Let’s talk about kettlebells – the versatile hand held weight that resembles a cannon ball with a handle.
We’re going to explain why you should add kettlebell lifts to your workout, and what the best kettlebells look like.
In this article, we’re going to highlight some of the best kettlebells around – those from: Kettlebell Kings, Rogue Fitness, and Fringe Sport.
To understand what makes the best kettlebell, let’s recap how they are typically used.
Why Use Kettlebells For Fitness?
First of all, how is a kettlebell different than a dumbbell, a fitness implement that nearly every gym has?
A kettlebell is heavy like a dumbbell – so it obviously provides the resistance you need to develop strength and power. The difference with the kettlebell: the handle and offset mass means it’s great for ballistic movements such as swings, cleans, and snatches.
That offset mass also means it’s a challenge to stabilize.
Kettlebells are great for the “hip hinge” movement – they can be done slowly as in a deadlift, or quickly as in a kettlebell swing.
You can use kettlebells singly, or in pairs. Single arm (or single leg) exercises help build core strength and stability. As your body struggles to keep the offset resistance stable and resist rotation you’ll get a great core workout. For swings you can swing one kettlebell with one hand, or two. Or you can swing two kettlebells.
Single leg or single arm exercises also help prevent strength imbalances – most everyone has a strong arm and a weak arm. Ditto for the legs. Use single arm and single leg exercises to catch up your lagging limbs.
The best kettlebells have a handle that is wide enough that you can use a one-hand or a two-hand grip, as appropriate.
That offset mass means kettlebells can provide a great grip, wrist, and arm workout as well. Depending on the move, your upper and lower back, and legs all get a workout as well.
Dumbbells can be used for some of the ballistic moves similar to a kettlebell – but generally speaking they are not as safe. There is too much chance of losing your grip, especially as you grow fatigued.
Excellent power exercises like the clean and jerk and snatch are easily (and safely) possible with the kettlebell.
The shape and handle also let you use them creatively for pure strength building. Want to make the pistol squat even tougher? Use a kettlebell for added resistance. That unique handle and shape ensures you can comfortably and safely keep the bell in place, in what is known as the rack position.
Now that we understand some of the unique benefits of kettlebells, let’s look at what makes one kettlebell better than the other.
Parts of the Kettlebell
Before we dive into the features, let’s take a brief moment to consider the parts of a kettlebell.
The cannonball like body is called the bell. It rests on the ground on it’s base.
The part you grip with your hand (or hands) is the handle.
The corners connect to the horns, which connect to the bell.
The window is the space between the handle and the body of the bell.
By the way, competition kettlebells (kettlebell lifting is also a sport) have all the same parts as a regular kettlebell – but all the different weights are the same size and shape.
Why? For consistency in your lift technique. With competition kettlebells you don’t have to change your technique as you lift heavier weights. The consistency in shape and size ensures you can handle bigger kettlebells in the same way as smaller ones.
Competition kettlebells are also manufactured with attention to accuracy – they are typically within +/- 1% of the advertised weight. This is similar to how calibrated bumper plates are used in competition.
The Rogue Fitness competition kettlebells have specially contoured flats for extra comfort – that’s a nice feature not seen in competitor’s bells.
Kettlebell Kings’ competition kettlebells feature high quality materials as well. The window is sized optimally for easy pickup, and comfort overhead. These kettlebells are also built with a higher proportion of the weight up high, which helps make it easier to rack the kettlebell.
Compared to regular kettlebells, competition kettlebells are significantly more expensive, and probably overkill for the average home gym or garage gym.
Therefore, we’ll focus on regular kettlebells for the remainder of this article.
Features of the Best Kettlebells
Now we’ve got an idea of what will make the best kettlebell for your workout. Let’s look at how good kettlebells are made.
We’ll start from the ground up. A good kettlebell has a perfectly flat base. Why? So you can rely on it to remain stable on the floor for moves such as renegade rows (also called plank rows). It’s also nice if this heavy weight isn’t wobbling around every time you pick it up or set it down.
The best kettlebell will have a base that is machined to be perfectly flat. Cheap kettlebells (from the big box stores) are usually almost flat, but not quite. Remember that kettlebells are cast in a mold. That extra machining step makes sure they are perfectly flat.
The bell itself should be high-quality steel or iron. Kettlebells are cast in a mold, but the quality of material used can make a big difference – especially over the long term. Additionally, you want a one piece casting – you do not want a model that has the handles welded on – those are prone to breakage.
Kettlebells come in a variety of sizes. They are typically measured in pounds and kilograms, but the pood is also commonly used – that’s a traditional Russian unit of measure that is equivalent to 16.38 kilograms or 36.11 pounds.
A very typical kettlebell weight is 53 lbs (24 kg or 1.5 poods).
A good kettlebell is clearly marked with it’s weight – ideally in both pounds and kilograms. This helps to ensure you don’t grab the wrong bell.
Ideally the weight is embossed or engraved – not painted on – so it will never wear off. An embossed marking can also be more comfortable – no ridges to irritate the skin after repeated contact (Kettlebells can be used for high rep lifting.)
Color coded bands applied to the horn are great too. With the dark finish on most kettlebells, it’s not always easy to read the weight in low-light.
Here we see a Rogue kettlebell with green color code – 53 lbs (24 kg).
The handle should be a comfortable size – not too thick, and wide enough to allow for a one-hand or two-hand grip (especially on the big kettlebells).
The finish on the kettlebell should be durable, but perhaps more importantly it’s got to be grip-friendly. The matte black, powdercoat finish on the Rogue and Kettlebell Kings kettlebells holds chalk well, and has a great texture whether you use chalk or not.
Grip is doubly important on kettlebells. You do not want to lose your grip on anything you swing with force, or hold over your head.
Remember – this thing is basically a cannon ball with a handle. It can do some serious damage.
Painted and epoxy finishes are also popular, but powdercoat is preferred in most cases.
Now that we know what a good kettlebell looks like, and how to identify weight, let’s talk about what you need to get started.
What size kettlebell do you need as a beginner?
The general advice is :
- Best kettlebell weight for a man with no strength training experience: 16 kg / 35 lbs
- Best kettlebell weight for a man with strength training experience: 20 kg / 44 lbs
- Best kettlebell weight for a woman with no strength training experience: 8 kg / 18 lbs
- Best kettlebell weight for a woman with strength training experience: 12 kg / 26 lbs
Do you need one kettlebell or two equally sized to start? Starting with one is fine. Most of the kettlebell exercises are done with one kettlebell.
Kettlebell Kings are kettlebell specialists – and it shows. They have the highest quality and the most complete range of options in kettlebells.
Pounds? Yep. Kilograms? Of course. Competition Kettlebells? Yes. Cerakote Kettlebells? Yes. And much more.
For illustrative purposes here we are going to highlight their kilogram line of products with the black powdercoat finish we prefer.
If you’d like to see the other options, click through and browse around. Really, they have more than we can cover here.
Why do we like Kettlebell Kings? They cover all the basic features – flat base, powdercoat finish, one piece casting, color coding, etc.
But, they also throw in a lifetime warranty, free shipping, and the logo and weight markings are engraved for the ultimate in comfort and irritation free lifting.
Here’s a look at the most popular options in kilogram sizing. They also have pounds increments available, and bigger sizes than what we have listed here.
Can’t decide on one size of kettlebell? Good – you probably need a set anyways. Why? Save some serious money, and in all likelihood your training will go better with a few different sizes. After all, you might be able to swing more than you can clean, etc. Don’t shortchange yourself with one size kettlebell.
Kettlebell Kings has several kettlebell sets.
What’s the best kettlebell set? That depends on your individual needs, and with plenty of options, we’re sure you’ll find a set that matches what you need.
A good kettlebell set for a male beginner would be the Knights Set – a 12 Kilogram / 26 Pound, 16 Kilogram / 35 Pound, and 20 Kilogram / 44 Pound kettlebells. They also have “doubles” sets that have 2 of each kettlebell.
If you are slightly more advanced, you may want the Archdukes Set – one 16 kg / 35lbs, one 24kg / 53lbs, and one 32kg / 70lbs kettlebell.
You’ll get the best deal by buying a set of kettlebells.
They’ve got plenty more options in kettlebell sets, so check them out.
One of the benefits of dumbbell training is that plate loaded (adjustable) dumbbells are easy to find, and pretty affordable. You can buy one set of dumbbell handles, and add plates as needed, instead of buying several fixed weight dumbbells.
Do we have any options for an adjustable kettlebell?
An adjustable kettlebell would be a great option for a beginner – start at a light weight and gradually add more weight.
Kettlebell Kings has the 10 to 40 lb Adjustable Kettlebell.
It can easily be adjusted to 10,15,20,25,30,35 or 40 pounds. This is like getting 7 different kettlebells for the price of one.
But, a 40 lb kettlebell is not very heavy. For an advanced trainee, who needs major weight increments, you’ll have to buy multiple fixed kettlebells.
Cerakote Kettlebells from Kettlebell Kings
Let’s take a quick at one last finish option from Kettlebell Kings – Cerakote kettlebells.
What is Cerakote?
Cerakote is a thin-film ceramic coating that offers amazing durability, protection, and a choice of colors and patterns.
Cerakote has a number of advantages over traditional coatings. Cerakote is resistant to wear, abrasion, corrosion, and chemicals. It was originally developed in the 1980s for use on firearms – where a very thin coating is desirable due to the tight tolerance on the moving parts of a firearm.
It’s even more durable than powdercoat.
And not only is it a highly protective, functional coating – it can be applied in a variety of colors, patterns, and designs.
This is just a small sample – click through to see all the options.
And, as we mentioned before – Kettlebell Kings are the kettlebell experts. If you need it and you didn’t see it here, check out their website.
Rogue Fitness Kettlebells
Rogue Fitness also makes some very nice kettlebells. Let’s look at their options.
The Rogue Fitness kettlebells have all the features we like to see in the best kettlebell.
One piece cast iron, chalk-friendly, black powdercoat finish, machined flat base, easy to see color coding, and more. These are very high quality. There’s no comparison to the cheap kettlebells in the big box stores.
The Rogue Fitness kettlebell line is only available in pound increments.
These sizes not enough for you? They also have the line of Monster Kettlebells. These start at 97 lbs, and go up to a truly monster sized 203 lb kettlebell.
What is the biggest kettlebell you can buy?
Rogue makes a lot of specialty strongman equipment, and is a promoter of serious strongman training. It should come as no surprise that the biggest kettlebell we could find is the Rogue Fitness 203 lb monster kettlebell. Here it is next to a wimpy looking 35 pounder.
What if you want kettlebells in even kilogram denominations?
Rogue Fitness carries their competition kettlebell line in kilograms. But, you’ll be paying that premium for very accurate, precision manufactured kettlebells.
Fringe Sport Kettlebells
Fringe Sport’s Prime Kettlebells have all the features we look for in the best kettlebell.
Flat base, matte black, powdercoat finish for excellent grip, color coded, etc.
There’s two big reasons to choose the Fringe Sport product over Rogue: They are offered in even kilogram weights (if you prefer that), and they have smaller weight increments. You can go from the 16kg to an 18kg to a 20kg, whereas with Rogue you’d be jumping from 35 lbs right to 44lbs.
Fringe Sport also offers free shipping.
Please note that not all sizes are shown below, but when you click through to order you will see all the size increments.
Fringe Sport also carries a value lines of kettlebells called the OneFitWonder kettlebells – but they don’t have the powdercoat finish. The difference in grip and texture is not worth the savings, in our opinion.
But, if you are truly budget constrained, those would be an option for a cheaper kettlebell.
At first glance a kettlebell might seem to be similar to a dumbbell – after all, both are hand held weights that you use for fitness training.
But the kettlebell has some unique traits that make it an interesting and versatile training tool.
We’ve reviewed the features to look for in a quality kettlebell set, and we hope we’ve provided useful information that you can use to make your buying decision.