Kettlebells vs Dumbbells - Which One Should You Choose? Kettlebells vs Dumbbells - both are terrific fitness tools, and which one you choose depends on your goals and your training style. For muscle building and pure strength, the dumbbells are a better option. On the other hand, for explosiveness and stability, the kettlebells take the lead.
What is a Kettlebell?
Our Recommended Kettlebells - Yes4All Skull/Powder Coated Cast Iron Competition Kettlebell
Photo by @fenix_gcb
What Is a Dumbell?
It will be difficult to have a debate on dumbbell vs kettlebell without first talking about what both of these gym accessories separately. As we already discussed kettlebells, let’s now move on to the dumbbells.
If you’ve ever worked out in a gym, you’ve seen rows of dumbbells, all of different weights, and usually paired together according to how much they weigh. One can say that dumbbells tend to look like small loaded barbells, and they're typically made out of some type of sturdy material - cast iron or steel. However, lighter-weight dumbbells are sometimes made out of specific types of plastic as well. The dumbbell is one of the most versatile gym tools out there, and it can be used for various exercises and all sorts of workouts, which is why it's considered a must-have staple. Along with that, there are many different variations of dumbbells - some weigh a particular amount that can’t be changed (the ones that you usually see on the rows of gyms) and ones that can have their weight altered (either by adding or removing plates or automatically using new technology). What kind you choose to get usually depends on the use case and also on how much money you’re willing to spend.
Similarly to kettlebells, dumbbells also tend to be super versatile and can be used for both strength and cardio-style training sessions.
Our Recommended Dumbbells - NordicTrack Dumbbells
As we mentioned, many different types of dumbbells are on the market. However, the ones we picked are mostly a great option for those of you that want to be able to work out effectively from home. The NordicTrack Dumbbells are a set of dumbbells that have changing weights, and you can choose up to 15 weight increments per dumbbell - saving you loads of space at home.
They come with two trays on which you can play them, and you can choose to move up in weight either by 2.5 or 5-pound increments, and the choice starts at 10 pounds and ends at 55. Along with that, with the dumbbells, you can use the iFit app, which gives you access to instructor-led workouts that you can do, in case you lack a particular fitness plan.
Photo by @flyphillyfemale
Kettlebells vs. Dumbbells
Different Weight Placement
When it comes to kettlebells, their handle allows you to use them either with one or with both of your hands. However, you can mostly use one hand for one dumbbell with dumbbells. This general difference makes the kettlebell the better choice for some exercises, such as the kettlebell swing.
When to Use Kettlebells vs. Dumbbells In a Workout
Exercises Can Be Performed with Both
- Stand with your feet wider than your hips.
- Hold the kettlebell with both hands.
- Then bend your hips back and your torso forward while keeping the kettlebell close to your inner thighs.
- From there, bring your hips forward and then up; following that movement, do a high elbow pull to send the kettlebell overhead.
- When the kettlebell is over your head, lock your hips, elbows, and knees and maintain your posture.
- With your feet hip-width apart, place the dumbbell between them.
- Roll your shoulders back and down while pulling your shoulder blades toward the center of your spine. Press your hips back and keep the spine long.
- Bend at the knees as needed so you’re able to reach the dumbbell.
- Grab the dumbbell with one hand, engage your core, and swing the arm upward until the kettlebell goes over your head.
- Once you’re in that position, again, lock the knees, hips, and elbows and maintain the pose.
- Grab one of the tools at the appropriate weight.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders.
- Then grab the dumbbell/kettlebell with both hands (when it's a dumbbell, grab one of the heads) and keep it in front of your chest.
- From there, squat down until your knees are parallel with your toes, and then return to starting position.
Dumbbell/Kettlebell Overhead Press
- Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and take one of the tools.
- From there, lift it till it's about shoulder height and press up until the weight is over your head.
- Slowly lower the way down to starting position and repeat again.
How to Decide What to Choose
In order to be able to decide which one to choose, you need to ask yourself several questions. If you’re choosing a tool for your home gym, then dumbbells are probably the better option, as they’re more versatile and also allow you to change weight quickly and without taking up additional space. On the other hand, if you want to challenge your stability, joint mobility, and core - kettlebells are likely to do that more often, as the way the weight is balanced proposes a particular challenge. As you can see, which one of these tools you choose to use depends on your circumstances and your training goals.
Is a Kettlebell Better Than a Dumbbell?
It’s not better, nor is it worse; it’s just different. Doing all kinds of movements with kettlebells typically targets not only one muscle, but also all of its stabilizers, and it also engages your core more.
Can Dumbbells Replace Kettlebells?
Technically, yes. However, performing the same exercise with kettlebells and with dumbbells will never feel the same way, as they engage your muscles in a different way.
Should I Squat With a Dumbbell or Kettlebell?
You can squat with both, and the difference won’t be too significant, as the squat is a movement that primarily targets your lower body muscles.
Do You Buy Dumbbells or Kettlebells First?
If you’re building a home gym, it’s a better idea to buy dumbbells first. Not only are they more versatile, but also some of the new models on the market allow you to change between different weights semi-automatically and without taking up too much space.
Both kettlebells and dumbbells have their place in your training sessions. These two pieces of equipment challenge your body in different ways and, when used correctly, can help you become a better athlete overall. Having said that, dumbbells remain the more versatile piece of equipment, and so if you’re building your own gym, they’re probably the first things you should get. Before we part ways, we’d like to hear your opinion on which one is better - dumbbells or kettlebells. Let us know in the comments below.
- What to Know About Kettlebells // Webmd: https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/what-to-know-about-kettlebells
- What Exactly Is the Posterior Chain and Why Do Trainers Keep Talking About It? // SHAPE: https://www.shape.com/fitness/tips/what-is-posterior-chain-exercises
- HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) // Harvard: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/high-intensity-interval-training/
- What to Know About Dumbbells // Webmd: https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/what-to-know-about-dumbbells
- Why The Kettlebell Is The Ultimate Piece Of Athletic Equipment // Medium: https://medium.com/in-fitness-and-in-health/why-the-kettlebell-is-the-ultimate-piece-of-athletic-equipment-13000e826fb8
My name is Ihor and I have been a professional weightlifter since 1996. With over 20 years of competition experience, my resume includes European Champion in 2009 and the silver medalist at 2011's Senior World Championships – 105kg division.
I competed at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics.
After hanging up my own competitive lifting shoes, I decided to share my huge background as a coach. I am currently coaching multiple athletes who are competing at national and international competitions.