Make These Exercises More Effective by Adding Kettlebells

STACK Expert Roger Lockridge suggests swapping your dumbbells for kettlebells when you perform these 5 exercises.

There are so many great ways to train and help athletes get in the best shape of their lives. One of the most popular forms here in the U.S. is to use dumbbells, which allow you to work each side of your body and isolate specific muscles. Another popular piece of fitness equipment is the kettlebell. Like dumbbells, kettlebells allow for more freedom, but because of their design, they can target muscles in a different way. Need proof? Tag out dumbbells for kettlebells on each of these exercises and you'll see what I mean.

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Lateral Raise

You would normally do these with dumbbells and lift them straight out to your sides. It is simple enough because the weight is surrounding your hand, which is in the middle of the weight. Take a kettlebell and lift it straight out to your side while keeping the weighted portion of the kettlebell lifted. Don't just let it hang. The redistribution of the weight makes the movement more challenging and targets your side delts in a way you can't with dumbbells.

Overhead Tricep Extension

With this exercise, you normally grab the dumbbell, lift it straight in the air, bend your elbow, lower the weight behind your head and lift it back up. Notice that when you do, part of the weight is above your hand. With a kettlebell, all of the weight is below your hand, and you're holding on to the top of the handle. This not only makes it more of a challenge but your grip can relieve elbow pressure.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger made this move famous by lying across a bench and using a heavy dumbbell. Perform this exercise with a kettlebell and hold on to the horns (or sides of the handle). You should notice you can get a deeper stretch and can feel your lats working more with the neutral grip. This also takes a little tension off the triceps.

Two-Arm Row

Once again, instead of a dumbbell, where the weight is even with your hands, the weight of a kettlebell is below your hands, which makes you work a little harder to control the weight as you lower it from the contracted position to the stretched position. If you perform this exercise with heavy weights, you could also notice that you can pull a 60-pound kettlebell a little farther back than you can a dumbbell, since the shape is different.

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This is one where you might notice the exercise seems easier. Hold a pair of dumbbells down to your sides and perform a Lunge. Now do the same with kettlebells. You might notice that you can move easier and maintain better balance with the kettlebells. That distribution of the weight below your hands can make it easier to stabilize your core, so that when you perform a Lunge, you can concentrate on working your legs instead of maintaining balance. Not all athletes will notice this. But many of the people I have worked with haven noticed it, and they have made the switch permanently.

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