Workout rooms in basements and full-on professional gyms are full of gadgets and weights and many tools which are used to reach our fitness goals. If you visit any well-known gym today you will see kettlebells, dumbbells, battle ropes, exercise balls, resistance bands, and much more. Dumbbells VS kettlebells are both just tools you can use to improve your physical body.
They have many differences and similarities, and each one is designed to be good at specific things. So, which is best? This is a complicated answer, and it depends on what you are trying to accomplish with either. Let us take a deep dive into this question and see if we can figure it out!
Similarities Between Kettlebells and Dumbbells
Both tools are used to help you reach your physical goals, but they share more than a common goal.
- Both are fairly small and able to use on your own
- Both come in different weights
- Both are very well suited to home workouts
- Both are used in strength training as well as cardio
Table of Contents
Designed to be Used Alone
Kettlebells and dumbbells are both designed to be used by one person, as opposed to barbells or others which require a spotter or somebody supervising for safety. They are small weights that you can use in your workout at home or even bring with you to the park or a friend’s house. This makes them extremely popular with fitness enthusiasts who want to avoid the gym. People love their kettlebells and dumbbells!
Dumbbells VS Kettlebells – They Both Come in Different Weights
Dumbbells can be purchased in different weights, and kettlebells can too. This makes it easy to get the right amount of resistance for your workouts. The only downside to this is you can end up with a large collection of them laying around which takes up space, and many people only have exceedingly small rooms to work out in! Of course, if you are ready to make working out at home seriously you can invest in some small weight racks, which will make storing kettlebells and dumbbells much easier.
Well Suited to Home Workouts
Because of the size and portability, both kettlebells and dumbbells are perfect for working out at home. They are easy to store and do not take up nearly as much space as some of the machines out there or barbells and other workout devices. You can store them on racks that go against the wall and barely take up a foot of floor space! This is one of the biggest benefits of these weights.
Used in Cardio & Strength Training
Kettlebells and dumbbells are both used heavily in strength training as well as cardio workout regimes. They are easy to incorporate into many bodyweight exercises as well (think sit-ups, etc.). When you see weights like this you tend to associate them with strength training.
However, small weights like this are also excellent additions to almost any cardio exercise you are doing that needs a little more difficulty. You can just grab a kettlebell when you jog in place and you have instantly burned more calories with the exercise!
Differences Between Dumbbells VS Kettlebells
The most obvious difference between these 2 weights is the shape. A dumbbell is a weight with 2 equal weights on either side connected by a bar across the middle. A kettlebell is basically a ball with a handle on top that is shaped a bit like a tea kettle (minus the spout). The design of each of these weights makes them well suited for different uses, which we will get into in a bit.
- The Handles are Different
- The Weights are Balanced Differently
- They Are Gripped Differently
- They are Incremented Differently
The Handles are Different on Kettlebells and Dumbbells
Dumbbells are usually made with some texture on the handles that are designed to make it easier for your hands to grip the handle. On the contrary kettlebell, handles are generally smooth with a small amount of texture. This is necessary with kettlebells because they tend to be moving around in your hand a lot when doing most kettlebell exercises.
Dumbbell handles need to be textured so you can grip them, and they do not tend to move around in your hand much, so there is no need for a smooth handle here. You may find that over time the textured handle on dumbbells can start to irritate your hands, or even make them sore. Therefore, you see many people in the gym with gloves.
The Weights are Balanced VS Unbalanced
With dumbbells the weight is evenly distributed on each side of the handle, making it easy to balance and navigate the weight as you move it around. Kettlebells are unbalanced and are harder to hold in general unless you are actively moving them in an exercise. The ball of the kettlebell weighs much more than the handle, so you have an off-kilter effect when holding one.
Kettlebells and Dumbbells are Gripped in a Different Way
Dumbbells can only be held safely by the handles while using them. Sure, you can grab them by the weight as you have probably seen people doing, but that is not safe. Kettlebells can be gripped by the handle, or by the ball which makes them very versatile in the number of exercises and drills they can be used in.
The Weights are Incremented Differently
Dumbbells come in way more increments than kettlebells typically do. You can find dumbbells in one-pound increments, which makes them more versatile as far as the amount of weight they adding to your workout. In a contrast, kettlebells are usually only available for nine or 18 pounds. There are not many in between increments with kettlebells!
Pros and Cons of Kettlebells & Dumbbells
- Easier to Use- In general, dumbbells are considered much easier to use than kettlebells, due to the balance issues mentioned before as well as the increments available. If you are a beginner at working out and you had to choose either dumbbells or kettlebells and could not have both, dumbbells would be the best choice for sure.
- Better for Forearm Muscles- when compared to kettlebells, dumbbells are more effective at working the forearm muscles, especially if you are targeting the forearms with forearm exercises using dumbbells.
- More Customizable- Dumbbells come in one to five-pound increments which are far easier to customize to your liking, as opposed to kettlebells which are only in 2 increments, heavy, and heavier!
- Handles Can be Rough on Skin- Depending on which model you have; the handles are almost always textured in some way. Many of the textures on dumbbell handles are very rough so they are easier to grip, the downside is that they can also hurt your skin over prolonged use.
- Not as Versatile- Dumbbells are not as easily used in many bodyweight exercises or strength drills. Because of their shape, they tend to be ‘one-trick ponies’ so to speak, where you typically see them being used in curls and extensions and not much else.
- Can be More Expensive- This may not make sense at first, but it’s true. Dumbbells are meant to work your arms mostly and specifically; your biceps are the most popular muscles to use them for. Over time your dumbbells will be too light as your muscles get stronger, and you will need to buy new, heavier dumbbells to challenge your muscles.
- Smooth Handles are Easier to Hold- The handles on kettlebells are almost always smooth. They tend to have a small amount of grit to them but nothing like dumbbells. You can use them for longer and move them around on your hands without too much pain or chafing.
- More Versatile- Kettlebells can be used in way more great exercises than dumbbells can. This means they have more bang for the buck, too. You can use them for bodyweight exercises as well as curls and almost any of the dumbbell exercises.
- Less Expensive over Time- Since Kettlebells tend to come in only 9 and 18-pound increments, there is no need to continually upgrade them to match your muscle strength. Based on the kind of exercises they are used in you will never outgrow kettlebells. You can buy one of each size and never buy another kettlebell forever! (it’s not like you are going to break them..)
- Harder to Get Used to and Use- Kettlebells are a little bit weird, let us be honest here. They started in Russia a billion years ago and they were used by strong men types and Russian special forces. They are oddly shaped and not as easy to use or get used to as dumbbells.
- Easier to Accidentally Drop- Because of the smooth handles and the sweat that can be on your hands during a workout, kettlebells are easier to drop, and ultimately may be considered slightly more dangerous (especially the 18 pounders). If you wear gloves and use powder this is easy to avoid but overall, the smooth handles make them a bit more dangerous and easier to lose control of.
There is no simple answer if you are asking which is better. As you have seen here, each weight has its own strengths and weaknesses (see what I did there?), and one is better suited to certain workouts than the other is. Generally speaking, if you are a newbie you should start with a good set of dumbbells because they are easier to use and get used to, and harder to accidentally drop on your face. If you are a bit more experienced and really enjoy bodyweight exercises you should consider getting some kettlebells to add to your routine. The fact is, if all you did were bodyweight exercises with kettlebells in your hands, you would not need any other exercises.