On Trial: Kettleballs vs. Free Weights

Which Is Better for Increasing Strength Gains?
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OPENING ARGUMENTS:

Every bodybuilder knows that free weights are the way to go for maximizing muscle strength and mass gains.
 Yet, every once in a while a different method of training gains popularity. Lately, kettlebell training has secured a massive following, and its proponents claim it stumps free-weight training with traditional dumbbells and barbells. Some college strength coaches have even drunk the kettlebell Kool-Aid and are training football and strength athletes exclusively with kettlebells.

DEFENSE

Kettlebells allow for more functional movements, which lead to better overall strength and performance.

PROSECUTION

Kettlebells are a form of free weights,
 as are dumbbells and barbells. It makes little sense to limit the free-weight tools you use to just kettlebells, when barbells allow for more weight, which leads to the greatest gains in muscle strength.

EVIDENCE:

-Researchers from California State University, Fullerton, had subjects follow a six-week strength-training program using either just kettlebells or barbells.

-The researchers matched exercises
for each group. For example, for legs the barbell group did the back squat while the kettlebell group performed goblet squats.

-They reported in a 2012 issue of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that the group using typical free-weight barbells increased their strength significantly more than the group using kettlebells.

VERDICT:

TYPICAL FREE-WEIGHT TRAINING USING BARBELLS AND DUMBBELLS MAY BE BETTER FOR INCREASING MUSCLE STRENGTH.

As we suspected, using typical free weights such as barbells can increase muscle strength gains far better than limiting training to just kettlebells.

SENTENCING:

Although typical free-weight exercises employing barbells and dumbbells may be more beneficial for increasing muscle strength, and likely muscle size, kettlebells are free weights and should still be utilized in a well-rounded weight-training program. Use the tools that best suit the job. To increase pure muscle strength, it’s tough to beat the barbell. To prevent strength imbalances between the left and right side of the body, dumbbells are the tools of choice. Kettlebells also have a place. For combining cardio with free weights, the kettlebell swing is a great choice. Limiting yourself to just one tool, such as the kettlebell, is like a carpenter performing all his work with just a hammer. Sure, it’s a great tool for hammering nails, but it makes a poor choice to cut wood.

 

REFERENCE: W.H. Otto et al., J Strength Cond Res., in press, 2012.

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