When it comes to buying kettebells there are a range of factors that you need to get right. Here is my kettlebells buying guide, based on my 10 years of training with kettlebells. What you need to consider when you want to buy a kettlebell.
Types of Kettebells
The two basic types of kettlebell are the cast-iron classic (1), also known as the fitness kettlebell, and the steel competition, or Girya sport kettlebell (2).
The cast-iron classic is less expensive because it’s easier to make. The classic is ideal for general fitness. It is available in moulds of various sizes. The heavier the kettlebell, the larger both the ball and the handle are.
The competition, or sport kettlebell is the international standard for kettlebell training and sports. It is made of steel and is hollow. It has standardised dimensions that do not change with the changing weight. That means that an 8 kg competition kettlebell will be the exact same dimensions as a 48 kg kettlebell.
A colour code is used to allow athletes to recognize the weight of the kettlebell. If you are serious about kettlebell training, then you should consider paying a little extra for a competition style kettlebell.
If it is your intention to train with kettlebells for general fitness, strength, power and fat loss, then the less expensive cast-iron bell will get the job done effectively.
Apart from cast-iron and steel kettlebells, you’re also likely to come across vinyl and plastic versions.
- no proper shape and design
- handle space is usually too narrow for the hand to pass through
As a result, their mechanics do not perform like a regular kettlebell. These cheaper varieties might be good to introduce children to kettebell training. When you’re ready to get serious, however, don’t waste your time with them.
How to Choose a Kettlebell
Don’t buy adjustable kettebells. Instead, buy just two sizes to start – one heavier, one lighter. You will use the heavier one for Swings, and the lighter one push/pull work. Which size kettebell is right for you?
The disadvantages of adjustable kettebells are the time and hassle involved in changing the resistance. This can dramatically interrupt the flow and intensity of the workout. As a result, most people prefer to buy fixed kettebells.
The handle is the part of the kettebell that you will be mainly in contact with. It is imperative that the handle feels right in your hand.
It should have:
- right size and thickness
- correct spacing between the handle and bell
- right texture
- it shouldn’t be too smooth (it will slip in your hands)
- it shouldn’t be too rough (it may tear up your palms)
If the texture is just right, it will almost float in your hand. Painted or powder coasted handles can become hard to grip in the later stages of a work-out and when doing more than 20 reps as your palms get sweaty.
Smooth, steel handles that have a bit of roughness are generally the best option. If you need to, use sandpaper to roughen up your handle after purchase.
The handle thickness should be thick enough to strengthen your hands, wrist, forearms and fingers but thin enough to allow your fingers to get around the handle comfortably.
For men, 35 mm (1. 4 inches) is the international standard handle thickness
For women, 33 mm (1.3 inches) is the international standard handle thickness.
The spacing between the handle and the bell should neither be too narrow to fit your hand deeply into the handle nor too wide to make it impossible to get a snug fit when the kettebell is resting against your forearm.
The standard kettebell handle height spacing is 55 mm (2.2 inches) from the bottom of the handle to the top of the bell with a width spacing of 186 mm (7.3 inches) from one side of the handle to the other.
Steel kettlebells are the strongest, being almost indestructible. Of course, they will not be immune to rust, so if using them outdoors you’ll have to occasionally use sandpaper to keep them rust free.
Although not as hardy as steel kettlebells, cast-iron kettlebells will last for a very long time, so long as you don’t continually drop them from a large height onto a hard surface.
Plastic and vinyl kettlebells are not very durable. As well as the construction material wearing out, the continual refilling will also lead to wear and tear.
The constant manipulations associated with adjustable kettlebells will also lead to wear and tear. In time you will have to replace the screws.
You may come across cast-iron kettlebells which are covered with a rubber coating or that have a rubber base to prevent scratching. While rubber coated bells may look great, they do have a tendency to bounce, making them potentially dangerous. A light rubber, as in the Gorilla kettlebells, is fine though.
Most commonly, kettebell weights range from 8 kg (18 lb) to 48 kg (106 lb). Although everyone is different and there is no fool-proof way to provide weight advice, the following recommendations will give you ball-park resistance levels to guide you:
- Men who are beginning a kettlebell routine should consider starting with a 16 kg (35 lb) kettlebell.
- Smaller guys (under 61 kg or 130 pounds) should start with a 12 kg (26 lb) kettebell.
- Most untrained women begin training with an 8 kg (18 lb) kettebell.
Average Fitness Level Beginners
- Men who have a moderate level of fitness and strength (i.e. they can do 40 push ups) should consider starting with a 20 kg (44 lb) kettebell.
- Women who are athletic or used to training with barbells and dumbbell should opt for a 12 kg (26 lb) bell.
Excellent Fitness Level Beginners
- Men who have trained extensively with barbells and dumbbells and have an excellent overall fitness level should start out with a 24 kg (53 lb) kettebell.
- Women with a high level of training and fitness experience should consider starting with a 20 kg (44 lb) kettebell.
For details, see my guide on getting the right kettebell size.
How Many Kettlebells Do I Need?
To start with you only need one kettlebell. Follow the guidelines above to select the appropriate weight for you. Even as you get stronger, you can still use this first bell to enhance your fitness, strength and power. Once you can do 100 reps on a movement like kettlebell swings without too much effort, it will be time to invest in a second kettlebell.
Do I need two kettlebells? Not to start with. When you are well versed in your drills and need a different weight, look at buying a second kettlebell. Your second kettlebell should be heavier than the first one.
In time, you’ll need a third one and this should increase in weight. So, if you’re starting with a 16 kg kettebell, you will end up with a set consisting of 16, 24 and 32 kg. At that point, when your budget allows, start collecting the matching pair for each kettlebell. This will allow you to extend your exercise range to include double kettebell moves. Eventually you’ll end up with a full set consisting of three pairs of kettebells.
What are Good Kettlebell Brands?
I use DragonDoor kettlebells. They are top-quality, Russian-style cast-iron kettlebells. These are the most expensive. I’ve never heard anyone complain about the QUALITY of DragonDoor kettlebells, only the price.
Update 2019: It looks like DragonDoor kettlebells are no longer available via Amazon. I recommend now the AmazonBasics kettlebells. They are of similar quality and cheaper.
If you are in Europe or the UK, I also like the Gorilla Sports kettlebells. They have a light rubber coating. They are solid and durable.