T Nation

Kettlebell Snatch Questions: Calories, Bruising


Hi all!

Question1: So I’ve recently came across this article:

…and I was stunned. The study shows that with kettlebells you can burn 1200 kcal per hour ON AVERAGE (so it’s not just some unreliable extreme). If it was true, this is one of the very best results of all cardio forms.

I am trying to shed some stubborn fat. Normally I don’t do much cardio, only weights, but since it is stubborn fat we’re talking here (I am quite lean, just this little fat in lower abs makes me nuts), I decided to start doing some hiit. I am quite busy recently, so I am really into forms of cardio that burn the most in the shortest amount of time (and I dislike cardio, therefore I don’t want to do more than necessary).

So my question is - is this study a reliable source? Is it possible that kettlebells beat sprinting, high speed cycling and basically every other forms of cardio? Also since it is technically a form of wieghtlifting, it also builds some muscle, not only consumes it, like standard cardio. Is it just too good to be true? It seems most people don’t do, what’s the best - every single day 9/10 treadmills and stationary bikes are occupied, while I can barely ever see anyone swinging kettles. Are they wasting their time, not doing the most efficient cardio?

Question 2: While doing snatches, at the end of a rep, my forearm is constantly hit by a bell. I do a swing, then push kettlebell above my head and here the kettlebell “turns over” in my hand and hits my forearm. First time it hurt just a little bit. Second time it hurt more, because I still felt the previous session and I started hitting myself again. Now I have quite formidable bruises on both of my forearms (and first snatch at every session oh boy do I feel - then I get used to it). How to prevent this? Except of course doing slow reps - this won’t work, because I am treating snatches as my form of cardio. And except putting sleeves on - I don’t believe so commonly done excercise is meant to cause me bruises, unless I wear a protection. Am I doing some mistake in my form that I can eliminate so that the bell won’t hit my forearm?

Thanks in advance!


Question 1:

Yes, kettlebells are awesome.

Question 2:

I tend to get the same, I also get the same when I start getting fatigued on clean and presses. There are a few experienced kb users on here though, who may be able to help

@ActivitiesGuy @MarkKO

1 Like

I’m not surprised at all that the per-minute calorie burn for kettlebell swings and snatches would be huge. Have you ever done a long set of swings or snatches (not 10, but like 50 or 100)? At the end, you’re breathing like you just completed a long sprint.

There’s a couple of giant caveats though:

  1. There’s nothing magical about the fact that you’re working out “with kettlebells” - it’s about what you’re doing with the kettlebells. A swing, clean and jerk, or a snatch repeated for many repetitions is a lot of work; I’m not sure why it’s surprising to you that this burns a lot of calories, but it’s about the work itself, not the implement. Just saying that you burn X calories in an hour “with kettlebells” is like saying that you burn X calories “with a treadmill” - well, are you walking, jogging, or sprinting? With the kettlebell, the weight used and exercise performed matters…

  2. you have to be able to actually maintain that level of intensity for a period of time. If you’ve ever done a 5-minute or a 10-minute set of snatches, you’ll realize that you’re not doing this for a solid hour. The first time I did 100 consecutive snatches in 5 minutes, I was sweating bullets & panting for like 10 minutes afterwards. As your technique improves, you get more efficient and this might start to decrease, but this is not something you’re going to use to burn 1200 calories in an hour, more like 200 calories in 10 minutes, or whatever.

Also, I’m kind of in the “who gives a shit” camp about how many calories you’re burning while exercising. Kettlebells are probably a good fit for your current situation - lean guy already, likes lifting, hates cardio, just wants to do a finisher that kicks some ass.

LOL. Most people are completely clueless about fitness. I wouldn’t go by what most people are doing.


You just sort of…figure it out?

You are correct that doing “slow reps” is not the answer.

I bought wrist guards and used them for a few weeks until my motion got smoother and I kind got the hang of how to snatch and catch the bell smoothly enough that it wasn’t banging too hard on my wrist. I see no problem with that. Eventually, you’ll probably improve to the point where you don’t need them any more, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing to use them while you’re figuring it out. Others may feel differently.

Also, FWIW, the aforementioned thoughts come from a guy (me) best described as “did some kettlebell work for a couple years and still gets them out for fun once in awhile” rather than a certified coach or competitor. I think @MarkKO actually competed in kettlebell sport prior to taking up powerlifting.

1 Like

The bruising is hard to avoid. You can minimise the impact by improving your technique but over time your forearms will still get hurt.

1 Like

What you want to do is get away from the idea that a snatch is a swing and then a press. It isn’t, and doing it that way will make life difficult.

It’s more along the lines of the snatch gets the bell moving. Until your arm is parallel to the ground all the work is done by your legs and body position. When your arm is parallel to the floor, pull the bell upwards. When it is above your head, push your hand through the window in the handle. Time it right and there should be minimal impact.


You see, I am. I am doing exactly what described in the study - I tested myself in a minute, got result of 26 - so divided by 4 I have approximately 6 reps for each arm, like in an example. The only difference is I don’t rest for solid 15 seconds between left and right arm, but after doing the set with each arm. Between arms I have like 2 seconds pause to put the kettle on the floor, grab it with other hand and brace myself. And I am doing 18-20 sets this way. Now, why am I surprised? Because even though this is by no means easy or not challenging, it still doesn’t leave me breathless. I mean it is hard, really. I feel it in my body and I need a solid second of rest to compose myself after I am finished. But I am 100% sure similar amount of time sprinting with same effort would make it a lot of harder for me to catch breath.

Machines are notorious for overestimating burned calories, right?. So after reading your responses I yesterday out of curiosity jumped on a machine that I used to beat myself up with during my last cut (hard to describe it, it’s a mixture of stair climber and treadmil - it’s like running up stairs, similar to stair climber, but you can’t go slow on it). I remembered it as very exhausting. And yeah, I hardly completed 10 intervals. At some point I had to extend recovery phase from 30 to 40 seconds in a minute, because I wasn’t ready for a sprint yet. After 10 minutes have passed I checked records - apparently I burned 149 calories (assuming overstimation, probaly less). And I was exhausted.

Now the truth is, while I do have fairly good knowledge about most body mechanisms related to weightlifting (I think so, so probably not good enough), I was never into calorie burned per X - simply wan’t interested. So I am not sure, what actually is a good indicator of the amount burned. But if I just went with my heart rate and fatigue - yeah, I am surprised I don’t get more literally killing myself on a treadmill or bike. But probably there is much more to it, like muscles involved etc., what I am not taking into account.

I am doing snatches - study says “do this and burn 400 kcal”, so I am doing, what they described. I mean it’s not my sheep mentality speaking here, it’s just that I don’t like overcomplicating simple matters.

Well, of course and I don’t intend to. The only forms of cardio I would ever see myself doing for a straight hour would actually be cycling (outdoor) or swimming - and many forms of sports, but I don’t consider it cardio - because I actually enjoy these and I often do them regardless, not as a form of cardio. But to spend a hour on a treadmill or stationary bike or swinging kettlebell? No way. Boring. I’d much rather spend this time weightlifting or 20 minutes doing hiit and 40 minutes doing whatever. I used kcal/hour just because it is the estimation most people use. I could say 400 kcal per 20 minutes, as this is actually amount of time for which I am doing it and roughly the amount of calories I’d like to burn.

This is actually true I noticed while getting used to the movement I started to automatically adapt and I am able to find a window of time at which I should punch above my head and indeed, the impact is somehow lessened. There are just two things into it:

  1. I thought it shouldn’t hit my arm at all. It’s seems it’s not the case. I watched some tutorials, from some highly followed kettlebells "gurus’ and in every video the bell oes hit the arm. It’s just a matter of whether the impact is significant enough to cause a real pain. With good technique you just lower impact to a minimum and I thought, you don’t get hit at all. This was my misunderstanding.
  2. I thought there’s some “magic trick” to eliminate the impact completely. Like some tweak to the technique or some error in my form I could eliminate. But it seems I indeed have to just figure it our as you say. I actually see progress already, my forearms still hurt yesterday with few first snatches, but today my bruises look much better - so I didn’t make them worse, ergo, my technique got a little bit better. I’ll figure it out.

Check out Sergey Rudnev, Igor Morozov and Sergey Rachinsky on YouTube. Also Anton Anasenko. Done right there will be effectively no impact on the forearm at lockout, but it takes practice.

1 Like

Thanks I will!

And about this…

This will also be solved with improving or am I sentenced to using gloves?


Hands toughen up quickly. You may want to cover them while existing wounds heal though.


Yeah, this is true. Hands toughen up pretty quickly.

In the meantime, same kind of thing with the wrist guards - I used gloves while I was still getting used to this, or if I’d just torn a callus, but after a while I didn’t really need them.

Ultimately, this stuff is just a tool for you - kind of similar to using deadlift straps so grip isn’t a limiting factor in how much work you can do. If you’re using KB for conditioning, and you need to wear gloves or wrist guards to do the work you want to do, just wear them. If you’re not planning to compete in a kettlebell sport contest, there’s no real reason not to use them.

1 Like

I mean the reason could be that with improper technique I don’t recruit all necessary muscles to enough extent - > I don’t burn that many calories. Or with bad technique my effort could be easier to lessen (some excercises suprasingly do fatigue more, when done improperly). But I am not stressing about this, you are right. As long as it’s just a way of beating myself up to shed some fat, I am not overthinking it, really.

Thanks guys, got plenty of advise!


Don’t grip the bell so hard. When the handle is rotating you ideally aren’t holding on very tight at all.

If possible, sand down the handle and rub chalk powder into it until it is completely coated. That will help heaps.

1 Like

If fat loss is the only goal, I personally would go for swings over snatches. The opportunity to load much heavier and just brainlessly go at it are fantastic, nothing gets my metabolism running like heavy assed kb swings. YMMV
This is just my opinion, and there are many smarter people giving you advice above.

1 Like

I feel like snatches are more challenging both physically and with achieving the technique. I like challenging myself. As you said, swings are good for mindless slamming. I dislike mindless cardio, that’s why I hate running or stationary bikes and I always have to have headphones during cardio - during weightlifting I don’t. Cardio bores me to death. It’s like with snatches I get more weightlifting feels, while swings felt like jsut any other form of empty way to exhaust myself.

If I needed to somehow explain this - with snatches I count sets and repetitions. With swings I count minutes. Snatches I am doing 18-20 x 6. Swings I have been doing for 20 minutes, not really caring about reps, as long as I was out of breath in the end. That’s a huge difference for me, even if it sounds stupid.


Yeah, this was the ah-ha thing for me. Once I figured out how to get the bell high enough and punch through while nearly “letting go” of the bell as it turned over, I stopped having issues with calluses tearing.

This may be worth considering. The snatch looks kind of awesome, but it’s more technical and carries higher potential for injury/fuckery than the swing. If this is just a fat-loss tool for you that you kind of hate anyway, I’d also consider just doing swings. 10 heavy swings EMOM for 10 minutes will get you plenty winded, and if it doesn’t, get yourself a heavier bell.


But, that’s fair - if your mindset is more turned on by snatches than swings, sure.

While I appreciate that you’re doing what you’ve read in the article, if you really want this to kick your ass, build up to doing consecutive sets of 100 without putting the bell down. If you aren’t getting winded enough from this protocol, a set or two of 100 consecutive snatches will do it.

Out of curiosity, no shame here, what size bell are you using?


I should actually write 18-20 x 12, because I am doing 6 with each hand.
20 kgs at the moment for 18 sets. I went from 14 kgs x 18 (I know, starting very low, because even though I have my fair of experience in the gym, I have never used kettles for anything other than loading crunches) -> 14 x 20 -> 16 x 18 -> 16 x 20 -> 18 x 18 -> 18 x 20 and now I am at 20 x 18.


Exactly my thoughts and approach. I regularly do 10x10 heavy swings. I use a 36kg bell because I am weak and poor but heavy swings, interval style are awesome and far from boring


No shame. I was using a 12kg / 26 pound bell when I first started snatching just to try to figure it out. Then I moved up to a 16kg, then 20kg, then 24kg (though, as noted, I don’t do them very much any more…though I really should bring them back into the fold for some conditioning work). I’ve snatched a 28kg a few times, but the jump from 24 to 28 felt huge.

There’s nothing wrong with the approach you’re using; I’m just saying, if you think it’s not hard enough, work yourself up to longer and longer sets without taking any rest. If you can do 100 unbroken with one hand, rest a moment, then do 100 unbroken with the other hand, stuff gets very real.