Why are Kettlebells Better Than Dumbbells for Cardio and High Intensity Workouts?


Why are Kettlebells Better Than Dumbbells for Cardio and High Intensity Workouts?

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Kettlebells are better than dumbbells because they provide more stimulus for your body.

By activating dozens of muscle groups during a single workout, kettlebells can torch a whopping 400 calories in less than 20 mins! đź’Ą

Want proof?

Check out how workout queen Kaisa Keranen (@kaisafit) uses this humble handle weight in her Instagram videos for explosive workouts. Her stamina-boosting kettlebell cardio will blow your fat away.

If your goal is to:

  • Shed extra timber
  • Fast-track a calorie burn
  • Tone up your wobbly bits
  • And sculpt that perfect summer body

You need to add some K Bells to your fitness routines RN.

Why Kettlebells are the King of Cardio

By design, the kettlebell (KB) looks uncomplicated and straightforward.

It’s just a hunk with a handle. Or some like to call it the “cannonball with a handle.”

But it’s the shape and distribution of the weight that makes it more appealing than traditional dumbbells.

While the dumbbell has weight distributed equally on both sides of the handle, a kettlebell’s load sits below the horn. Its center of gravity is about 6-8 inches below your hand, which makes it unstable and unbalanced.

In Short:

It’s the offset nature of the weight that makes the kettlebell more challenging.

Here’s the thing …

If you lift weights without stability, your body must work harder to maintain balance, coordination, and control.

If you were to do a 5 minutes routine with kettlebells, you’re not only pulling and pushing. You are also continuously adjusting your body to maintain stability and coordination with the unbalanced load.

This combination of movements provides an extra challenge in your workout that adds cumulative tension over your large muscle groups.

Kettlebells improve:

  • Dynamic movements
  • Functional strength
  • And grip strength

All at the same time.

It’s important to note that kettle bells come in limited weight increments. In most gyms, you’ll only see 8Kg, 12kg, 16kg, and 32kg variations.

Can you guess why?

Because they are all about low reps and fast, explosive movements performed in a short space of time. That’s why Kettlebells and kettlepurses are predominantly used in Crossfit and HIIT.

So how does the traditional old dumbbell stack up against the new cool kid on the block – The K Bell?

Kettlebells vs. Dumbbells – When To Use Them

comparing dumbbell with the gyria
Kettlebells and dumbbells usage.

First, let me show you a quick equipment comparison so that you understand the main differences:

Differences between kettlebells and dumbbells:

Weight below handleWeights on both sides of handle
Made with cast ironMaterials can vary
The handle can accommodate 2 handsThe handle can only accommodate 1 hand
Unbalanced weightBalanced weight

When to use dumbbells vs. when to use kettlebells:

Best used for:Swinging movementsControlled movements
Train for:Cardio and high intensityMass and hypertrophy
Beginners:Yes.Not for heavy weightlifting
Muscle activation:Full bodySpecific muscle group
Exercise range:Strength and resistancePower movements
Fitness goals: Athletes
Fat loss
Body builders
Heavy weightlifting
Recommended for: Cardio
Aerobic workouts
Power training
Full body workouts
Toning and conditioning
Muscle building
Strength training
Progressive overload

As you can see in the tables above, dumbbells work for people who are looking to boost specific muscle groups. They are ideal for progressive overloading and controlled movements.

If your fitness goal is to build big arms and chests, dumbbells are perfect.

But if your fitness goal is to:

  • Work out your whole body
  • Improve your cardiovascular system
  • Burn calories
  • Lose weight
  • Tone and condition
  • Improve your all-round health and fitness

Then, kettlebells are the right tool to work with.

Don’t be fooled by their relatively small sizes. Nowadays, even muscle-building athletes use kettlebells for stability training before moving on to heavier controlled weights.

Can you use kettlebells as dumbbells?

Sure, you can practice weight stabilization and coordination. KB will help you work on your technique to avoid injuries when you lift heavier.

Benefits of Using Kettlebells in Your Workouts

is it worth buying a kettlebell?

Kettlebells are easy to integrate into any workout. According to Liz Barnet, a certified trainer at Uplift Studios in New York City, they add more variety to your routines. You’ll never have a boring workout again!

Let’s see how integrating kettlebells in your home exercises or gym drills can help you hit your fitness target.

Total Body Workout

By driving your energy into functional movements at a high tempo, KB activates the entire posterior chain of muscles. You will do more compound exercises that engage the whole core and increase your cardiorespiratory endurance.

When you perform a Kettlebell routine, you’re effectively doing:

  • Weights
  • Aerobics
  • Plyometrics
  • And conditioning

All at once.

The great part about kettlebells is that sometimes performing just one exercise gives you a total-body workout. Ava Fagin
kettlebell-certified personal trainer and functional strength coach at Body Space Fitness in New York City - Self.com

Power Endurance

Low reps, high-intensity drills improve your muscle’s ability to perform repeated fast, powerful movements. Which means you improve power endurance over time.

You’ll notice exercises like circuits training in gyms or online involve kettlebells. Because they increase strength, endurance, and stamina.

Functional Strength

One thing I like about kettlebell moves is the fact that most of them resemble my day to day activities.

For example, most of your daily activities involve movements like walking, pushing, pulling, reaching, and carrying stuff like grocery bags and balancing objects that are not centered in the palms of your hands.

Kettlebells help you become good at those functional moves, thus preventing accidental injuries.

Fitness and Conditioning

Most fitness models swear by this humble little gym equipment to power up their training and sculpt goddess-like bodies.

Take Lorna Kleidman (@lornafit), for example. She wrote a book about body sculpting with kettlebells for women.

In her book, she reveals how Kettlebells can change your physique fast. Her exercise routines will help your body transition from fat storing to fat burning in no time.

Fat Burning

Kettlebells will make your love handles cry!

Short bursts of intense exercises fire up your metabolism and turn your body into a fat incinerator.

With most workouts requiring compound body moves, your BFF kettlebells will make sure you are incinerating maximum fat per every workout sesh.

Help You Identify Weaknesses in Your Body

Imagine you’re about to lift a barbell with 100kg loaded.

If you’re on an inclined bench, you will probably find a way to move the weights up. But if you are unaware of a weak shoulder, chances are this could result in an injury.

But if you were training each shoulder independently with kettlebells, the single side loading would have made you aware of the problem earlier.

So if you are not sure about your body’s capacity, it’s always better to start slowly with kettlebells before you hit the heavier weights.

Kettlebells will give you a better idea of what your body is capable of, and where it needs further work in terms of technique, balance, and control.

Use kettlebells for heavy weight stabilization and coordination. It will help you in the long run.

Kettlebell Exercises to Help You Smash Your Cardio

Now that you know how effective kettlebells are compared to dumbbells, let me show you some of the popular workouts:

The Kettlebell Swing

The high intense cardio experience
Kettlebell swings technique.

The swing is a classic exercise that targets larger muscles.

Muscles targeted:
  • Arms
  • Back
  • Core
  • Legs
  • Glutes
Instructions on how to do a kettlebell swing workout:
  • Start by standing straight with your feet shoulder-width apart
  • Hold a kettlebell with both hands and stretch your arms straight in front of you
  • Always keep you back upright
  • When you’re ready, bend your knees slightly and press your butts backward to bring your upper body forward
  • Your body should be like a number 7 shape
  • Now bend over and swing the load backward between your legs
  • Then press your butts forward to swing the weight back through your legs
  • Once your arms are back in front of you, lower back down
  • Repeat at least 3 sets with 10 reps

To get the best of this workout, make sure at no point you are hunching forward.

The Clean

how to perform KB cleans
Kettlebell clean technique.

The kettlebell clean effectively builds up from your swing skills.

This will challenge your ability to be in total control of the bell.

A clean movement involves lifting a kettlebell from a lower position to a higher position in a swift vertical move. It starts from the floor and ends around your chest height.

Muscles Targeted:

  • Triceps
  • Biceps
  • Shoulders

Instructions on how to do a KB clean workout:

  • Place the bell on the floor in front of you and in between your feet
  • Feet should be shoulder widths apart
  • Bend slightly at the knees
  • Only use your hips to hinge
  • Grab the kettlebell and pull it back between your legs with one hand
  • Make sure your thumb is pointing backward
  • Now drive your hips forward
  • Straighten your back and move the load upward
  • Once it passes your belly, twist your wrist so that the bell gently moves to the back of your hand
  • The kettlebell is now in a rack position
  • Repeat and change hands

The Press

the press technique
Kettlebell clean technique.

Muscles Targeted:

  • Deltoids
  • Upper pectorals
  • Triceps

Here’s how to do an overhead press:

  • Start with one kettlebell in your left or right hand
  • Take up the rack position
  • Tuck your elbows into your chest
  • Shift the load directly up overhead
  • Then lower the weight by reversing the bell gently
  • You should end up back in the rack position
  • Repeat and change hands

The Goblet Squat

Kettle bell goblet squat
KBell goblet squat technique.

Goblet squats will fire up your glutes and quads while also activating your core.

Muscles targeted:

  • Glutes
  • Quads
  • Core

Instructions on how to perform goblet squats with KB:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
  • Hold the kettlebell handle with both hands
  • Position the load next to your chest
  • Make sure your elbows are facing the ground
  • Tighten up your glutes and sit on your heels
  • Push your butt back and down
  • Keep your feet firmly flat on the floor
  • Push from your heels to get back into starting position to complete the move
  • Make sure your ankles don’t cave in
  • Keep your back straight and chest lifted
  • Always look forward and keep that back straight
  • Also, try simple lunges that can help you with form and technique for lower body exercises

The Romanian Deadlift

kettle-bell deadlift
KBell deadlift technique.

The Romanian deadlift is an excellent all-round workout to boost the lower part of your body.

Muscles targeted:

  • Hamstrings
  • Quadriceps
  • Glutes
  • Calves
  • Lower Back

How to do Romanian deadlifts:

  • Hold your kettlebell by the grip handle with both hands
  • Hinge at the hips to take the weight down
  • And then back up
  • Make sure to keep your legs and neck straight during the movement

Once you’ve perfected the technique, you can try with bigger weights for more impact.

The kettlebell deadlift will work your whole posterior muscles, which, to be honest, most of us need as we spend so much time sitting at work.

The Halo

kettle-bell halo
KBell halo technique.

The halo puts your shoulders in a wide range of motions to exercise the girdle.

I prefer to do the halo for warmups as it loosens my neck and shoulders nicely.

Muscles targeted:

  • Shoulders
  • Triceps
  • Upper back

How to do the halo with kettlebells:

  • Start by holding the kettlebell with both hands
  • Keep your elbows tucked in and close to your body
  • Keep your wrists as close to your head as possible
  • Now move the weight around your head in a circular motion
  • The tighter you make the halo around your head, the better
  • Repeat in reverse

The trick here is to keep the motion as close as possible to your head. It makes the exercise more challenging and improves your overhead mobility.

The halo forces your shoulder muscles to operate with more stability and control.

The Snatch

kettle-bell snatch
KBell snatch technique.

Finally, the snatch – mother of all kettlebell workouts.

The snatch is a beautiful but intensive movement that stimulates the posterior chain muscles.

It helps to stabilize your core and increases your oxygen debt as the workout goes on.

Muscles targeted:

  • Glutes
  • Quads
  • Hamstrings
  • Core
  • Upper back
  • Shoulders
  • Grips

Here’s how to do the snatch with your kettlebells:

  • Stand with feet between your hips and shoulder widths apart
  • Hold the kettlebell in your right hand at shoulder level
  • The handle should rest diagonally in your hand just above your thumb
  • With shoulders back and downward, press the bell overhead
  • Make sure you lock your elbow
  • This is the finishing position of the snatch move
  • Now put the weight back to rack position
  • The bell should be shoulder level and your forearms vertical
  • Bend your forearm towards you
  • Extend your elbow
  • Let gravity pull the bell towards the floor
  • Use your strength to control the descent of the bell
  • Once the bell reaches your thighs level, hinge your hips
  • Bend your hips back and let the bell go in between your legs
  • Keep your spine stretched and long
  • Maintain a solid braced core as you let the KB hike back into its starting position
  • With your hips still bent, extend them to stand tall again
  • Rise and pull your elbow straight up vertically
  • Let the momentum from your hips to help you punch your fist towards the ceiling
  • The bell should end up around your wrist
  • Make sure the bell doesn’t hit the back of your forearm

In the final position, your ribs should be down, core braced, and your pelvis should be level with the floor.

Wow, that was a hell of a list to be getting along with.

But remember …

Like with any gym equipment, proper technique and safety are essential.

So let me share a few tips on how to make sure you’re using your kettlebells the right way.

How to Use Kettlebells Safely

If you’re just starting out, I recommend you get a standard size like 8kg.

If your goal is cardio-related, these weights should be good enough and not too heavy to cause injuries.

Next, you should look for kettlebells that have a clean and void-free surface.

The kettlebell should have enough texture so that the grip is stable and not slippery.

Also, make sure you choose one with chip-resistant coating, to prevent irritation in your hands.

For increased safety, always ask someone to train you or watch youtube videos to learn from the pros.

Technique and control are super important. So you don’t want to be working out at high tempo risking injuries.

Check out the kasiafit 30-day program.

The Best Kettlebells I Recommend

It’s a No-Brainer. Kettlebells Are Better Than Dumbbells

If you’re into cardio, and total-body workouts, KB provide you with countless ideas to put your body through full ranges of motions.

It’s all about the unbalanced center of gravity that forces you to work 10 X harder than traditional controlled dumbbells.

With kettlebells, you can achieve just about any personal fitness goals.

And the best part?

They are cheap and don’t take up a lot of space in your home.

Combine the power of weight, endurance, aerobics, and conditioning into smart time-saving calorie burn workouts.

Kettlebells will turn your body into a fat-burning machine.