Before you know it you'll be ready for beast mode, 100 Kg.
For men and women, with little or no weight experience or who might be older, consider starting with a kettlebell under 8 kilograms or 20 pounds to become acquainted with new movements. Its wider handle makes it easier to grip with two hands (for the classic swing move), and its smoother finish is less likely to injure your skin over time.
Dragon Door was the first company to popularize kettlebells in America, which is why most other brands simply copy that shape down to the millimeter. The Matrix Elite looks the same at first glance, but it features a slightly wider handle that won’t pinch your pinkies in two-handed positions.
It’s also designed so that kettlebells of different weights will rest on the same place on your forearm, regardless of their size—this is preferred by advanced users for one-handed work. Finally, we like that Kettlebells USA often has the Matrix Elite on sale for just a few dollars more than our budget pick.
It also has a slightly wider base that makes it more stable to hold in a plank position—something that advanced users will appreciate. If the goal is to learn kettlebell basics and use two-handed techniques, all of these bells are quite suitable, and being budget conscious (finding sales/free shipping) isn’t a bad route.
We (Keira and I) have trained more than 800 clients in kettlebell techniques since 2008, and we’ve taught multiple instructor certifications in the US and abroad. Kettlebell exercises combine cardiovascular and resistance training in one exercise—which means you’re improving conditioning (and burning fat) while building muscle.
While they’ve been around since the early 18th century (the word first appears in a Russian dictionary from 1704), kettlebells have experienced a huge resurgence in the fitness industry in the past 10 years. (Most recently, as the coronavirus pandemic forced people to work out at home, significant stock shortages have become the norm.)
Their unique shape and functionality give them many of the strength-building benefits of dumbbells while also providing users with the opportunity to do kettle bell -specific drills that involve a lot of movement, like the swing. The closed-loop handle of a kettle bell offers users a secure grip for movements with both hands.
Dumbbells are better suited to doing squats, curls, bench press, cleans, and other exercises that have less kinetic motion. That means you can fulfill all your workout needs with one simple tool that stows easily in a closet.
One important caveat to this endorsement of kettle bell training is that proper technique makes all the difference between effective and beneficial use and potential injury. You can also consult credible online tutorials, and many trainers will set up a Skype arrangement where you can send videos to them for feedback and coaching.
My wife, master ROC trainer Keira Newton, has an awesome YouTube page with all kinds of tutorials/workouts for kettle bells. In terms of credible resources on kettle bell techniques and workout ideas, here are a few great sources available digitally and/or in print:
Dragon Door has the most resources in terms of kettle bell books and DVDs (at least in the “hard style” approach that I use) available. Finally, Steve Cotter is a master practitioner/teacher of competition kettle bell lifting techniques.
While many people recommend women starting with an 8-kilogram bell (about 16 pounds), I think that the two-handed lifts like squats and swings aren’t very well-served by that low weight. If you want to start modestly, my suggestion would be to get the 13-pound version of our budget pick and then order a larger, higher quality bell once you feel comfortable.
With these three, all kinds of single and double kettle bell work is easily achievable and scalable. Both of these linked pieces reiterate my earlier point about seeking credible instruction before beginning an at-home regimen.
Then there is the question about which kind of kettle bell you should buy: cast iron, competition, or adjustable. Cast-iron bells are more comfortable for two-handed grip positions, which beginners should master before moving onto the more challenging one-handed exercises.
It’s not worth paying extra unless you actually plan on competing—a slim minority of home kettle bell users. Photo: Mark BixbyUnlike with dumbbells, adjustable kettle bells aren’t a good buy.
A kettle bell should be capable of being thrown, dropped, and even juggled, so I would opt for single-forged metal that can stand up to a beating—and stay together in the process. Also, a major frustration with adjustable kettle bells is that they don’t offer a wide enough weight range to make them ideal for many.
As it turns out, there’s not a huge amount of difference between these things because most of them borrow their design from the Dragon Door ROC. Dragon Door was the first US company to run kettle bell instructor certifications (taught by famed instructor Pavel Tsatsouline) and have mass distribution in the US (Dragon Door started selling these bells in 2001).
Dragon Door bells achieved great acclaim, but their high price point (roughly $120 each after shipping and handling, the highest in our test) invited lots of competition from other companies. CAP is another popular fitness company that makes a good bell at a lower price point.
For example, this Yes4All bell is one of the most popular models on Amazon, but its large, flat face is hard on the wrists in one-handed positions. Although much more rare, some companies compete by distinguishing their offerings from Dragon Door’s with different designs.
Perform Better at one point implemented a screw-on rubber skid plate on the bottom of their bells, but later on scrapped it due to negative customer feedback. Vinyl-covered bells were created to protect floor spaces in commercial gyms and homes, but more often, the vinyl is there to smooth over the defects of a cheaply cast bell, and they often get criticized for very uneven handles that cause hand pain and tearing.
They were extremely uneven in terms of metal handle quality, had limited weight options, and they weren’t significantly cheaper than the budget options we ended up testing—you don’t even save money on shipping. From left: Matrix Elite, CAP Cast Iron Competition, Rogue, Perform Better First Place, Dragon Door ROC.
Photo: Anton BrkicOur testing group, which consisted of myself and five members of the high school varsity baseball team I coach, worked with all five bells at the beginner/intermediate level and did only two-handed moves (dead lifts, squats, presses, high pulls, and swings). However, if a person is interested in exploring the full range of what kettle bell exercises have to offer (including the kettle bell snatch, which in lab testing has yielded a remarkable rate of burning 20.2 calories a minute over a 20-minute workout—the same rate of caloric burn as a 6-minute mile pace), a premium bell like the Matrix bell is definitely what they should opt for.
A poorly produced handle can rip callouses off the hands during snatching, and this test is where the bells differentiated themselves. In fact, I wouldn’t use the CAP or Rogue bells for high-rep snatching because they have coarse handles and some tackiness from the painted finish.
If you order through the company’s website and have a problem, Kettle bells USA will “make it right, period!” by sending a replacement and taking care of return shipping fees. Photo: Mark Blythe Matrix Elite kettle bell has a slightly different handle dimension and more distance from the ball part of the bell to the handle to create a larger opening for more comfortable two-handed positions.
The Matrix bell clearly outclassed the competition for two-handed work, as the smooth, e-coated handle with a wider grip was consistently easy on the hands, even when doing high repetition sets of 20-plus kettle bell swings. Even when the user advances to the one-handed moves, both two-handed swings and goblet squats should remain essential parts of a kettle bell program.
Any flaws in a kettle bell will be exposed when you use just one hand, but the attention to detail in forging a smooth, seamless handle was clearly on display with this bell. Besides the handle shape, the Matrix Elite (right) looks almost identical to the Dragon Door ROC, which costs anywhere from $30 to $50 more.
Photo: Mark BixbyAnother thing that sets the Matrix Elite apart from other kettle bells (including Kettle bells USA's own “classic” line) is the fact that it’s designed to have the same “rack” position (where the round part rests on your forearm) regardless of weight and size. Most companies use standard molds repeatedly, and inevitably, residue from previous castings creates uneven surface textures like edges or gaps.
Finally, Kettle bells USA showed awesome customer service throughout my process of testing. If you're used to standard Dragon Door ROC kettle bells (or any of its many clones), the Matrix Elite's rack position might feel strange at first, since the ball part sits higher up on the forearm by comparison.
If you see the bell offered at full price (with no discounted shipping), wait seven to 10 days, and you should find it available more cheaply. If the Matrix Elite is unavailable, or if you just want a standard-shaped bell without the wider handle, the Perform Better First Place Kettle bell feels the same in use as the high-end Dragon Door, but costs about 25 percent less.
In fact, its dimensions are identical except for the extra half inch of flat base diameter on the bottom of the Perform Better bell. This means it performs identically, but is easier to hold in a push-up position for the sometimes-precarious renegade row —typically done with two kettle bells of the same size.
Like the Dragon Door and Matrix Elite, the First Place has a smooth, seamless handle, few surface defects, and a high-quality finish. While Perform Better wouldn’t divulge what process it uses, I noticed that it’s somewhere between a matte powder coat and a glossy e-coat.
Reading user reviews (see here and here) that slam performs Better for having noticeable seams on the underside of the handle or other defects isn’t helpful considering the construction specs on their bells currently. The bell I received from them was really well-made, and it showed no signs of being defective in build or user experience.
I contacted Perform Better about this discrepancy, and company reps explained that among other small changes, they’d since switched to a gravity casting process, which creates a more uniform surface, as you recall. It’s also worth noting that Perform Better frequently has sales on its kettle bells, and while it’s usually cheaper to buy Perform Better bells directly from the company, it's worth checking Amazon and Strongest before buying to find the best deal.
If budget is your bottom line, then we’d recommend the CAP Cast Iron Competition Bell. But unless you really need to save a few bucks, it’s worth investing in our top pick, since these things last forever.
In fact, none of the five baseball player panelists said they would pay extra for any of the other bells for the basic routines they were testing with. The powder-coated CAP (left) and Rogue (center) bells are rougher than the e-coated Dragon Door (right).
Photo: Mark Blythe CAP bell has a powder-coated matte finish and a slightly gritty (though it’s evenly dispersed grit) handle to provide a good grip (though a bit on the coarser end of those we tested) and a flat bottom so it doesn’t rock when used for push-ups or rowing moves. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the Dragon Door ROC Kettle bell should feel pretty good about itself.
Unfortunately for Dragon Door, other companies have been able to duplicate its design at a comparable level of quality for a lot cheaper. Interestingly, the Rogue bell has a 4.9-star rating on its website, with more than 100 reviews at the time of this guide's publication.
Chad Settler, John Forward, Carl Foster, and Mark Andes, Kettle bells: Twice the Results in Half the Time?, ACE Fitness Matters Quarantine mandates set off an unprecedented run on home fitness equipment that left manufacturers struggling to keep up with demand.
It seems the rest of the world is catching on to what us fitness nerds have known all along — a good set of kettle bells at home is worth its weight in gold, or at least a monthly gym membership. If you’ve been thinking about starting or upgrading your home gym (whether that’s a corner of your bedroom, or a full two-car garage), this article will tell you exactly what you need to know about kettle bells, how many to get, where to buy them, and how to put them to good use.
The design of the kettle offers three distinct advantages over it’s “bell” brothers, the dumbbell and barbell: They sit flat on the floor (no rolling around) and the compact design means no wasted space.
Likewise, dumbbells are a great training tool, but you’ll need a lot of them to get a decent full-body workout. Armed with some savvy training knowledge (you will be by the end of this article), you’ll be able to get a great total-body workout with only 1-3 kettle bells, no matter your strength level.
As a fitness coach, my goal is to get new clients feeling comfortable and confident while lifting weights and learning basic movement patterns. Because the bell’s center of mass is directly under your grip, dead lifts fly up naturally without much cueing.
But no matter your goal, or where you’re starting from, kettle bell training can transform your body and performance in ways you never thought possible. Losing body fat and maintaining a lean physique comes down to controlling calories through nutrition and training.
Kettle bell training offers many powerful ways to rev your metabolism and burn a mountain of calories in very little time. The kettle bell swing is a hip hinge dominant movement, like a dead lift or box jump.
This means each and every rep engages the posterior chain muscles of the hamstrings, glutes, back, and lats (plus lots of cores if you do them right). When working all these large muscle groups dynamically at the same time, your heart rate jumps and you enjoy a calorie burn akin to a sprint (without the impact on the joints).
Of course, any exercise can help you lose weight, but the kettle bell swing (and its big brother — the snatch) is a one-stop-shop for anyone looking for a simple and proven approach to cut body fat while building functional strength. As mentioned above, kettle bells are a great way for beginners to learn the fine art of strength training.
The foundational kettle bell lifts cover all the major movement patterns while developing athleticism and a strong mind-muscle connection. Squats and swings build powerful and mobile hips — the keystone for every truly strong athlete.
Row and press variations (especially bottoms-up) build resilient shoulders and a guaranteed ticket to the gun show. This “what the hell” effect takes place when, after using kettle bells for a while, new reserves of strength and skill suddenly appear to demolish stubborn old personal records.
For example, a long-distance trail runner might flounder after a couple laps in the pool… and a swimmer might find cycling tortuous. Kettle bell training is optimal for a type of endurance called general physical preparedness (GPP).
You won’t be the absolute best in any one field, but you’ll be in great shape and ready to handle a broad range of activities — from pickup basketball to packing a U-Haul. Over the years, I’ve invested in nearly 30 kettle bells (a hodgepodge of different sizes, styles, and brands).
Plus, a medium weight is ideal for kettle bell complexes — the stringing together of multiple lifts into a larger continuous set. Kettles come much heavier than these (the 48 kg “Beast” is the cherry on top most collections), but we’re focusing on the sizes with the most value for beginners.
Without the option of increasing weight in small steps, you are forced to make progress in various other ways with the same bell — volume (more reps), density (less rest), and variations (there are dozens of ways to perform a lift) are the big ones. No matter your sex or fitness level, nearly every bell size has great value and there’s plenty of overlap in the recommendations anyway.
These are your “bread ‘n butter” weights that will serve you well in both lower and upper body training for life. Finally, the extra 12 kg will give you a great pair for double kettle bell workouts.
We follow the same line of reasoning for the fellas, with an assumption of more general upper body strength. We start with 12 kg as even the brawniest of dudes will get good use from one for mobility-oriented lifts like arm bars and windmills as well as advanced get-up and bottoms-up press work.
From here, I like to recommend a pair of 20 kg (44 lb) kettle bells as this seems to be a sweet spot for double bell complexes. The good news is there are plenty of trusted online sellers that offer quality kettle bells.
Here’s my top-5 list of recommended kettle bell brands and merchants based on my own personal use (all links are affiliate): Champion BarbellChampion Barbell 8" Rubber Kettle bell Walmart USA on sale for $95.25original price $$119.9895.25$119.98
Champion BarbellChampion Barbell 8" Rubber Kettle bell Walmart USA on sale for $95.25original price $$144.8195.25$144.81 Champion BarbellChampion Barbell 8" Rubber Kettle bell Walmart USA on sale for $94.99original price $$135.5494.99$135.54
Mind Rendering Reader Kettle bell 5 Kg Cast Iron Dumbbell Home Indoor Strength Training Equipment — Black Macy's$43.00 Champion BarbellChampion Barbell 8" Rubber Kettle bell Walmart USA on sale for $95.25original price $$156.6495.25$156.64
Mind Rendering Reader Kettle bell 7 Kg Cast Iron Dumbbell Home Indoor Strength Training Equipment — Black Macy's$52.00 Mind Rendering Reader Kettle bell 3 Kg Cast Iron Dumbbell Home Indoor Strength Training Equipment — Black Macy's$39.00
Mind Rendering Reader Kettle bell 4 Kg Cast Iron Dumbbell Home Indoor Strength Training Equipment — Black Macy's$40.00 Mind Rendering Reader Kettle bell 5 KG, Dumbbell, Cast Iron, Home Indoor Strength Training Equipment, Black Walmart USA$33.99
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Champion BarbellChampion Barbell 8" Rubber Kettle bell Walmart USA on sale for $95.25original price $$103.2195.25$103.21 Tone Firestone Fitness Cement Filled Kettle bell, 5 Pounds Walmart USA$11.87
Tone Firestone Fitness Cement Filled Kettle bell, 15 Pounds Walmart USA$30.27 CAP CAP Barbell Vinyl Kettle bell, Black Walmart USA on sale for $28.23original price $$76.3628.23$76.36
CAP CAP Barbell Soft Kettle bell, Grey, 15 Pounds Walmart USA on sale for $24.99original price $$91.3124.99$91.31 CAP CAP Barbell Soft Kettle bell, Black, 20 Pounds Walmart USA on sale for $27.99original price $$55.9927.99$55.99
CAP CAP Barbell Vinyl Kettle bell, Black 5 — 20lbsWalmart USA on sale for $37.63original price $$79.5337.63$79.53 Fuel PureformanceFuel Performance Soft Kettle bell, 20 Pounds Walmart USA on sale for $25.21original price $$54.9925.21$54.99
Kettle bell training is a great workout choice for people of all ages and fitness levels. However, the amount of weight you should use is highly variable depending on a myriad of factors.
Because women have less muscle mass than men, they have different requirements for their kettle bell weight range. That doesn’t mean that kettle bell training isn’t just as effective for women as it is for men.
The kettle bell weight should a woman use depends on the type of training and the fitness level of the individual. One of the main reasons why most women lift kettle bells is to build lean muscles.
AmazonBasics Cast Iron Kettle bell — 15 Pounds, ... Kettle bell supports a wide range of resistance-training exercises Made of solid high-quality cast iron for reliable built-to-last strength Painted surface for increased durability and corrosion protection. Kettle bells are highly effective weights that can fit into almost any workout routine.
They can be used for strength training, cardio, and flexibility all with just one compact piece of equipment. Additionally, they are highly accessible to people of all ages and ability levels.
Whether you’re just starting or you’re looking to amp up your current workouts, kettle bells can work for you. They are extremely popular because the high intensity workouts give you a lot of exertion in a short amount of time.
Once you learn the proper way to use a kettle bell, you can start working every muscle with just one compact device. Many women fall into the trap of focusing on aerobic exercises and not training your muscles.
Kettle bells are a great way to condition and tone your body without “beefing up” too much muscle mass. If you try to start with a weight that is too light, you can accidentally isolate your muscles and throw off your entire form.
While 18 lbs might be too challenging for a beginner in other forms of lifting, with kettle bells you will be learning to use both your upper and lower body at the same time. If you start with a weight that is too light you will find it harder to progress in your training since you aren’t learning proper form.
With that said, starting too heavy can also be damaging to your form and increase the risk of injury. However, once you have learned to handle a kettle bell correctly, you will find yourself moving up quickly.
Conversely, a woman who has a strong background in other types of weight training could try starting as high as 25 lbs. The other type is grinds, which tend to isolate certain muscle groups and are done slower to create more tension.
The rule of thumb is to pick heavier weights for ballistics, since they are using a larger number of muscles. Women who are beginning weight training may have different goals than men.
A good guideline for when you know you’re ready to move up is when a set of 20 kettle bell swings has become easy and you feel completely confident. The kettle bell weight you lift can help you achieve this goal without having to work too hard.
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Also, make sure you include the right amount of reps for each workout and have a proper diet plan. Because form is so important in kettle bell training, make sure you are careful not to pick weights that are too light or too heavy.
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You’ve breached the barbells and dominated dumbbells, but if you’re still steering clear of kettle bells you’re missing out on arguably the best burn at the gym. Think about a baseball bat, says trainer Jason C. Brown, creator and owner of certification program Kettle bell Athletics.
“Kettle bells create a longer lever arm, which requires you to use more force to move an equal weight the same distance,” Brown says. This recruits more muscles, challenges inter- and intramuscular coordination, and generally delivers one hell of a burn.
But resistance is assistance, so going too light or too heavy can compromise technique — not to mention increase your risk of injury with the added momentum of most moves, Brown adds. The general rule of thumb is the more joints involved, the heavier the kettle bell weight you can use.
The dead lift is a multi joint move, so the average guy can probably handle 32 kg /70 lbs here to start, Brown says. Not only are your shoulders and abs working hard to keep you stable, but there’s more challenge to your grip since all the weight is in one hand.
“Most use a goblet squat solely as a mobility exercise — they get low and do a hip pry. “It teaches a powerful hip snap and can be a great bicep and PEC builder — but it’s difficult to master the clean unless you really have your swing dialed-in,” Lopez says.
But Brown says most gym rats can probably handle a bit heavier, around 24 kg /53 lbs. “The get-up is known in most training circles as the perfect exercise because the whole move — all 14 steps — includes every possible human movement pattern,” Lopez explains.
Lopez actually makes clients ace all 14 steps while balancing their shoe on their fist before they’re allowed to try it with a kettle bell (you can opt for a two-pound dumbbell to save face at the gym). When you feel confident that you have the form down sans resistance, reach for a 12 kg /26 lb kettle bell.
Since form is so imperative here, Lopez says you shouldn’t move up a weight until you’re able to maintain perfect vertically with your arm, keep the elbow fully locked throughout all 14 steps, and feel comfortable going slow (most people rush due to discomfort). But because it doesn’t require swinging momentum or extension, a carry has a lower risk of injury than other kettle bell moves, which means you can go a bit heavier.
Grab a kettle bell that’s the equivalent of half your body weight to carry in each hand, Brown recommends.