When it comes to adopting an active lifestyle by exercising regularly, creating a gym right in the comfort of our homes, if we’ve got the ability and space to, is right at the very top end of our desires. The growing popularity of home gyms is further emphasised by the ever-increasing number of days we spend indoors due to COVID-19.
Being locked-down and indoors is definitely no excuse to let go of an active lifestyle. Apart from going out for runs, having a home gym helps to keep the dream of improving cardiorespiratory fitness, getting a healthy bodyweight and or building muscle alive. A home gym also gives you the convenience and luxury of customising the gym environment to your specific fitness goal and needs.
Whether you already have a home gym or about to create a new one, choosing the right equipment for your home workouts depends on your experience, ability and fitness goal. A very good, if not the best, starting place is to acquire some simple free weights.
Talking about free weights, the question then is……. kettlebell vs dumbbell, which is better for home workouts?
Kettlebells and dumbbells are both extremely versatile and effective gym equipments. Both equipments are readily available and are without a doubt, two of the most used equipments in any gym.
Dumbbells have long been a constant feature in every gym while a kettlebell on the other hand is more like the new kid on the block. Even though kettlebells and dumbbells have advantages over each other in some few workout scenarios, they can be used interchangeably for most workouts. Rather than being seen as a pair of competing gym equipments, they should be used to complement each other toward a common fitness goal.
There are some crucial differences in these two equipments and yes, there also are specific exercises where one excels over the other. However, adopting a good mixture of both kettlebell and dumbbell exercises massively boosts the potential to improve your cardio fitness, gain strength, build muscle, get rid of that stubborn fat and achieve that bodyweight you’ve always dreamt of.
As asked above, the question we are trying to answer here is this; kettlebell vs dumbbell, which is better for home workouts? Well, the answer is quite simply; ‘it depends’. Let’s see why…..
Advantages of Kettlebells and Dumbbells
- A much better aid for functional fitness training. Functional fitness training simply refers to exercises that improve our performance of everyday activities. In other words, functional fitness training aims to develop our muscles so that daily activities such as carrying heavy objects or groceries, picking up our kids and climbing up a staircase, just to mention a few, are done safely and with ease.
- A better option for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) sessions. HIIT involves short periods of exercise at almost 100% effort followed by longer recovery periods. It is basically any form of exercise that shoots up your heart rate and brings it down repeatedly. If you are serious about losing weight, HIIT sessions should be at the top end of your weekly workout schedule.
- Helps to improve grip strength.
- A better option for building power.
- A better option for fluid workout movements. Examples of such workout movements include, kettlebell swings, Turkish get ups, Russian twists, the windmill exercise and the halo exercise.
- Readily available and the cheaper option out of the two.
- Much better to handle as weight is evenly displaced on both sides of the hand.
- Due to its ease of use, the dumbbell is the go-to option for beginners.
- It has the added advantage when it comes to performing isolation exercises. These are exercises that are used to tackle a specific muscle group or area of the body. Isolation exercises are simple, easy to perform and are best used once you’ve built a good level of over-all body strength.
- A much better choice for bilateral training. Bilateral training is basically any exercise that works out both sides or limbs of the body simultaneously. Examples of such exercises include bicep curls, hammer curls, chest press on bench, chest flys and lateral shoulder raises.
When to Choose Kettlebell Over Dumbbell or Vice Versa
Even though kettlebells and dumbbells are complementary, they each offer specific advantages over the other depending on your goal. Goals to consider include:
1. Improve Power
Yes, the dumbbell has some potential to generate and improve power during workout sessions, but the go-to choice here is clearly the kettlebell. Why the kettlebell? Power-based workouts require forceful and dynamic movements, and that is what the kettlebell offers you. Since the location of the weight affects your movement and power generation, that is where the dumbbell falls short as the weight is right close to your hands.
If you are into sporting activities like basketball, CrossFit, powerlifting and other explosive physical movements, the kettlebell is without a doubt the equipment to go for.
2. Improve Cardiorespiratory Fitness
Cardiorespiratory fitness is simply a measure of how well your body performs during a period of sustained physical activity. It relies on how well the heart, lungs and muscles work together to keep fatigue at bay during a prolonged physical activity.
Both gym equipments can give you a good cardio workout, but when it comes to undertaking a HIIT session, the kettlebell has a slight edge over the dumbbell as it gives you the ability to perform a complete full-body workout. This is not to say you can’t pump up your heart rate with a dumbbell workout session.
3. If You Are a Beginner
If you are new to weight lifting or are a complete novice when it comes to the usage of kettlebells, the better option for you is the dumbbell. Dumbbells are more comfortable and safer to use as a beginner, and they do not require any ‘special tutorial’ on how to use it. The same cannot be said about kettlebells on the other hand, which could easily lead to injuries if you have no clue on how to use it.
4. For Basic Movements
This is true for both point number 3 above and experienced weight lifters. The usage of a dumbbell is straight-forward, allowing you to concentrate on each move and enhance your lifting ability and technique. So for basic movements, the dumbbell is the clear winner here.
The displacement of the dumbbells weight also makes it ideal for static weight training and isolation based workouts.
5. Adding an Extra Challenge by Mixing Up Workout Routine
Whether you’ve hit a plateau or want to give your body that extra physical and mental challenge by mixing up your workout routine, the choice here for you is the kettlebell. We all know how it feels like, when you get too used to the same old workout routines. For example, adding kettlebell workouts to your HIIT and full-body circuit could provide a much-needed shock to the system and get rid of the laziness and boredom.
Due to the design, the unbalanced weight and the kettlebell’s off-center of gravity, workout sessions can be a real challenge to the body since you have to work hard to stabilise the weight throughout each workout movement.
When it comes to the activation of muscles and strength gain, the dumbbell is the winner. As a lifter, if you want to boost muscle and strength gain, choosing the dumbbell over the kettlebell is the way to go. Dumbbells allow you to perform isolation exercises, which in turn allows to concentrate on specific muscle groups. This type of concentrated focus enables the muscles to grow faster.
7. Gradually Progress In Weight
Generally, dumbbells come in small size increments. Dumbbells are normally made in 5 pound increments, making them ideal for progressive weight training unlike kettlebells. Even though companies are now making kettlebells in small weight sizes, it can sometimes be difficult to find the right weight when stepping up to the next kettlebell weight.
As a beginner, a gradual progress in weight training is very essential.
8. Improve Grip Strength
Yes, using a kettlebell can be awkward and uncomfortable, especially if you are a newbie. On the other hand, if you want to improve your grip strength, the kettlebell is the one for you. The handle of the kettlebell is thicker than that of the dumbbell, making it the ideal option for improving your grip strength. If you struggle with pull-ups, using the kettlebell can, in the long run, help to reduce such a struggle.
9. Improve Balance
If you want to have a workout session with a lot of balance and stability, then the dumbbell is easily the option to go for. The dumbbell’s stability and balance also means it is the better option for bilateral training. This means you can simultaneously work out both sides of the body and limbs with a better level of control and safety as compared to the kettlebell.
The kettlebell’s off-center of gravity makes it a real challenge to get balance and stability during some workouts.
Kettlebell vs Dumbbell: The Final Verdict
So, kettlebell vs dumbbell, which is better for home workouts? As can be seen from the above explained points, the answer really is, ‘it depends’.
It depends on quite a number of factors, many of which have been mentioned above.
Kettlebells and dumbbells do different jobs and are by design, suitable for different exercises. Ideally, your best choice is to have both. The aim for you shouldn’t be to find out which of the two is better for home workouts, but rather how both gym equipments can complement each other and push you closer to your fitness goals and needs.
Which of the two would you prefer, if you can’t have both? Are there other deciding factors I’ve omitted? Please feel free to leave comments, suggestions and questions in the comments section below. See you here again soon!