Whether you are working out at the gym or working out in the comfort of your own home, if you want to improve your strength through weight training, you are bound to have tried using kettlebells and dumbbells – but which is better and why?
It’s a question that rages on in every gym up and down the country and there will probably always be those who fall firmly in the kettlebell camp while others will be entirely loyal to their dumbbells forever.
Both sets of weights have their roots in the training routines of Olympians back in ancient Greece when they used stones with handles on them to help them perform better in certain sporting activities.
Traditionally, dumbbells were always the tool of choice for men looking to build muscle, particularly in the arms and chest. However, kettlebells started to grow in popularity after it was revealed the Russian special forces train with them.
Which one you choose will largely depend on your own personal style and what kind of fitness goals you are hoping to achieve. If you are aiming for increased arm strength, however, it will support you in your other exercise plans as stronger arms and grip strength help you to do other things.
Strengthening Your Arms – Dumbbells
When it comes to strengthening your forearms, dumbbells have been used consistently by gyms and trainers because gripping these weights effectively can use all the muscles in your arms, so if you are hoping for large biceps, dumbbells might be the way to go.
If you are choosing dumbbells you need to choose the right weight for you and pick ones you can actually lift as you don’t want to injure yourself. For a beginner, you want to go for something in between 17lbs and 26lbs ideally.
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Shaping Your Shoulders – Kettlebells
If you are working on strengthening and shaping your shoulders and like to do the military press exercise with weights, then you will need to use kettlebells for the best results. With a military press, you hold weights at shoulder level and then take your arms upwards.
To do this successfully requires good shoulder power and it works much better with kettlebells as they rotate and move your shoulder into the correct position. It’s much harder to do this with a dumbbell and you might end up arching your back instead.
Targeting Specific Areas – Dumbbells
If you are looking to do isolated exercises, just targeting specific muscles, for example by doing bicep curls, then you will find dumbbells work better for this type of move. Any isolation exercises on your arms will work better with a dumbbell.
The reason is that you will be flexing your arm but also working to keep the dumbbell balanced as you curl your arm up and this works your arm as well, in a way that a kettlebell just doesn’t. So, for stronger arms, dumbbells are the way to go.
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Developing Overall Body Strength – Kettlebells
When it comes to developing overall body strength, you need to do more active movements such as snatches and cleans or swings as they raise your heart rate and get all your muscles working together to improve overall strength.
For these types of movements, the swing of a kettlebell works much more effectively, so for overall training and using all your muscle groups, you need to focus on the kettlebells rather than the dumbbells.
While you can use dumbbells for these movements if you don’t have a kettlebell, but they are not as comfortable and don’t give you as many options for undertaking these kinds of power-focused movements across your body.
Leg Strength Training Through Squats - Kettlebells
Having looked at arm strength and overall body strength, which of these two weight choices work best for leg strength training? It largely depends on what type of leg exercises you are planning to do.
If you prefer to do squats and lunges to strengthen your legs, then kettlebells work better as it’s much easier to hold the position with kettlebells in your hands, so for these types of exercises, go for the kettlebells.
Leg Strength Training Through Deadlifts – Dumbbells
However, if you like to carry out deadlifts for your leg work, kettlebells hit the floor too early and will reduce your potential range of movement, so it’s much better to use dumbbells when it comes to doing deadlifts in your workout.
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There is no doubt that the debate over kettlebells and dumbbells will continue for many years to come in gyms everywhere, but it seems clear that both have a role to play in weight training workouts.
It may come down to what type of movements you prefer during your workout but as long as you are comfortable, your workout is achieving the results you desire, and you are able to carry out your chosen workout without any issues, then it’s up to you which you go for.
It would seem that there are certain areas where dumbbells work better, for example, for very targeted arm work and arm strengthening workouts, which makes sense as they have been the traditional tool for this purpose for a long time.
But when it comes to workouts requiring more motion, more energy, and more flexibility, for example, for overall body strength, and for certain leg exercises, kettlebells might work better due to the swing and movement which they offer.
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Ultimately, it might be a blend of using both for different aspects of your workout routine that will create the best all-around result, but you should always seek advice from a professional trainer if you have any concerns or questions about what equipment you should be using.
Both dumbbells and kettlebells come with good and bad points so all you can do is try them and see which work the best for you and which you are most happy with using. As long as you are working out safely and effectively, it’s up to you.