Swings are also great because they can spike your heart rate, providing cardiovascular as well as strength benefits, says Dell Poland, head coach at BRICK New York. Unlike a simple curl or press, the kettle bell swing activates your entire posterior chain of muscles—your glutes, hamstrings, and erector spinal (back muscles), he explains.
Barnes adds that it’s easy to integrate kettle bells into a workout finisher—for example, 30 to 60 seconds of all-out effort swings to cap things off. In fact, all the experts we spoke with emphasized that dumbbells are the best choice for weight training unless you’ve specifically worked with a personal trainer on kettle bells.
“For instance, a bent-over row with a kettle bell can strengthen the grip and help prepare you for challenging exercises like pull-ups,” Barnes says. General Fitness: Dumbbells One study showed that, compared to dynamic moves with kettle bells, basic weightlifting exercises (think power cleans and squats) led to significantly greater improvements in strength over a six-week period.
In other words, if your goal is general strength and fitness, there’s nothing wrong with sticking to dumbbells—and there’s probably not an advantage to using kettle bells. This makes moves like a bottoms-up kettle bell press especially challenging because you’re working to lift the weight and stabilize it—so the bell doesn’t topple over and hit your arm.
But with that added challenge, kettle bells do provide an unwelcome element of danger, so if you’re fairly new to exercising, stick with dumbbells. Although lots of companies make kettle bells in other weights, depending on what your gym has available, it might be tough to find a “perfect fit.” On the other hand, most gyms readily stack dumbbells at five-pound increments, making them ideal for moving up gradually.
Newbies and those looking to perform basic strength movements at the gym should head toward the dumbbell rack, while Crossfires and people doing explosive moves should grab a kettle bell. Choose which type of weight works with your exercise plan and fitness level, and never hesitate to consult a certified trainer for a personalized assessment if you have any questions.
By Paul Rogers Reviewed by Tara Ferrara, CPT on October 23, 2021 The kettle bell —an iron-cast piece of equipment that looks like a ball with a handle— dates back hundreds of years.
In fact, they can be used as complementary tools, rather than competitive ones, to help you reach your strength-training goals. Since the exercises that involve them are more static, there's less risk of injury for those without much experience.
They are a great way for beginners to learn the basics of strength training and see improved physical performance. Dumbbells are great for bilateral training —working both sides of the body at the same time, such as in bicep curls or lateral raises.
The ability to swing kettle bells provides training for muscle groups across planes other than vertical (sagittal) and horizontal (transverse). Kettle bells provide a better cardio workout because of the extra movement involved in the standard exercises.
The swinging action of kettle bells creates a fluid movement, which may be easier on the body. Bonus: A kettle bell swing can activate the entire posterior chain of muscles in a way that dumbbells can't.
A 2016 study even found that kettle bell training is effective in lower back pain treatment. Kettle bells improve functional strength, which is typically defined as strength that is applicable in everyday life situations (like carrying heavy grocery bags).
When crafting your strength routine, choose exercises and equipment that are convenient, safe for you, and that will best help you reach your goals. Learning more about the basics of weight training can help you find your path to a stronger you.
This article is not intended to sway you into using over the other, but to point out some considerations to take into account when employing kettle bells and dumbbells. Photo By Marina / Shutterstock To fully understand the context of when to employ the dumbbell and kettle bell in training, then it’s a good idea to first breakdown some key differences between them.
However, without a deeper knowledge of weight displacement, strength curves, application to training, and biomechanics, then the physical differences don’t really mean much. Similarly, will the evenly displaced weight of the dumbbell heads shift mechanics and application?
Weight sits below the middleweight is evenly displaced on both deconstructed with cast-iron Construction varies greatlyHandle can accommodate one or two handshake accommodates only one handle above physical differences are pretty easy to see and wrap one’s head around, but their understanding is crucial for application of each implement’s use in training when facilitating adaptations — more on that below. Center of mass of these two implements is important to understand because it has the potential to shift the stress of the external load being put on the desired muscle and joint with the exercise of choosing.
The reason center of mass matters for implement selection is based on different exercise’s strength curves. A strength curve entails how an exercise changes in difficulty through different ranges of motion.
Take bands or a machine on a preacher curl for example, they provide a constant tension throughout the full range of motion, which will differ from a dumbbell ’s strength curve slightly due to gravity playing a role on the movement’s difficulty at various points. Thus, strength curves will vary based on the muscle and joints being used, along with the range of motion they’re working through and the implement chosen.
Their center of mass is different, so the way in which they create difficulty for various exercises in certain ranges of motion will vary slightly. An interesting example of the above in research comes from a study published in 2018 that compared Egg activity of the anterior deltoid and pectoralis major when subjects performed either a seated dumbbell overhead press or a seated kettle bell overhead press.
Upon their analysis, researchers suggested that the dumbbell overhead press had slightly higher anterior deltoid Egg than the kettle bell while the pectoralis major was similar in both exercises. Authors speculated that the difference in the anterior deltoid potentially had to do with the alignment of the dumbbell and kettle bell and how this might have affected the primary movers in the overhead press.
This difference could have been the reason that the dumbbells produced more muscle activity than the kettle bell, as its load was more direct and consistent on the primary movers of the overhead press. Research is still sparse on the comparison between the dumbbell and kettle bell and muscle activation for a variety of exercises, but the above does offer some great food for thought.
Jasmine Markovic/Shutterstock When selecting between a dumbbell and kettle bell for muscle activation purposes consider how they load the body — more specifically the primary movers of an exercise — through the range of motion being trained. At the end of the day, quality programming and reps will weigh heaviest in the long run for strength and hypertrophy adaptations.
Which to Use : Both, but if given the opportunity base dumbbell and kettle bell selection on the primary movers and range of motion being trained! Similar to the strength component above, kettle bells and dumbbells both have the potential to help improve a lifter’s power.
Generally speaking, power-based training will include dynamic movements and exercises will require higher velocities. Lysenko Ego/Shutterstock Movements like the kettle bell swing, clean & jerk, and snatch are all exercises that can be programmed for the adaptation of power that the dumbbell falls slightly short on.
For athletes trying to improve power, then generally speaking, the kettle bell will be a friendlier option to do so based on its construction and ease of use. The construction of a kettle bell and its traditional movements are useful for increasing the amount of work you can put in over a desired period of time.
For cardio improvement, both dumbbells and kettle bells are great options and it comes down to the workout style being performed. There are plenty of kettle bell and dumbbell complexes that are designed to improve cardiovascular fitness and the only limitation with this adaptation is one’s creativity with their training and flows.
At the end of the day, the differences between kettle bells and dumbbells go out the window without quality programming t hat accounts for multiple training variables, exercise selection, and an individual’s goals and needs. What matters most is quality programming that considers multiple factors that help direct lifters closer to their goals and needs.
Beginners can train with kettle bells with no problem, however, it’s worth pointing out that form should take precedence of one’s focus when using them for the first few workouts. Both dumbbells and kettle bells work great for developing strength, power, and cardiovascular fitness, and what matter most is the quality of their movements and programming.
The kettle bell ’s handle is wider, so it fits two hands better and the weight is further from the body so it accommodates the swinging motion slightly better than what a dumbbell would do. Stability of Resistance Training Implement alters Egg Activity during the Overhead Press.
Whether you’re at the gym or buying weights for home fitness, it’s important to know the differences between kettle bells and dumbbells. The weight is displaced evenly on either side of the handle and sits at the same level as your hand.
In kettle bells, the weight sits behind your wrist and creates a slight torque in your joints. The slight bend from kettle bells can exacerbate ongoing tendonitis or carpal tunnel in ways that wouldn’t happen with dumbbells.
On the other hand, if you’re interested in building wrist and grip strength, a kettle bell is a great way to do so. While the difference is slight, some fitness fanatics may find this relevant for their specific goals.
Another big difference between kettle bells and dumbbells is that the location of the weight affects the movement and power you can generate with them. There are a lot of dynamic exercises you can do with kettle bells that involve your ability to create and stop momentum.
Kettle bell swings are a particularly popular exercise because the moving center of gravity activates your core as well as the intended shoulder and arm muscles. It’s also easier to progressively increase the weight with dumbbells, as fewer muscles are involved.
The lighter the weight, the less you’ll notice these slight differences in feel between kettle bells and dumbbells. However, in high-intensity interval training (HIIT), you may find kettle bells are slightly easier to pick up and use.
The wider handle makes it easy to grab a kettle bell quickly and with both hands if the exercise requires it. Lastly, as mentioned above, the weight location of kettle bells makes them slightly more challenging using.
Because the added weight isn’t right at your hand, kettle bells throw off your center of gravity. Kettle bells are a great way to bring a new element into your free weight exercises.
Switching out dumbbells for kettle bells in your normal routine will engage your core and snap your muscles out of autopilot. Some new weightlifters may also find it easier to feel the isolated muscles and understand the exercises better with dumbbells.