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 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.
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. The kettle bell surface and handle should be smooth and free of artifacts left over from the casting process.
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. Most competition -style kettle bells have straight handles with a fairly wide window.
The Kettle bell Kings Competitionkettlebell breaks from this convention by sporting a smaller window with a slightly curved handle. 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.
The handle window is wide enough to fit two hands in, which is great for two-hand swings. It’s the only competition -sized kettle bell made of steel covered entirely in a powder coating.
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.
The winner is defined in each weight category by greatest sum of rises (successful reps overhead). In snatch, the final score is the average of the greatest sum (x) between left and right hand (x/2).
Team placing is determined by the results of individual participants based on rules and regulation of hosting organization. The participant is invited to the platform at least two minutes prior to the beginning of his/her flight.
Each properly executed repetition is accompanied by a signal of the platform judge. The judge declares the signal as soon as all parts of the body of the competitor become motionless.
If the competitor conducts a foul or violates any rules of the technical performance, the platform judge can issue a “no count” or “stop set.” If a competitor cannot completely straighten elbows due to anatomical deviations, or medical condition, he/she should inform the platform judges and/or jury before the beginning of the flight.
The JERK is carried out from the following starting position: kettle bells are fixed on the chest, arms are pressed to the trunk, legs are straightened. Kettle bells are then launched into the overhead position and arms, trunk and legs should be straightened.
Legs and kettle bells should be in line and parallel to the plane of the body. Important note: fixation is punctuated by a dedicated, visible stop of the kettle bells and the athlete.
LONG CYCLE uses the same rules as JERK, but the “STOP” command is issued when the kettle bell touches the platform. The performance of the Snatch is carried out in one step from the starting position between the legs.
The participant should swing the kettle bell in a continuous movement upward into the overhead position and fixate. Fixation is achieved when the kettle bell is in the overhead position and arms, legs and trunk are straightened.
The legs and kettle bell should be in line and parallel to the plane of the body. After fixation, the platform judge will issue a point, and the competitor will lower the kettle bell to the starting position between the legs without the kettle bell touching any part of the trunk.
The weight of kettle bell (s), exercises, timing, number of legs of the relay are defined in the competition rules and regulations. Performance of exercises follows the general rules included in this document.
Performance of exercises begins with the lightweight categories. The participant is authorized to compete only in one leg of the relay. 5 seconds prior to start the control time is announced in one-second increments: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 then the command “Start” is given to participants in the first leg;– 15 seconds before the start of the next leg the judge allows the next participant to come forward;– 5 seconds prior to the termination of the leg the control time is announced in one-second increments: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.– Next, the transfer to the next leg and next competitor is made after the “change” command.
If this is your first time reading one of our posts, we create kettle bell workouts in collaboration with kettle bell experts designed to give you maximal results and not take up much of your time. We recommend you read more about receiving a quick, free, dynamic kettle bell workout every week you can click below.
Also, we recommend you subscribe to our posts so you can be notified when we publish more in this series. Tim Peterson, Chief Instructor for Titrant, has created a great post for us about selecting your kettle bell.
Kettle bells are a great tool, that can be used for strength work, hypertrophy, conditioning, power, and endurance. Cast iron, competition /sport, steel, rubber coated, soft-sand filled, adjustable, medicine ball-like, and more.
All kettle bells are cast in a mold, what happens after can be different depending on the company. After you read about which type of kettle bell you need, we have a great post about determining which weight you need to train with HERE.
Depending on whom you ask, you will get different folk stories of what they originally were made from, and what they were used for, as well as which countries claim ownership. The competition kettle bell is the same size and dimension across the weight range, and is made out of steel.
The handle is flat across on top, and joins the body of the kettle bell vertically. Some brands are an 8 kilogram shell filled with fillers like sawdust and ball bearings to achieve the desired weights, this potentially can become loose and rattle over time or lose balance.
More durable competition bells are made from a single piece of steel, cast precisely to the specific weight. There are ballistics such as Swings, Cleans and Snatches, and grinds, such as Goblet and Double Front Squats, Presses, and Get-Ups.
Once beyond the learning phase, the curved handle of the cast-iron kettle bell is the clear winner for swings. As a result, if the kettle bell ’s contact each other on the way up or down they will have a tendency to bounce off of each other like basketballs.
The last thing you want is for the kettle bells to bounce away from each other on the way down and hit the user on the legs. Another item to consider is that when hiking two large kettle bell ’s through the legs, regardless of weight, the stance used needs to be wide enough to allow room for them to pass.
After you read about which type of kettle bell you need, we have a great post about determining which weight you need to train with HERE. More importantly, and again something that affects beginners more than experienced lifters, is that the larger size body rests on the meat of the forearm rather than the bone protrusion of the wrist, which is right where the smaller body of a lighter kettle bell will sit.
Both of these surgeries led me to experiment with competition style kettle bells, which contacted my arm below these sensitive areas. After you read about which type of kettle bell you need, we have a great post about determining which weight you need to train with HERE.
If you are a gym, I would strongly recommend a full set of both cast-iron and competition style kettle bells. After you read about which type of kettle bell you need, we have a great post about determining which weight you need to train with HERE.
We recommend you read more about receiving a quick, free, dynamic kettle bell workout every week you can click below. Tim Peterson is the Chief Instructor and Director of Content and Curriculum for Titrant, a revolutionary fitness ranking system based on standardized strength and conditioning tests utilized currently in over 1,000 gyms worldwide in more than 25 countries.
Tim has a MS and BA in Kinesiology, and has taught High School Weightlifting for over a decade. He uses his experiences in and observations of the fitness industry as inspiration for his writing, which appears on the Titrant website, as well as guest posts for Dan John, Kettle bell Kings, and others.
For more of Tim’s writing as well as more information about Titrant, a unique challenge that is both standardized yet personal due to tests based upon gender, age, and body weight, visit www.fitranx.com. Kettle bell Kings creates new workout each week which you can receive in your email inbox.
“ Regular kettle bells are the solid cast iron variety that you see the most of. “ Competition style kettle bells have a steel exterior, not iron, and are a uniform size, with only the amount of weight inside the hollow body changing.
There is no standard that manufacturers adhere to with the sizing of regular cast iron kettle bells. For heavier weights the handle will change in shape and thickness, and the body will get larger.
These size differences lead you to change your movement or grip a little with each weight or brand. Therefore, consistency in your workouts with regular kettle bells kind of goes out the window.
Competition style kettle bells have a hollow steel body of a consistent outside dimensions regardless of weight. The consistency factor is one reason why competition kettle bells are superior.
Most people at a typical gym aren’t going to really appreciate having the uniform size of competition kettle bells for perfectly consistent movements, the way someone serious about training with them across many exercises and weights would. Competition kettle bells have a more angular handle that’s straighter on top and with a more abrupt curve towards the body.
For two-handed swings, you might prefer either style of kettle bell, depending on the width of your hands. A regular kettle bell also allows you to space your hands out a tad bit for a more natural grip.
I have a few older (discontinued) regular cast iron Rage and Troy VAX kettle bells from when they were still making the handles too smooth. Not only are they too smooth, but also the handles have some imperfections in the casting, which only hurt your hands and don’t help your grip.
A surface that’s too smooth sticks to your palms too much when dry, and then the kettle bell flies out of your hands as soon as you get sweaty. It creates a nice even layer of soft bumps on the surface that minimizes friction against your hands.
Kettle bell Kings calls their texture “pitted” steel. As long as the kettle bell handle looks like it has a decent texture, or the online description indicates that it is not polished smooth, don’t get too hung up on this.
The important thing is its a decent feeling finish with no rough spots. Handles on regular kettle bells graduate up for heavier weights, reaching 38 mm / 1.5 and higher.
The point of kettle bell training isn’t to work your grip. You aren’t lifting nearly as much weight as with a barbell, so a 28 mm handle is not necessary or even desirable on a kettle bell.
The uniform size helps you maintain consistent form. The only problem is competition kettle bells are bigger, or at least in the lighter weights, than the regular cast iron counterparts, making it necessary for you to take a wide stance to get them both between your legs.
Competition kettle bells have a uniformly sized steel shell, and they need a way to vary the weight inside. You might hear the filler move around, and of course that means the weight is shifting around on you.
This method results in more weight in the upper portion of the kettle bell, closer to the handle. The effect for the user is a more balanced kettle bell that turns over your wrist easily.
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.
Finally, we like that Kettle bells USA often has the Matrix Elite on sale for just a few dollars more than our budget pick. Besides, one of these things will basically last forever so it’s worth spending a bit more on something that’s a lot nicer to use.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
This ensures that your technique stays consistent regardless of the weight you are using. Traditional cast iron kettle bells get larger as they get heavier, and each size rests in a slightly different place in the rack position on your forearm.
This means that your “hand insertion” on a competitionkettlebell never changes so that you can concentrate on technique, the most important aspect of kettle bell training. The type of steel we use in our Paradigm Pro Elite Precision competition kettle bells is a special high tensile strength alloy that is slightly more porous on the handle portion of the kettle bell so that it can absorb weightlifting chalk more easily.
The handles are designed to prevent lateral slipping and minimize fatigue with high repetition sets. Kettle bells USA® manufactures two types of competition kettle bells, Paradigm Pro Elite Precision 33 mm handle diameter and Paradigm Pro Elite Precision 35 mm handle diameter.