There is also an exercise called the Turkish get-up ”, where you repeatedly lie on the floor and stand up, keeping the kettle bell above your head at all times, which stopped being fun incredibly quickly. 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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Companies, salespeople, and even well-known athletes can be convincing when it comes to buying certain product, whether it is the “most effective” new piece of equipment or a supplement that is “500 percent better” than all the competitors.
Having been a part of the industry for some time now I believe I have been able to cut through the garbage of advertising and hype and hopefully can shed some light on good and over-hyped products. In this particular article I am going to discuss a new piece of training equipment that has been receiving a lot of attention as of late, kettle bells.
I fought the temptation to buying a kettle bell for some time thinking that maybe, just maybe it was useful tool, but I really wasn't going to be missing out on anything. Well, to make a short story long, after I pestered Coach Davies about the usefulness of kettle bells I finally broke down and bought my first.
Being a rookie of kettle bells and to give them an honest trial run I knew I must at least purchase the video of Pavel Tsatsouline's The Russian Kettle bell Challenge. I felt confident the information I was going to receive was going to really provide me the background to determine if kettle bells were as effective as what was being promoted.
I immediately noticed a difference in the movement of the kettle bell versus a dumbbell. The flipping of the kettle bell and the leverage was different along with the extra grip work that was performed because of the thick handle.
Quickly I gave the 24 kg (53 pounds) to my friend and when he began to perform the exercise we noticed his arm started shaking violently. T he is other great benefit of using a kettle bell is the ability to perform many hybrid exercises.
This is not only effective for strength, but outstanding for dropping body fat because of the high caloric expenditure and the increased level of intensity. I mentioned earlier that there are companies that offer plate-loaded kettle bells, which would make sense to many lifters.
However, the problem stems from the fact that the kettle bell flips onto the wrist in many of the exercises. While this may look cool, the problem then becomes the kettle bell would gain too much momentum when flipping over, again, this would lead to an unpleasant striking of the forearm.
Since my first experience with kettle bells I have found them extremely useful tools for all my clients. They are terrific for body fat loss, improving lean body mass, and helping teach proper speed of the hips (important for speed and power sports).
I would not get rid of barbells and dumbbells, but do feel that kettle bells have and SHOULD be used by any serious lifter. Just make sure that you find a qualified instructor if you are wanting to incorporate some of the more challenging lifts.
Greater body rhythm Increased grip strength Different leverage stimulates the muscles differently Ability to perform hundreds of hybrids and exercises With the explosion of kettle bell training over the last 10 years there are now many shapes and sizes available to buy.
However, if you intend to develop and perform a lot more of the 50+ kettle bell exercises available then I recommend you are more careful with your kettlebellbuying decision. As you can see from the competition kettle bell image above the handle is much smaller and is squarer in design.
The advantage of these types of kettle bells is that your hand doesn’t slide around due to the limited space plus you can get used to the size even when the weight changes. A kettle bell with a handle that is too thick is going to quickly tire out your forearms and finishing repetitions of an exercise can be very tough.
The bottom of the kettle bell should have a natural flat but it shouldn’t have an attached rubber or plastic base. Bases can be good for preventing marks on your floor but unfortunately they’re going to really dig into arm and into your body when you’re using the kettle bell.
The fourth thing is to make sure that there are no sharp edges on the kettle bell handle. Look out for kettle bells that have sharp bits of paint and also check where the handle meets the body that there are no small nicks that can cut into your hands.
There should be a nice smooth bit of continuity with the kettle bell from the body into the handle. If the handle spacing is too small you’re going to find it really digs into your wrists when in the racked position or overhead.
If it’s too big, then the kettle bell will lie too far down on the arm and it’s going to dig into your forearm. It seems to be trendy to coat kettle bells in vinyl or plastic to avoid marking floor etc.
However, due to the huge rise in popularity there are now many weight sizes in-between the ones listed above. The great news is that if you make the right purchase you will only need to buy a few of the best kettlebells, and they will last you for a lifetime.
For those based in the UK, head on over to Wilkerson Fitness and check out their black series of kettle bells. Cast Iron kettle bells are the most diverse and excellent for beginners and almost anyone not interested in going in to competition.
If you are more advanced and want to focus on purely single-handed exercises than the competition kettle bell may be for you. I’ve also outlined above what size kettle bell women should use and also the recommend starting weights for men too.
Kettle bells have become a popular fitness tool over the last decade, and for good reason. I’ve learned through trial and error that kettle bells are not all created equally.
It’s important to consider several factors when choosing a kettle bell, which is why I put together this guide to answer common questions. Competition kettle bells are typically differentiated by color coding.
Both types of kettle bells will work for general home fitness purposes. The main advantage of classic cast-iron kettle bells is a lower overall cost.
The main advantage of competition steel kettle bells is the consistent size. These kettle bells aren’t designed to be used in competitions, so they don’t have to meet stringent weight tolerance requirements.
They can therefore be offered at a lower cost than true competition kettle bells while retaining the benefit of consistent sizing. They tend to be cheap and well reviewed on sites like Amazon, but don’t be led astray.
There are a few companies making kettle bells with faces on them, like monkeys, zombies, skulls, etc. However, competition steel kettle bells shouldn’t be ruled out altogether.
Rapid progress can be made with competition kettle bells, which may justify the higher cost. One is referred to as “hard style” training, which emphasizes powerful movement in a short period of time.
I own and use several types of kettle bells on a regular basis Kettle bells generally range in weight from 8 kg (18 lb) to 48 kg (106 lb). It’s important to choose the right weight to start with in order to learn proper technique.
However, such broad advice isn’t helpful without a baseline description of what ‘average’ is. If you’re a healthy and active person under 40 years of age with no history of injuries or back pain, the standard advice will probably apply.
If you spend a lot of time sitting, are above 40, or have a history of injuries or back pain you may benefit from starting with a lower weight. As you advance in your training there will always be more challenging ways to use your first kettle bell.
This extends to the base of the kettle bell, which should be ground completely flat. Imperfections on the handle can pinch or cut skin during movements, and a wobbly bottom hinders the kettle bell from providing a stable base for exercises that require the bell to act as a platform.
For cast-iron kettle bells, the coating on the handle must provide enough traction to keep hold of with minimal need for chalk while still allowing the handle to rotate smoothly in the palm with minimal friction. Handle diameters for competition steel kettle bells will be a uniform size regardless of manufacturer, which is good and bad.
In that review, I make a point of discussing handle dimensions for each brand. You can always reconsider a quality adjustable kettle bell later if you decide it will help you achieve your ongoing fitness goals.
I’ve had the opportunity to work extensively with kettle bells from many major manufacturers. For simplicity’s sake I’m going to focus on a handful of companies making some of the best kettle bells available.
These recommendations come from my personal experience in seeking the best kettle bells for home use. Third, and most importantly, the Matrix Elite Precision line is designed to rest on the same place on your forearm regardless of size.
Kettle bells USA also makes a Classic E-coat that is similar in style and coating to Dragon Door kettle bells, but with a higher quality finish and much lower price. The main benefit of a powder coat over an e-coat is a reduced need for chalk.
I train with kettle bells primarily at work and at home, and I can’t use heavy chalk at either location. The powder coat finish on the Kettle bell Kings Powder Coat kettle bells provides just enough texture to maintain a good grip with sweaty palms without needing chalk.
The feel of the kettle bell was a prime consideration for the design and the care that was taken with it definitely shows. The finish is very clean and slightly rough, with one of the most durable powder coatings I’ve seen.
The combination of the finish and coat result in a handle that will hold a lot of chalk, but you’re probably not going to need it unless you sweat buckets. The intent is to increase comfort while holding the kettle bell overhead and in the rack position.
I’ve found the curve of the handle to have a noticeable difference on my training. The curved handle fits nicely in my palm and I can definitely tell my grip strength lasts longer when I use this kettle bell.
The Paradigm Pro Elite kettle bells are designed from the ground up to be high precision fitness tools. These kettle bells are cast as a single piece of steel with no seams, burrs, or welds and no filler material.
This is just an all around well-made kettle bell that is very comfortable to use for long periods. The handle window is wide enough to fit two hands in, which is great for two-hand swings.
There are no surface imperfections visible to the eye and the handle are very smooth to the touch. This type of coating allows for high-rep snatch and swing sessions without the need for chalk.
These kettle bells are weighted in five pound increments rather than kilograms, removing the need to do kilogram-to-pound conversion math in my head. There are several factors to consider when choosing a kettle bell, and this guide should answer most common questions.
I sincerely hope you’ve found this kettle bell buyers guide to be useful. If you have questions that I didn’t cover, add them in the comments and I’ll do my best to address them.
Since most people are stuck in their normal-sized home and apartments and constrained by their budgets, a full gym setup isn’t possible. Just to be completely clear, a kettle bell is essentially a cannonball with a loop on the top that forms a handle.
They are use for dynamic exercises and there are many full-body workout regimens that require nothing more than a single kettle bell. It doesn’t have to be too much more complex than that, but it can be worth the least reading the specifications of a bell before buying it.
Weight of the kettle bell (in pounds or kilograms) Price (usually per pound) Shipping price Handle type (competition or standard) Handle diameter Material (usually iron or steel) Does it use fillers? And not only did Amazon sell out of kettle bells, but they have been out of stock in all the nicer models and popular weights since early March.
Their most popular was Amazon’s own AmazonBasics kettle bell in an enamel finish, but it’s not been restocked in weeks. With some hunting you can find lighter weights (like this 20-lb Wader) but expect long lead times and no Prime shipping.
Rogue is known not only for their excellent CrossFit workout equipment, but in particular for their expertise in home gym setups. Rogue equipment is, generally speaking, on the expensive side, but of excellent quality.
While their kettle bells aren’t cheap, you get a great looking bell with made of quality materials and a weight-specific color-coordinated finish. Vulcan is a popular choice with kettle bell enthusiasts and home workout fans alike.
However, there are some important things that they can teach us as we explore the pros and cons of the different options. You don’t want an awkward shape with sharp corners, edges, welds or seams that are going to scrape your skin or be uncomfortable.
An added bonus to professional-grade steel competition kettle bells is that all the different weights are the exact same size and shape. This allows for a consistency that is very important at high levels of performance, but may not be a factor when you are just starting out.
It is so that any paint chips, which will happen over years of use, do not affect your grip and tear at your skin. Cast iron kettle bells are the most common type on the market and what we recommend you start with.
They are what you will see most commonly in gyms, as well as what you would have seen on a Russian farm three hundred years ago. No matter which style of kettle bell you choose, if you find the right brand they can be of extremely high quality and last you your entire lifetime.
This is the first big question and it can be a tricky one to answer, since everyone's body and level of fitness is different. Typically, for men, it is recommended to start with a 12-16 kg, depending on fitness and strength level.
For women, I recommend starting with a 8 kg or 12 kg, then move up as you get fitter, stronger and more technically proficient. There will be other exercises that are a bit more technical like the snatch, that you will need to perfect using the lighter option for a period of time.
It still works out very affordable to buy a couple of them when you think about the huge variety of exercise you can perform with them. Kettle bell exercises are widely diverse and normally focused on both high or low numbers of reps so just one or two can turn into months of training before you will need to think about the next weight.
The cast iron kettle bells that are made from a single mold, can sometimes have a sharp seems under the handle so be sure to check for that if you can. These days, many kettle bells are being sold with ‘sleeves’ around the body of the bell to make them more comfortable to use.
Don’t worry if you can’t tell for certain if it has been welded or molded, as long as it feels solid, secure and there are no seams or burrs to pinch and scrape your skin, you’re on the right track. This is to prevent rusting and to create smooth surfaces for your skin that can provide just the right amount of grip.
Some companies bake their paint on, others use a powder coating process, and others use epoxy. The important thing is that the finish does not cause blisters or pain when sliding in your palms repeatedly.
Some users prefer a texture that is like a very smooth sandpaper, usually achieved by powder-coat paint jobs. The rougher surface means less movement, and fewer blisters on sweaty hands than a smooth polish.
It will minimize the risk of you losing grip and hurling lump of metal across the gym. If you are able to do a hands-on inspection with your kettle bell, it is good to test that it rests completely flat on the floor.
It should provide a stable base upon which you could put part of your body weight without worrying about it tipping to one side or the other. You are going to want to do push ups or renegade rows in your training, for example, and you don’t want them tipping over and damaging your wrist.
Classic kettle bells are basically cannonballs with handles; they are one of the most durable pieces of equipment you can find. The more moving parts introduced into an adjustable system, the more likely they are to wear down over time creating wobbling weight plates or all out malfunction.
It is important to note that in the past couple of years, adjustable kettle bell technology has come a long way and will continue to do so. If you weigh these pros and cons, do a little research and find a brand that you think is right for you, it may be the cheapest way to get a ‘full set’.
The higher prices usually mean that the manufacturer has been able to be more precise and to take more care in producing the finished product. I have tried to pick high quality brands that don’t break the bank for this whole guide.
Kettle bells are a great bit of kit; they can combine strength, flexibility and endurance into one workout. Though they were a little known and seldom seen piece of equipment just ten years ago, lately the kettle bell has become popular around the world.
The simple piece of equipment, which originated on Russian farms around the 1700s, can do a surprising array of things for your body. Kettle bell workouts are dynamic and often ballistic in nature, so they work multiple muscle groups at once in ways that mimic and support real world motion.
Now that kettle bell training has become popular with fitness professionals, the mainstream population is finally catching on. I remember for years explaining it over and over to my friends, new clients, other personal trainers, and family members.
These days I’m happy to say I don’t have to explain what kettle bells are as frequently, and people are slowly starting to call them by the correct name. Poorly designed, cheap kettle bells that come with a tutorial DVD equally bad can be found all over major stores now.
How is a beginner supposed to be guided in the right direction with the kettle bell market becoming so saturated? Any Joe Shoe in the fitness field thinks he or she can pick up a kettle bell and teach it to their clients.
It’s very frustrating to see fitness “professionals” teach their clients how to use these cast iron weights in a dangerously incorrect fashion. No wonder why some gyms have to lock up their kettle bells in order to stop people from hurting themselves.
Beginning your kettle bell journey can be quite overwhelming and one needs to be careful when choosing a path. This will ensure you are on the right path to proper technique, form, increased results, and all without wasting time or money, and hopefully avoiding injury.
The ROC has high standards and is very selective with granting their individual certifications. There are several former Senior and Master ROC’s who have formed their own certifications or workshops utilizing different approaches.
Do your homework, research their individual background, and/or sit in on a class or session when finding an instructor for yourself. They are cheaper in price and will do the trick, however, most of my clients end up gravitating to the Dragon Door bells.
For many folks who lift weights regularly and do cardio, incorporating a balanced program with kettle bells can actually replace your gym routine all together! If you are an athlete, practicing the foundation moves as little as twice a week can create a huge carry-over effect in performance.
You can also find programs and workouts laid out for you in the kettle bell books I mentioned above. Look out for my next article on how to design a strength and conditioning program with kettle bells.