Strength Training Equipment – Barbell vs Dumbbell vs Kettlebell vs Sandbell

The Barbell, Dumbbell, Kettle Bell, Sand Bell, and Club Bell go head-to-head in this strength training equipment showdown.  Download our decision chart, and buy the right piece of equipment for your budget.

Barbell vs Dumbbell vs Kettlebell vs Sandbell vs Club Bell


The Bells (dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, sand bells, and club bells) are some of the favorite pieces of equipment for personal trainers.  With these five pieces of equipment, nearly every exercise can be performed reducing the need for 95% of all the large machines cluttering conventional gym floors.  Though these pieces of equipment so similar, there uses are completely different.  It takes a very experienced personal trainer to recognize which piece of equipment to use for which exercise.


A seasoned personal trainer can work almost every muscle group with these five pieces of equipment.  But as broad and varying as their uses are, they have limits.  For example, if a client has a thumb injury, the dumbbell, barbell, and club bell are not useful.  The Kettlebell and Sand Bell can still be used, but other pieces of equipment like the TRX Suspension Trainer become much more important.

Strength Training Equipment Review

BarbellDumbbellKettlebellSand BellClub Bell
Breadth of exercises********************
Space NeedsVery HighModerateSmallVery SmallSmall
Storage NeedsHighVery HighModerateSmallSmall
Effective for Legs******************
Effectiveness for Core*************
Effectiveness for Shoulders****************
Effectiveness for Grip**************
Body Building**************

Of the five pieces of equipment, the dumbbell is the one that created the attachment between “bell” and weights.  The dumbbell as we know it today was originally invented for ringing church bells.  The device itself didn’t make any noise, so it became known as a “dumb” (or mute) bell.  During the 18th century, people began noticing that ringing church bells with a dumbbell improved muscularity.  But it wasn’t until the 20th century did companies such as York and Weider start to really understand the impact of the use of these tools.

WOD 1 – Sand Bag Functional Power!

From the Redline Program

4 Rounds:

  • 20 Plyo Sandbag or nonplyo Squats 50#
  • 12 Sandbag Clean and Press 50#
  • 20 SandBell Shouldering
  • 30 Sandbag Shoveling
  • 20 Abmat Sandbag Situps

WOD 2 – Kettle Bell Ironside

From the Strong By Paul Program

4 Rounds

  • 50 Figure 8 Into Static Hold (25#)
  • 10 Dual Clean into Bottoms Up Press
  • 10 Dual Two Hand Anyhow Mill (53#)

WOD 3 – TRX Suspension Trainer CoreFit

From the Transformation I Program

TRX 3 Rounds of 30s per movement.

  1. Pikes, Knee Sweeps, bodysaw with glute split, Left sideplank, right sideplank.  90s rest.
  2. Alt Hamstring Curls, Hip Rise, Reverse Plank, glute bridge. 90s rest
  3. L/R TRX Handstand Pushups, Bulgarian Lunge, Burpees

Paul’s Favorite Strength Training Equipment

Coming down on a favorite piece of equipment are hard, because each of these pieces of equipment have their own pluses and minus.

  • Clubbell best for building grip and shoulder strength
  • Dumbbell best for hypertrophy and isolation work
  • Sandbell best for core training and outdoor style boot camp
  • Kettle bell best “strength & conditioning equipment”
  • Barbell best pure strength equipment.

What if I had to pick one?

That’s easy … the Kettlebell

5 Years ago, Paul started Sand & Steel Fitness with just 3 pieces of equipment: a Kettle Bell, TRX Suspension Trainer, and a Sand Bag.  And to this day, they remain his favorite pieces of equipment.

Paul Bio Picture

Paul Roberts: Personal Training, Mobility, Yoga, Nutrition

View my Bio | Email me  | Newsletter
BioMedical Engineering - Johns Hopkins University.
Juris Doctorate - Rutgers.
Yoga, M|WOD, CrossFit Level II, 3DMAPS, FMT, FMSII, YBT, RKC, TRX, PN.

Paul has trained over 3000 clients and more than a 100 personal trainers over his 10 years as a mobility and strength coach.  He emphasizes safety and corrective exercises in all programming (strength, weight loss, conditioning, etc.)  His practice focuses on improving flawed movement patterns to prevent injury and improve skeletal-muscular function.  Paul employs a balanced approach in training utilizing his training Yoga, CrossFit, Powerlifting, and Movement Courses to systematically strengthen weakened muscles and mobilize joints and muscle tissue.  Move Better ... Train Better.

2 thoughts on “Strength Training Equipment – Barbell vs Dumbbell vs Kettlebell vs Sandbell”

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