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Beginning strength training in the New Year – resistance bands vs. dumbbells vs. kettle bells

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

This year I really want to focus on health – body, mind and spirit.

I started focusing a bit more on strength training last year but I still tend to gravitate toward cardio when I go to workout. In an effort to augment cardio with more consistent strength training, I’m going to use different strength training methods that provide a variety of benefits.

If you’re starting out or getting back into strength training as well, here are 3 different methods to consider:

Resistance Bands

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Resistance bands are frequently used by physical therapists and can be preferable for a number of reasons:

  • One band can be used to provide different levels of resistance. You can increase the resistance by holding the bands at a shorter length and decrease it by holding your hands further apart so the band has more give.
  • You can provide resistance to your muscles from different angles. One band can be pulled apart parallel to the ground or at a 45 degree or any other angle, giving you the ability to vary your workout. A pair of dumb bells can be used in a similar way, however, changing the angle of resistance is easier with a resistance band.
  • You can put a band in a pocket and go for walk. If you enjoy going for walks, you can very easily take a resistance band with you and stop to do some strength training if you find a beautiful spot.
  • You are exercising in a balanced way because you’re providing resistance to your muscles in 2 directions – both as you pull the band apart and as you bring it in.
  • They are easier to use when starting out.

This article from Women’s Health provides 22 full body resistance band exercises and could be a good resource to start with if you prefer resistance bands.

Dumbbells or Kettle Bells

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A kettle bell can be held with one or both hands and distributes weight differently on the arm muscles. The kettle bell’s weight can be placed at the back of your wrist and used to increase muscle stabilization whereas a dumbbell is placed in your palm. Kettle bells can be used for more explosive, swinging movements that engage the entire body while dumbbells can be used for more focused strength training.

Although similar exercises can be performed with both kettle bells and dumbbells, the difference in the way weight is distributed provides for variation in a strength training routine.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Self magazine has a good resource for a beginner’s kettle bell routine here. For beginner’s dumbbell arm and leg workouts, these YMCA resources here (dumbbell arm workout for beginners) and here (dumbbell leg workouts for beginners) could be a good starting point .

I like finding resources where trainers show posture and form for specific exercises because it is easy to injure yourself with repetitive movement performed in a way that isn’t good for your body.

Body Weight

Photo by Anna Shvets on

If the thought of using external resistance via weights or resistance bands isn’t appealing, you can choose to utilize your body weight to strength train. Exercises like planks, push-ups, squats and lunges engage muscles while using your own body weight for resistance.

The Mayo Clinic website has an excellent resource with their “Strength Training: – How-To Video Collection. These are short videos with instructions on how to do specific exercises using good form. Learning proper form for all forms of exercise can prevent exercise injuries from occurring.

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Do you enjoy strength training? What is your preferred method of strength training?


16 thoughts on “Beginning strength training in the New Year – resistance bands vs. dumbbells vs. kettle bells

  1. Thanks for sharing these tips. Like you I have focused more on cardio but need to do more strength training. I think that’s the downside of those fitness trackers that count steps—it makes me want to meet my steps goal and ignore other forms of fitness which are just as important. I use resistance bands, dumbbells and body weight. I’ve never used a kettle bell.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The fitness trackers are useful but do make us ultra-focused on that goal :)..I picked up a low weight kettle bell out of curiosity and I find that it is easier to grab onto and use and add some fun (and functional) variation – dumbbells are good too. I’d recommend trying one out if you have the opportunity.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I use resistance bands, as they are more versatile. I have both short and long but don’t use either as much as I should.
    I too focus on my steps for the most part, but am trying to get more into the habit of paying attention to other aspects, such as active energy. I recently got an exercise bike so am able to increase my heart rate that way.
    I think strength training on any level is good, as we tend to lose muscle faster as we age.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, I haven’t focused on strength training like I should have as well so I’ve decided to have more specific weekly goals this year. The studies on the benefits of just 10 minutes 3 times a week are quite motivational :). Resistance bands are excellent.


  3. I’m a cardio lover too (I mean, I don’t love it but I appreciate its uses) so I’ve also decided to build up my strength training to complement this. And I’ve noticed substantial gains from the kettlebell. That’s one of the best tools for me, as even bodyweight tends to turn into cardio. Anyway, thanks for this post!

    Liked by 2 people

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