Kettlebell Curls vs. Dumbbell Curls

by Jolie Johnson

Kettlebells and dumbbells are tools you use as extra resistance for strength exercises. Although each type of resistance has a different design and function, you can use either for the biceps curl exercise. Using dumbbells or kettlebells for the curl exercise does not change the movement or muscles worked, but kettlebells and dumbbells bring different benefits to the exercise.


A dumbbell is a weight bar designed to be used in one hand. Dumbbells are between 10 and 12 inches long with weight heads at each end of the bar. They are available in fixed or adjustable weights ranging from 1 lb. to 150 lbs. A kettlebell resembles a cannonball with a handle. They are made of cast iron, although some kettlebells are covered with rubber or neoprene. Kettlebells are also available in fixed or adjustable weights ranging from 1 lb. to 200 lbs.


The execution of the biceps curl is the same whether you use kettlebells or dumbbells. Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, your arms relaxed by your sides, with a weight in each hand and your palms facing forward. Bend your elbows and curl the weight until it is near your shoulders. Do not pull your elbows forward. Keep your upper arms -- from your shoulder to your elbow -- stationary throughout the movement. Pause for a count before slowly lowering the weight.


The kettlebell curl and the dumbbell curl target the biceps, the muscles on the front of your upper arm. Muscles in your upper back and shoulders act as stabilizers during the exercise, but they are not major contributors to the movement. You can perform different variations of the curl with either tool. Do one-arm curls, alternating curls, seated curls, angled curls, concentration curls or preacher curls with either a kettlebell or a dumbbell.


Dumbbells offer more grip options than kettlebells. Although you can use an overhand, underhand or a neutral grip with either resistance tool, only dumbbells allow you to change your grip in the middle of the movement. The biceps muscle not only bends the elbow, but it also supinates the forearm -- externally rotating your forearm so your palm faces up. With dumbbells, you can start with your palms facing each other and supinate your forearm as you curl. This works the biceps through two of its joint movements, instead of just one. Kettlebells offer more tension during the biceps curl exercise. Because the weight of the kettlebell sits outside your hand, you have continuous tension, even at the top of the movement. With a dumbbell, if you curl too far, the tension reduces because your arm is no longer working against gravity.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or