27 April 2019

Kettlebell vs. barbell – the experts weigh in on these workout tools

A true heavyweight contest

Whether you squat or snatch, press or curl, the kettlebell and barbell are the big hitters of resistance training. MH performed some weighty statistical reps to find out which workout tool is the champ.

First to enter the ring is… the kettlebell


  • 100 – The number of calories you stand to burn with just 5 minutes of KB swings, says the American Council on Exercise.
  • Perform kettlebell circuits three times a week, and you’ll pump up your VO2 max by 6% in just under a month, according to the NSCA’s TSAC Report.
  • The kettlebell burns fat fast, improves endurance and will fit in well in a fitness class.
  • “KBs are best for swinging to develop your posterior chain. As these are your body’s biggest muscles, you’ll also torch calories” – PT Rob Blair, The Commando Temple
  • Sticking Points: Poor form potential, extremely tiring.
  • Master Move: The Turkish Get-Up. Though it’s a fairly complex move, once grasped, the get-up provides total-body strength and conditioning.

Read more: 9 reasons to pick up the December issue

And in this corner… the barbell


  • 456 Kg – The world squat record in kilograms, set by American powerlifter Ray Williams.
  • 14% – The increase in lower-body strength you can earn with barbell squats – one more reason not to skip leg day.
  • Barbells can help you bulk up easily, reach impressive personal bests and get you a ticket to the Olympics.
  • Sticking Points: Tough on body joints, not much cardio, and there’s always a line of other gym dudes waiting for the barbell.
  • Master Move: Deadlift. If it’s bragging rights you’re after, this is the ultimate show of strength. Did someone say double your bodyweight?

Read more: The best weight-lifting advice for men over 40

The MH verdict

Barbell wins!

There’s no denying that the kettlebell will boil away fat, plus it offers alternative movement patterns to quash boredom. But with unlimited weight variations and a focus on multi-joint compound exercises, the barbell guarantees growth and progression. 

Read more: 'I picked up weight when my rugby career ended' – Here’s how I shed 20kg

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Image credit: iStock


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