If you are new to kettlebell training then you may be wondering how many kettlebells do I need and whether you should be using 1 or 2 kettlebells at the same time.
There are benefits to using single and double kettlebells depending on your goals.
Let’s explore which options are best plus the types of exercises that lend themselves better to 1 and 2 kettlebells.
How many kettlebells do I need for a workout?
You can perform most of the exercises and produce some incredible results with just one kettlebell.
When you start off training with kettlebells I would always recommend that you begin with just one kettlebell.
An average female could spend 12 months working through various exercises and progressions with a 12kg kettlebell and an average male could do the same with a 16kg.
Weaker or unexperienced women may wish to begin with an 8kg and men can choose a 12kg.
If you are clever with how you use your kettlebell you may never need to buy another again.
Discover more: 7 ways to progress your workouts without adding more weight
Once you have mastered 1 kettlebell for all the basic exercises then 2 kettlebells becomes an option.
Using two kettlebells doubles the load so care needs to be taken to ensure you are capable of handling the extra weight.
Most people take to 2 kettlebells well because it offers an even distribution of weight and a more balanced load than single kettlebell training.
As well as adding extra weight using two kettlebells also enables you to train both sides at the same time, this can seriously cut down on training time but also makes the exercises more demanding.
Benefits of single vs double kettlebells?
As a beginner I recommend that you start with just one kettlebell but once you have mastered all the basic exercises you can progress to 2 kettlebells.
Here are a few things to bear in mind when making your choice:
Single kettlebell differences:
- More rotational pull through the core
- Strong emphasis on spinal stabilisation
- Requirement to do both sides so balances muscles
- Longer workouts, so more endurance based
- Requires less neurological control
- Cheaper and more exercise diversity
Some of the best single kettlebell exercises include:
The above single kettlebell exercises lend themselves perfectly to using just 1 kettlebell but practically all kettlebell exercises can be performed with just 1 kettlebell.
Discover more: 52 kettlebell exercises for you to try
Double kettlebell differences:
- More balanced technique (unless one is heavier than the other)
- More weight so better for strength based workouts
- More demanding both physically and mentally
- More expensive
- Quicker workouts
- Less kettlebell exercise options
Some of the best double kettlebell exercises include:
- Clean and Press
- Double Lunges
- Racked Squats
- Single Leg Deadlifts
Using the above exercises with 2 kettlebells will save you a lot of time and also generate some great strength benefits that are hard to achieve with just one kettlebell.
Discover more: Top 5 double kettlebell exercises
Progression from one kettlebell to two kettlebells
Here’s an example of how you would progress the kettlebell lunge exercise from one kettlebell to two kettlebells:
- Bodyweight Reverse Lunge (always master the exercise without weight first)
- Holding One Kettlebell with Two Hands (see image below)
- Holding One Kettlebell with One Hand (in the racked position)
- Holding Two Kettlebells down by your sides
- Holding Two Kettlebells up in the racked position (see image below)
The above exercises would be progressed over a period of months ensuring that you can perform 3 sets of each variation before moving on to the next one.
The kettlebell lunge feels great when using 2 kettlebells because it adds more balance to the exercise plus really overloads the legs, hips and buttocks.
You will always have to bare in mind the added load of 2 kettlebells so you will either have to use 2 x lighter kettlebells or reduce the reps and go for more strength.
If you want to create an overload and still offer the instability that you get with one kettlebell then you can use 2 x kettlebells of different weights eg. 16kg and 24kg.
If you do use different weights on each side then be sure to switch sides every set so you don’t just overload the one side.
Do you need two kettlebells of the same weight?
I understand that when you are just starting out the thought of buying lots of kettlebells is daunting but ultimately, as mentioned earlier, you can get away with just one.
Once you decide you want to progress to double kettlebell exercises, as demonstrated with the lunge above, then you don’t always need to use 2 kettlebells of the same weight.
Let’s say you bought a 12kg for lots of single kettlebell workouts and then later progressed to a 16kg. You can now combine these 2 kettlebells for double kettlebell exercises.
Holding a 12kg on one side and a 16kg on the other is an inexpensive way to begin double kettlebell training.
Later you could buy another 16kg so you have 1 x 12kg and 2 x 16kg kettlebells, then you have lots of double kettlebell training options.
Double kettlebell exercises for starters
When you are finally ready to start training with 2 kettlebells start simple with the following 3 exercises:
- Kettlebell Lunge (one in each hand by your sides)
- Kettlebell Racked Squat (one in each hand up in the racked position)
- Single Leg Deadlift (one in each hand by your sides)
There are lots more for you to try but these are the 3 that I would recommend you practice in order to get used to the feel of 2 kettlebells.
As using two kettlebells adds lots more weight to the exercise it is best to use them on leg based exercises first as there is less chance of injury.
You can achieve some incredible results with just one kettlebell and if you choose wisely you may never need to buy another kettlebell again.
Using two kettlebells enables you to perform shorter workouts while at the same time challenging your strength.
Your transition from one kettlebell to two kettlebells should be logical, gradually moving through the exercise progressions before overloading the movement.
You may choose to use two different kettlebell weights when performing double kettlebell exercises in order to still add a degree of instability to the exercise.
Best of luck with your training.
Discover more: Complete guide to buying the correct kettlebells
To see more posts about basic kettlebell workouts, go here.
Have you transitioned from one kettlebell to two? Let me know more:
Beginners should start with just one kettlebell and may never need to buy another again. Only more advanced kettlebell lifters will need to buy kettlebells in pairs.
Men usually start with a 12 kg (25lbs) or 16kg (35lbs) kettlebell and woman with an 8g (17lbs) or 12kg kettlebell. Over time you may need to add 1 or 2 more heavier kettlebells.
Kettlebell training will add both muscle and reduce fat so you can get a ripped appearance by using kettlebells. However, if you want to add lots of bulk then kettlebells are the wrong tool for you.
Bruce M says
I am an older amateur tennis player. I want to do kettlebell(s) to stay in good shape for tennis during off season. (I only play outside.) and avoid injury. I need a recommendation on what to buy. I will start with one. Or, I will consider “adjustable.” Thanks.
Anthony Moulesong says
I’ve recently started using two kettlebells during my workouts, and it’s really a great way to add intensity to my workout. It challenges my core so much that I really have to work harder than before to do some half get-ups or cleans as the final exercise.
Also, one thing I did before going with two bells in my regular workouts was work on cleaning with two bells. Cleaning 50 and 60 lbs had become fairly easy after a year, but doubling that weight turned it into a whole other animal. Working on cleaning two 35 and 40 pounders helped me get to where I can clean pairs of the bigger bells reasonably well.
And for the single-leg deadlift, I like to use different weights in each hand, like 50 and 25, or 60 and 35. This allows me to add more weight and still keep the rotational aspect that works the core-sling system.
I have an 18kg and a 24kg kettlebells. Do i need a 20kg or 22kg to bridge the gap ?
Greg Brookes says
You should be OK Jun, you can use the Push Press if the overhead press is too much