a man exercising on the beach with dumbbells and kettlebells

Kettlebells vs Dumbbells: Which are Better?

Krista

Written by health and fitness expert Krista. Last updated:

With home workouts on the rise or upon entry into a brand new gym, you might ponder which one is better: dumbbells or kettlebells? Most of the time, you’re met with both options.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t have to be a matter of which one is better. Dumbbells and kettlebells both offer advantages and benefits, often depending on the exercise you’re performing. If you have access to both of them, you might want to use them both.

In this article, we’ll dive into the differences between kettlebells and dumbbells, the advantages of both, how they can help with weight loss and weight training, and what moves you should be performing with each.

What Is the Difference Between Kettlebells and Dumbbells?

dumbbells and kettlebells on a blue mat on the floor

Kettlebells are great. While they may come off as the new kid on the block, you shouldn’t underestimate their use and benefits. At the same time, the good old’ dumbbells offer many advantages. So, let’s lay it all out. What are the benefits of each?

Advantages of Kettlebells

Kettlebells are excellent pieces of equipment for dynamic movements. These include the kettlebell swing, the snatch, windmills, the clean and press, and any plyometric movement. All in all, if you’re looking to improve your explosiveness, kettlebells are where it’s at. These movements also get your heart rate up, contributing to improved stamina and endurance.

A 2010 study showed improvements in cardiovascular efficiency and health through a simple 12-minute kettlebell workout involving the kettlebell swing. Researchers concluded that kettlebells may provide trainers and coaches with an efficient and effective tool to improve cardiorespiratory fitness quickly.

A kettlebell also provides only one handle hold, which allows you to hold it from above or in a bottoms up kettlebell position. However, you can also choose to hold it from underneath. This may provide more comfort when it comes to core moves or jumping movements since you can hug it close to your body.

Some of the best kettlebells also come with adjustable weight portions. However, similar to adjustable kettlebells, you can get adjustable dumbbells – which makes storing equipment that much easier. In particular, these may provide the best kettlebells or the best dumbbells for a home gym, helping you save on space.

Advantages of Dumbbells

a man doing chest press, with dumbbells

On the other hand, dumbbells can do things that kettlebells can’t. Dumbbells allow you to comfortably hold a weight in each hand, particularly useful for basic movements such as overhead presses, chest presses, bicep curls, and rows.

You also hold the weight in the middle with dumbbells, which offers a bit more balance and support. This also prevents swinging or a loss of control of the weight. In contrast, kettlebells can feel a bit less balanced when compared to the simple dumbbell. This is because the weight on a kettlebell is farther from the handle, which changes the position of its center of gravity. This can make certain movements more challenging (which is great for the seasoned exerciser or weight lifter!).

Many experts recommend dumbbells to individuals that are new to weight training workouts. Generally, there are more exercise options with dumbbells, and they are more straightforward to use.

How Dumbbells and Kettlebells Improve Health & Weight Loss Goals

Combined, dumbbells and kettlebells can provide a fat-burning and muscle-building workout. Both of these pieces of equipment challenge the body in different ways.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the average adult should include 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity and strength training two times per week for optimal health. Kettlebell moves, such as kettlebell swings, can provide a cardio component to any workout. Meanwhile, dumbbells offer various ways to isolate and train different muscle groups throughout the body.

If your current goal is weight loss, building muscle is an excellent way to burn fat. Muscle tones and defines the body, as well as burns more calories at rest than fat does. Dumbbell exercises can provide the basics of what you need to become strong and build muscle. In addition, kettlebells may eventually provide the challenge you need to break through weight-loss plateaus, as well as offer up that cardio component.

Not sure what exercise with kettlebells you should try? Check out the kettlebell exercises below.

The Kettlebell Swing

  • Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart.
  • Hold a kettlebell with both hands.
  • Start hinged forward at the hips with a straight back and the kettlebell in between your legs.
  • Bend slightly at the knees and pull the kettlebell back between your legs.
  • Build momentum and bring the kettlebell up to shoulder height. At the same time, drive your hips forward by squeezing your glutes and standing up tall.
  • As the kettlebell falls, hinge forward at the hips again and repeat.

The Kettlebell Overhead Press + Squat

two people exercising with kettlebells

  • Hold the kettlebell with both hands and stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Holding the kettlebell close to your chest, slowly lower into a squat by sticking your butt back as if you were going to sit in a chair.
  • Push back up and at the same time, extend your arms above your head.
  • Lower your arms and go back into a squat.

Row With a Kettlebell

  • Begin standing with your feet hip-width apart and holding the kettlebell with both hands.
  • Hinge forward at the hips.
  • Keeping your back straight, pull the kettlebell toward your chest while pinching your shoulder blades down and in.
  • Slowly lower and repeat.

Kettlebell Press (Chest)

  • Similar to the normal chest press, lie faceup on a comfortable surface.
  • Hold the kettlebell from underneath and in front of your chest.
  • Slowly extend your arms straight up above your chest.
  • Slowly lower and repeat.

When it comes down to the debate between kettlebells vs dumbbells, a person new to exercise should consider heading to the dumbbell rack. Build your foundation first before adding layers of difficulty. However, if you’re looking to mix up your regular workout routine, grab a kettlebell. Kettlebells are great in providing an additional challenge, helping you reach your goals much faster.

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