The kettlebell’s arrival on the U.S. fitness scene induced excitement and skepticism. Sure, it looks different than the standard dumbbell but how unique can it really be? They both fall under the category of free weights, and each can be used for many of the same exercise staples, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end.
Weight Distribution and Safety
Side by side, you can certainly see the difference. Pick them up, and you’ll also feel the difference. A dumbbell’s weight is evenly distributed on either side of the handle making it a safe option for beginners because balanced weight is much easier to control. While every exercise depends on proper form, you’ll need less coordination and body awareness to use this piece of equipment correctly.
Kettlebells, on the other hand, are weight-distributed unevenly. The entirety of its weight lies in the cannonball, leaving little to none in the handle. This offset distribution makes it ideal for more complicated and full body moves. That said, attention to detail is a must to prevent injuries. But with a little know-how and a lot of awareness, there are definite benefits to be gained.
Grip and Muscle Isolation
Grip is everything when comparing a kettlebell to a dumbbell. You could hold and use a dumbbell by one end, but its design works best with direct movements that are initiated from the handle or center; think simple presses and rows. It provides more stability than a kettlebell and emphasizes slow, precise movements. For this reason, it is easier to isolate one muscle or group of muscles with a dumbbell.
A kettlebell is constructed with less balance but more options for how to hold it. The handle can be gripped from the sides or the top, as can the ball itself. You only need to change your hand positions to get a new variation on a common exercise. More importantly, these cast iron weights are excellent for entire body and explosive movements. But beware, because ballistic exercises recruit multiple groups of muscles that require body awareness and sound mechanics to execute safely.
Dumbbells Isolate, Build Strength and Can Create Symmetry
Technically, most exercises could be performed using either type of weight, but depending on your goals, there is often a superior choice. If you are solely working to build strength or mass, then dumbbells have a prominent place in your routine.
The more resistance your muscles encounter, the more chance there is to repair and grow stronger. Dumbbells increase in size by 5 lb. increments, giving the opportunity for continual advancements and growth. And with so many options, there’s always a dumbbell that is just the right size.
Dumbbells are a good fit for creating symmetry too. They give the stability needed to target specific areas. For example, if you want to hone in on the back of your shoulder, add bent over deltoid raises using dumbbells. You’ll have enough control to isolate (as much as possible) and work the exact area of focus.
Kettlebells Create Resistance and Add Conditioning
Again, you could grab a kettlebell or a dumbbell for your next set of front raises, but it’s only the kettlebell that can enhance your shoulders while improving your overall conditioning. The power is in its shape. When that uneven load begins swinging it gains momentum and brings about a more fluid motion–an action that produces resistance and cardio at once. Add more kettlebell swings to your training program, and you’ll increase your heart rate, fat burning ability and muscle mass with the same exercise.
Unlike dumbbells, kettlebells come in a limited amount of weight sizes. This won’t be a problem if you use them primarily for flow workouts. The momentum that comes from flow plus the added number of muscles engaged keeps you from needing to increase the weight as often.
Lifting a kettlebell requires the added challenge of stabilizing it. That instability naturally recruits several major and minor muscle groups, making them best suited for dynamic, functional moves. Incorporate the kettlebell into your training program to build balance and core strength for everyday life.
Information, Goals, and Preference
The kettlebell versus dumbbell debate goes deeper than appearance, and all things considered, there is a place in most workouts for both. In fact, we list each of them in our Must Have Home Gym Essentials guide because they are durable, accessibly priced, and we know that variety is king for a well-rounded routine that keeps us interested and continually producing results. But in a pinch, you can use either with great success. And if you only have room for one in your life, that works too, just boil the decision down to information, goals, and preference.
Every body is unique and will gravitate towards exercises and equipment that work best for it. Contact us to try both kettlebells and dumbbells. Your body may respond better to one over the other and make the call for you.
Determine which exercises must be incorporated into your routine to meet your next health objective. Ask questions. Now, take a step back and decide which apparatus makes the most sense? It’s really that simple.