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. Unlike a treadmill or elliptical, kettle bells probably aren’t going to become an eyesore in the corner of your bedroom and still provide a few heart-pounding workouts.
They’re more versatile than the same old hand weights, though, so you can create an exercise regime that’s tailored to your specific fitness goals. Buying a kettle bell probably doesn’t seem that difficult, but many factors actually affect how well this equipment fits into your workout routine.
Finding the right model means knowing what materials to look for, what type of handles best meet your needs, and the proper weight to give you the best workout. There’s good reason why they’ve become such a popular workout tool in recent years.
When you swing them, you can elevate your heart rate quickly and burn up to 20 calories per minute, which is often more than you’d do in a cardio class at the gym. The workouts utilize smooth, swinging transitions so your shoulders, elbows, and knees don’t take as much of beating as they would with jump training.
Kettle bells can be worked into a variety of exercise forms, too, so you can use them with strength and power training, as well as with traditional cardio workouts such as running. You can easily stash your kettle bells in a closet or under the bed, and still get the same intense workout you’d get from a five-minute sprint.
When the iron is cast for the kettle bells, a seam is left across the center of the handle’s underside. Higher end brands will file down the seam to create a smooth, even surface.
Inexpensive kettle bells often don’t have this seam removed, which leaves a sharp edge that can cut your skin when you grip the handle. Some exercises may require placing both of your hands around the handle, so you don’t want the fit to be too tight or uncomfortable.
While most kettle bells are made of cast-iron or vinyl-coated cast-iron, their handles are available in several types of finishes, including bare iron, enamel, powder coating, and vinyl. Bare iron provides a good grip, so you don’t have to worry about the equipment flying out of your hands.
Powder coating has an even rougher texture, so this type of finish is a good option if you find that your hands get very sweaty during workouts. Vinyl handles are best avoided because they don’t offer a good grip and have a tendency to crack and peel.
Once you’ve chosen a kettle bell with the material, construction, and handles that you prefer, the most important question to answer is what size to get. If you want an extremely well-made kettle bell that’s comfortable to grip and will stand up to intense workouts, opt for a model that’s approximately $25 to $28.
“Exercisers experience an average heart rate of 93% maximum during a kettle bell workout.” While kettle bells can provide effective aerobic exercise during a workout, they also cause a prolonged anaerobic burn after you’ve completed your routine.
A kettle bell workout usually burns approximately 20 calories per minute, which is the equivalent of running at a six-minute mile pace. For exercise, the Shaolin Monks in China lifted large padlocks that were very similar to modern kettle bells.
However, it’s a good idea to have kettle bells in a couple of different weights so you can scale your workout up or down, depending on your goals. From a weight training perspective, kettle bells can target most of the major muscle groups.
Depending on your routine, you can work out your back, shoulders, arms, abs, hips, glutes, obliques, and/or legs. The frequency of your routine will depend on the intensity of your workout, so it’s a good idea to consult with a trainer or fitness expert for advice.
In general, working out every other day is a good average intensity program for beginners. 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 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 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. A cast-iron kettle bell is the most cost-effective option for most people intending to work out at home.
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. I don’t recommend buying an adjustable kettle bell as your first purchase.
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 kettle bells distribute weight unevenly, they challenge your core during exercise and work your muscles in new ways, which can give you the results you're after.
Your physique won’t cooperate if you undermine your hard kettle bell workout with junk food and an overly high caloric intake. This includes learning ways to deal with cravings and hunger, and to boost your motivation to stay on track with healthy eating.