistic floating around in the fitness industry that the average gym-goer is not willing to travel more than 8 minutes to go to the gym!
Knowing this about the mind, investing in exercise tools for home use is a smart move to reduce the friction of starting up. Home gym equipment such as kettlebells are portable, effective, and take up little space when not in use.
Trust the process
Kettlebell training, as first popularized in the west by Pavel Tsatsouline, went mainstream in the mid-2000s. Many exercise fads have come and gone since then, but kettlebells have stayed the course.
This is because the effectiveness of kettlebell training has been proven over time.
I’ve been in the fitness and strength training industry for nearly a decade. In that time, I’ve gained 30 pounds of muscle, written hundreds of articles, and reviewed dozens of fitness supplements. As for my educational background, I’m a currently studying for my Active IQ Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training.