Kettlebell Advantage: Kettlebells vs Dumbells and Barbells
A question commonly asked by people new to kettlebell training is this. Are kettlebells really any better than barbells and dumbells? Are kettlebells really worth the time and effort if I’m already an advanced dumbell and barbell lifter?
The answer? It depends. If you’re a bodybuilder looking to increase muscle size, kettlebells may not be that useful for you. It’s probably better for bodybuilders to stick to machines, dumbells, and barbells. Bodybuilding programs rely on these tools to develop bigger, but not necessarily stronger, muscles.
Just about everyone else will see some serious benefits by incorporating kettlebells into their workout routine, whether you’re currently a couch potato or a mixed martial arts fighter. Kettlebell training helps you increase your strength, power, endurance, cardiovascular system, and helps you reduce fat all at once.
The scientific explanation to the kettlebell advantage
There’s a good explanation as to why training with kettlebells is better than training with barbells and dumbells. I’ll do my best to explain it.
The fully developed human body is made up of about 640 skeletal muscles. Of these 640 muscles, over 400 of these muscles are stabilizer and balancing muscles. That means over 400 muscles are there just to support the 200+ muscles that do the main work.
The body is divided into 3 different parts called planes. There’s the sagittal plane that divides your body into left and right parts, a frontal plane that divides your body into front and back parts, and a transverse plane that divides the body into upper and lower parts. Body movement can be described as sagittal (going from left to right), frontal (going from front to back), and transversal (going up and down).
When you lift with dumbells and barbells, the lifts you are performing usually use only one plane of motion. For example, the bench press only requires you to move your arms up and down. No left to right or head to toe motion is involved. The stabilizer muscles for movement in directions other than the up and down motion are not worked much at all. Barbells in particular guilty of this.
To top this off, barbells and dumbells were designed to be easy to grip. They take almost no effort whatsoever to balance in your hand. They do little to increase your grip strength.
Now let’s take a look at kettlebells. Kettlebells are unbalanced and more difficult to hold and balance. If you don’t believe me go pick one up and try lifting a kettlebell yourself. Since a kettlebell is so much more difficult to balance than a dumbell or barbell, your grip greatly improves.
Many properly performed kettlebell exercises make your muscles move in 2 or 3 directional planes. When stabilizer muscles from multiple directional planes are used, not only do your main muscles get stronger, more of your stabilizer muscles get stronger. This creates strong, dense muscle mass. And it means you must use more energy with each lift, burning more calories.
The simplified explanation
Kettlebell exercises are tough! They work more muscles in a single lift than dumbell and barbell lifts do. And when more muscles are use, more muscle is strengthened.
Since kettlebells are so much more difficult to wield, it takes more of your muscles lift the weight up when you’re lifting correctly.
When a lift is more difficult and takes more muscles to do correctly, more muscle is strengthened. More energy will be used, speeding fat loss.
Simply put, kettlebell training is a faster way to reach your fitness goals no matter what your goal are.
Senior Faculty Trainer.
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