There are many different types of kettlebell on the market and to the beginner, the apparent differences between them can be very confusing.
I advocate two specific types of bell for my program.
Cast iron and Competition
Lets look at the advantages and disadvantages of each before looking at what
As the name suggests, these are a solid one piece moulding. Not all cast bells are created equally though.
Unlike the competition kettlebells which are made by and large to a standard specification, cast bells vary enormously both in design and quality. I have seen some truly horrendous cast bells in my time and if you happen to choose one of these, you may limit your chances of ever becoming competent with a bell due to the discomfort.
Check the handle for thickness. This should be about 32-35mm.
Too much or too thickness in the handle will impede your grip. The handle should be smooth to the touch and not too rough. The bell itself should be
painted only and not be coated in any form of plastic. Plastic coating may look pretty but I find that it pulls on the skin when held in the rack position or pressed overhead. It’s also prone to perish in time, especially if you ever leave your bells out in the elements. Go for the standard round shape and not some oddball new age bell which is trying to stand out from the crowd by being a funky shape!
You will often see some big names in the fitness industry produce bells with plastic coating. Whilst these will be built well and look very nice, please don’t assume just because they are a
big brand name, that they know how to design a kettlebell. More often than not, these bells are designed to be aesthetically pleasing as opposed to being truly functional.
- Compact design so can be less intimidating to beginners
- Generally more affordable
- Quality can be very high
- Easier to store
- Easy availability
- Because they are a single piece moulding, they will get bigger as they get heavier. This may not seem like a big deal but you will find that in the rack, and in the overhead position, the bell will sit slightly differently on your forearm. This may take some getting used to
- Quality can be very poor
- They generally have smaller bases than competition bells so are not so well suited to floor based exercises such as renegade rows.
- They have a smaller radius so you have a more acute contact point on your forearm when holding them in the rack position.
These bells are also known as pro-grade kettlebells. They are my choice. This is to a degree dictated by my involvement in kettlebell sport as we exclusively use competition bells. However,
even before I competed, I found favor with this type of bell. When it comes to purchasing, the minefield is definitely easier to navigate!
There are some variations around handle thickness and design but the actual circumference of the bell itself remains constant. Some designs feature a hole in the bottom. This allows any residual material left inside as a result of the manufacturing process, to fall out. Some of my bells could literally double up as a giants rattle!
Crucially though, this particular design has a better weight distribution with more of the weight higher up in the bell. This is a bonus for those attempting big snatch numbers. But a standard competition bell is perfectly fine
- Better consistency in quality
- Whether you have an 8 or a 48 kg bell, the external circumference remains the same. This is advantageous in that you don’t have to get used to something of a different physical dimension as you progress up through the weights hey have a bigger contact point on your forearm due to the wider circumference. This will increase comfort
- They have larger bases and are therefore more stable for floor based exercises
- Generally more expensive
- Can seem intimidating, especially if you’re quite small
- Take up more space
What to avoid
There are many kettlebells out there on the market place that need to be avoided.
Lets not mess about, right from the off, never buy plastic!
There is a reason why kettlebell manufacturers in the know, never produce plastic bells. Sand is a common filling in order to get the weight.
This will eventually start to leak out especially with the cheaper bells.
They are usually a two piece moulding and guess where the seam usually is? Right underneath the handle where your hand will be! I am not going to go ahead and list a bunch of advantages and disadvantages because I would rather you avoid them altogether.
The chance are you will need to buy your kettlebells via mail order. In my experience, most shops tend to stock plastic kettlebells. There are many reputable mail order stockists. Here in the UK, I use Wolverson exclusively as the quality and price point is spot on.