“Best Kettlebell Brands”: What we’re covering: Competition Style Kettlebell & Russian Style Kettlebells
(Inline with keeping it real, the below links are for more buying information & they’re affiliate links! I get a commission if you buy through them, at no cost to you.)
- Perform Better
- CAP Cast Iron Kettlebells
- RKC Russian Kettlebells– Dragon Door
On the face of it:
I always thought my Cross-fitting friends were a bit too committed.
Their exercise “routiness” seemed to border torture and they never stopped talking about their “CrossFit fam.”
You’ve heard the advice a million times:
“Don’t knock it until you try it,” I like to investigate clichés before going full-blown judgemental.
I’m more of a bodyweight guy so, as it turns out, my Cross-fitting friends have some sweet exercise equipment that I was wholeheartedly ignoring before their very persistent encouragement nudged me into it…
(I get it already, you CrossFit, and you’re in better shape than me.)
Enter the Kettlebell – I’m ready, are you?
The kettlebells, aptly named for their bell-shape (did you know they were named after church bells? I kid you not!).
Now that these are factored into my workout equation, I might be giving my Crossfit friends a run for their protein shakes.
These bell-devils (my name for them because at first you feel like hell and then you feel like you could kick hell to the curb!) are great for increasing grip strength, or performing specific movements that build strength and endurance in the abs, lower back, legs, and shoulders.
Your whole damn body.
For me, I use a:
- 8 kg or roughly 17 lbs.
- 16 kg or roughly 35 lbs. Thats all I need. You can build a decent set with free shipping here at KettbellKings.com
The best part?
You don’t have to be a Crossfitter to get the benefits of using kettlebells, though I should thank the fitness program for bringing kettlebells to my attention.
No more are they just sitting in a corner of a gym with only a few people knowing what they are and how to use them (or a few curious people willing to give them a go and embarrassing themselves in the process–guilty).
More people are learning their benefits for improving body strength and finding that a training program can be a full-body workout in and of itself.
Because of the benefits of kettlebells, these are a great addition to a home gym.
I only use them occasionally for certain exercises… (like I said, I mostly do bodyweight/sandbag training)
Like the Turkish get up, video below:
Common Questions You Might be Thinking:
#1. What are the main types?
The two main types of kettlebells are the classic “Russian” style made of cast-iron and the “Girya” or competition style made of steel.
Pro grade (competition or sport) – Steel
- Made of steel and innately molded
- has 35 mm handle diameter
- Each weight: 8 kg (~17 lbs.) – 32 kg (70 lbs.) has EXACTLY the same dimensions/specs.
- The unpainted steel handle is ideal for use with chalk (see below on how to do this optimally).
- Handle is shaped for our natural human motion.
- Smooth grip handles – (minimizes calluses but not slipping!)
- Bottom is flat for stability.
Standard – Cast Iron
- cost effective
- inconsistent sizing as weight increases/decreases
- Flat base
- One piece design
Steel Standard – Fitness style (half-breed of the two)
- uses filler but made from steel
- has 33 mm handle diameter
- consistency with sizes regardless of weight
Video below by Agatsu does a decent job of explaining the differences between these 2 specific types.
#2. What are the best kettlebells to buy and what do I look out for?When shopping for a kettlebell, you want to choose the one that best suits your individual needs, offers consistency, fits your budget and also made with quality in mind.
What I look for:
For individual needs, I can only tell you what I look for. (I do all of my training at home, so these are my opinions based on that.)
Three simple things I look for are a smooth/clean finish, a coating that’s tenacious and a handle that fits your hand/body.
For me, I can’t deal with the width of the handle too wide, it’ll hit my inner thighs. So, shop around for width if you plan on doing 2 hand swings.
Grip is very important.
This flows well into the finish… you want a smooth surface (on the handle) for your hands to do your cleans and snatches. If there are small nicks or the finish is scratchy, your hands will get pinched and roughed up.
Also if you find yourself sanding down any seams, edges, marks or shallow cuts, that may be indicative that the casting process produced a low quality bell.
You shouldn’t have to be doing that.
The base of the kettlebell should also be completely flat. You don’t want it to be wobbly while you’re doing an exercise, like a one arm push up!
Is it quality or technique thats important? I would say hand strength, technique, conditioning & discretion are more important.
BUT: I feel that if you got your hand/grip technique/skill down first, then the “best” coating/finish would be to go with a powder coat sanded down to your needs.
If you want to refinish your own personal kettlebells at home, this Kettlebell Subreddit has great ideas!
Let’s talk coating:
- Cast Iron: Basic protection from rust and what you put it through. The cast iron kettlebells are fully coated (handle included) to help alleviate the need for chalk but have some decent friction.
- Competition Steel: The handle will not be coated for smooth grip with the ability and use of chalk. The body of the bell needs to be coated.
Question: Best kettlebells that won’t tear up your hands? Realistically, there aren’t any. There are too many variables.
Found a great thread here at Strong First forum with some great insights on this question.
Interested in Kettlebell Coatings?
Kettlebell Handles: I have medium sized hands and find the 35 mm diameter handle to be sufficient. I know that there is a 33 mm handle with the fitness competition kettlebells from Kettlebell Kings.
Comrade! Watch below how cast iron kettlebells are made: Pavel Tstatsouline
This is an old video but amusing and interesting none the less!
Example video below of how hardstyle kettlebell is practiced:
- Girevoy – “Kettlebell Sport” – a sport focusing on movement efficiency for a 10 minute power session. Very challenging sport to compete in both mentally and physically.
Example in the video below: (She’s lifting an almost 50 lb. kettlebell.)
#3. What is a pood?
Let this photo explain:
image courtesy of KettlebellsUSA:
#4. What to look for (not look for) in a kettlebell?
To be real, the first thing people look at is the price and shipping.
The prices on kettlebells aren’t east to swallow BUT in the long run, I feel just getting yourself 1 quality kettlebell at a time is best.
You don’t need a set to start off, especially if you are a beginner. (like you and I)
What I would not look for in a kettlebell or just to stay away from ones that are coated with vinyl or have odd shapes. Personally, I wouldn’t find the primal bells (although freaking cool looking) realistic because the designs would dig into my arm/hand.
Plus they just add more cost than they are worth to the average joe/janes that I am speaking to.
Again, it’s all personal preference here.
But more about that later.
Now, you want to inspect the kettlebell’s welding craftsmanship.
There are 3 areas you want to inspect:
- The seams on the handle.
- Where the handle meets the ball.
- How wide the handle exceeds past the bell.
You want to make sure the seams on the handle are filed off, otherwise your hands might get torn up.
As for the spot where the handle meets the ball, you want to ensure there is no obvious signs of welding, because that indicates a weaker weld, which can shorten the lifespan of your kettlebell.
#5. How To Chalk A Kettlebell?There are many conflicting stories about how to chalk these or not to chalk or chalk your hands not the kettlebell…
Well, it just comes down to your personal preference, whether you’re competing or how hard you’re training at home.
I found this Kettlebell Subreddit asking this question of whether or not to use chalk when training with your kettlebells.
Worth the read? Yes.
Now is this video (by Valery Fedorenko of WorldKettlebellClub) below – worth watching for 30 minutes?
Up to you.
BUT it’s a catch all for how to clean and chalk your kettlebell:
You won’t be thinking about the different ways you’ll need to adjust your technique. (if you use the cast iron type, the sizes will be inconsistent)
Basically, you are asking what weight should you start with.
Honestly, with regards to weight:
Ask yourself, “what weight can I even pick up and do 10 curls?” Or what weight of dumbells do you us?
If you don’t use those or you just haven’t lifted anything in years, then get the lowest weight in kg. to start with.
For example: What kettlebell weight should a woman start with?
If you can do 10 curls with a 16 kg kettlebell, then get the next weight up. If you can’t, rule of thumb is ALWAYS go with the lowest as a beginner to just practice the movements.
Video below by Jason C. Brown, has a great sum up for you:
#8. How many kettlebells should I buy?
I think I said earlier that you could start out with just one. If all you can afford is one, then thats cool.
You can always do progressions to get the most bang from that first kettlebell.
If you can afford to splurge on two, then get one where you are able to fit both your hands within the handle for those exercises that require it.
#9. Should I buy adjustable kettlebells?
As tempting as these may be for beginners, I would shy away from them if you are just starting out.
Although there are great options out there, you can always upgrade if you felt that it would progress your strength goals.
And another thing:
They are expensive and I would rather you just buy 2 fixed weight kettlebells to start and get a feel for. Below you’ll find a demo of one of the great options listed above through the link.
#10 Which One is Right for You?
Fitness or competition?
Round or oval?
Pink, purple, green or blue?
Iron or steel?
The vast array of choices in kettlebells can be overwhelming.
Aside from selecting the appropriate weight, there are other factors to consider when deciding to purchase a kettlebell.
I hope this beast post has covered enough for you to make a personal decision.
You’ll want a solid body or hollow construction. No “fillers” which could include sand or some other material that may shift inside the bell.
You definitely don’t want seams on the handles.
You want the surface to not have any rough edges, burrs, or welds that could injure your hands.
Your hand should glide on the grip or you should be able to grasp it firmly without it moving in your hand, depending on the exercise.
Consider different coatings and construction of the grip of the handle.
A smooth surface may be slippery whereas a slightly pitted handle may allow you to hold the handle with less fear of losing your grip.
Also think about your hand size when selecting your kettlebell. Smaller hands may need a smaller handle.
The “feel” of the kettlebell in your hand and in a racked position (kettlebell is resting against the back of your hand and forearm).
Kettlebells are spaced differently between the handle and the bell.
The joint which connects the handle to the bell may be rectangular or square. Make sure it feels good when in either of these positions.
Now that you’re aware of some of the nuances in kettlebells, I feel you can really have a grasp to make a buying decision and dig in to the kettlebell brands below.
I’m not really sure there’s a database out there on the net of any dimensions for standard kettlebells.
Or competition kettlebell dimensions, for that matter. Below is an image from a bell made from The Gym Revolution.
image credit: The Gym Revolution
All I can see is the handle diameters being stated on manufacturers websites.
image credit: ickbgirls.com
I have read that for competitions, the bells need to have specific dimensions.
” International federations such as IUKL and IGSF mandate that men and women use a competition kettlebell of a same dimensional standard: Diameter of handle: 35 мм ± 1 мм / Diameter of the ball: 210mm ± 2mm / Height: 280mm ± 2mm / *Length of the handle as measured inside the window: 115mm (*from unofficial sources)” – ICBKGirls.com
Keeping that advice in mind when shopping for kettlebells can help you make an informed decision.