I frequently get asked about what kettlebell to buy and also which size kettlebell weight to buy too.
Below I’m going to address the different types of kettlebells, what to look for when buying kettlebells, what kettlebell weights you need, and finally some of the brands of the best kettlebells that I recommend.
OK, lets get started…
The Different Types of Kettlebells You Can Buy
With the explosion of kettlebell training over the last 10 years there are now many shapes and sizes available to buy.
“A kettlebell’s design allows its center of mass to extend beyond the hand. This facilitates full body ballistic movements, similar to movements found in the snatch and clean and jerk in weightlifting. Common kettlebell exercises involve swings, lifts, and presses, but unlike weightlifting or powerlifting, kettlebell training can be performed bilaterally and unilaterally in all planes.” (Manocchia et al. 2013)
Let’s take a look at what’s available on Amazon.com right now:
As you can see there are a number of different types of kettlebells that you can choose from:
- Vinyl Coated Kettlebells
- Adjustable Kettlebells
- Cast Iron Kettlebells
- Kettlebells with a Gorilla Face
- and more…
You can, in theory, use any of these kettlebells for a few of the basic kettlebell exercises.
For example, the following exercises would be OK with any of these kettlebell choices:
The reason these kettlebell exercises would be OK with any of these kettlebell choices is that they involve the simplest of movements that don’t require too much interaction with the kettlebell itself.
The Single Arm Deadlift exercise can be performed with any type of kettlebell:
One of the most important kettlebell exercises is the kettlebell swing.
Providing the handle is not vinyl and/or has a bad finish that cuts up the hands then many of these kettlebells would be suitable for just the kettlebell swing.
So if you intend to just swing the kettlebell and perform the 3 other kettlebell exercises above then most kettlebells will do the job.
However, if you intend to develop and perform a lot more of the 50+ kettlebell exercises available then I recommend you are more careful with your kettlebell buying decision.
The 2 Best Types of Kettlebells You Should Buy
If you are going to take your kettlebell training a little more seriously then you need to choose a kettlebell that will not damage your wrists, forearms, or cut up your hands.
There are 2 basic kettlebell types to choose from:
As you can see from the competition kettlebell image above the handle is much smaller and is squarer in design.
Competition kettlebells are designed to by used with just one hand and the size and shape stays the same size regardless of the weight.
The advantage of these types of kettlebells 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.
The main disadvantage is that they can only be used with one hand, so the all important two handed swing is out and so are the valuable goblet squats, halos, and many other beginner based exercises.
If you teach kettlebell classes, as I do, then these types of kettlebells just don’t work in most situations.
Cast Iron Kettlebells
The cast iron kettlebell is produced from one solid piece of metal so unlike the competition kettlebell the size will increase with the weight.
You will notice that the handle is wider enabling you to use two hands if necessary so all those double handed exercises are now possible.
If you are a beginner then the cast iron kettlebell is much more diverse in its usage
Making the Choice between Competition Kettlebells and Cast Iron Kettlebells
The choice should be quite easy for you now.
As a beginner the competition kettlebells don’t allow for two handed exercises which makes learning the very basics difficult, therefore the cast iron kettlebells would be the better choice.
However, if you have mastered all the two handed exercises and want to take your kettlebell training to the next level and even enter some competitions then the competition kettlebells are for you.
If you choose to go for the cast iron kettlebells then there is still a few more things that you need to know before you buy.
Here’s a quick video telling you what to look for when buying your kettlebell:
7 Things to Avoid When Buying the Best Kettlebells
Here are a few of my top tips on what to look for when you’re buying or upgrading your kettlebell.
1. Super Thick Kettlebell Handles
The first thing is the handle. Make sure you don’t buy a kettlebell with a handle that’s too thick.
If you can’t wrap your fingers all the way around the kettlebell handle, then the handle’s probably going to be a bit too thick for you.
A kettlebell 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.
2. Narrow Kettlebell Handle Width
Next, can you fit both hands through the kettlebell handle? Some kettlebells, like the the competition ones, are only wide enough for one hand.
If you’re going to be performing a lot of two handed kettlebell exercises, which I recommend for beginners, then you’re going to need a kettlebell where you can get both hands through the handle.
3. Kettlebells with Feet or Bases
The bottom of the kettlebell 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 kettlebell.
So if the kettlebell has a round rubber or plastic foot on it, I would certainly avoid that type of kettlebell.
4. Sharp Kettlebell Handle
The fourth thing is to make sure that there are no sharp edges on the kettlebell handle.
Look out for kettlebells that have sharp bits of paint and also check where the handle meets the body that there are no small nicks that can cut into your hands.
If you have got an existing kettlebell with sharp edges, then you can sometimes sand them down with sandpaper.
5. Completely Round Kettlebell Body
The next thing is the body of the kettlebell. Make sure it’s not too round.
If it’s round, like a ball, then when you’re in the racked position it’s going to really dig into your forearm the same problem will apply to the top position of the overhead press or kettlebell snatch too.
So you want a slightly oval kettlebell body and a handle that smoothly moulds into the body of the kettlebell.
Avoid a kettlebell that’s a round ball with a big, sharp handle stuck on the top
There should be a nice smooth bit of continuity with the kettlebell from the body into the handle.
6. Narrow Kettlebell Handle Spacing
Next, check the spacing between the handle and the kettlebell’s body.
Can you get your fist into this space?
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 kettlebell will lie too far down on the arm and it’s going to dig into your forearm.
7. Vinyl or Plastic Coated Kettlebell Handles
It seems to be trendy to coat kettlebells in vinyl or plastic to avoid marking floor etc.
Unfortunately coated kettlebells can get very slippy as your hands sweat plus they have really annoying seams where they have been coated that damage the hands.
Also plastic handles never seem to be very round and tend to have an oval handle which causes problems as it rotates through the hand.
What Size Kettlebell Weights to Buy
The best kettlebells traditionally come in the following weights:
- 8kg (17lbs)
- 12kg (26lbs)
- 16kg (35lbs)
- 24kg (53lbs)
- 32kg (70lbs)
However, due to the huge rise in popularity there are now many weight sizes in-between the ones listed above.
I’ve been teaching kettlebells for almost 10 years now and I can safely say that I’ve never had to use any kettlebell sizes other than those listed above except for a 20kg and 28kg kettlebell.
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.
Kettlebell Weights for Women, What You Need
Here are the 3 kettlebell weight sizes that I recommend all women should buy:
- 8kg (17lbs) – perfect starting weight, great for learning the basic movements and later turkish get ups
- 12kg (26lbs) – used for the two handed swing to begin with and then later many other exercises
- 16kg (35lbs) – perfect progression for the two handed swing when more advanced to compliment the 12kg
With these 3 kettlebell weights there is nothing more a lady should ever need for her kettlebell training.
If you feel that 8kg is too heavy for a starting weight then you need to understand the type of exercises you will be performing.
Watch this video to see why women should begin with the 8kg kettlebell:
Kettlebell Weights for Men, What You Need
Here are the 3 kettlebell weights that I recommend for men to buy:
- 12kg (26lbs) – perfect for beginners with no weight lifting experience, great for beginner turkish get ups
- 16kg (35lbs) – starting weight and great for swings and most single handed exercises
- 24kg (53lbs) – great progression for the two handed swing and later other single handed exercises
At a later date more experienced kettlebell practitioners may work on overhead presses with the 32kg plus may need to bridge the gap between the 16kg and 24kg with a 20kg for single handed exercises.
Where to Buy Kettlebell Weights
I’ve tried and used a lot of kettlebells in my time teaching kettlebell classes and training clients.
I have to say that I’ve learnt the hard way and bought lots of kettlebells that turned out to be completely useless.
Here are one brand that I have consistently used over the past few years without any problems, they are very reasonably priced and available on Amazon.com in the USA:
For those based in the UK, head on over to Wolverson Fitness and check out their black series of kettlebells.
Conclusion to Buying Kettlebells
If you are new to kettlebell training and only want to perform a few simple exercises then almost any kettlebell will do.
However, if you want to get the most out of kettlebell training and perform slightly more advanced kettlebell exercises then you are going to need to choose a good quality kettlebell.
Cast Iron kettlebells 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 then the competition kettlebell may be for you.
I’ve also outlined above what size kettlebell women should use and also the recommend starting weights for men too.
Buying the right kettlebell is an important decision if you are serious about your kettlebell training.
Get the best kettlebells now and they will last you a lifetime and enhance your exercise experience.
Enjoy your kettlebell training!
[ I’ve included some links above that are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. This commission will not affect the original price or the price you pay. ]