Everyone knows that dumbbells are extremely versatile, suitable for people of any age or level and great for training just about any body part. But over the past few years, kettlebells have been getting a lot of attention. Though we're just now hearing a lot about them, they're nothing new-they've been around for more than a hundred years. What is a kettlebell and where does it come from? Are kettlebells better than dumbbells? Well that's what I set out to discover.
Kettlebells are a traditional Russian cast iron weight. They basically look like a cast iron cannonball with a handle. Kettlebell exercises are a combination of strength and cardio exercise that are designed to build endurance and stamina. Proponents say that the kettlebell is simply the greatest tool for all-around athletic development.
Dumbbells are well, dumbbells. They've been around for thousands of years in one form or another. The Greeks and the Romans trained with their own versions of dumbbells. Versatility is a key advantage of dumbbells. They can be used to train nearly any part of the body and because they come in such a wide range of weights, can be used by just about anyone-regardless of skill level. They're also fairly inexpensive.
On the other hand, kettlebell exercises are primarily designed to develop functional strength. Their main focus is to work our 'non-mirror' muscles, the ones that we don't necessarily "see" in the mirror but are important nonetheless. That's not to say that kettlebells can't be used to train specific areas of the body-they can. It's just that the majority of kettlebell routines designed by the pros are more focused on movements that include cardio, strength-building and flexibility.
If you're into mixed martial arts or just otherwise are looking to get into some serious cross-training, then kettlebells have the advantage over dumbbells. When doing cross-training exercises with dumbbells-which mostly focus on specific muscles-you're basically restricted to using lighter weights or you run the risk of injuring yourself. With kettlebells though, the exercises require multiple muscle groups to work together, meaning that you can use higher weights, with less risk of injury (assuming proper form).
If your goal is to strictly "tone up" your body rather than to focus on developing overall strength and flexibility, then dumbbells are probably right for you. Dumbbells would also most likely be the best choice if you are recovering from an injury, are just starting out or are elderly. There are an unlimited number of dumbbell exercise techniques for toning the body or aiding in injury recovery that don't require more than five or ten pounds.
I think that if you belong to one of these categories, then you'll probably have an easier time working with dumbbells. For most of the history of kettlebells, they have been primarily used by people looking for a pretty heavy duty workout. It's only been in the last few years that professional trainers have began to realize their value as an all around fitness apparatus, so you're going to find fewer routines to choose from.
On certain levels both dumbbells and kettlebells are about equal. They both can be used in the home-or just about anywhere else-and don't require any special equipment. They're both very versatile, are suitable for all around, full-body training and can be challenging, rewarding and fun. Each can be used to target specific areas of the body and neither of them requires much of a learning curve-just about anyone can learn to use them without too much difficulty. Lastly, neither of them requires a great deal of skill or knowledge to be able to use them and get results.
So what's the verdict? Which are better, dumbbells or kettlebells? My conclusion is that neither one is "better" than the other. Both have their distinct advantages and disadvantages and can help you to achieve your fitness goals, whatever they might be. My personal choice is a combination of both-kettlebells for focusing on developing core strength and flexibility and dumbbells to isolate particular muscles and body parts. Your choice though is going to depend on your fitness goals, your skill level and ultimately, level of commitment.
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