Why are Kettlebells different from traditional weight training? The questions are often asked such as “Why can’t I just use a dumbbell to do the kettlebell exercises such as swings, cleans and snatches?” or “What is the difference between working with a kettlebell and a dumbbell?” As a trainer, you will often hear these questions. We have found that specifically bodybuilders and athletes are very skeptical about the advantages of kettlebell training.Vanessa Schneider
Of course, every training tool has its advantages and so does the kettlebell. But there is a substantial difference between training with kettlebells and dumbbells. Kettlebell training has some very specific advantages especially when it comes to efficiency, functionality, and “defying gravity”.
Most of the confusion between kettlebells and dumbbells comes from a lack of correct instruction on how to utilize kettlebells properly. As a direct result, people make the mistake of thinking they can use dumbbells as if they were kettlebells.
Traditional Weight Training
When lifting a traditional weight, the body is usually in a fixed position while moving weight in a linear manner through a direct line of applied force. The body attempts not to use any momentum and targets an isolated muscle or muscle group. That is why traditional weight lifting is called a “single-plane static” form of exercise.
Traditional weight lifting builds muscles differently. The goal of bodybuilding is muscle hypertrophy, meaning an increase in muscle mass. Most people unfortunately equate size with strength. Size does not necessarily mean strength. The vast majority of kettlebell exercises engage literally hundreds of muscles at once. This creates profound functional strength without bulky size. The reason for this is that the very nature of kettlebell training stimulates greater myofibril density, which causes myofibrillar hypertrophy. Myofibrils are contractile organisms within the muscle that are directly related to strength. What the majority of people may not know is that 50 percent to 70 percent of hypertrophy size in bodybuilding is from sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. This type of hypertrophy contributes to very little direct strength and muscular force production.
Kettlebells are also different from traditional weight lifting in that you can use all three planes of motion simultaneously. The transverse plane is largely targeted and this is where 70 percent of all injuries happen. Kettlebell training is based upon generating momentum, perpetuating it, and then redirecting and decelerating that momentum. So training in the transverse plane can actually prevent injuries.
Research has proven that a kettlebell lifter can do whatever a traditional weight lifter can do, but not very many traditional weight lifters can do what a kettlebell lifter can do. The kettlebell lifter has “real world strength” that applies to real world situations, everyday tasks and obstacles.
- Kettlebells and dumbbells are distinctively different in shape. Dumbbells have equally distributed weight in the center of mass and Kettlebells have a unique extension from the center of mass.
- The unique “U” shaped handle creates an additional lever arm that increases or decreases the weight and force depending on how it is held.
- The swinging action that is used in kettlebell technique in combination with the unique shape results in rotational inertia, which in turn requires greater core stability to control the movement – i.e. very functional and effective core strengthening power.
- Kettlebells require greater strength and demand a refined coordination of the muscular and nervous systems for control. Both acceleration and deceleration are important components that utilize these systems.
- Kettlebells translate much better into functional everyday activities. There are very few objects in the “real world” that are evenly shaped with a center of mass like a dumbbell. Kettlebells teach “real world strength”.
- Kettlebells produce muscles that are incredibly dense and functionally strong without bulky size.
- Traditional weight training technique utilizes mostly isolated movement. The kettlebell technique requires full body engagement involving multiple muscle groups.
- Traditional weight training relies on mostly linear and two dimensional movement whereas kettlebell technique involves movement on all planes in three dimensional movements.
Kettlebell training is a great addition to any workout regimen and it can stand alone as one of the most effective ways to increase functional strength, mobility and incredible power!