The type of weight you use in your training can have varied consequences on your body. We all know that barbells and dumbbells (which we will refer to as traditional weights) and kettlebells have the ability to increase strength. However whilst barbells and dumbbells are rigid, the kettlebell with its thick handle is much more flexible, allowing the body to make ballistic movements during training.
The aerobic benefits of kettlebells have been reported in previous research (1), and this advantage of kettlebells has resulted in its renaissance over the past decade, with shiny new kettle bells appearing in gyms.
But what about those gym animals who couldn’t care less about aerobic benefits? What about the impact on “serious stuff” like strength, body composition and power? This is what researchers set out to find in a recent study (2).
13 males were assigned to condition i.) engaging in six weeks of weightlifting and heavy resistance training and 17 males were assigned to condition ii.) engaging in six weeks of kettlebell training. The height, body mass and body composition of all participants was recorded. Strength was measured by a back squat and power was measured by a vertical jump and power clean.
As expected both weightlifting and kettlebell training increased strength and power. However, weightlifting provided a significantly higher gain in strength compared to kettlebell training.
Whilst both types of training provided increases in strength and power, weightlifting provided significantly larger increases in strength but there was no significant difference between the gains in power.
The study suggests that traditional weightlifting is advantageous for those people more concerned with increasing strength. Although the study presents interesting findings, it must be noted that diet was not completely controlled for therefore this could act as a confounding variable.
On the whole, these results highlight that whatever your goal is, be it, strength, power or body recomposition, the type of equipment should be tailored to your goal, even within the narrower category of weight training.
Author: Mandy Johal
1. American Council on Exercise (2010). Kettlebells: Twice the results in half the time? [pdf], San Diego.
2. Otto, W., Coburn, J., Brown, L. and Spiering, B. (2012). Effects of weightlifting vs. kettlebell training on vertical jump, strength and body composition. The Journal of Strength Conditioning & Research, (published ahead of print, 15 Feb).
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