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The handles on kettlebells make the weight off-center, unlike dumbbells.
Medicine balls and kettlebells start out with the same goal: to add resistance training to your exercise routine. They both allow you to use weights as part of your cardiovascular workout plan, but they do it in different ways. Which one is right for you depends on your ultimate fitness goals, or you might decide to use both - just not at the same time.
Med Balls for Sports
When you're training for a specific sport, medicine balls often are more helpful than kettlebells. Medicine balls, which you can find in sizes similar to soccer balls and basketballs, for example, are weighted on the inside and are designed to be held with both hands. They allow you to perform exercises such as torso twists, where you hold the ball in both hands and twist to one side to hand the ball to a partner behind you, then you twist the other direction to receive the ball back. This mimics movements used in several sports, such as football and tennis, helping build your core as well as upper-body strength.
Kettlebells, however, are designed to be used alone, without a partner, and provide continuous resistance throughout every movement. They are powerful muscle builders - often more so than medicine balls - but the movements used aren't usually similar to those used in most sports.
Jump Into Plyometrics
Plyometrics use explosive movements to help build muscle. Throwing a medicine ball adds a plyometric element to your workout, either by throwing them to a partner or against the floor or wall. Rubberized versions exist so they'll bounce, even though they're weighted. For example, you might perform a situp holding the ball at your chest, then throw it to a partner at the top of the move, have the partner throw it back, then perform another situp.
Kettlebells are smaller and compact, meant to be held securely throughout the exercise. What they lack in plyometric options they make up for by helping you increase your endurance, flexibility and overall body muscle tone using basic moves, such as the kettlebell swing. In this movement, you hold the kettlebell between your legs in the squat position, stand up and use your forward hip action to help swing the kettlebell up to shoulder height, keeping your arms straight. This move engages muscles including those in your legs, hips, core, chest and shoulders, making it much more efficient than a standard squat.
Torch Those Calories
While both items help you burn calories by making your cardio workouts harder, the kettlebell torches them off faster - up to 20 calories per minute, according to the American Council on Exercise. That translates to a cardio burn of up to 600 calories in a half hour. Medicine balls offer a similar calorie burn to using other types of light to medium weights during the workout. For a 155-pound person, using a light medicine ball, such as 8 pounds, could burn up to 112 calories in a half hour. The same person could burn 223 calories using a heavier weight.
How Many Hands?
Kettlebells offer a bit more diversity when it comes to working one side of your body at a time. Many moves, including the kettlebell swing, work if you hold the kettlebell with one hand or two. Two hands usually lets you use a heavier weight, but one-handed exercises help you target weak muscles as necessary. However, medicine balls typically work best when held with two hands. Medicine ball exercises such as arm circles, where you make a large circle in front of your body with your arms using a full range of motion, take two hands to accomplish. Throwing the ball usually takes two hands, although one-handed throws can help build sports-related muscles, such as a soccer goalie throwing the ball back into play.
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