Plus, the shape of a kettle bell lets you work your muscles a little differently than a traditional dumbbell, Jessica Sims, a NASM-certified personal trainer at the Hitting Room in New York City, tells SELF. When you take a class with kettle bells, or any other new type of equipment, it's normal to feel a little lost.
Oh, and a quick lesson on the lingo: The “ball” refers to the heavy sphere at the bottom, and the handle is the part attached to it. The handle is also referred to as the “horns,” and can be gripped at the top, on the sides, or near the base where it meets the ball.
Adding a kettle bell increases the resistance your body has to work against to stand back up, challenging your muscles even more. In addition, holding the kettle bell close to your chest helps you nail proper form.
“When you pick up heavy grocery bags, you should squat down like this so you don't hurt your back.” Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly, gripping the sides of the kettle bell handle with both hands at chest height.
They also secretly challenge your core, since you have to keep your abs tight to avoid arching your back. Sims says to choose a heavier weight with a dead lift—since you're not bending your elbows at all, you're mostly using your glutes, which are likely the strongest muscles in your body.
Hinge at your hips and push your butt back as you lower your torso and the weight toward the ground. “Make sure that you don’t let the kettle bells swing, keep them stable by your side like actual suitcases,” Sims says.
Push through your heels, putting most of the weight on the back foot, to return to the starting position. Adding weight to a sit-up adds an extra challenge for your core, and the press at the top works your shoulders and arms, too.
For these sit-ups, Sims says you can either keep your knees bent or put them in butterfly position, depending on what feels comfortable for your hips. Start in a sit-up position, lying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
Kettle bell swings are great for your butt, legs, and lower back, Sims says. You can probably go heavy here, but she suggests nailing the technique with a lighter kettle bell before adding too much weight.
To perform a swing with proper form, you have to “thrust your hips aggressively to get the kettle bell up, don't use your arms,” Sims explains. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, gripping the top of the kettle bell handle with both hands.
Bend your knees slightly, then hinge forward at the hips to swing the kettle bell between your legs. Stand back up; use the momentum from your hips to swing the weight to chest height.
Your form here should be similar to a traditional dead lift, except your legs should be wider than shoulder-width distance and your feet should be turned out a bit. Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and toes angled out.
Switching to one-handed swings isolates one side at a time, which makes it harder and helps improve stability. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, gripping the top of the kettle bell handle with one hand.
Bend your knees slightly, then hinge forward at the hips to swing the kettle bell between your legs. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, gripping the top of the kettle bell handle with one hand.
Bend your knees slightly, then hinge forward at the hips to thread the kettle bell between your legs. Bring your now-empty hand to meet the weight at the top of the movement (so you don't slam it into your chest).
Grasp a kettle bell in each hand, palms facing out, arms bent so the weights are resting at each shoulder. Bend your knees just a few inches, and as you stand back up, press the weights straight up overhead.
To protect your lower back and make sure you're using your triceps, don't arch your back, Sims instructs. The key here is to straighten your arm completely at the top—that'll let you work the triceps through a full range of motion. Grip the kettle bell by the ball at the base of the handle with both hands and raise it directly overhead.
Keeping your elbows close to your ears, lower the kettle bell behind your head to neck level. The trick is to keep your core tight and hold your torso stable as you rotate your arms and the weight.
Lift the ball to eye level and slowly circle it around your head to the left. Hold the kettle bell handle in your right hand with your arm hanging straight at your side.
Holding a kettle bell above your head at the top of a crunch challenges your core and lower abs—so does the flutter motion of your legs. Start with the weight above your shoulders, and to make it more difficult, bring it a little behind your head, Sims says.
Make sure to keep your core super tight and lower back flat on the ground. If your back comes off the ground, or you feel any strain, bring your legs up a couple more inches.
Stand in front of a box or step, holding a kettle bell by the handle with both hands at your chest. Crew Performance Zip-Front Sports Bra (jcrew.com, $45), Cotton On Body Pocket Crop Tight (, $35), and Puma Fierce Evoking Women's Training Shoes (, $120).
Kettle bells, which look like cannonballs with handles, have become a popular strength training alternative to traditional barbells, dumbbells, and resistance machines. Kettle bell exercises often involve several muscle groups at once, making them a highly effective way to give your arms, legs, and abs a great workout in a short amount of time.
Kettle bells can be used for a variety of exercises that improve both your strength and cardiovascular fitness. Russian strongmen in the 1700s developed kettle bells as implements to build strength and endurance.
You’ve probably seen depictions of bare-chested carnival strongmen hoisting them over their heads. Using lighter kettle bells at first allows you to focus on using the proper form and technique for the different exercises.
You can always increase the weight once you’re comfortable with the correct form for each exercise. Fitness experts suggest using kettle bells with the following weights if you’re at an intermediate to advanced level with your strength training:
Aim to add more reps each week, then work toward adding more sets as you build strength. Push your hips backward, and bend your knees to reach the kettle bell handles.
Firmly grip the kettle bells, keeping your arms and back straight. This is an excellent exercise to boost both your muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness.
While your shoulders and arms will do a lot of the work, most of the effort should come from the hips and legs. Engage your abdominal muscles and set your shoulders back.
Exhale as you make an explosive upward movement to swing the kettle bell out in front of you. Squats are an excellent lower-body exercise that work your quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, as well as your abdominal muscles.
Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes pointed out slightly. Using your leg muscles, with your upper body still, straighten up to your starting position.
With both hands around the handle, hold the kettle bell close to your chest. Alternatively, you can hold a kettle bell by the handle in one or both hands, with your arms at your sides.
Slowly step forward with your left leg, bending your knee while keeping your right foot in place. A great exercise for working your abs and obliques (the muscles on the sides of your abdomen that run from your hips to your ribs), the Russian twist can also be done with a weighted medicine ball or barbell plate.
When using a kettle bell, be sure to keep a firm grip so that you don’t drop it on your lap. Holding the kettle bell handle with both hands, lean back so that your torso is at about a 45-degree angle to the floor.
With your heels a few inches above the floor, rotate your torso from right to left, swinging the kettle bell slightly across your body. When you’ve completed your repetitions, return to your starting position.
When your chest is even with the kettle bell handles, exhale and push your body back up to its starting position. Hold a kettle bell by the handle so that it rests against the outside part of your shoulder.
There are many benefits to working out with kettle bells, for both men and women, across all age groups. According to a 2019 study, a kettle bell workout is a highly effective way to improve your strength, aerobic power, and overall physical fitness.
Compared to resistance circuit-based training, the same study found that a regular kettle bell workout is just as effective at improving cardiorespiratory fitness and muscle strength. A 2013 study reported that participants who completed an 8-week kettle bell training session saw noticeable improvements in their aerobic capacity.
Kettle bell exercises have the ability to restore muscle mass and improve grip strength in older adults, according to a 2018 study. According to Harvard Health, kettle bell exercises can also help improve your posture and balance.
You typically use your core muscles more with kettle bell exercises than with dumbbells or barbells. If possible, ask a certified personal trainer at your local gym or fitness center to show you the proper form for kettle bell exercises.
Stop immediately if you feel sudden or sharp pain. A little mild soreness after a workout is normal, but you shouldn’t feel sudden, sharp pain while working out.
Kettle bells can take a little getting used to, but working out with them is a highly effective way of improving your muscle strength and cardio fitness. The key is to start slow and, if possible, with the help of a certified personal trainer.
The workout gets your heart pumping and uses up to 20 calories per minute: about as much as running a 6-minute mile. Buy a DVD or sign up for a kettle bell class at the gym to learn how to do the moves safely.
It won’t take long to understand why celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Biel, and Katherine Hall are huge fans of kettle bell workouts. You’ll work up a sweat doing a series of fast-paced cardio and strength-training moves like kettle bell swings, lunges, shoulder presses, and push-ups.
Most kettle bell workouts include squats, lunges, crunches, and other moves that work your abs and other core muscles. The kettle bell is used as a weight for arm exercises like single-arm rows and shoulder presses.
Lunges and squats are among the most popular moves in a kettle bell workout. Your tush will be toned by using the kettle bell for added weight during lunges and squats.
Using a kettle bell for a dead lift helps tone your back muscles. The kettle bell is an effective weight that will build muscle strength.
You may want to buy DVDs or sign up for classes to learn the basics of a kettle bell workout. Yes, if you take a class or pick a DVD that's for beginners and use a lighter kettle bell.
Depending on the program, you may be getting both your strength training and your aerobic workout at the same time. If you choose a kettle bell that is too heavy or if you have poor form, you are likely to lose control of it.
This can lead to a serious injury to your back, shoulders, or neck. Start out with an experienced trainer who can correct your technique before you hurt something.
Adding a kettle bell to your existing workout is great if you want to burn more calories in less time. This type of high-intensity workout is not for you if you would rather do a more meditative approach to body sculpting, or if sweating isn’t your thing.
With your doctor’s OK, you can include kettle bells in your fitness routine if you have diabetes. Muscle burns energy more efficiently, so your blood sugar levels will go down.
Depending on the workout, you may also get some cardio to help prevent heart disease. Using kettle bells in your workout puts some serious demands on your hips and back, as well as your knees, neck, and shoulders.
If you have arthritis or pain in your knees or back, then look for a less risky strength-training program. If you have other physical limitations, ask an experienced instructor for advice on how to modify your workout.
If you worked out with kettle bells before becoming pregnant and are not having any problems with your pregnancy, then you will likely be able to continue using them -- at least for a while. Talk to your instructor and your doctor; they might suggest switching out your kettle bells during your last trimester.
Sources American Council on Exercise: “Exclusive ACE research examines the benefits of kettle bells.” Build a Better Butt: Workouts for Slim and Shapely Glutes
Fitness Dos and Don'ts: Test Your Knowledge on Getting in Shape The answers to these questions depend on many factors including your gender, fitness level, and what type of kettle bell exercise you’re doing.
However, if you have a lot of experience with weight training and can bench press over 200lbs, you can try starting with a 40lb kettle bell. A 40lb kettle bell is roughly equivalent to a 20 kg weight, FYI A man who is older or out of shape should start at about 25lbs.
Learning proper form is extremely important in kettle bell training, and starting with too high of a weight can lead to injury quickly. However, if you have a lot of experience with weight training and can bench press over 200lbs, you can try starting with a 40lb kettle bell.
Learning proper form is extremely important in kettle bell training, and starting with too high of a weight can lead to injury quickly. However, women who have previous weight training experience may want to start with a 25lb bell.
You want to make sure you have enough weight to get a good workout in, but not so much that you sacrifice learning form. Some grind style exercises include overhead press, squats, and dead lifts.
Some examples of ballistic exercises include swings, snatches, cleans, and jerks. While these are the two major categories, there are also some varieties that include combinations of grind and ballistic movements.
If the weight is too light you can use your muscles incorrectly and never learn proper form. This is because with grinds you are working more slowly and targeting more specific muscle groups.
Ballistic exercises use the full body and therefore require a heavier weight. A trained eye will ensure you’re using proper form and let you know if a weight is too light or too heavy.
When you begin kettle bell strength training you will probably notice yourself getting stronger relatively quickly. If you notice your training getting easier, you may want to increase the weight you are using so that you can continue to improve.
This is a pretty big jump so don’t get discouraged if moving up is harder than you expected. Save yourself from potential injuries by improving your form before you go for the bigger weights.
Make sure you’re practicing your technique for each exercise regularly before you move up, especially if you’re starting with a beginner’s routine. Testing your progress by maxing out should be done sparingly, as it takes your body time to recover after doing this.
The main factors to consider when choosing the proper kettle bell weight are your gender and fitness level. Overall remember to put your form and technique first in your training and you should be increasing your weight before you know it!
They range from five to 50 pounds and come color-coded, with a smooth steel handle for an easy grip. Reviewer rave: “Product delivered in excellent condition with more than enough packaging.
Reviewer rave: I bought it about a month ago, and it’s been in my workout bag ever since. With the dial at the top, you can change the kettlebell's resistance between 8, 12, 20, 25, 35, and 49 pounds, making it super easy to switch from endurance exercises to strength moves without missing a beat.
Reviewer rave: “I live in a city apartment with limited space, so I just don't have room for a whole rack of kettle bells. This thing is great—it has a tiny footprint (fits under a chair), it's easily adjustable, and it feels very solid.”
As you get stronger and want to increase the level of resistance, just add water. The water truly does add a whole new dynamic, I didn't really follow the workout charts, I mainly use them for traditional weight movements like hammer curls and 1-arm shoulder presses.
I've seen others use them for just about everything, specifically kettle bell workouts, which they are ideal for because you can adjust the weight they don't damage the floor when dropped.” This kettlebell's super-wide grip makes it great for incorporating two-handed movements into your workouts (or if you've just got big hands!
Reviewer rave: “I like the smooth handle, without the cross-hatch grips, so my hands won't get tore up and I don't have to bother with wearing gloves. I have had no problems with grip and this thing has not slipped out of my hands into the wall or mirror yet :)” —Anita Beyer, amazon.com
Amazon.this powder-coated kettle bell can be adjusted from 10-40 pounds, according to what your workout needs are, and features a flat bottom for easy storage. Reviewer rave: “I wanted to start using kettle bells and this was a good starter set for a decent price.”
Bionic Body amazon.comic you prefer something that won't come down as hard from an accidental drop (it can happen), opt for a soft kettle bell option like this one. It features a large handle that will give you a secure, comfortable grip, and it's available in weights from 10 to 40 pounds.
Reviewer rave: “This is a great kettle bell for exercise because it is a soft base and a sturdy handle. Amazon.common'll feel a little safer tackling all your swing movements using this kettle bell that's way softer than a cast-iron option.
Amazon.these kettle bells are available in weights from 15 to 50 pounds, and feature a large, textured handle for easy grip. Växjö This smart compact kettle bell isn't only adjustable with the click of a button, but when you connect to the Växjö app, you can also track your reps, sets, weight, power, volume, and time, so that you can get a good look at how you're performing.
In the contest for fave free weight, kettle bells are quickly gaining on dumbbells and barbells for the top prize as more people catch on to their versatility—they let you train for power, muscular endurance, and strength all in one weight, says kettle bell specialist Lauren Kan ski, CPT. Part of what makes them such a complete package is the way that they're designed: “The kettle bell loads the weight on one side instead of it being evenly dispersed like a barbell or dumbbell,” says Kan ski.
And while all KB's have this one feature in common, there are other distinguishing factors to consider before buying one. Laura Miranda, DPT, CSS, points out that heavier weights are good for power movements like swings and snatches, while lighter loads are ideal for things like presses and Turkish get-ups.
Opting for an adjustable kettle bell lets you play with different levels of resistance with just one weight. You can also consider going for a soft kettle bell set instead, which will protect you and your floors in case of accidental drops.
Bottom line: The weight set you should buy really depends on your lifting history, says Kan ski. But for newbies, she considers 8–12 kilograms to be a good range for women working on overhead movements, and a little heavier for lower body movements, like swings and goblet squats is a good idea.
Here are the best kettle bell options for you to pick from, based on customer reviews and top ratings on trusted sites like Amazon. View Gallery10 Photos This Home Arms Workout Requires Minimal Equipment
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.
PRI Kettle bell Weights Deluxe Cast Iron Vinyl... KETTLEBELLS: Weights combine function and fun for an exciting and efficient workout — a true fitness... ULTIMATE WEIGHTLIFTING TOOL: Use kettle bells for squats, throws, cleans, jerks, snatches and...
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.
However, this can adjust depending on your age, fitness level, and type of workout. 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