It's definitely worth seeking advice at your gym on the correct form to avoid injury. These compact weights are small enough to fit into even the smallest rooms and the majority of workouts require just one kettle bell, meaning you could enjoy some fat-torching training time from the comfort of your own home for less than a tenner, as long as your home has literally enough room to swing a cat (NB: don't actually swing a cat in order to ascertain this).
Those venturing out into the world of kettle bells for the first time should go easy on the weight, as the grueling sessions will prove impossible if you can't lift the bloody thing above your head. That said, opting for a puny 2 kg kettle bell could mean you're not facing enough resistance to thoroughly challenge the muscle.
If you're really short of space, you could check out the Växjö KettlebellConnect, which is a digital play on Bow flex Selected Dumbbell, offering a spread of weights in one neat package.e Where vinyl 'bells could save you a few quid, they can be prone to cracking and splitting, plus the handle seams on cheaper models can be scratchy and uncomfortable.
A solid cast iron kettle bell — or, even better, those with smooth steel handles — tend to be the most comfortable and are also sturdy enough to survive a nuclear attack. Finally, it's also worth noting the handle clearance from the bell (or 'window', to give it the correct title) and its diameter.
Larger hands could find certain 'bells difficult to grip and comfortably on the forearm, which is required in burly overhead press exercises. Its products are reasonably priced — definitely on the cheap side — but represent a good quality and are highly functional.
They are made of cast iron and come equipped with a thick handle, the former being great for durability and the latter for improving grip. The neoprene sleeve over the cast iron body will help keeping the floors intact too.
A small pointy bit on the handle can result in a bruised palm after a grueling kettle bell swing session. They all sport flat, non-wobble bottoms, color coded handles and an engraved logo at the front of the kettle bell.
The difference is mainly felt in your wallet: while you will have to pay the premium price Tax kettle bells, the Gym reapers variety will a bit of extra money in the pocket. Signing up for stock alerts and visiting the Gym reapers website often is highly recommended.
Admittedly the Bow flex Selected 840 Kettle bell looks more like an actual kettle than a home weight, but don't let the looks deceive you. As in the case with most one-size-fits all solutions, the Bow flex Selected 840 Kettle bell is trying to appeal to all whilst fails to please the individuals; it is definitely more space-saving than having six different kettle bells lying around in your one-bed flat, but it is also rather bulky, making it a bit less convenient to work out with doing one handed moves.
Some might feel a bit less inclined to use the Bow flex Selected 840 Kettle bell for overhead exercises due to the bottom of the being open — exposing the weight plates inside — you can doctor this by holding the handle firmly and pointing it away from you as you move the kettle bell. Reasons to avoid You may have noticed that a number of dumbbell manufacturers have started offering selectable systems that negate the need to fill your house with a spread of weights.
Well, Växjö has taken this idea one step further with its electronically-adjustable kettle bell system, which offers a spread of 5 kg-19kg in a singly, albeit slightly bulky, unit. It sits on a neat base — that is either plugged into a wall or charged up for workouts on the fly — and users simply toggle a button to quickly swap between the required weights.
In addition to this, it can be synched via Bluetooth to a smartphone app that offers a bunch of different workout guides and advice on what weight to select for individual exercises. Plus, you'll have to invest in two of these if you want the ultimate kettle bell workout (squats, two-hand overhead press etc.
The king of suspension weight training has long sounded the bell for kettle bells, as the lumps of iron make the perfect companion to spruce up any dangling Suspension Trainer workout. It also results in that lovely, flat bottom, which makes it's easier to rest the kettle bell on the floor when switching hands during an arduous squat routine.
Tax has added a splash of color to the handles, making it simple to spy the correct weight if swapping between kettle bells mid-workout. I'd say the 16 kg unit is the one to go for if you're a bloke in reasonable shape, but there's a good spread of weights, making this one piece of fitness equipment that will likely outlast the fickle New Year's resolution to shed a few pounds.
Wilkerson Fitness has harnessed its many years of experience in knitting out the UK National Kettle bell Teams when designing and producing its range of superior quality 'bells. Modern casting methods means each bell is formed out of a single piece of metal, meaning no joins or welds, while a distinct lack of cheap plastic handles ensures they come with a lifetime guarantee.
Don't fret, if these prove a little daunting to the introductory kettle bell lifter you can always check out the slightly less hardcore range, which is still brilliantly constructed. The perfect antithesis to the digital delights of the aforementioned Växjö is a good, old-fashioned selection of kettle bells.
Rebel kettle bells don't come cheap, but they are engineered to last, fashioned from premium-grade Iron Ore, not scrap iron (as with cheaper alternatives) and using a one-piece cast mold to ensure the kettle bells feel well-balanced in the hand and built to last. The powder coated finish means they won't flake, chip or rust when covered in sweat, too.
We don't know many professional kettle bell athletes, but we are pretty sure they are very aware of Gorilla Sports and its range of competition-spec swingers. With very strict regulations on dimensions and the aperture of the window (the handle, to you and me), these solid steel numbers are really only for the very serious enthusiasts out there.
Each solid steel unit is individually priced, with the weedier 12 kg model costing around £50. Reasons to avoid It's not always a good idea to go out and blow a large sum on workout equipment on a get-fit whim.
If you're new to the whole kettle bell thing, this vinyl number from Opt is a real bargain, with a cheap but substantial finish proving enough for most novice swingers. The 10 kg maximum mass could feel a little light in time, but for those starting out, or who don't require massive heft from their 'bells, this is great.
The compact size makes it perfect for stashing away at home for the odd impromptu session. Reasons to avoid The vinyl coating swaddling these cast iron weights is a handy addition for anyone worried about damaging their parquet, yet the unit remains robust and a much more long-term option than cheaper all-vinyl offerings.
Body power also offers a very impressive range of weights, with the option to package them up into a small set of, say, 6 kg-12kg increments. That's not a huge maximum weight, obviously, but it allows lighter users to switch between high-resistance and low-resistance/high rep workouts with ease, for not much money.
The vinyl coating may feel cheaper than the cast iron and steel suggestions on this list but all three of these will set you back half the price of a single kettle bell from some other brands. It's simply a solid lump for lifting above your head while screaming like a hungry caveman.
It's also one of the cheaper 16 kg weights on the market, making it very tempting to splash out on a couple to create a pretty awesome home gym set-up. 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 kettle bells in America, which is why the 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 kettle bells 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 Kettle bells 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 kettle bell 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 kettle bell techniques since 2008, and we’ve taught multiple instructor certifications in the US and abroad. Kettle bell 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), kettle bells 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