One heavy bell … or two lighter? Or, two heavy? Does it matter?
If you’re diving into kettlebell training this year, these are natural and relevant questions!
Here I’ll break down whether one option is “better” for your training, and what differences you can expect during single and double kettlebell movements.
Single Vs. Double Kettlebell Training: Is One Style Better?
One of the key differences between single kettlebell training and double kettlebell training comes down to the effect on your core.
Now, make no mistake: working with two kettlebells definitely works your core, simply due to the nature of the asymmetrical weight of the kettlebell itself. As they shift in your hands, your core muscles (which are more than just your abs – they wrap around your torso, chest, hips, and glutes) tighten in order to stabilize your body so that you don’t lose your balance.
Working with one kettlebell at a time, however, takes this up a notch. Now, all of the weight is on one side of your body, so the opposite side of your core has to work in order to keep you upright. This is awesome because these muscles are often under-developed, either from not training or from only training in one plane of movement with stabilized weights (say, like heavy squats on a machine: the machine does most of the stabilizing).
Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean single kettlebell training is “better” than double: it simply means that if you switch to one, you may get more stabilization effects.
One way that pure single kettlebell training may not be as valuable is during heavy ballistic-style exercises as a beginner.
During ballistic exercises like swings, cleans, high pulls, and snatches, your body requires that core stabilization we spoke of earlier. If this isn’t developed because you’re a beginner, you could risk pulling something (like your back) out of alignment by trying to make a go at it using a heavy single bell.
In this case, if you have heavy bells, you can work on developing overall core stabilization and strength using two bells to become accustomed to the movement before moving on to trying with a single bell, since the pull on your core will be less (but it will still be worked).
If you’re working with a lighter weight, you can obviously start trying out these moves, but for safety’s sake, you always want to make sure your body is stable enough to handle them and their weight.
Another variable to consider is your intention and workout program (whether your own or if you’re following one). There are literally hundreds of various kettlebell movements, and some require only a single bell, while some require two bells.
You want to make sure of what movements you intend to perfect and utilize the most, so that you have what you need. This is why I recommend if you have the budget and space, you get a good heavier set (two) and perhaps a lighter bell for higher rep work, so that you have options.
When Investing In Two Kettlebells Is A Win
Obviously, if you’re just starting out, you might opt to stick with one kettlebell of a specific weight. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this (and obviously it isn’t an end-all, be-all, considering you can simply grab another when you need to), but keep in mind that the weight you start with will eventually become too light to work with, especially if gaining strength is your goal.
However, if you choose to grab two kettlebells of the same weight, you can combine them to immediately create a heavier load. In this case, doubling up can give you more weight and more time before you go heavier. You can still work core stabilization with two kettlebells (and even without kettlebells) so also take that into account.
Check this 15-minute Double Kettlebell Destruction workout to see additional core-targeting moves with two kettlebells:
The Bottom Line
• Both single and double kettlebell training offers epic, body-wide benefits and targeting
• Single kettlebell training may offer more core stabilization challenges due to the asymmetrical nature of holding one weight
• You can use two kettlebells to increase weight and load for things like squats and deadlifts, extending the life of lighter bells before you grow out of them
• Starting out with ballistic exercises like cleans, snatches, etc … using two kettlebells instead of one can reduce risk of injury as you build the movement memory and core stabilization required to perform these with a single bell
• One form of training is not “better” than the other; they simply offer different benefits at different times