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Are Kettlebells Better Than Dumbbells?

As much as I love the kettlebell community, there is way too much snobbery out there. The best tool is the one that helps people reach their goals, regardless of how much hype gets poured into your inbox in a bunch of spam emails from people selling kb services. The best tool is not always going to be the kb. It is my favorite strength training implement, but everyone is different. It could be as simple as personal preference–I train plenty of people who simply do not enjoy the exercises that are typically performed with kettlebells. Do I make these people use them because I like them and I know them well? Of course not!

There is only one time when kettlebells are definitively better than dumbbells, barbells, sandbags, or big fat rocks: when there is nothing that a person enjoys doing more. My personal goal is always training longevity. I want to train as long as I can, as safely as I can, for my entire life. I give myself the best chance of doing that if I do the exercises and employ the tools that I enjoy the most.

I have a 60 year old woman in one of my kettlebell classes. She plans on training for at least the next 20 years of her life, a fact which jazzes me up to no end. I want to think exactly like her when I’m her age. And she hates kettlebells. She hates them. Doesn’t want to touch them and gets annoyed with anyone who says she “should.” I love her.

So what do I have her do in my classes? Because I know what her goals are–maintaining strength and aging well–I help her reach them, by helping her work on the activities she likes to do best. She enjoys farmer’s walks. She likes to power clean with light weight on a barbell. She likes to deadlift, which is one of the greatest parts of my week: seeing a 60 year old woman trying to decide whether she’s going to pull sumo or conventional today. If I tried to force kettlebells on her she would not come to class. Maybe she’d do something just as beneficial instead, but maybe not. I won’t take the chance.

You can do just about anything with a kb that you can do with a dumbbell, and vice versa. I prefer Russian kettlebells because they lend themselves well to my grip strength pursuits, and I think they’re fun to juggle. That’s about it. I like them because I like them, not because someone sent me an email in ALL CAPS about how they are the favored tool of some black ops team of Sumo wrestlers.

I use them because I look forward to using them. Ignore the hype. If you love to use kbs, then they will live up to the lofty marketing promises. If you don’t, they won’t, but if you hate to use them it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. Go with what works.Experiment and have fun.

Good luck!

Josh

Strength training for body and mind

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