If you want to stay fit a kettlebell is one of the best tools you can use for the job.
Because of how it is used you can get great conditioning, muscle building and fat burning workouts with just one kettlebell size. Additionally, a quality kettlebell will outlast you (and your children)!
This makes it the perfect tool for people on a budget, who want to workout at home or want to leave the gym and get some fresh air without getting stuck “running.”
You can get kettlebells in any size and new “types” seem to be popping up every day.
Learn all you need about buying your first kettlebell (or set) here.
So you have decided to purchase a kettlebell. Mazel Tov!
Then you hop on Amazon and search “kettlebell” and…
771 results popped up!!
And that’s just the available brands…since you can get each one in sizes from 5 lbs to 100 lbs.
How will you decide?
First, take a deep breath. You can do this but you are going to need to figure out what you are looking for. Follow along and we will figure out what kettlebell is perfect for you.
Now, there is some information you need to know before making any purchase.
What types of kettlebells are there?
There are basically 3 types of kettlebells on the market: Novel, Competition, and Cast Iron.
These kettlebells are standardized for (you guessed it) competition. This standardization is very useful if you want to compete. It is only fair if everyone uses the same equipment, and training with what you will compete with helps you train for the competition.
But there are a few drawbacks.
First, the competition lifts are all done with one kettlebell in one hand (sometimes both hands are being used and then you have two kettlebells). For this reason the handle is smaller and squarer in design, which helps if you only ever plan on using one hand.
But most beginner kettlebell exercises involve two hands, so this makes the competition style uncomfortable to use.
Second, competition bells are all the same size regardless of the weight. This means an 8 kg kettlebell will be the same size as a 48 kg kettlebell. This is good for training because you can practice holding the kettlebell in the same way.
But this means that they all have a large footprint. If you are beginning with kettlebells at home or traveling with them it is nice that the smaller ones take up less space. Also, you are less likely to get confused and grab the wrong size when the kettlebells are different sizes.
Third, these are the most expensive type of kettlebell. Yes, they last forever, but cast iron will also last forever. Forever plus 1 isn’t actually a thing. Saving some money by going with a different style will help your financial health (another part of overall health) and then you can get more sizes sooner.
For these reasons you should NOT buy competition kettlebells as a beginner. If you get really into kettlebell training in the future you can invest in an additional set of competition bells or join a gym where you have access to them.
I sometimes call these “traditional” kettlebells. They look like a cannonball with a handle.
And just like Henry Ford said, you can have any color that you want, so long as it’s black. But luckily for use they often have color coded stripes where the handle meets the bell.
There are two ways they can be made: single mold or welded. The difference is that single mold kettlebells are made from one mold and are one piece of iron. Because of this expect it to last forever. Welded means the handle and ball were molded separately and the two pieces of iron are welded together. This is not as strong.
The extra money is worth it. Plus if the handle ever does come off while you are using the kettlebell it could be dangerous. Invest the extra for a quality single mold.
Also, when they are single mold they tend to have better handle shapes and texture. These make using it with both one or two hands comfortable. And, the feel in the hands will be secure and you don’t have to worry about tearing up your hands on a rough or misshapen handle.
If you are just starting out then cast iron, single mold is the way to go. There can be a longer discussion about paint and coating, but don’t get caught up in those details. It is a piece of solid iron, it will be ok.
In America I recommend Rouge Kettelbells
In Israel I recommend Sal Sport
Any kettlebell that does not fit exactly into one of the previous two categories is a “novel” kettlebell. This is because cast iron and competition kettlebells have been around for a long time and training systems developed around them. After kettlebells became more popular, many variations were developed to sell more products.
But like Coca-Coca the best flavor is still classic.
Do not start with Novel Kettlebells. No matter what the advertised “advantages” are.
It may seem like it would be useful to be able to adjust the weight of the kettlebell or instead buy a handle you can attach to a dumbbell or have your kettlebell in the shape of a skull and so on.
But all the kettlebell training systems have been designed (and battle tested) using Cast Iron or Competition kettlebells and many of the exercises you will learn just won’t work with these novel bells.
This will be frustrating.
Save yourself the time, aggravation, and money and avoid these. If in the future you fall in love with kettlebells and want one in the shape of gorilla to show off to your friends go for it.
NOTE: Vinyl coated, rubber bottomed, etc all count in this category. Vinyl isn’t any more comfortable on your forearms than a well shaped cast iron bell, and is usually used to hide shortcuts they took such as welding the handle to the bell. All these accessories will raise the cost, as well as decrease the functionality of your kettlebell.
What size to get?
Just because you can purchase a kettlebell in any size doesn’t mean you need a million. In fact, the large jumps between sizes are a major advantage of kettlebell training.
And of course the more you buy the more you will spend.
As a beginner you should be getting 1-3 kettlebells (or 2-6 kettlebells if you are neurotic and want to spend more money).
One is a great start, and you will probably never need more than 3, unless you take your practice to the point of being an instructor for others.
The reason for the 2-6 in parenthesis is there are lots of great double kettlebell exercises. Sometimes we do them with 2 different sized kettlebells. Other times we want the same size. If you buy your kettlebells in pairs you will always have an exact match. If you don’t sometimes things change slightly.
Among brands, the thickness of the handle sometimes varies by a few millimeters, along with the shape of the bell and the color scheme. None of these are very important (especially for beginners) but if you are OCD you might want pairs so you can have matching bells for the future. But if you are not OCD (or on a budget) forget about pairs for now.
You don’t “need” to advance to double kettlebell work and the small changes won’t make that much of a difference if they happen. As long as the weight is the same it will be OK.
The most useful kettlebell weights are
For almost all women the ideal set of 3 would be:
For almost all men the ideal set of 3 would be:
Why do men have a bigger jump at the end than women? Men tend to be stronger, especially in the upper body.
Now for people who are very deconditioned I often start them off one size smaller than normal. A “size” means 4 kg, so it would mean women starting with 4 kg and men with 8 kg. If you really think you need to then you can, but very quickly you will outgrow it. It is very common for women to think they need the 4 kg and find out day one that 8 kg would have been fine. You can keep it around for bottoms up kettlebell exercises, as a doorstop, sentimental trinket or donate it to a friend who wants to get in shape.
Remember a kettlebell is not a dumbbell. The exercises are different and use more muscles at once. This means that you will be able to use more weight than you think if you are used to dumbbell training or machines.
But what if you only want to buy one?
You might notice that both of these are the lightest for the ideal set. As a rule of thumb with weightlifting err on the light side.
But a word of warning to women. You will outgrow the 8 kg kettlebell fast for your lower body exercises. Most women tend to underestimate their abilities and their strength.
If you are well trained and have been lifting weights in some fashion for a number of years consistently then you should start up one size.
What if you want a set of 2?
For your first kettlebell the type you should be buying is quality cast iron.
My preferred vendors again are Rouge Kettelbells (America)
Sal Sport (Israel)
Think of kettlebell sizes as being in 4 kgs increments (despite the fact that you can get any size you want).
Most women start with 8kg
Most men start with 12kg
If you are well trained you can start one size up.
If you are getting two then get that next size up as well.
And if you want to start with a full set get a third kettlebell. This will prepare you for a lifetime of training. Guys remember that your last one is 2 “sizes” up.
Avoid novelty and gimmicks, just keep it simple.
Have fun with you new toy! And if you don’t know what to do with it here are the two best kettlebell exercises.