Kettlebell vs dumbbell for weight loss: my WINNER is…

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I spent around a YEAR in a controlled calorie deficit cutting my body fat down, chasing the ‘aesthetic’ look. Over such a prolonged cut I tried all sorts of diet tips and tricks – and plenty of training ones too! One of the recurring queries I get is around whether kettlebells or dumbbells are better for weight loss. Here’s my hot take on it.

Kettlebells vs Dumbbells for Weight Loss

At a glance…

  • Kettlebells are better suited for weight loss goals as they can be used in a number of more aerobic exercises
  • Training alone (kettlebells or dumbbells) will NOT be enough to overturn a poor diet – weight loss requires some diligence here as well
  • It is therefore not as simple as kettlebell vs dumbbell when chasing body weight based goals – consider your diet too!
  • You can burn up to 400 calories in a single 20-30 minute kettlebell session – feel the burn!

Kettlebell vs dumbbell: Which is best for weight loss?

Dumbbells feature in strength training regularly. However kettlebells are more regularly used in dynamic and aerobic training such as CrossFit. Kettlebells are therefore better to train with for weight loss as they are better suited to these calorie burning, higher intensity aerobic exercises.

Can you lose weight with just kettlebells?

No you cannot lose weight with just kettlebells. Kettlebells are a tool for exercising, but your weight loss success will depend heavily on diet. It is nearly impossible to out-train a poor diet!

If your diet is in check then you absolutely CAN train exclusively with kettlebells and lose weight.

How many calories can you burn in a kettlebell workout?

Tracking calories burned during weight lifting is notoriously difficult due to to the massive variation from person to person. Pure weightlifting is not an overly calorie intensive form of exercise however the dynamic elements associate with kettlebells such as swings and circuits can really boost the burn rate as it pivots the workout towards cardio or aerobic training.

It is this dynamism that makes them popular with people focused on weight loss – the movements and workouts tend to be high energy. Kettlebell swings, density blocks, AMRAP, you name it – these all make us FEEL like we’re losing a ton of weight!

Some report burning as much as 400 calories (!) in a single 20 – 30 minute kettlebell session! This is as many calories as you would burn running at a six-minute mile pace.

What affects the calories burned?

As stated above there are a ton of variables when trying to track calories burned during weigh training – notably body weight (the heavier you are the more calories you burn) and the routine you choose to do (the harder the better!)

Can you lose weight with dumbbells only?

Again no unfortunately you cannot lose weight with dumbbells only IF you diet is not appropriate. It is very hard to out train a poor diet and working out – even with high intensity – will not overturn a calorie surplus. 

With that said – if your diet is great then you CAN use dumbbells exclusively in your training as part of a successful weight loss phase.

Conclusion

Kettlebell training is better suited to training in a weight loss phase than barbells or dumbbells as they can be used in a ton of athleticism focused movements such as kettlebell swings as well as various CrossFit WODs. Barbells and dumbbells absolutely CAN be part of a weight loss training regime BUT they tend to be used more commonly for slower more strength or bodybuilding focused movements. 

Circuit training with kettlebells is a great way to get moving and burn some calories!

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