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.
I broke one of my wrists mountain biking years ago, and now have a plate and 8 screws holding the end of my ulna together. 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. 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.
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. 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 Four testers were chosen (two females and two males), all of whom had a good amount of experience in the use of kettle bells.
We then tallied the scores from the three raters on each of the following categories: appearance, use for the swing, value, durability, and use for the snatch and clean. Thus, there are some omissions such as Dragon Door’s kettle bells, which used to be known for excellent quality (I used older ones a few years which were great).
We also omitted the cheap, no -name brand kettle bells that we had accumulated over time (and usually sat in the back corner as no one wants to use them). They have a great surface that holds chalk for competition-style usage, but the handle also provides enough grip.
The color stripe around the handle allows for quick identification of the weight. The Again Faster and Perform Better kettle bells were at the bottom of the appearance list as they look quite similar, except the rubber plate on the bottom of the Perform Better bell (these are the kettle bells Clark Kent would use; mild-mannered but effective).
Many people just learning the kettle bell use it primarily for a two-handed swing movement or some sort of dead lift. The Valery Federico is a competition-style kettle bell and has a handle made for one-handed movements.
The Rogue kettle bell is a bit rougher and might be easier to keep a grip on when hands get sweaty. It has a notch on the top where the forearm sits, which just calls for you to clean it when you take it out of the box.
It was created for competition-style lifts where a person is performing many cleans or snatches, and as such it excels in this category. The Perform Better and Again Faster kettle bells matte finish may feel good initially, but the smoothness can become almost sticky and lead to ripped callouses.
The Perform Better kettle bells were a bit higher priced, but there are often better deals ($89.99 + $37.14 shipping for a 24KG). The Valery Federico kettle bell ($221.00 with free shipping for a 24KG) is a high-end model and the cost reflects it.
Again, if Bruce Wayne were equipping his garage with kettle bells, cost would not be an issue. The Valery Federico kettle bell is made to be sanded and painted.
Summary : A competition style kettle bell with great looks and durability. Cons : A competition style does not allow for two handed grip; expensive.
Cons : Matte finish can be tough on grip, rubber plate on bottom can snag ground. This one workout tool will help you transform your entire body and allow you to achieve all of your health and fitness goals.
Kettle bells, which are essentially weighted balls with handles, provide the perfect workout by increasing strength, endurance, agility and balance while also challenging both the muscular and cardiovascular system with dynamic, total body movements. Training with kettle bells will allow you to develop total body strength, generate fast weight loss to remove unwanted fat, restore youthful flexibility to reduce injury and improve mobility all while redesigning the shape of your entire body.
Thousands of people have experienced the cardio and muscular endurance benefits of kettle bell training. 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.
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.
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. With the explosion of kettle bell training over the last 10 years there are now many shapes and sizes available to buy.
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.
If you choose to go for the cast iron kettle bells then there is still a few more things that you need to know before you buy. Make sure you don’t buy a kettle bell with a handle that’s too thick.
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.
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.
The workout gets your heart pumping and uses up to 20 calories per minute: about as much as running a 6-minute mile. Kettle bell workouts offer a lot of flexibility.
Sign up for a kettle bell class at the gym or online 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 sign up for classes in person or online 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 through 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.
Continued 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.