When you first walked into any gym and head to the weights area, the first two things that you will see would be the dumbbells and the kettlebells. Dumbbells have been a staple in the fitness world for a long time and can be found in almost every gym. Kettlebells, on the other hand, are relatively new and are part of a new trend in weight lifting.
What are the Differences Between a Dumbbell and a Kettlebell?
While it is highly unlikely that anyone will ever mistake a dumbbell for a kettlebell, it’s still worth identifying their different characteristics.
Distribution of Weight
A dumbbell consists of two equal weights that are attached to a short handle. They come in many different sizes, weights, and materials and can be used to target and exercise almost every single muscle group in the body. Because of how they are designed, dumbbells offer not only versatility but also balance and stability during your workouts, allowing for single-handed options and better control.
A kettlebell, on the other hand, is a cast iron or cast steel weight shaped ball with a handle on top. Like the dumbbells, this equipment can be used to target a number of muscle groups in the body. Unlike dumbbells where the weights are equally distributed on both sides, however, the weights in kettlebells are off-centered. Of course, the handle is lighter while the ball is heavier on the other side. As you move through your exercises, the pull will be through the centrifugal force on the ball section.
Dumbbell handles are often textured to allow an easier grip while kettlebell handles are intended to be smooth. The gripped surface on dumbbells enables slow-moving unilateral and isolation exercises like bicep curls, lateral raises, and military presses. The smooth surface on kettlebells, on the other hand, were created to allow ballistic-type movements like swings, snatches, and cleans. This means that the handles will rotate within your grip but will not create any discomfort.
Dumbbells are particularly useful in progressive resistance training. The increase in weights are in smaller increments, usually coming in 1 to 2-lbs increments on the lower range and up to 5-lbs increments on the heavier weights. This means that you can gradually make your workouts harder over and still maintain good form and technique. The progressive weights ensure tighter controls over your workout plan, ensuring a safe and effective way of building muscles.
Kettlebells tend to increase in weight in larger jumps. They typically come in 9 to 18 lbs increments, and this makes choosing the right kettlebell to work with a challenge. The gap in available sizes can become a problem to many gym-goers as a jump from a 35-lbs weight to a 44-lbs weight can be pretty intimidating. The reason for the large jumps between sizes: history. This piece of equipment originated in Russia, where it had a unit of moss called “pood,” which had at least 9 to 18 lbs increment relative to the current measurement system. Moreover, it’s been said that Russians scoff at the idea of adding small changes in loads when it comes to building muscles and strength.
Both equipment do different jobs, so if your goal is to increase muscle mass and strength, then dumbbells are your choice. Kettlebells have unbalanced weights, which takes the focus away on loading your muscles and into creating that stability. But if your aim is to improve power endurance and improve speed, kettlebells are the better choice. Kettlebells also provide a better aerobic-style workout because of the extra movements involved in swinging the equipment. So, case in point, a dumbbell is not better than a kettlebell, and vice versa. You should let your training and fitness goals dictate which equipment can help you reach them. The question should turn from “Which equipment is more effective?” to “Which equipment is more effective for my fitness goals?”