Wednesday, April 11, 2007


(IRONMIND makes a great dumbbell handle)
I received propaganda mail from my favorite kettlebell marketer today. They are clearly threatened by the prospect of the old dumbbell stealing some of their sales. On page 23 they devote an entire page to the advantages of the kettlebell over the dumbbell.

Here are some of the arguments for the alleged superiority of the kettlebell. To be kind, I find these a considerable stretch of the truth if not downright ridiculous. I post my thoughts following each statement

…”it’s more natural to do swings, snatches and cleans with kettlebells”

What is so natural about snatching and cleaning an implement? There is nothing natural about it. It’s a workout movement involving putting a load over the head. Natural?

…”for some unexplained reason, kettlebells are fun to train with. Dumbbells are not”

Repetition and redundancy will make anything UNFUN after awhile. Even lobster for dinner each night starts to taste like STARKIST after a month. We are training not pushing our fun buttons. Workouts aren’t suppose to be fun because when executed correctly are mostly difficult. The satisfaction of completing a workout is part of the fun.

…”TGU—very hard to do with a dumbbell”

I’m going to guess that TGU is an acronym for TURKISH GET UP. Last time I checked overload and challenge is part of the equation to improved conditioning and performance. (If TGU is short for something else I stand corrected)

….”Swings with a kettlebell move over a greater range or vertical distance (increased work)

If this has something to do with the handle being removed from the center of mass of the kb the distance is negligible and can be compensated for by increasing the weight of the dumbbell. The ROM has little to do with the implement (kb/db/sack of potatoes) but rather with the technique involved.

I’m not starting a fight so don’t flame this post. I know several well established kb athletes and we are on friendly terms. I respect their sport. I own my own kettlebells, and I’m probably responsible for a number of sales but still, kettlebells are not better for conditioning than a dumbbell and they cost more than three times what a hex headed dumbbell will cost. If this is the case then find the study for me and I will publicly acknowledge the results.

The argument that they are better for strengthening is weak. The barbell is better than either of them. Their role is in the high repetition conditioning realm just like the dumbbell but at three times the price.

I see two paths of justification for the kb inventory. If your objectives include becoming world ranked in kettlebell sport then by all means you should own not one but several kettlebells. The second, would involve the trainer or athlete who has the luxury ($$) of outfitting his/her gym with extra iron.

If however your objectives include a general approach to conditioning and you are shopping for a cost effective tool look no further than the dumbbell.