Tabata training using kettlebell swings vs strength training

(08-17-2014) Interval training is increasing in Kettlebell swingpopularity because it is an effective method to lose weight, lose fat and improve endurance. There are several different methods, but the best known is probably the method of researcher Izumi Tabata. His world famous study investigated the effects of his Tabata interval protocol and had major implications for the world of fitness because of the great results achieved in a relatively short amount of time. Tabata interval training is not only applicable to running and cycling, but to almost any intensive training form. Because kettlebell training is becoming increasingly popular, scientists  from the United States compared a traditional strength protocol with a Tabata interval training using the kettlebell swing.

What did the researchers do?

Fourteen non-obese participants with at least six months of strength training experience were recruited for this study and examined three times in total. On the first measurement day, base values such as body composition, resting heart frequency and peak oxygen uptake were measured. After the intake participants received instruction in performing the kettlebell swing. On the next day, the subjects performed the Tabata interval training protocol. This consisted of four minutes in total training time in which 20 seconds of kettlebell swings were alternated with 10 seconds of rest. During the 20 seconds the subjects were encouraged to perform as many swings as possible and the number of swings was counted. Three days later the subjects performed the traditional strength training protocol. In this protocol, the total number of swings of the Tabata training protocol was divided in four sets and separated by 90 seconds of rest. During both training sessions oxygen uptake and heart frequency were measured. Before, directly after and one minute after training blood lactate concentrations were measured. In addition the participants were asked to rate the intensity of each workout using a BORG scale for subjective fatigue. Both training protocols used 8kg kettlebells for the male participants and 4,5kg for the female participants.

What were the results?

The results are depicted in the figures below.

 Kettlebell swings vs traditional on RPE









Figure 1: Subjective fatigue (RPE) on BORG Scale (6-20).


 Kettlebell swings vs traditional effects on VO2max









Figure 2: Relative peak oxygen uptake during training in %VO2Peak.


 Kettlebell swings vs traditional effect on heart frequency









Figure 3: Maximum heart rate during training in beats per minute.


 Kettlebell swings vs traditional effect on blood lactate









Figure 4: Lactate concentration before, directly after and 1 minute after training in mmol/l.

The results show that the subjects experienced the Tabata training protocol as more intensive than the Traditional Training protocol, which was confirmed by the significantly higher peak oxygen uptake and heart frequency during the Tabata training. Lactate concentrations directly after and one minute after training were significantly higher as well than during the Traditional Strength protocol.

What did the researchers conclude?

The researchers concluded that training protocols in which a large number of kettlebell swings are made, can lead to relatively large physiological adaptations. In this study the Tabata protocll was significantly more intensive than a regular strength training protocol and will likely lead to better results.

What does this mean for me?

-The kettlebell swing, even with a relatively light kettlebell, is a high intensity exercise which can have great effects on fitness and health and can effectively aid weight loss aby burning fat.

-The Tabata protocol is more effective than a regular strength training protocol. An effective training combines a high intensity with a short rest period. This combined causes greater physiological adaptations in the body and therefore greater training effect. Endurance increases more and weight loss will be easier.

See also:

-Tabata training


-Fortner, H.A., Salgado, J.M., Holmstrup, A.M., Holmstrup, M.E. Cardiovascular and Metabolic Demands of the Kettlebell Swing using Tabata Interval versus a Traditional Resistance Protocol. International Journal of Exercise Science 2014, 7, 3, 179-185.