Some people might ask the question, “Which is better? The Dumbbell or the Kettlebell?”.
Of course, there is no such thing as a stupid question…usually, however this one is about as close as you could possibly get. Neither one of them is ‘better’ than the other.
It’s not like asking “Who was the better Bond? Connery or Dalton?”. Easy. There isn’t even a debate - Connery all day long.
But asking which of these two incredible tools is ‘better’ is about as sensible as asking which one you would prefer to have dropped on your foot…because, ‘it depends!!!’.
There are so many variables, and for those who are secretly still thinking that it is a perfectly sensible question, we will clear up any confusion now…
Handle size and shape
Although ‘competition’ Kettlebells are designed for single hand use, commonly Kettlebells are used with both hands – especially by beginners. So, the Kettlebell handle is often wide enough to fit both hands on compared to a Dumbbell handle which is designed for a single hand only.
The Kettlebell can be held in several ways to make them extremely versatile. The positional uses are endless with Kettlebells for example, a single hand for a suitcase carry, a single hand for Turkish get up resulting in the Kettlebell being ‘bottom up’, a two-handed goblet squat, by the horns for a deadlift, a single hand for a front rack position or overhead and of course the two-handed classic Kettlebell swing. Names of movements vary between coaches, athletes and users.
A Dumbbell can be held in some of the same positions (suitcase, goblet, racked and overhead) but their shape does not lend itself to cope with the range of versatility and more skillful movements (such as a Turkish get up) that the Kettlebell does.
Shape/Position of the Load
A Dumbbell has an even amount of load on either side of the handle, this means the load stays very close to the hand throughout the repetition of any exercise. However, when holding a kettlebell by the handle the bulk of the load is sitting up to 12 inches away from the hand – and it is very likely to be moving throughout the repetition of the majority of exercise, therefore increasing the need to be more stable in the movement.
It is not impossible to build muscle with a Kettlebell, but due to the fact that it lends itself better to more ‘dynamic’ movements as opposed to ‘isolation’ exercises, the Dumbbell is probably more useful if hypertrophy is your goal.
In this department the two are fairly evenly matched to a certain degree, and it could be the toss of a coin that helps you decide which tool you prefer for which movements. However, there is a slight difference in terms of the centre of mass (COM). Research is limited, but it indicates that a Dumbbell (COM closer to the hand) produces more activity in the prime movers, whereas the design of the Kettlebell (COM further away from the hand) produces a slight torque and is more likely to activate the stabilising muscles.
More often than not, when trying to develop power the exercises selected will be dynamic movements that require higher velocity. The Kettlebell is often more preferable because its design is far more conducive to this style of training.
Cardio and Endurance
You can certainly use a Dumbbell to work on your cardio or endurance capabilities, but generally speaking when using free weights for this goal you will usually want to be able to rest in a fairly nice comfortable position within the movement. It is not impossible to achieve this with a Dumbbell, but it is a hell of a lot more comfortable with a Kettlebell utilising the racked position for example.
Two fantastic tools, each with their own unique design. Both can be used to execute a very wide and diverse range of exercises, but in some niche areas, one of them certainly has the edge over the other and vice versa.
However, neither is ‘better’ than the other. So why not buy both and decide for yourself. 😃