Why Do Kettlebells Feel Heavier Than Dumbbells? (Here’s 5 Reasons Why)
Have you tried using kettlebells and they feel different to dumbbells?
Not only that, but they feel heavier right?
Are you new to using this type of kit?
The way in which you train with them can take time to get used to, especially if you have always trained with regular dumbbells.
This one piece of kit is very versatile and is a great edition to your fitness schedule.
Lets look at the reasons why kettlebells feel heavier than dumbbells…
Why Do Kettlebells Feel Heavier Than Dumbbells?
Kettlebells feel heavier than dumbbells because the centre of mass is different. Dumbbells provide a balanced piece of workout equipment, equally weighted on each side, the centre of mass is through the handle, as the weight moves through your hand it is more balanced. This offers stability in your workout and more control of the movements. However, a kettlebell is very different to this as the centre of mass lies within the “bell” itself, while the “horns” or handle is further away. Meaning the weight is distributed differently, as the kettlebell is used the centre of mass changes, It takes more muscle groups and effort to redirect a kettlebell than it does a dumbbell. The kettlebell feels as if it wants to keep going in the original direction, thus feeling heavier because of this.
1. Are You New To Kettlebells?
If you are new to using this type of equipment, it can feel very different to regular dumbbells due to the fact the weight is distributed differently to kettlebells.
The reason a kettlebell does this is because the load is displaced. Think about lifting a barbell or dumbbell it does feel different, that’s because it is in the way it is held. With a kettlebell, the load is displaced, as it’s heavier at the bottom than where you’re holding it.
With dumbbell exercises, they tend to isometric movements (Isometric exercises are contractions of a particular muscle or group of muscles – like an arm curl for example), where as kettlebell exercises are typically compound movements (Compound exercises are movements that work multiple muscle groups at the same time).
A kettlebell swing works the muscles predominantly in the back, glutes, hamstrings, hips and core. They also work the shoulders, forearms and lat muscles during a kettlebell swing.
With this in mind you can see how being a newbie can have an effect on how they feel heavier than dumbbells.
2. How Is Your Form?
Kettlebells are made for ballistic training, this is where you’re constantly moving and shifting the weight, your body adapts to the weight, thus building strength. The kettlebell “cannonball” with a handle design is part of that. Unlike dumbbells, the weight’s center of gravity isn’t evenly distributed–unless it’s moving.
With this in mind you need to consider your form when using this piece of equipment as it is different to using dumbbells.
When doing exercises like a clean and press with a barbell, the weight runs through the bar and the balance is centred, doing this exercise with a kettlebell requires a slightly different approach due to the centre of gravity being displaced.
You would have to work to pull the kettlebell back from swinging, which involves a different approach to a bar. You then have to “rack” the kettlebell on your forearm. Once again this involves a slightly different approach, as this can take time to get used to cushioning the kettlebell on your forearm.
Be warned, doing this the first few times can really hurt the radius and ulna due to the kettlebell swinging at speed onto it. Practice makes perfect here!
There are differences because of other forces applying and an extra/longer momentum existing between the centre of gravity of the kettlebell and your hand.
3. A Kettlebells Centre Of Gravity/Mass Is Different
Without getting silly with your dumbbell – by this I mean dangerous – you can only hold a dumbbell by its handle while performing drills. The offset weight of the kettlebell, combined with its large, curved handle, allows you to hold it in a variety of different ways. This gives you the ability to perform both standard exercises and new exercises in a completely different way.
There are various positions to hold a kettlebell which include: Rack Position, Pistol Grip, Side Handle and Palm Grip.
Then there’s other ways to hold them using two hands! A very versatile piece of equipment you will agree.
One of the main differences between kettlebells and dumbbells is that the weight is offset and unbalanced. The handle of a kettlebell weighs much less than the “ball” of the kettlebell, whereas dumbbells are balanced from end to end.
Additionally, allowing for a variety of different exercises as well as different grip positions (more on this shortly), this offset weight makes a kettlebell better for functional training, than with a dumbbell.
What this means is functional training exercises train your muscles to work together and prepare them for regular daily tasks by simulating movements you may do at home, at work or in sports. These movements simulate things like picking up a heavy box or pulling an item where the balance isn’t centred.
The kettlebell is more similar to regular, everyday items – awkward and challenging.
In addition, the unbalanced weight of kettlebells allows you to rest them on the back of your arm “racked” while holding the handle. This allows you to perform exercises such as the Turkish Get Up, Strict Press and Squat, while this wouldn’t work with a dumbbell.
4. The Grip
Dumbbells normally have the type of surface that allows you to grip them more, kettlebells don’t. Normally, kettlebells have a smooth handle with just a hint of grittiness.
The reason is because kettlebells need to be smooth as the handle will be moving within your grip for most of the exercises, like Kettlebell Swings, Kettlebell Snatches and Kettlebell Cleans.
Dumbbells have a gripped surface for isolation movements like curls, front raises and military presses. While you can use dumbbells for some of these movements (like Snatches from the Ground), they may not be as ideal for high repetition sets.
A smaller handle (such as a competition handle) is harder to grip, hence it feels heavier because the forearms need to work harder to maintain grip. This is another reason why kettlebells can feel heavier, there are varying thickness of handles, which can give the illusion of being heavier due to the difference in grip.
You also have to take into account the length of the horns from the main bell, to the handle. This too can make a difference and does vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
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5. From My Research, The Most Common Reasons Are…
I would say that kettlebells can feel heavier due to the fact they aren’t balanced as a dumbbell is. Their centre of gravity is on the bell and this means your body is having to work harder to maintain and control the kettlebell.
As mentioned, the centre of a dumbbells mass runs through the handle and gives the user more stability when performing isometric exercises.
Some exercises are better with a dumbbell for traditional movements, while the ballistic nature of kettlebells makes them more of a challenge due to the distribution of weight shifting regularly.
This doesn’t mean they are heavier, it just means it feels different, especially when there’s different handle thickness to grip and the kettlebell moves differently compared to how a dumbbell does.
I have trained with kettlebells for a number of years and I find them to be more beneficial than dumbbells, as I enjoy the way the kettlebell moves within any workout routine I do. The fact they can work many different muscle groups within one exercise makes working out with them is more efficient for me.
If you haven’t tried using kettlebells, I would highly recommend you do so, just please take your time and start off light, they can feel strange to start and you would be surprised at just how heavy an 8kg kettlebell can feel after using it for only a few minutes.
If you enjoyed this, then please check out the YouTube channel, with over 40 workouts which include the use of kettlebells, resistance bands, dumbbells and even body weight exercises too.
Don’t forget, I will be adding more workouts weekly to help you stay fit and healthy at home with just the use of a kettlebell.
With workouts of all types, for all fitness levels. You know that we have you covered, so stay tuned for more.