Kettlebells vs. Sprints

small-chris16 Reasons Why I Stopped Running Sprints and Started Swinging a Kettlebell

By: Chris Lopez, CSCS, CTT

You’ve probably never heard this before, but…

I dumped sprints and took up kettlebell swings for my post-weight training, fat loss interval work.

Here are 6 reasons why…

1. It takes up too much time.

With my regular training sessions, after I lifted weights, I used to head out to the track to do my intervals.  That usually took up an extra 30 to 40 minutes to get the right shoes on (I’d switch from my Converse All-Stars to my Nike Frees), walk over to the track, get a good warm-up in and then run.

Sometimes, even though my workouts were efficient, it would take me 1.5 hours to get a full workout in (warm-up, weights, warm-up, intervals, cool-down, stretch).  Not good when you have a wife & 5 kids at home and 2 businesses to run.

With swings, I hop on them right after my last set of weights and go to town.  I can do Tabatas, I can do 30s on – 30s off, or I can work hard for 45s, do a plank while I’m resting and pick that KB up for another round right after.  It shaves my workout time by at least 15 minutes.

2. I get hurt.

Sprinting on a track, as cool as it looks, is a little risky for a guy like me.

If you don’t sprint on a track on a regular basis, then the unfamiliar range of motion of sprinting “all out” could leave you hobbled.  I can remember a couple of times when I’ve pulled a hamstring or strained a quad because of sprinting.

My body just wasn’t used to high leg turn over and the extended range of motion that sprinting presents.  Hill sprinting (as an alternative), I find, is a lot safer because of the reduced range of motion.  But again, you need access to a hill and if you don’t have a lot of time (see above), then getting to one may be out of the question.

3. It takes up too much room.double-swings1

To do sprints, you need about 100 to 200m of open space.  I can do KB Swings in an 8 x 8 elevator.

4. You use the RIGHT muscles.

Everyone is obsessed about what they see in the mirror.  People say they workout for health, which I’m sure is true, but at the end of the day most of us workout to look better.

The problem is that on a subconscious level, we’re always trying to improve what we see in the mirror – our abs, chest & arms.  However, what most don’t realize is that our most important muscles – the ones that give us balance, posture, power & strength – are located behind us.

Our posterior chain (our upper & lower back, glutes, hamstrings & calves), although we can’t see it, is our most critical group of muscles.  KB swings work our posterior chain like no exercise can.

5. KB Swings are – dare I say it – “FUNCTIONAL”.

Think about the motion when you swing a kettlebell – your back is straight, your hips are pushed back, your abs are tight and then in one forceful motion, you thrust your hips forward, your body goes upright and you explode up.

Doing this “triple extension” – the explosive extension of your hips, knees & ankles – is a movement that’s used in every sport, in any physical activity that involves picking something up off the ground or lifting something from a low to high position (like throwing your kid up in the air).

6. Sprinting on a treadmill sucks.

I tried sprinting on a treadmill and came to the realization that I’m only getting 50% of a workout.  Why?  Because the treadmill pulls me along.  All I have to do is lift my leg.

When you sprint, you lift a leg, plant it on the ground and then pull yourself forward and then you repeat with the other leg.

When you sprint on a treadmill, the machine/belt does the pulling for you thus making a treadmill sprint a full quad-dominant exercise.  You only get 1/2 of the motion, the treadmill does the other 1/2.  No wonder people who use treadmills have underdeveloped butts & hamstrings.

KB Swings, as I said above in point #4, works all those muscles neglected with treadmill sprinting and if done right, will relieve your over-developed and tight quads & hip-flexors.kb-swing-small

Get ready for the TT Kettlebell Workout Revolution,

Chris Lopez, CSCS, CTT

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  • Steve Corso

    Amen to this. I dumped the whole traditional cardio thing in favor of KB swings a year ago.30 sec on and 30 sec rest for 20 or 30 minutes, followed by a brisk 30 minute walk 3x per week has promoted more fat loss and body composition change for me, even at age 55 than all the hours I used to spend on the Stairmaster, Elliptical etc.Two other days of about 30 minutes of strength work (Clean and press, Front squat, pullups) and that hits me for the week.Plus, I can take my 28kg in my trunk and train anyhwere I want–the gym comes with me. Best bang for the buck in several ways, no doubt.

    • That’s the way to train, Steve. sounds like you’ve found a new lease on your training life! I like the simplicity of your weight routine as well. You’re hitting everything with those 3 exercises.

      Keep up the good work,
      Chris Lopez

  • I’m not so much of a guy that is one vs. the other, but use both to benefit. KB’s AND Sprints work greatly, as you can get the plus’s from doing both. I use KB’s for my winter conditioning up here in the ‘northland’ of North Dakota, and transition between KB’s & Sprint workouts in the spring, with full-blown sprint/track workouts in the summertime. Once fall comes, it becomes just like spring again, as I’ll transition back to doing KB & Sprint workouts, then full-blown KB stuff when the snow flies.

    Just thought I’d give a miler’s perspective into how both can work out for the best.

    Rick Karboviak

    • great insight, Rick. I agree, you can work both to your advantage.

      When I’ve got the time, I head over to my favorite hill (24kg KB in tow) and do a combination of hill sprints and KB swings. It’s an unbelievable workout.


  • Jim

    Hey, I heard this was a controversial issue. To me, it’s a no-brainer. KBs win over sprints for all the reasons that Chris mentioned, plus one more: They Way More Fun To Do!

    BTW, any interval circuit that contains KB swings, burpees, and plyo lunges are a winner. Plus maybe floor sprints (fast mountain climbers).

    • Hey Jim

      I don’t really do floor sprints (I haven’t tried). That’s something that I’ll definitely try to incorporate into my routine. Thanks for the idea.


  • Christopher Sosa

    What would be a good weight to start off with for a beginner? Also, do you have a kettlebell workout video available?

    • Hi Christopher,

      A good weight for a man to start with, depending on his training experience with weights, would be either a 12kg or 16kg.

      When I started training with KBs, I bought a 12kg but found that I graduated to a 16kg after only a week. It all depends on what you’re comfortable with, but 12kg or 16kg is where I would start.

      As for the video…YES, there will be a couple of beginner KB workout videos available next week. Stay tuned!


  • John

    What’s the downsides to using dumbbells for these moves? I already have a variety of sizes of dumbbells and am not real excited about going and buying more gear. Part of what attracted me to turbulence training workouts in the first place is that I didn’t need a lot of equipment, especially the bodyweight ones.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Some of the moves are a little awkward with dumbbells – and some of the moves are a LOT awkward with dumbbells. That’s all.

      • I think that one of the misconceptions about KB training is that you need several of them to get an effective workout in.

        The truth is you don’t.

        A single KB will give you an incredible workout provided you train with intensity and with proper form. Before I was convinced that KB training was the way to go for me, I only had a 12kg and it was enough for what I wanted to achieve at the time.


  • The thing I love most about kettlebells is how little time it takes to do a workout. I haven’t set foot on a treadmill since I started using kettlebells!

  • I’m in the Army and every since I found a kettlebell in one of the guys tents when I was serving overseas, I haven’t looked back. It’s an entire gym in 1 bit of equipment. never go gymless as long as you have a kettlebell.

  • chris neubauer

    does anyone know the difference between tt bootcamp 2.0 and the ttbootcamp deluxe package?/ Is one better than the other?? Does 2.0 come with the deluxe package??

    • The 2.0 comes with new workouts and new marketing content. It does not come with the deluxe package.

  • Vlado

    I came across this article about kettlebells and intervals, it got my attention so I got myself a kettlebell and timer and gave it a go.
    Boy that works!
    I’ve been swinging (and snatching) for about three months. That, some smart eating (no sugars, grains or processed foods, …) in IF style and weightlifting twice per week (but I give most of the credit to my kettlebell) resulted in over 20kgs (44lbs) lost. That crap is literally melting of me.

    I still have lots of work ahead of me, but I never looked better (I started to notice some muscles I never even knew I had), but more importantly – I never felt better!


  • Steve

    I’m afraid you’ve totally misunderstood the physics of a body moving relative to a surface when you say that the treadmill pulls you along. this is not so. It is only the lack of air resistance that is not simulated. This can be corrected by setting a gradient of a percent or so.

    • sheikh1906

      Actually, his description is accurate. There are two vectors of motion created when you are running. The upward motion and the forward motion. On a treadmill, your body does not have to create the forward motion, so that part of the work/effort is lacking in treadmill running.