Kettle bells are quite popular and for good reason. If you use them correctly, they can add strength, core stability, improve proprioception, coordination and explosiveness. They are often used in combination with traditional free weights but some people swear by one or the other. Now which one is better?
It’s no secret the barbell and dumbbells are amazing pieces of equipment for mass and strength building. You are able to lift a very large load, which simply is not possible with kettle bells. Therefore, for the pure aspect of muscle building, free weights are without question the better option. If you perform compound movements with free weights, you will also incorporate many different muscle groups and strengthen your core simultaneously.
On the other hand, kettle bells can also add strength. It is resistance based after all. However, you aren’t able to load 300lbs. on a kettle bell. For that reason, it is inferior for pure mass muscle building. That is why they are mostly used for functional strength, power & muscle endurance (higher rep) and fat burning. They enable you to do some serious cardio while challenging your muscles and without getting bored. They are an incredibly fun tool to use but they do require a level of expertise. Therefore, educate yourself before you pick up the heavy ones or find a specialist trainer to assist.
That being said, why would we even compare free weights to kettle bells? We don’t expect a horse to be the same pet as a dog right? They’re different creatures, and so are kettle bells and free weights. The gravity point of the kettle bell shifts during exercise, which makes them unique. There is very little point in comparing them in the same ways. Ultimately, as an athlete you should use both. Make your body more well rounded and use diverse training methods to get stronger, more agile, coordinated and injury proof.
In the end, if you want bigger pecs, use free weights. Do you want to want to become more explosive and have better muscle endurance? Then add some kettle bell workouts into your routine as well. More variety in your training regimen (with proper technique) can only make you better. That is why cyclists do suspension training in the off season and why some MMA fighter do triathlon or even gymnastics between their training camps.
One tip though: if you’re a beginner, start with dumbbells. Kettle bells do have a harder learning curve so a great trainer is a plus!
By Sander Vanacker for FitGuana
Sander Vanacker is a personal trainer, CEO of Bring Back Nature, Inc. and founder of FitGuana. He believes in improving health and wellness by incorporating more nature into our lives, being active and spending more time outdoors.