Kettlebells: Enter the Pro’s and Cons

As a successful personal trainer in Hull, I get a lot of questions. 

Someone recently asked me about kettlebells…….do they work, what are they like and do I use them. 

Heres what you ll find under my magnifying glass:

I’m not going to go into details of the history of kettlebells here……… if you want the origin of the kettlebell – I would go to wikipedia (CLICK)

Baiscally, kettlebells are like fancy dumbells.

Unlike a standard dumbbell, which has weight plates on each end of a single handle, a kettlebell is practically an iron ball with a thick handle on it.

Here are the pro’s and cons that I can see:

The Good!

1. Is a form of Free Resistance

I have touched upon this many times – I USE FREE WEIGHTS FOR FAT LOSS. Resistance training causes more energy expenditure in the long term………….so use it!  Kettlebells are resistance, so they have the same benefit.  Give me kettlebells over a long run for shaping a body, burning fat and keeping or increasing muscle. 

Check out this post In which you can see why chin ups and deadlifts (and GO APE!)  are always regularly in my program.

2. Working legs can feel easier than dumbells

Kettlebells can be used to work arms or legs on their own – reducing weaknesses and possibly the rate of injury. Also, as noted above, they are much better for posture than machines. Kettlebells can ‘feel’ better in the racked position (shoulder position) and you might be able to work heavier than with dumbells.  However, if you want strong legs, you should ideally be good friends with a power rack …………….liked I worte about HERE

3. You can work posterior chain well

In fact the kettlebell swing is perhaps a great basic movement that loads the lower back and hamstrings, but is a double-edged sword.

 This is because if this exercise is not done properly……….it’s like doing a badly executed deadlift…..and fast!  Not your best exercise if you like to have a back that’s pain free – unlike sorry ol’ Gil here.
4. Portable

Can be portable, you might only need a 12kg kettlebell if you’re a lady, or a 16-20kg if you’re a man……..and you can get an awesome session in without a boatload of equipment.

You can take one Kettlebell outside and train away!  Who doesn’t like training outside??   ——->


5. They look pretty cool!

 When you’ve used dumbells for years – sometimes it’s just a nice change to dabble in something new and get excited about training again!




The Bad!

1. Dumbells are probably just as effective

 First of all – kettlebells are not magical!!!!  They do not have powers to make you outrageously fit and strong – it is a weighted ball with a handle.

If anything Dumbells are just as good – and are usually cheaper than kettlebells.  Barring the swing, generally any dumbell exercise can be use instead of a kettlebell

If you’re on a budget, dumbells will work!

2.  Injuries

Here’s the big one.

Like I mentoned above – lower back pain is a massive one.  SO TECHNIQUE IS CRUCIAL.  So get a coach…………..please, please, please DO NOT just buy one and go to work on it. The swing as mentioned if you dont have the right posture will set you up in a bad way.  

Your movement will only be as good as your coach – and if thats a novice (you) – then you’re playng with fire.  Get someone who knows, and have 30 minutes with them, your back will thank you!

 Also, if you’re not used to kettlebells, then the strain on the wrists and elbows are likely to take a bit of shock as the lifts need to be done a little quicker than with a dumbell…….mainly due to the reason that the centre of gravity on the hand is off-set from the wrist with a kettlebell as opposed to a dumbell.

You can get dumbells with rotating handles……….kettlebells usually don’t.  This is extra stress on the wrist.

 Also, if you havent done any overhead pressing with kettlebells before – be prepared for some bruised forearms!


3.  Often, Kettlebells are not adjustable

So, you’re a keen female trainee and want to lose fat so you get a 8kg Kettlebell (KB) as thats what someone said would be a good start. 

What happens when you het stronger (which is inevitable if you’ve been training right!)

You’ll need a 12kg KB.  

Then maybe  a 16KB.

Then you decide want to do 2-handed kettlebell stuff.

Adjustable dumbells or a barbell and plates can be a lot more appealing to someone who wants to progressively overload their body without overloading their wallet.


Do I use them?  

I have used them now and then, but I rarely do………and I don’t use them at Maximum metabolism Bootcamp. 


Here’s why:

1) Due to the steeper learning curve – I dont want lots of injuries!
2) We have adjustable dumbells – we don’t need KB’s
3) We still work the posterior chain through different exercises than a kettlebell swing
4) We use exercises with a higher benefit to injury ration to get our heart rates up

5) If I get some……………people will need individual 1-on-1 training to make sure they stay injury free!

In summary

1) Kettlebells are a great form of resistance training – you will get a lot more from them than doing a 45 min run (especially if thats what you do multiple times a week anyway!)

2) Kettlebells are probably not suitable for a total exercise beginner, or for those who are returning to exercise after a long period of inactivity. This is due to the high risk to the wrists, elbows, shoulders and lower back, plus the complexity involved in many of the exercises.

Loading appropriately will decrease the risks substantially.

3) Dumbells are just as effective in 90% of exercises.


4) Forget whether kettlebells are ‘magical’ or are  injuries-waiting-to-happen. 

 Work hard, use resistance (Kettlebells, dumbells, barbells, sandbags, sleds, water!) at least 3 times a week,  and use the right tools to get the results you’re looking for!



Til next time,