When I was first introduced to kettlebell training I wish there was a kettelbell buyers guide available to me! If you are shopping for a kettlebell (a giri or girya in Russian), you probably want to know what different types are available just like I was wanting to know. Can men and women and use the same kettlebell? And what weight should you get? If you have never used a kettlebell before, should you purchase a different type of product than someone who is familiar with the “cannonball with a handle”? And just how did this odd looking cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training device originate? You have questions, and we have all the answers in this definitive kettlebell buyers guide.
So below is my kettlebell buyers guide and I do hope it helps you get exactly the equipment that is right for you! Enjoy!
What is a kettlebell and where did it come from?
Kettlebells date back to the 1700s in Russia. A large, round cast-iron or steal weight with a handle, kettlebells facilitate swinging and ballistic movements. They were not used for exercise originally. Rather, farmers used them to weigh crops. At markets and festivals were they sold their goods, these farmers enjoyed showing off the strength they had developed from constantly lifting these heavy weights.
The Soviet Army began using them as physical training and conditioning equipment in the 20th century, and sports competition began in Russia and Europe in the 1940s. Kettlebells became popular as a strength and cardio training device in the United States in the 1960s, and are now found in health and fitness clubs throughout the country .
What types of kettlebells can I choose from?
You will find some sand-filled kettlebells on the market and even a few filled with water, but generally they are made from either professional grade steel or standard grade cast-iron.
When choosing cast-iron, the larger the bell size, the heavier the weight. The smaller the bell size, the lower the weight. There may be a slight difference in handle diameter and width as well. The handle will be thicker than on competition steel bells, and may not be best for people with small hands. Cast-iron kettlebells will almost always be less expensive.
Competition bells, made of high-grade steel, are always the same size. They will vary in weight, but the size is uniform to guarantee a standard lifting technique. Competition steel kettlebells are always more expensive than cast-iron, since they must adhere to national and international competition specifications. The handles on steel kettlebells are thinner than their cast-iron counterparts, and are specially designed to prevent slipping.
Whether beginner or veteran weight trainer, what should I be looking for?
Beginning weight trainer
You should probably get started with a cast-iron kettlebell as a beginner. Because of their unique design and effect on your body, kettlebells are not for everyone. A cast-iron investment is less expenses, and if you find out you enjoy the intense, one-of-a-kind kettlebell training exercises and benefits, you can always step up to the more expensive, professionally constructed competition bells.
However, if you have the money to invest in competition grade kettlebells from the start it is highly recommended that you do so. The handles are thinner and easier to grasp, slip-free design is integrated, and the ball portion of the device is always the same size, regardless what weight bell you purchase.
Veteran weight trainer
You will probably want to get started immediately with competition steel kettlebells. As a veteran weight trainer, you understand the importance of form over function. Steel kettlebells allow for a perfect and consistent range of motion for each repetition. And when you get stronger and move up to a heavier weight, the uniform size and easy grip handle mean you will continue to practice perfect form. Proper form delivers quicker results and fewer injuries, whenever weight training is involved.
Should men and women use different sized weights, and what weight size is best for me?
Men and women should first choose bells according to the above criteria. As far as weight is concerned, women probably want to start off with an 8 kg or 10 kg bell (15 or 20 pound sizes are comparable in the US). Men should probably start with a 12 kg to 16 kilogram bell (roughly 25 to 35 pound US equivalent). Not sure what weight is right for you? Choose the lighter weight above, or find a local gymnasium or health club which uses kettlebells and get some hands-on experience.
What are some typical kettlebell weights?
Russian kettlebells are usually measured in weight by “poods”. 1 pood equals about 16 kilograms (around 35 pounds). In the United States, typical kettlebell weights will range from 10 to 80 or more pounds. This includes both cast-iron and steel competition bells.
In the United Kingdom and other non-US areas, you can expect to find bells beginning as light as 5 kilograms and as heavy as 32 or 36 kilograms. (Remember to always err on the side of caution, and choose the lighter bell when deciding between 2 different weight sizes.)
What exercises can I perform with my kettlebell?
The most common kettlebell exercises are swings, cleans, windmills, and snatches. Single arm swings and 2 arm rows are popular, as are the goblet squat, figure 8 and the Russian twist. There are plenty of videos and instructional e-books available online which walk you through performing each and every kettlebell exercise properly.
What physical benefits do kettlebells deliver?
Moving from the farmer’s fields to the Russian Red Army, kettlebells provide an intense total body workout. Because swinging motions are involved, your agility and balance are improved. Obviously lifting weights builds your strength, but your endurance is boosted as well. When done properly and in high repetitions, kettlebell exercises offer improved cardiovascular health and functioning. Your hips, glutes, hamstrings and waistline also benefit from this unique physical fitness tool.
Unlike the more common dumbbell which is also used for single arm weightlifting, kettlebells have a center of mass which moves far beyond your hand. This impacts your body in a greater manner than a dumbbell, involving more muscle groups. Known as an “unstable force” in weight training, this is the primary reason for the greater impact kettlebell training has on your body than standard free weights.
How much do kettlebells cost?
A quick search on Amazon shows that you can purchase a 5 pound kettlebell for around $5. Obviously, you have a shipping charge to consider as well. And that particular price is for a cast-iron bell with a one-piece cast. 25 pound cast-iron kettlebells will be anywhere between $20 and $30 usually, with a 55 pound kettlebell costing between $45 and $55.
Because of their painstaking production and competition level specifications, steel kettlebells are more expensive. 8 kg (15 to 20 pound) models can run as much as $40 online, with a 32 kg (70 pound) professional grade competition kettlebell setting you back $150 or more.
More points to consider
Kettlebells are extremely unique, in both design and exercise. Do not assume that just because you are physically fit that you can start off with a heavy weight. Swinging, snatching and jerking movements need to be perfected before you move up in weight.
You get what you pay for. Cast-iron kettlebells are definitely recommended if you are just getting started. Just remember that uneven bottoms, welded handles, a rough handle finish and sometimes minimal handle clearance can be negatives encountered with the cast-iron version of this product.
Has our Kettlebell Buyers Guide been helpful? We know it is not always easy to find kettlebells locally. The Internet provides a great place to comparison shop, you will always find exactly what you are looking for, and get delivery right to your front door.