KETTLEBELLS VS. DUMBBELLS
Which is Better?
I started researching this question for my own benefit when I realized that I could use a much heavier load in the farmer's walk using kettlebells than I could using dumbbells and I wasn’t really sure why.
In most gyms kettlebells seem to be relegated to use by trainers doing assessments on new clients or for training new clients in certain movement patterns. So the heavier kettlebells are almost never in use.
I tried kettlebells quite by accident one day when all the dumbbells I needed were in use and none of the kettlebells were in use. So I started using kettlebells for shrugs too. I found I could get a better range of motion with more weight for higher reps than I could with dumbbells.
While some people are unable to do a decent barbell squat with even a moderate weight they seem to have little difficulty doing kettlebell squats with good form. The same goes for dead lifts.
I’ve yet to find a good scientific explanation for any of this but brainstorming with a few colleagues yielded this; the lower center of gravity of the kettlebell has a stabilizing effect and tends to move as the bell moves. The lower center of gravity prevents the “rolling” effect of the dumbbell (side to side and end to end) producing less stress on the wrists. In weighted carries, the wrist is usually the weakest link.
As for movements like squats and dead lifts the center of gravity moves as the kettlebell moves allowing for more natural body movement than having a weight across your shoulders or hanging at the end of your arms on a fixed bar. The movement of the center of gravity would, it seems, also better recruit stabilizer muscles.
So, the answer is both the dumbbell and kettlebell are excellent tools but the kettlebell is severely under used.
1. If you have difficulty with certain movements, especially compound movements, try those movements with kettlebells. They are a good way to groove proper form to eventually be able to advance to heavier loads safely.
2. Try various movements with both dumbbells and kettlebells. You’ll find each has advantages while, at the same time, working the muscle at different angles. You’ll find you can use heavier loads on one or the other.
3. If you have a few cranky joints kettlebells can not only relieve discomfort but be a good rehab tool.
Use this link for suggestions and videos of kettlebell exercises for almost every body part.