10Nov, 2011

Kettlebells vs. Dumbells…what’s the difference

One of the most common questions I receive is “What’s the difference between and kettlebell and a dumbbell?” Quickly behind that question follows “Will kettlebell training carry-over into my activities of daily living more than training with dumbbells?” This is a hard topic to demonstrate via written word so I thought a short video would work best but I’ll give you quick low-down here as well.

• There is a distinct mechanical difference between a kettlebell and a dumbbell and it’s based on law of levers.

• Kettlebells possess something known as an Extended Moment Arm of Resistance. This simply means that the kettlebell’s center of gravity is outside your grip or palm. Dumbbells do not possess this and have a center of gravity that is fixed or static, always within your grip or palm. A shorter Moment Arm of Resistance makes a movement easier; choking up on a baseball bat is a great example of creating a shorter Moment Arm of Resistance. So technically a dumbbell swing should be easier than a kettlebell swing.

• Kettlebells also possess a Variable Moment Arm of Resistance. This simply means that the center of gravity is in motion or dynamic during an exercise. For example, during the kettlebell snatch the kettlebell will be extended away from your palm, resting on the backside of your wrist and somewhere in between on each repetition. Dumbbells do not have this feature.

• Most objects that you deal with in everyday life have both an Extended Moment Arm of Resistance and a Variable Moment Arm of Resistance. Suitcases, backpacks, children, grocery bags, and six packs all share a center of gravity that lies outside your grip…just like a kettlebell. I hate to say this word but that makes kettlebell training much more “Functional.” Make sense?

KBBANNER310 Kettlebells vs. Dumbells...whats the difference

Posted by jason | in Home | 22 Comments

Comments on “Kettlebells vs. Dumbells…what’s the difference” (22)

  1. Emanuel Sa filippo

    Jason great seeing you again at the Atlantic city convension. I would like to get a t shirt, XL if possible. My address is PO Box 285, Hammnoton, NJ 08037. Thanks

  2. Jerry Shreck


    Great video post with this explanation. This is a very common question that is also asked to me and I like this explanation as another reason why there is a variable difference between kettlebells and dumbbells. In they end they are both tools to be used for training and both will produce outstanding results if used properly.

  3. Curd

    Hey Jason

    Thx for the Video

    I was at a FMS Certification this week and I gave out your website to a bunch of Physios and Trainers looking to get more into K bells



  4. Nikki Layton

    Nice explanation Jason, that is a great way to explain it to people.

  5. jason


    Thank you Emanuel. Great meeting you as well. I’m currently out of shirts. I’ll keep you posted.

  6. jason


    Thanks brother. I agree, I love training with dumbbells, as much as I enjoy kettlebell training. I don’t really consider either “superior” just different and I like to alternate every 2 weeks which I use in my own personal program.

  7. jason


    Thank you very much for passing on my information. I appreciate it!And thanks for stopping by.

  8. jason


    What’s up Golden kettlebell girl? I hope you’re well.

  9. Dan Bassila

    Great post and breakdown of the difference in the bomechanics when using kettlebells and dumbells! Like the previous post, I also receive this question alot. The answers you demonstrate make perfect sense and can easily be understood by the average Joe. In my opinion, because of the different moment arms of resistance, I believe this actually makes kettlebells far more superior than dumbells. Keep up the good work!

  10. Beau

    One of the biggest challenges to promoting kettlebells is convincing people that they are superior in terms of practical application to everyday life. Well done.

  11. Henry

    Thank Jason I enjoyed this information.

  12. jason


    Thanks for joining the conversation.

  13. jason


    Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate it.

  14. jason


    Thanks for stopping by!

  15. James

    Brilliant explanation, Jason. A similar explanation can be applied to sandbags which I have have incorporated into my workouts over the last year and of which I have become a huge fan. Every implement brings its own nuances, applications and benefits. I firmly believe well-rounded fitness requires one to keep pushing and exploring the boundaries of what works. There’s always more to learn and experience.

  16. jason

    Yes James. Sandbags also have the above attributes. i love when people claim “weight is weight” the body doesn’t know the difference.” It sure does.

  17. Kosta

    Nice video Jason, with some solid info as usual.
    The “functionality” of kettlebells is not just hype as you clearly demonstrate in this video…

  18. Barb

    Clear & concise explanation of the difference between kettlebells & dumbbells. Nice real world example & sports comparisons too. I’ll email this link to my clients. Preach on Jason!

  19. jason

    Thanks Kosta. I appreciate you stopping by!

  20. jason

    Thanks for sharing the love Barb. Much appreciated.

  21. jeff

    I havn’t gotten one of these emails for a while. I was afraid I had gotten bumped of the mailing list. I am somewhat of a newbie to kettlebell training so I really enjoy the information you provide. Glad to see you are still at it. Thanks.

  22. jason

    Thanks Jeff. Yeah, my travel schedule gets in the way of regular updates. I’m going to try better in 2012. Anything you’d like to see from me and Kettlebell Athletics?

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