Kettlebell vs Dumbbells – Which Is Best For Building Lean Muscle Mass

A typical strength session at the gym will start out with a barbell movement of some sort.

Depending on what muscle group you’re training you might be set up in a rack, it might just be sat on the floor in front of you.

Once you’ve finished doing the big weights it’s time to start working smaller muscles with more isolated movements.

So you walk over to the dumbbells, but on your way, you noticed someone across the room swinging a kettlebell around.

It looks like a lot of fun, right?

But what are they doing?

What muscles is that working?

What’s wrong with bicep curls?

The gym can be a confusing place, you’ve only just got your head around what movements work what muscles and now this person is swinging shit round all over the show! 

Some people swear by one other people prefer the other.

So what do you do?

Honestly, Both are fine.

Both have their benefits and depending on what your goals are you can definitely use either.  

While a dumbbell is a lot more traditional in its set up, the same sort of weight distribution as a barbell.

With the weights evenly balanced on either side, it makes it a great tool when you first start lifting weights. 

Kettlebells on the hand, have all the weight underneath a handle on the top.

Making the weight and balance a lot different.

It can be tricky to get your head around at first, but like anything practice makes perfect. 

Once you understand how the weight moves it’s a great tool for bringing balance and your stabilizing muscles into action.

And remember if you need to rebalance during a movement you will be engaging your core.

Are Kettlebells better than Dumbbells?

Comparing things is so tricky these days, since we got the internet everyone’s opinion got stronger and their voices got louder.

Now, this isn’t necessarily bad but it does make it hard to do research.

But in my opinion, No, Kettlebells are not better than dumbbells, but neither are they worse.

It really depends on your goals, and what you want to get out of your workout. 


For this reason, I prefer training with kettlebells, as when I train I’m looking for more bang for my buck.

I want to get as much out of a movement as possible.

I love bringing my core into workouts as often as I can.

As I mentioned before the weight being below the handle on a kettlebell changes the dynamic of most movements.

Especially when doing any twisting movements or single arm.  

Kettlebells will also give you a better cardio workout, simply because a lot of the exercises involve more movement and swinging. 

They will also improve your grip strength and functional strength, they are also more practical than dumbbells for improving lower back strength which leads to helping with lower back pain. 

And finally, kettlebells can also offer more options with improving core strength and stability. 


Dumbbells are a lot easier to use making them a great choice for beginners.

With most of the movements being static the risk of injury is a lot lower. 

They are also easier to hold, meaning movements where you have one in each hand become a lot simpler.

Exercises like bicep curls, shoulder press, or raises are more effective with dumbbells. 

How heavy should a beginner Kettlebell be? 

This is another that is really going to depend on your level.

A beginner to kettlebells may not necessarily be a beginner to strength training.

But like everything with training, I would always recommend starting lighter than you need while you figure out the movement. 

Just like dumbbells, kettlebells come in a range of weights and sizes.

They usually start at about 4.5lb/2kg and go up from there, most gyms will go up to 80lb/36kg. 

But for me, if you are just starting out with a kettlebell I wouldn’t get heavier than 13lb/6kg for women and 26lb/12kg for guys.

You may find your progress through the weight quickly.

The form should always be the main thing you focus on, and the second thing would be understanding your ability.

Don’t move onto single movements until you can perform and standard swing safely.

Kettlebell vs dumbbell for Bodybuilding 

In terms of bodybuilding, both are very effective.

And are be used more in different phases of a cycle.

Not to say they aren’t used in both. 

Dumbbells are be used a lot more in the bulking phase, the weight gaining phase of a cycle.

Whereas kettlebells would be used more when cutting, trimming off the excess fat from the bulk.


A typical session starts with a few compound lifts (movements that use multiple joints like squats, bench press, or deadlift).

These movements use a lot of muscle and are done with more weight.

You would then move into using dumbbells to isolate the smaller muscles and then finish with cable machines. 

If you were in a cutting phase the workout would start similar but finish with fat burning in mind, that’s where a kettlebell would start to be more effective.


Can I substitute Kettlebells for dumbbells?

You can swap in and out between dumbbells and kettlebells for most movements if you need to.

But you can’t replicate what makes them different from each other.

Sure you can do curls and presses with kettlebells but the dynamic of the movement can be very different.

As I mentioned earlier the weight distribution alone really separates the two from each other. 

In saying that, I will quite often do a single-arm overhead press with a kettlebell in bottoms ups. And the overhead press is just as it sounds, pressing a weight from your shoulders above your head. 

Holding a kettlebell bottoms up, upside down balancing the bell over your hand.

This is quite difficult to do and bring your core stability in like you wouldn’t believe!


I feel like I need to put a little ‘in conclusion’ in this article as I know I’ve spoken mostly about Kettlebells.

And honestly, that because I use them more in my training. 

So yeah, I’m more pro Kettlebell but my focus is functional strength and functional training.

So for me, a kettlebell serves that purpose better than a dumbbell.

I still use dumbbells a few times a week, I use dumbbells with my clients a tonne as well.

Dumbbells are a very good piece of equipment, just like barbells, cable machines, tires, hammers, ropes, and resistance bands.

Experiment with your training, try new equipment.

But always make sure you ask if you’re not sure.

Having someone spot you or checking your form is the best thing you can when starting out.

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