A common misconception about kettlebell training is that women who lift heavy will bulk up and look more masculine as a result. The truth is that most women simply do not have enough testosterone in their bodies to build as much muscle as men. More importantly, women who lift kettlebells see great improvements in strength and endurance, anaerobic capacity, and bone density levels – leading to an improvement in their overall health.
Researching the effect of weightlifting on men seems to be more straightforward than researching the effect of weightlifting on women since women’s bodies are subject to more monthly fluctuations due to menstruation and pregnancy. Coupled with the fact that lifting weights has only become popular among women recently, there is a much larger base of male-specific research for researchers to compare results and analyze the differences. With the number of women involved in lifting weights steadily rising in recent years, however, more studies are popping up discussing the effects of exercise protocols on women.
One such study done on women and exercise was done by a group of researchers at the University of Saskatchewan in 2015. The researchers shared a curiosity about how women’s bodies react to different types of exercise. The research group studied the efficacy rates of different activities included in high-intensity interval training (HIIT) using kettlebell and free-weights. They found that women who participated in HIIT training – one minute of all-out work followed by three minutes of rest – using kettlebells and free-weights for sixty minutes, three times a week, saw significant increases in their squat, overhead press, and deadlift strength, as well as their squat endurance. Additionally, anaerobic capacities of all participants increased across both HIIT and kettlebell training programs. Anaerobic power is what we use for our high energy and fast movements. While this is useful for speed, power, and building new muscle tissue, healthy anaerobic pathways are also essential for muscle recovery. The takeaway message of the research is that increasing anaerobic power capacity through lifting kettlebells is a good thing for your muscular health. Even if power and speed aren’t your goals, you’ll feel better during your workouts and recover much faster post-workout.
Besides increasing your anaerobic capacity, load-bearing exercise such as kettlebell lifting is especially important for women to avoid suffering the effects of osteoporosis. As women age and go through menopause, levels of estrogen decline, which results in loss of bone density, called osteoporosis. Osteoporosis leads to increased risk of fractures as you age, and fractures in the elderly have a thirty percent one-year mortality rate.6 You can combat these effects by increasing the number of high-impact exercises – such as those you can do with kettlebells – you do during childbearing years, which will increase bone density and fight the effects of osteoporosis. If you are already experiencing osteoporosis, it’s not too late to incorporate load-bearing exercises with kettlebells to slow the progression.
All women can benefit from incorporating kettlebell training into their fitness regimen. Fitness professionals are finding new and exciting ways to combine kettlebell exercises with traditional strength and cardiovascular exercise to maximize results. Instead of spending hours in the gym doing the same boring split-body routine, you can learn new movements that challenge your entire body and mind – which makes working out more fun! There’s a reason why kettlebells have been around for hundreds of years and are rising in popularity every year: they are one of the most effective tools for fitness. While there is definitely a learning curve to getting started with kettlebells, your body will quickly gain the strength and endurance to make the challenge worth it.