The Blending of the Bells

Kettlebell and Dumbell
Getty images

Kettlebells, Dumbbells, Barbells, so many bells to choose from.

Why choose only one?

A blending of different bells might be just what the doctor ordered.

Being strong, fit and healthy is rarely an either/or proposition, unless, of course you are choosing between an apple OR a donut.

When it comes to bells, sometimes the best answer may be “all of the above” 

Ask a carpenter to tell you which tool is “better” a hammer, a nail or a screwdriver.

She would probably look at you sideways, knowing in very practical terms that the “best” tool is the “right” tool-for the job.

While we may all have our favorites, a good rule-of-thumb is to seek a well-rounded blend of physical development using an assortment of tools that are practical for the time, space, resources and access that you have. It is natural that some people may prefer running over resistance training, others swear by the efficacy of a barbell, others may love kettlebells above all other forms of exercise. They are all good and all develop different qualities better than others. But don’t be a one-trick pony.  Learn how to use all of the different kinds of bells.

If blending different bells sounds interesting to you, what is a sensible approach to doing so?

Consider these guidelines for informing your decisions when combining kettlebells, barbells and dumbbells in your training programs.


Barbells can carry the greatest amount of load and so is the tool of choice for training maximum or “limit” strength. Stick to heavier loads and lower reps (such as 3-5 repetitions) and basic strength-training staples such as Deadlift, Squat, Bench Press, and Standing Press


Dumbells, like kettlebells are utilized with one hand.

Due to the distribution of load in a linear plane (the handle and the weights are on the same horizontal line), simple movements work best with dumbbells. Try movements such as Bicep Curls, Bent Rows, Shrugs, Standing Press, and Seated Press.


Kettlebells have a unique design that favors high-repetition and ballistic exercises, and offers more variety because of its offset center of mass. There is no better piece of equipment for developing muscular strength-endurance. Exercises such as Swing, Snatch, Clean and Jerk will build high endurance. Goblet Squats, Farmer’s Walks, and Windmills work great with kettlebells and unique Bottoms Up exercises build dynamic grip strength. 

Blending the different bells 

If you want to put barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells together into your program, select 2 exercises for each tool. After doing a thorough warm-up, start with barbell exercises such as Deadlift and Bench Press. Try 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps with 1 min rest between sets. 

Next, move to the kettlebells and pick one or two exercises to train your endurance and cardiovascular conditioning.

Try Swing or Snatch for one long set, trying to work for 3-5 minutes without stopping.

Finally, end with one or two dumbbell exercises to strengthen some weak link in your body. Bent rows are great for back and bicep strength and Alternating Press are fantastic for shoulder development. Try 2-3 sets in the 10-15 repetition range to focus on strength-endurance.

Alternatively, you can separate your kettlebell workouts from the barbell and dumbbell workouts. Try kettlebells for 2-3 days per week and barbell and dumbbell workouts for 2 days per week.

No matter how you blend your bells, always take a few minutes to warm-up before and cool-down after lifting your bells, to keep your body healthy and functioning well. 

Continue Reading