11 Aug 4 Big Advantages of Kettlebells vs Dumbbells

KettlebellA frequently asked question is what’s the difference between training with a kettlebell and training with a dumbbell?

The answer is this.  They are totally different!

You simply cannot replicate certain kettlebell exercises with a dumbbell and the training itself is entirely different.

Here’s 4 big advantages of kettlebells over dumbbells:

  1. THE SHAPE OF THE KETTLEBELL.  The concentration of mass is very different from a traditional dumbbell which makes exercises like the kettlebell swing one of the most highly effective exercises.  I’ve tried to replicate this exercise using using a dumbbell and it’s not even in the same ballpark.  The concentration of mass makes this a very unique and effective training tool that is VERY different from a dumbbell.  There are 2 type of movements you do with kettlebells, ballistics (fast movements) and grinds (slow movements). The shape makes the ballistic movements very effective and you can’t duplicate a foundational kettlebell exercise (like the swing or snatch) with a dumbbell.
  2. THE OFFSET HANDLE. The offset handle adds to the effectiveness of the exercises. For example, going back to the kettlebell swing, the offset handle allows the kettlebell to project forward at the top of the swing, which is a very different feel as compared to a dumbbell.  It allows for a more extended arc of motion with the ball portion of the kettlebell.  Again, a very different feel altogether from a dumbbell.  It also allows for you to manipulate the weight totally different than grabbing a dumbbell where you are grabbing in between 2 weighted plates.  The offset handle is a major difference and advantage in the training experience.
  3. THE SKILL. Because of the 2 design differences I mentioned, this leads to the skill of the exercises.  What I mean by this is that kettlebell training is skill training.  A kettlebell teaches you how to move better.  It’s very much a ‘motor learning’ experience.  It takes time, practice, and the right instruction to learn how to train with kettlebells.  There isn’t the level of motor learning going on training with a dumbbell as there is with a kettlebell.  Why?  Because most kettlebell exercises are total body exercises and you are literally learning how to “move better.”  This is NOT the case with training with dumbbells.
  4. THE X-FACTOR. And finally, there’s just something magical about kettlebell training. After many years training in the gym with dumbbells, barbells, and machines, I discovered that training with kettebells is something so unique and so different, it really has an “X-factor” quality.  There’s really no way to describe it, but it’s something you have to experience for yourself.  And, the only way to experience it is to simply get started and learn how to train the right way.  For the best kettlebell training instruction, I recommend learning from an RKC (Russian Kettlebell Certified Instructor) or StrongFirst Instructor. You can find a list of certified instructors at DragonDoor or StrongFirst.

As I’m often asked about the differences between kettlebells and dumbbells, all I can say is that they are TOTALLY different.

Also, what I didn’t mention is the traditional dumbbell exercises like biceps curls, triceps extensions, and chest presses, are typically better with a dumbbell.

Just like a swing shouldn’t be performed with a dumbbell, certain dumbbell exercises shouldn’t be performed with a kettlebell.

Kettlebells and dumbbells are very different training tools, each having their own benefits and specific purposes.

If you want a higher level of full body strengthening, conditioning, and performance training, there’s no better way than with kettlebell training.

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2 Comments
  • Adrian
    Posted at 06:05h, 14 August Reply

    Great post Scott! The x factor is difficult to explain but is by far
    The greatest advantage of kettlebells. It’s like the yoga of strength.
    Functional strength just seems like the biggest understatement
    of the year.

    • Scott
      Posted at 14:39h, 14 August Reply

      Yep, the X-factor is hard to describe, but that’s what makes kettlebells so “magical.” No way to describe it, it’s something you definitely have to experience. Thanks for the comments Adrian!

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