It’s arguably the longest debate in the history of fitness, and one that’s as old as the hills: Which is better, kettlebells or dumbbells?
To answer this, it’s better to first rephrase the question: Should you use both kettlebells and dumbbells in your fitness regimen? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” As you’ll find, kettlebells and dumbbells each bring distinctive benefits to any type of workout routine, whether you’re concentrating on strength training, muscle building, cardio, or weight-reducing exercises.
Kettlebells vs. Dumbbells: Which Is Better?
First off, one really isn’t better than the other, in general. While both are used in a variety of similar routines, each also offers separate and distinct benefits that the other can’t provide.
Before we get started, here’s a brief description of kettlebells and dumbbells, with an explanation of how they’re used.
What Are Kettlebells?
A kettlebell is an iron or steel ball (known as a “bell”) that’s equipped with a handle on the top. The handle can be of varying shapes, depending on the type of kettlebell. A standard kettlebell has a wider handle that extends beyond the width of the bell. A competitive kettlebell has a slimmer handle that aligns with, and lies flush to, the sides of the bell. These handle widths dictate the types of exercises that can be done with each style of kettlebell.
A kettlebell is a great piece of all-in-one equipment that allows you to do many of the exercises you can achieve with a dumbbell, but it allows for an even greater range of motion. This means you can do all types of swings and rotation movements that aren’t really suited to a dumbbell.
Kettlebells are ideal for a wide range of strength training, resistance training, muscle building, cardio, and calorie-burning exercises. Essentially, kettlebells can also replace dumbbells in many of these types of exercises, except for certain specific muscle-isolation routines where a dumbbell would be easier to handle.
As an example of a top-notch kettlebell, Titan Fitness offers this Adjustable Competition Style Kettlebell, which is designed so you can add or remove a screw to adjust the weight from approximately 26 pounds to 70 pounds. This allows you to perform a variety of weight exercises by using one single piece of equipment.
What Are Dumbbells?
A dumbbell is made of a short bar with a weight (or multiple weights) attached to each end. These weights are usually a small type of weight plate — a round, flat disc — but they can also be balls or cubes made of iron, metal, urethane, or rubber. With many dumbbells, these weights are permanently attached, but you can also find adjustable dumbbells that allow you to attach and customize weights.
A dumbbell is primarily used for muscle building and muscle isolation exercises. When you think of dumbbells, you probably picture them being used in a classic biceps curl. However, when used in a pair, you can also use them for numerous total body routines.
As an example of an excellent dumbbell that packs a punch, Titan Fitness sells a top-quality urethane dumbbell you can buy in pairs, in weights ranging from 10, 15, 20, 50, and 55 pounds. These dumbbells are crafted of durable round urethane that’s shaped and molded around a chrome-finished solid steel handle. The dumbbell handle is designed with medium-depth knurling, so it can provide superlative grip and security during lifts.
Here’s a quick look at several construction differences between kettlebells and dumbbells:
- Kettlebells are weighted below the handle, while dumbbells are weighted at both ends. This changes the center of gravity.
- Kettlebells are either constructed of cast iron or steel, while dumbbells are constructed of a variety of materials, including rubber and urethane.
- Kettlebell handles are made for one or two hands, while dumbbell handles are short, and can only accommodate one hand.
Benefits of Kettlebells
- Great for using in a wide range of swings and movements
- Perfect for balance, strength, and endurance training
- Ideal for muscle-isolation and muscle-building routines, as well as core strength exercises
- Great for non-running cardiovascular workouts to increase heart rate
- Ideal for fat-burning workouts
- Can increase flexibility and mobility and improve posture
- Great for posterior chain, lower body, and even powerlifting workouts
- Require little to no training or equipment space
- Great for specific muscle groups, core strength, and areas such as hamstrings, glutes, plus upper and lower body strength
- Great for full-body and bodybuilding workouts
Benefits of Dumbbells
- Great for improving grip strength, and building muscle and strength in forearms
- Can activate multiple different muscles
- Can stimulate muscle growth
- Can improve muscle force and flexibility
- Can promote coordination
- Great for a wide range of muscle-isolating and muscle-building exercises
- Great for specific muscle groups including hamstrings, glutes, upper and lower body strength, and core strength
- Can be used for full-body and bodybuilding workouts
Ultimately, the best home gym should have a kettlebell as well as several pairs of dumbbells of varying weights. And the good news is, thanks to its business model of offering top-quality equipment at low prices, you can afford both dumbbells and a quality kettlebell if you purchase your home gym equipment from Titan Fitness.
Losing Weight With Kettlebells
Can you actually lose weight with kettlebells? It may come as a surprise, but the answer is yes. According to research done by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), kettlebells provide an excellent way to get high-impact cardio training. In fact, with just a 20-minute kettlebell workout, you can get the same calorie-burning results that you would with a longer routine using a treadmill and weights. The ACE study showed that, on average, you can burn 272 calories in a 20-minute kettlebell workout by using a few simple snatch routines, switching the kettlebell to opposite hands. At 20 calories a minute, this is the same level you would burn at a six-minute mile pace while running.
Losing Weight With Dumbbells
Can you lose weight with dumbbells? The good news is yes, dumbbells can be great for helping you accomplish your weight goals. The ACE recommends a number of dumbbell exercises to burn calories and fat, including various squats and lifts you can find here.
Kettlebell Exercises to Try
When we think of training with free weights, we usually think of classic bench presses, squats, cleans, and deadlifts with barbells, but you can perform some of these exercises with kettlebells as well. And the great advantage to kettlebells is that they don’t take up nearly as much room — plus, they’re much more affordable.
Here are several beginner kettlebell exercises that also have weight training and weightlifting benefits:
- Stand with your feet apart (at shoulder width, and point your feet out a bit). Grasp the kettlebell handle along the sides, and using both hands, hold it at chest height.
- Bend your hips and knees, and make a deep squat, bringing your butt past your knees.
- Push with your heels to raise yourself up again to the starting position. Continue reps as desired. You can also change up your goblet squats, and other types of squats, by using a kettlebell.
Classic Kettlebell Swing
- Standing with your feet apart (shoulder width), grasp the kettlebell handle at the top, using both hands.
- Slightly bend your knees, and hinge forward at your hips, swinging the kettlebell between your legs.
- Raise yourself back up, and driving your hips, swing the kettlebell to chest height.
Once you’re become more accustomed to kettlebells (and built up your strength), you can progress to this classic kettlebell workout:
- Lie flat on the floor and bend your knees.
- Grasp the kettlebell in one hand, and lift the kettlebell overhead in front of your chest.
- Lower it back down, and repeat for the desired reps. You can also change this routine up by performing a shoulder press.
Essentially, kettlebells can be used for a wide variety of lateral raises, overhead presses, lunges, deadlifts, bench presses, and other types of resistance training routines. When done regularly, kettlebell training can provide the same benefits that many lifters achieve with heavier weights.
Are Kettlebells Safe?
The answer is yes, just as long as you use them safely. This means following safe lifting practices, and choosing the safest weight for your fitness level. If you have a physical trainer, be sure to get their advice before making a purchase. And to help you get started, the Harvard Medical School has a list of simple exercises you can do to accustom yourself to kettlebells before you start your workouts.
Alternatives to Kettlebells
If you don’t have a kettlebell yet, several types of equipment can replace kettlebells in a variety of exercises, including:
- Resistance bands
- Wrist bands with weights
- Cables and pulleys (especially if you have a power rack)
These types of equipment each have their limitations, however. That’s the great thing about kettlebells — you can perform so many exercises with one single piece of equipment.
Choosing a Kettlebell: What to Consider Before Buying
Do you prefer working on your core strength with weight-resistance training, or are you a recreational lifter looking for a total-body regimen? Do you prefer dynamic movements that work your muscles, or explosive movements? Whether you choose a standard kettlebell or a competitive kettlebell depends on your training goals, as well as the routines you’ll most likely want to perform. Typically, a standard kettlebell can handle most popular routines, but some specific exercises might be better performed with a competitive kettlebell.
Due to their weight and construction, kettlebells can be pricey. But thanks to Titan Fitness, you can equip yourself with a premium kettlebell like our 40 KG Competition Kettlebell without paying a premium price. In fact, we even sell a choice of home gym packages, including a fantastic Home Gym Starter Package that includes a power rack, barbell, and bench — all premium quality, without the premium costs. Plus, at Titan Fitness, you’ll get free shipping on every order, so you’ll be able to save up for even more gym equipment. And every item comes with our one-year warranty, so you can buy with confidence.
Before buying, you’ll need to decide whether you want a standard or competitive kettlebell — remember, the difference is in the handle. The standard kettlebell has a wide handle, which makes it especially versatile. The competitive kettlebell has a slimmer handle, making it ideal for specific competitive movements like jerks and snatches.
What weight kettlebell should you buy? It depends on your current fitness level, as well as your training goals. Fitness experts usually recommend starting with 33 pounds for men, or 18 pounds for women. If you’ve already been strength training, however, you can increase these weights to 35 pounds for men, and 26 pounds for women.
Whether you want a full-body workout or have specific fitness goals, kettlebells and dumbbells are valuable additions to any home gym. With both kettlebells and dumbbells, you can make major progress toward your fitness goals. But kettlebells can help you do a wide range of exercises that will bring you positive results in a shorter time period.
Are you ready to take your workouts to a whole new level? Titan Fitness can help you improve your workout and equip your home gym with the best, most affordable equipment on the market. Check out our online store, and learn how to equip your home gym at prices you can afford.