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Are Kettlebells Better Than Dumbbells?

For many decades it didn’t seem like there could be much improvement over the traditional set of dumbbells when it came to lifting weights.  And although kettlebells have existed since 16th century Russia, they didn’t really become popular in North America until very recently.  But are kettlebells better than dumbbells?  In this article we go over various arguments as to which type of weight lifting equipment is better.

The Kettlebell Vs. Dumbbell Study

A recent study by a California State University, Fullerton professor found that a group of men using traditional free weights for 6 weeks increased their maximum weight lifts significantly more than a similar group of men using kettlebells.  This study may have one conclude that dumbbells are better than kettlebells.  That is until one understands that the exercises performed were advantageous to the free weight users.  Because of the ease of adding weight to dumbbells the free weight group ultimately pumped more iron than the kettlebell group.   Similarly, since the type of exercises that are usually done using kettlebells are different than those with dumbbells, the study wasn’t exactly comparing apples with apples.

Different Techniques

Kettlebells lend themselves more easily to exercises that require more explosive movements and focus more on technique over longer periods of time.  This is opposed to dumbbells which favour smoother, uniform movements with heavier weights and fewer repetitions over shorter periods of time.  Although certain exercises can easily interchange the use of kettlebells and dumbbells, kettlebells are normally used differently than traditional free weights.

Desired Outcomes

When it comes to building muscle and gaining strength, it’s probably best to use dumbbells.  Dumbbells are typically ideal for exercises using heavier loads and fewer reps to encourage visible muscle growth.  If you’re looking to get ripped, add inches and increase your strength, dumbbells are the way to go.

Kettlebells, on the other hand, are most effective when it comes to increasing power and endurance.  This will also aid in burning fat.   By repeatedly carrying out powerful and fast movements with kettlebells you can improve your performance when it comes to power movements used over long periods of time.  In terms of sports, kettlebell use could increase your ability to perform repeated power movements such as jumping or throwing throughout a long lasting game.  Kettlebell workouts will also promote weight loss due to fat burning while improving flexibility, core strength and speed.

Different Groups Of Muscles And Types Of Exercises

Using kettlebells for your workouts activates larger groups of muscles whereas dumbbells tend to isolate specific muscles.  The kettlebell shape and its unique handle causes exercises to tend toward more total body strengthening and conditioning.  Because you’re using more muscle groups with kettlebells you tend to increase your overall metabolism and therefore promote weight loss.  While dumbbells activate and utilize fewer muscles, there’s a tendency for increases in strength and muscle mass in specific areas. 

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