Which home gym equipment builds muscle quicker: dumbbell vs kettlebell? Here are the facts

Dumbbell vs kettlebell: which one is better? We have three reasons why you should buy one instead of the other

dumbbell vs kettlebell
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Dumbbell vs kettlebell: which one is the best home gym equipment? Athletes who are into classic bodybuilding methods will say it's the former while CrossFitters would probably say kettlebells are better. Is there a home weight that reigns supreme over all others? 

Admittedly, both the best dumbbells and the best kettlebells are capable home weights that can help you get strong and build muscle. That's all fine but when you have limited budget, a decision must be made whether you should buy dumbbells or kettlebells.

It's no surprise that both types of home weights have their benefits and in this article, we listed three reasons why you should choose one over another. Of course, if you have a specific goal in mind, it is possible that neither of these type of weights are ideal for you. If you want to have a six pack, you are better off getting the best ab roller. Should you want to build a nice V-taper of back muscles, the best pull up bars can help you most.

However, for most, getting a dumbbell or a kettlebell will be the most beneficial home gym purchase. Read on to find out which one is best for you.

Three reasons why dumbbells are better than kettlebells

You won't see many bodybuilders curling with kettlebells: dumbbells are generally considered the most versatile gym equipment. With the humble dumbbell, you can train all muscles in the body and do it efficiently. Here are three reasons why you should choose dumbbells over kettlebells.

dumbbells vs kettlebells: Bowflex Selecttech dumbbell

(Image credit: Bowflex)

Reason #1: smaller footprint

One of the biggest issues with setting up a home gym is the lack of space in one's abode to store the equipment. Partners, unless they are into resistance training themselves, are probably not too keen on having fitness equipment laying around the house.

Dumbbells have the competitive edge here: they are smaller than kettlebells and are easier to store thanks to their shape. They can be stored under the bed, in the wardrobe or cupboard and sometimes, even on top of each other next to the wall. Getting a dumbbell rack can make storing the dumbbells even easier.

Not to mention adjustable dumbbells, such as the premium Bowflex SelectTech 1090 dumbbell: they replace multiple dumbbells, making storing them super easy.  

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Bowflex SelectTech 1090 Adjustable Dumbbell, Single | On sale for $579.99 | Was $989.99 | You save $410 at Walmart
These bad boys will disappear in a blink of an eye so if you are planning on investing in some quality adjustable dumbbells, now is the time. Bowflex dumbbells are the gold-standard and since the beginning of the OG lockdown, they are almost impossible to get hold of. Now you can save 410 bucks at Walmart. Crazy.

dumbbells vs kettlebells: dumbbell full body workout

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Reason #2: better for the wrists

Kettlebells are essentially a lump of iron with a handle, while dumbbells are two lumps of weight connected with a stick. The latter is easier to hold, especially when it comes to traditional bodybuilding exercises such as the bench press or the overhead press.

Doing these exercises with a kettlebell will result in the 'lump' part of the kettlebell pressing against the wrist, hence why all CrossFitters wear wrist wraps. It is also easier to hold a dumbbell with a straight wrist as opposed to doing the same with a kettlebell.

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Everlast 12.5kg Adjustable Dumbbell | Buy it for £59.99 at Sports Direct
This Everlast Adjustable Dumbbell is not quite Bowflex quality but at least it's dirt cheap. Heck, even if you buy two of these, you still won't spend as much as you would on the similar offering from Bowflex. The Everlast variety is probably not as sturdy as that one but most likely good enough for living room training.

dumbbells vs kettlebells: 15-minute dumbbell full body workout

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Reason #3: better for gradual progression

Dumbbells can be bought in many shapes and, most importantly, sizes. The lightest dumbbells are around one lb (0.5 kg) and you can even buy dumbbells as heavy as 120 lbs (~55 kg). There are probably even heavier dumbbells. Better still, dumbbell weight increases gradually, meaning you can get dumbbells in practically any size you want.

On the other hand, kettlebells tend to jump in size, especially in the heavier category. Example, the ever-so popular Onnit Primal kettlebell range comes in five sizes: 18 lbs, 36 lbs, 54 lbs, 72 lbs and 90 lbs. Those are big jumps in weight which might not be easy to adjust to.

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JAXJOX Connected Adjustable Dumbbell | Buy it for $449 at Best Buy
Fancy buying a pair of Bowflex SelectTech dumbbells? Us too, but they keep selling out. For an adjustable dumbbell that is more reliably available, buy this adjustable dumbbell pair – about half price of the Bowflex. The JAXJOX adjustable dumbbell uses a digital system that automatically adjust weights in 6-Ib increments from 8 - 50 lbs in under 3 seconds. 

dumbbells vs kettlebells: Bowflex Selecttech 840 kettlebell

(Image credit: Bowflex)

Three reasons why kettlebells are better than dumbbells

The popularity of kettlebells is ever-growing and skyrocketed in 2020. Many of the best kettlebells were unavailable to buy for months and only recently resurfaced at bigger retailers. Adjustable kettlebells such as the Bowflex SelectTech 840, are sought after and bought almost instantly as they hit the market.

Here are three reasons why you should choose a kettlebell over dumbbells as your next home gym purchase.

dumbbells vs kettlebells: Kettlebell get up Turkish get up kettlebell workout full body workout

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Reason #1: better for grip strength

Bodybuilders are slightly obsessed with forearm-girth and there are even products that can increase the girth of barbell/dumbbell handles, such as Fat Gripz. The 'fatter' handle will make holding weights harder, so working out with fat handles can improve forearm and grip strength.

Kettlebells don't need fat grips: the handles are fat as they are. In fact, the best kettlebell workouts, such as the 10,000 swing kettlebell workout, are famous for improving grips strength and forearm muscle mass, using only kettlebells with no additional trims.

The most famous kettlebell exercises (e.g. kettlebell swing) are perfect for improved grip strength and fat forearms.

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ONNIT Primal Kettlebells | Prices from $42.95 at Onnit
Get primal with the ONNIT Primal Kettlebells. You won't have time for monkeying around too much as these capable kettlebells not only look good but are also highly-functional: made of chip-resistant iron, ONNIT Primal Kettlebells will stand the test of time. And they just look awesome too.

dumbbells vs kettlebells: kettlebell swing

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Reason #2: better for building functional muscle

What is functional muscle? All muscle are functional, right? Well, not exactly. There is a difference between big strong and being big, albeit sometimes the two overlap. Bodybuilders tend to be big – really big – but those muscles are for show: a bodybuilder might struggle to do pull ups or other, more aerobic exercises.

Kettlebell training often involves a combination of aerobic and anaerobic movements: kettlebell swings, snatches and cleans all use your aerobic as well the anaerobic system, burning fat and building muscle in the same time.

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Bowflex SelectTech 840 Kettlebell | Buy it for £209.99 at Amazon
Want a set of kettlebells that take the space used by one, quite large, kettlebell? Bowflex SelectTech 840 Kettlebell is built to last and can transform into anyone of 6 different weights from 3kg to 18kg, with just a quick twiddle of its rotary knob. 

dumbbells vs kettlebells:kettlebell swing

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Reason #3: kettlebells are more versatile than dumbbells

This might sound a bit controversial, but in theory, all exercises that can be performed using dumbbells can also be done with kettlebells. But kettlebells can also be used to do the aforementioned swings, snatches, kettlebell get ups and more. Wrist pain aside, having just one or a pair of kettlebells enables you to do both strength and HIIT training, using the same weight. 

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JTX Neoprene Covered Kettlebell | Prices from  £29 at JTX Fitness
16-kilo kettlebells disappeared from the face of the earth in April. Seeing them in stock again is like Christmas came early for anyone interested in home resistance training. Using just one kettlebell, you can get fit and lose weight at the same time.

Matt Kollat
Matt Kollat

Matt is T3's very own fitness and nutrition writer. In his free time, he swims, runs, cycles and tries various resistance training workouts so he can ramble about them to people who aren't really interested in fitness.