It was really just a matter of time before the kettle bell joined the strength training implement arsenal alongside the bar and dumbbell. And while you should seek out guidance on how to safely use them, the process of selecting bells that you will both be happy with and get years of use out of is simple.
In this article I’ll first cover what to look for when kettle bell shopping, and then I will offer up some recommendations based on that. Last updated December 21, 2017 — added a table of contents and Innit licensed Star Wars Kettle bells; made some minor edits to grammar.
The process of casting a kettle bell leaves flashing (think of it as a seam) across the middle of the underside of the handle. This flashing needs to be filed down before the kettle bell is coated or finished so that there is a nice, even surface to hold on to.
The cheaper kettle bell manufacturers will make no effort to remove this sharp seam, and your hands will suffer for it (and very likely bleed from it). Depending on the size of your hands, you may want to pay special attention to the diameter of the handles.
Competition kettle bells will generally have a uniform handle diameter regardless of the weight (33 mm). For some movements you will need both hands to be able to fit inside the handle opening without it being too tight or uncomfortable.
While the handles do tend to get wider as the weight of the bell goes up, some manufacturers like Rogue or Innit make kettle bells that have handles that extend out past the diameter of the ball in a V shape for the small bells (see image directly below). Going back to the competition kettle bells, they also have a consistent handle size among all weights.
So if you’re willing to spend the extra money on competition kettle bells, you can be sure the handle opening is large enough for two hands regardless of weight. The latter method involves attaching the handle to the ball, and is not as strong or secure as the one piece casting.
I’m pretty sure that flying cannonball is going to destroy whatever it hits no matter how light it is for a kettle bell. The main options you’ll run into is enamel, vinyl, powder coating, and bare steel.
Black powder coating is what the nicer basic kettle bells (like those from Rogue) will have. Bare steel is what the competition kettle bell handles will have, and it happens to be my own personal preference.
Enamel is ok, but vinyl coating is not really recommended and is most commonly found on the lesser quality brands. A large problem with the mega equipment companies that import cheap kettle bells, weight plates, and dumbbells into the States is the inaccuracy of their products in terms of stated weight.
For starters, they are steel rather than cast iron, which means they are of a higher quality and more evenly balanced. This uniformity allows for quick and easy progression between weights, and it also means you can get both hands in even the lightest of kettle bells.
When you get right down to it, the Vulcan Trainers more closely resemble comp kettle bells than other training bells. You get just about all the advantages of competition kettle bells — only no color scheme, but a more reasonable price.
They use the same casting design that they ’ve been using successfully for some time now, but the new finish is a chip-resistant coating that stays drippy for longer without irritating the hands. They, too, are finished in a black powder coat save for the colored stripe around the base of the handles (for quick and easy weight identification).
Rogue uses high quality ores rather than scrap irons, and their finishing process leaves a seamless, smooth surface that is free of defects. They are one-piece castings with a wide, flat base and the powder coat holds chalk very well.
These are both functional, classy, high quality kettle bells, and they sell for very reasonable prices (starting at $22.) American Barbell Dettlebells are colored coded around the base of the handles just like the Rogue kettle bells.
They are cast iron with a textured, chip-resistant surface that works well with pr without chalk, and a large, flat base for extra stability and ground clearance during swings. Rather than pumping out just another kettle bell and then having a price war with everyone else, Vulcan puts some serious time and effort into the R&D of their Absolute kettles.
They are guaranteed to not crack or dent for life, they won’t as easily as painted kettle bells, and there are no toxic chemicals used as either fillers or in the powder coat finish. Vulcan publishes a lot of technical information about these kettle bells on their product page; much more than I can fit here.
Rogue’s comp kettle bells have a smooth, blemish-free surface with a matte black powder coated finish and four, specially contoured flats; which reduce friction and discomfort during overhead presses, cleans, and snatches. Like the American Barbell kettle bells, Rogue included the weight in both pounds and kilograms on the backside of the bell.
With so many other high-quality options out there with tons of thought having gone into the design and handle shape, these have fallen out of favor. Brand new and already a huge hit, these weighted fist bells are the brain-child of powerlifter Donnie Thompson, and man are they badass.
The result, as Donnie explains it himself, is the “perfect geometric shape for maximizing optimal performance,” as your hand and the Fat bell essentially act as one. The center mass design allows athletes to improve the efficiency and balance of every press while also reducing the common kettle bell safety risks.
Even as a brand-new item the product page is already piling up with positive reviews, and many weights and sizes are frequently out of stock because of their popularity. They ’re one of the few quality kettle bells available for sale on Amazon, which means often times there are deals on shipping for Prime members.
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