Kettlebell Hardstyle vs Softstyle [2023]

Last Updated on November 16, 2022 by Patrick

Kettlebell Hardstyle vs Softstyle

Did you know that there are two different schools of though when it comes to kettlebell workouts? I sure didn’t until very recently!

I’ve been spending some time looking into ways to improve my kettlebell workouts and although I’ve spent years doing all sorts of halos and deadlifts and whatnot, somehow I was never exposed to this particularly divisive argument.

I love kettlebells and I’ve used them consistently for YEARS but somehow I never knew that there was such a schism in the kettlebell community! If you google “kettlebell hardstyle vs softstyle” you’ll find a multitude of reddit and forum posts on the subject with the discussions sometimes becoming quite heated!

It turns out that some people might be watching you do your kettlebell squats and thinking to themselves: “Wow, look at them doing softstyle, don’t they know that hardstyle is the superior style?”

Ok probably not, but I think the division in the community is really interesting and it got me wondering: Should I focus on learning hardstyle or softstyle? Should I do both? What’s the difference and what are the benefits?

So, what actually is the difference between hardstyle and softstyle when it comes to kettlebell workouts?

Let’s get into some details!

Kettlebell Hardstyle

Hardstyle is a school of kettlebell thought that focuses on short, high tension movements.

The idea is for each movement to be as forceful as possible and lift as much weight as possible in as short an amount of time as possible.

I’ve seen hardstyle compared to sprinting. Short, explosive bursts of energy that burn calories and build muscle quickly.

What Are the Benefits of Kettlebell Hardstyle?

Hardstyle is like sprinting for runners, or HIIT exercises. It allows you to get a ton of work done in a very short period of time and thus get great results without spending hours hoisting around your kettlebells.

People who advocate for hardstyle generally focus on the fact that hardstyle gets you more results with less time investment, and can be great for promoting muscle growth.

Hardstyle is less efficient than softstyle and this is actually intentional! Efficiency in exercise is not necessarily the goal, believe it or not! In hindsight, this seems obvious, but before getting into this whole hardstyle vs softstyle debate it didn’t really occur to me.

Exercise for exercise sake isn’t supposed to be efficient! The whole point is do hard work and burn calories and break down muscle fibers.

If your exercise is super efficient, you’re by definition burning less calories and doing less work per rep. So if you’re goal is to get results in the shortest amount of time, you should be trying to do things inefficiently.

Of course, form is key and you should never be trying to be more less efficient by performing movements incorrectly, this can lead to injury and downtime in your workout routine.

Kettlebell Softstyle

If Kettlebell hardstyle is a sprint, then Kettlebell Softstyle is more like a marathon. The goal with softstyle is to do as many reps over as long a period of time as possible.

Kettlebell softstyle is actually the competition form of kettlebell workouts, which is why it’s also called “Kettlebell Sport.”

In kettlebell sport, competitors use lighter weight kettlebells in smoother, more efficient movements to maximize endurance increase the number of reps possible.

Whereas in kettlebell hardstyle, you want to maximize tension to produce the most effort in the shortest period of time, the goal of kettlebell softstyle is to keep the kettlebell moving for long periods of time without rest.

What Are the Benefits of Kettlebell Softstyle?

Kettlebell softstyle may be less effective than hardstyle when it comes to burning calories in a short period of time, it makes up for it by allowing you to burn calories over a longer period of time.

By maximizing efficiency and fluidity of movement, you can burn just as many calories as a quick, high intensity workout would with the added benefit of training endurance!

While most people in the hardstyle school of thought usually do 3-5 sets of 10 or so heavy kettlebell exercises, softstyle practitioners might perform hundreds of repetitions in a given workout with a lighter kettlebell and more efficient movements.

Intensity VS Endurance

This is what it all boils down to.

Do you prefer HIIT workouts or longer, more endurance focused workouts?

Although you may get results with less time investment with hardstyle, a high intensity workout may not be what you’re looking for. Many people prefer a longer, steady state kind of exercise. It all really comes back to the sprint vs marathon idea I presented earlier.

Final Words

If you’re asking yourself which is better when it comes to these two styles of kettlebell workouts, you really just need to ask yourself what are your goals? Which style fits better into your workout schedule?

Do you want to burn calories and build muscle with relatively short workouts? Do you enjoy shorter, high intensity workouts? Hardstyle kettlebell workouts are probably the way to go for you.

Do you want to increase your endurance? Are you looking for a workout that is lower impact? If you don’t mind spending more time on your kettlebell workouts, softstyle kettlebell workouts are a great option.

So what do you think? Which school do you prefer?

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