After 6 weeks, the traditional-weight group had boosted their squat max 14 percent—an average of 18 pounds—compared to just 4 percent (5 pounds) among the kettle bell lifters. The kettle bell group completed the same number of sets of various swing movements and goblet squats—exercises not designed solely to build strength.
“We tried to use the kettle bells the way most practitioners would use them, emphasizing technique and using explosive movements,” explains study author Jared Co burn, Ph.D., a professor of kinesiology at Cal State, Fullerton. Co burn says it’s not surprising kettle bell strength gains were smaller than those resulting from traditional resistance exercises.
“There is no better tool for adding load than the barbell,” says Dan John, a national masters champion in Olympic lifting and a strength coach in Draper, Utah. For those strength-building exercises that can require substantial weight—such as the bench press, dead lifts, squats, or snatches—John says only the barbell can meet the resistance needs of some lifters.
You can use kettle bells or dumbbells interchangeably for some exercises, such as bicep curls or lateral raises, John adds. Think of jumping to shoot or block a shot in basketball late in a pickup game, or swinging a golf club after 16 holes.
This exercise activates your hamstrings, back, and posterior chain of muscles and you’ll improve your speed, flexibility, and core strength, says David Jack, a Men's Health advisor and director of Teamwork Fitness in Massachusetts. Two of the most common exercising apparatus found in gyms are kettle bells and free weights, also called dumbbells.
Perhaps the most intimidating area of any gym is the section where the free weights are kept and is also the place where most women feel that they do not belong. Getting acquainted with the different types of free weights is a pretty simple task, and is the best way to make sure that you are getting the most out of your workouts.
They are any exercise load that is not connected to another piece of gym equipment or apparatus, hence the name ‘ free.’ This means you can do whatever you want with them: pick them up, move them, lift them, etc. The two main types of free weights you are likely to find in a gym are dumbbells and barbells.
If you perform a squat using a leg press machine and bend at the hips and knees, that is all you have to do. If you do the same squat, but with a free weight this time, your muscles will need to work to prevent you from swaying.
There is a multitude of benefits to training with a kettle, with perhaps the greatest being that many kettle bell exercises are dynamic and ballistic, meaning that they use fast lifts rather than the more slowed and controlled strength training most gym enthusiasts are used to. These particular exercises increase your heart rate in a way that is entirely different from other activities like cardio.
Additionally, these motions include pretty much every single muscle in your body and are also totally different from most other exercises, which makes them refreshing and a little fun. They are made from cast iron and are shaped like a ball, attached with a U-shaped handle to make gripping them easy.
Kettle bells have recently experienced a resurgence in popularity, with thousands of books, videos, and classes being made. This is because training with kettle bells provides a dynamic motion that targets nearly every aspect of fitness, including strength, endurance, balance, cardio, and agility.
They both offer unique exercising experiences and challenge your body in different ways. Walk into any gym, and you’ll likely encounter two basic kinds of free weights : the trusty dumbbells and the new kid on the block, the kettle bells.
If your goal is powerlifting, ply improvements, or if you’re competing in a sport that requires explosiveness (like basketball or CrossFit games), research suggests kettle bells lead to greater gains. 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. Whether you’re at the gym or buying weights for home fitness, it’s important to know the differences between kettle bells and dumbbells.
Because of their instability, free weights demand a more complete body workout than weight machines. 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. 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.