12-Minute Workout Spikes Anabolic Hormones

All You Need is a Kettlebell


Swing for a Quick Hormone Boost

A 2014 study showed 12 minutes of kettlebell swings significantly increased testosterone and growth hormone immediately and for up to 30 minutes afterward (1):

  • Testosterone increased by 17 percent.
  • Growth hormone by a whopping 1700 percent.

Now, acute hormonal responses aren't as important as once thought for muscular adaptation (it's more about what your average is throughout the day that matters) but any surge in anabolism and fat-burning potential is a good thing.

If you're looking for some radical results, then try "spiking" your anabolism and fat burning potential with 12 minutes of swings sporadically throughout the day.

If you want to copy the study exactly above, they did 30 seconds of swings with 30 seconds of rest for 12 rounds. The study used a 16kg kettlebell (about 35 pounds) for all participants, but you'll do best picking a weight you're more accustomed to. Feel free to put your kettlebell swings on steroids by adding a band.

If you don't have a kettlebell heavy enough to impose a significant challenge, or if you're looking to add some explosiveness to your workouts, then try adding a band.

Banded Kettlebell Swing

Attaching a Band to a Kettlebell

Kettlebell Swings
  1. Set the banded kettlebell about a foot in front of you.
  2. As you push your hips back and grab the kettlebell, you should be able to maintain a relatively neutral spine. You should feel tension through your hamstrings as you reach. Think of your hamstrings as a loaded bow string.
  3. Sweep the kettlebell hard towards you. Don't be afraid to do this; studies have shown far more force generated in the backswing, so don't be shy.
  4. Keep your forearms close to your upper thighs and kettlebell as close to your crotch as possible. Not enough to cause damage, but enough to ensure your hips can generate the most power while staying relatively spine-friendly.
  5. Drive your hips through and accelerate the 'bell until your arms reach horizontal.
  6. Make all the force come from your hips. Imagine your arms are just like the "crack" at the end of the whip.
  7. Brace your abs. Imagine 360 degrees of air around your spine and wanting to force a bowel movement... but don't!
  8. Pull the kettlebell back down. Yes, PULL! Again, you're trying to make the most of the backswing. This is somewhat enhanced by the band.
  9. Don't squat your swings! They're a hip hinge.

They're a solution for light kettlebells.

Forget the lacrosse-ball sized kettlebells they're swinging down at your local circuit-training class. To truly make kettlebell swings work for you, you'll need enough resistance to make it challenging. Not so much that your form deteriorates, but enough that the weight forces your hips to do some work.

If you don't have a heavy enough kettlebell, the banded version will do the trick.

Their resistance is accommodating.

Just like using accommodating resistance for your deadlifts, kettlebell swings have an ascending strength curve meaning that it gets harder at the end. Accelerating through the increasing band resistance will develop insane explosiveness.

They're better than your cleans, you jerk.

Heavy and banded swings can arguably rival the Olympic lifts for power and rate of force development, and without anywhere near the complexity.

Basic kettlebell swings are also more spine-friendly than more common power exercises, with a compressive spinal load of almost half that of the Olympic lifts (2).

The band accelerates you back down.

Not only does a resistance band force you to accelerate through the rep, it accelerates you back down as well. This overspeed eccentric overloads certain stretch-reflex mechanisms that contribute to your "slow" stretch-shortening cycle and plyometric abilities.

In short, it's another reason to choose banded swings to enhance your power and athleticism.

They enhance the downward phase.

Force plate analysis shows far more force is produced on the downward phase of the swing. Augmenting this with a band accelerating you back down will further add to its effectiveness. You'll develop greater force and activate more high-threshold motor units here, which is never a bad thing.

They're effective low-impact conditioning.

A 2012 study compared kettlebell swings to treadmill running, and although running achieved a higher level of oxygen consumption and calorie burn, kettlebell swings still managed to get subjects working above 85% of their heart rate (3).

All "moderately trained" men used a 16kg kettlebell and women an 8kg kettlebell. There are a lot of flaws with this, but we won't go there. If you want an impact-friendly form of conditioning, then kettlebell swings are a good alternative to running. Add a band to ramp up the intensity.

Kettlebell swings are practically an ancient exercise. Try using a resistance band as a modern upgrade to further enhance your strength, conditioning, explosiveness, and overall body composition.

  1. Budnar RG et al. The acute hormonal response to the kettlebell swing exercise. Journal of strength and conditioning research. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Oct;28(10):2793-800. PubMed.
  2. McGill SM et al. Kettlebell Swing, Snatch, and Bottoms-Up Carry: Back and Hip Muscle Activation, Motion, and Low Back Loads. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Jan;26(1):16-27. PubMed.
  3. Hulsey CR et al. Comparison of Kettlebell Swings and Treadmill Running at Equivalent Rating of Perceived Exertion Values. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 May;26(5):1203-7. PubMed.
Gareth Sapstead is a leading strength and physique coach from the UK. He specializes in problem solving and breakthrough training techniques.

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