Which Is Better… Training with Dumbbells or Kettlebells to build muscle?

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Which Is Better… Training with Dumbbells or Kettlebells to build muscle?

Dumbbells and kettlebells offer benefits for your workout, but not the same benefits. Kettlebell exercises add more of an aerobic quality to your workout than dumbbells. “If your goal is to look stronger, dumbbells are superior,” says Bill Campbell, Ph. D., director of the Performance and Physique Enhancement Laboratory at the University of South Florida. Dumbbells are more effective at stimulating type II muscle fibers, which lead to an increase in muscle size. Conversely, kettlebell exercises typically use momentum as well as force and while those calorie-burning moves do use type II muscle fibers, they primarily activate type I fibers whose main function is to improve endurance – not growing muscle.


Kettlebells first appeared during the Roman times as standard weights used in trade and commerce. Later in Scotland, a centuries old tradition began with athletes throwing kettlebells in competitions. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that kettlebells – as we know them today – were developed. Early prototypes were used for strength challenges and not training. Kettlebells were soon replaced by traditional barbells and dumbbells because strongmen couldn’t get strong by relying on just kettlebells.

Safety Concerns

Kettlebells cannot be used as a neutral tool; you have to adapt your workout to the constraints imposed. Some kettlebell exercises can cause injury if preformed incorrectly, it is best to consult a certified personal trainer on the proper use of kettlebells. Kettlebell swings are a good example. While it’s a conditioning movement, it’s not a good choice for everyday cardio or full body conditioning. The swing movement causes ballistic stretching of the shoulders, elbows, and wrist joints. Tendons and ligaments are not built for that kind of abuse. Thus, if you are not someone who exercises regularly with weights or you have joint pain or injury, kettlebells are not the right choice for you. Lastly, the lower back can also be injured from swings because it’s just not designed to handle high-rep repetitive stress.

Kettlebell presses are another example. They’re less intense than a traditional dumbbell press because you don’t lift the weight as high. This makes things easier on the core and spinal stabilization muscles while still putting unneeded, damaging stress on the forearms, wrists and hands. The connective tissue in the hands, wrists and forearms also take a long time to heal from training stress and injury so be forewarned.

Kettlebells versus Dumbbells – A Snapshot

With over 100 clients, our certified personal trainers in St Louis have the experience and qualifications to design the right exercise program for you and educate you on how to complete the exercises safely. This means your investment in a highly qualified certified personal trainer will help you reach your fitness goals without causing injury. To learn more about our certified personal trainers in Saint Louis and our fitness philosophy and programs, click here.

Read 3200 times Last modified on Sunday, 08 February 2015 16:55

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