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Can Dumbbells Be Used Instead of Kettlebells

For today’s gym user there’s an ever-widening variety of equipment that can be used to help you keep fit.  What started out as pushups and sit-ups soon moved onto free weights which eventually morphed into exercise machines.  How is a gym goer supposed to keep up?  Is all this new equipment necessary?  Can you swap one piece of gear for another?  Can dumbbells be used instead of kettlebells?  To answer the last question succinctly, you can swap out kettlebells for dumbbells in a pinch.  In this article we’ll explain the why and how.

What Is A Kettlebell?

When trying to visualize a kettlebell, picture a cannonball with a handle attached to the top.  In the modern age, kettlebells first became popular in Russia in the late 1800s.  They were used by weightlifters, soldiers and eventually everyday people during community exercise programs.  They’ve only become popular in North America in the last 25 years or so but have seen explosive growth.  Kettlebells can range in size from two kilograms all the way up to 80 kilograms or more. 

How Are Kettlebells Used Differently from Other Free Weights?

If you compare the types of exercises done with kettlebells to those done with other free weights such as dumbbells or barbells, you’ll find that kettlebell exercises typically involve larger groups of muscles and focus on a wider range of motion compared to other free weights.  While dumbbells and barbells typically isolate a specific group of muscles, kettlebells allow for more swinging type motions and entire body movements.  It’s also been found that the movements associated with kettlebells will typically burn more calories than the exercises done with other types of free weights.

What Are the Advantages of Using Kettlebells?

Kettlebells provide two large advantages over other types of free weights.  The first of these is training your body how to deal with a different centre of gravity.  Because the full weight of the kettlebell is usually held away from the body at arm’s length, it forces you to improve your balance and increase your grip strength.  This type of training is good for those involved in other types of sports where balance and agility are needed. It also helps those with balance issues. And because most of the exercises that involve kettlebells can’t be done slowly, they improve muscle explosiveness and power endurance while burning more calories.

Can Dumbbells Be Used Instead of Kettlebells?

One drawback to kettlebells is that they aren’t always readily available.  For this reason, it’s been asked if you can substitute the two.  Dumbbells can in fact be used in place of kettlebells with some modifications in technique. There are certain exercises that can be done in exactly the same way, but others may require you to hold the dumbbell by the plate rather than the handle to allow you to get the full range of motion you normally get with kettlebells.

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