Not sure what type and weight kettlebell to buy? Don’t worry, this is a common conundrum that stumps most people starting out on their kettlebell journey. And it’s easy to become discombobulated when there are so many kettlebells on the market.
As a little experiment, I searched for kettlebells on Amazon. The first page alone yielded over 60 kettlebells of all different shapes, colours, and sizes. In total, there were seven pages!
This dazzling array of options makes deciding which bell is best for your needs a headache. The sheer deluge of brands is both bemusing and off-putting.
Well, breathe a sigh of relief because this article aims to simplify the selection process. You’ll not only find out the answer to the question what kettlebells do I need? but also suitable starting weights, and how to get going once you’ve bought that perfect bell.
What kettlebells do I need?
The basic rule of thumb when purchasing your first kettlebell is males should start with 16kg or 24kg and females 8kg or 12kg. But, of course, that's a generalisation. The best way to find out the right weight for you is to experiment with a range of kettlebells.
But don’t think that one kettlebell is in any way limiting. With a single bell, you can perform hundreds of different exercises (one leading expert maintains that there are over 20 kettlebell exercises for the leg alone). Also, as this full-body workout shows, you train all the major muscle groups while engaging the heart and burning fat.
Related: Master these 10 Killer Kettlebell Exercises
Don’t buy mass-market kettlebells
A common misunderstanding is that all kettlebells were created equal. However, there are huge differences between competition kettlebells and contemporary mass market knockoffs.
For example, mass market kettlebells vary in shape and size. Sometimes they’re constructed from inferior-quality materials such as plastic or synthetic fabrics. Because kettlebell training involves impact exercises, such materials are prone to deterioration.
In addition, unconventionally shaped bells, one with flat sides or moulded in the image of a Spartan warrior, can be uncomfortable to train with. When performing cleans, jerks, and snatches, the kettlebell collides with the body. Bells with protrusions or prominent edges cause abrasions on contact points.
Related: The three Best Competition Kettlebells
The body of a competition kettlebell is spherical and there are no uneven edges (other than the base, of course, which is flat to prevent the bell from toppling over). This distinguishing feature improves comfort when performing certain exercises.
Another feature of note is the handle. Irrespective of the weight, the handle of a competition kettlebell is large enough for one hand. Oversized handles, which you often see with knockoffs, can make classic kettlebell exercises such as the jerk and snatch awkward to execute. Also, if the corners of the handle haven’t been polished smooth, you will likely suffer nasty blisters after prolonged use.
The final feature I’ll mention is the colour. To make it easier to distinguish between different weights, competition kettlebells are colour-coordinated. The colours are as follows:
Kettlebell weights and corresponding colour
Yellow = 16kg (or 1 pood)
Green = 24kg (or 1.5 poods)
Red = 32kg (or 2 poods)
Essential reading: The Russian Kettlebell Challenge
Getting started with your kettlebell
With your shiny unblemished bell, it’s best to learn a couple of core techniques – such as the swing, sumo squat, and deadlift – and practice them for a couple of weeks. This will afford you the requisite time to accustom yourself to the unconventional feel of kettlebells.
If you have only ever trained with conventional resistance equipment (machines, barbells, and dumbbells), it’s likely that initially, you’ll find kettlebells quite awkward. Unlike gym-based machines and isolation exercises, kettlebells require skill and proficiency to handle safely and effectively.
I remember the first time I picked up a kettlebell. It was a super-sleek 24kg custom-built bell that belonged to my sergeant (I was serving in the military at the time). I thought I’d be the big man and pop out a snatch. But all I succeeded in doing was popping my shoulder and making myself look the fool when I about did a demolition job on a flimsy partition wall.
Master the basics of kettlebell training first
Heed my advice and avoid catastrophe. As Pavel takes pleasure in pointing out, ‘most kettlebell exercises can be dangerous and even fatal,' (The Russian Kettlebell Challenge). Apply the following maxim to your training: intelligent people learn from their own mistakes; the philosopher learns from the mistakes of others.
Be the philosopher and learn from my mistake. Begin your kettlebell journey with a light bell and a few simple exercises. Once your confidence grows, and you’ve mastered a range of different movements, consider increasing weight or doubling up.
What kettlebells do I need FAQ
Now that we’ve considered the best kettlebells and how to select the right type and weight for your needs, I’ve concluded the article with a quick FAQ.
Throughout the questions, you will find useful links to workouts, exercise tutorials, and training programmes.
How to start kettlebell training at home
First things first, you need to get yourself an appropriate weight competition kettlebell. When you’ve got your bell, you should learn a few basic exercises. Do this before trying to integrate the kettlebell into your workouts.
Only when you are proficient at performing those exercises should you start working out with your bell. Initially, it’s best to apply the standard resistance training formula to those exercises – that is, one to three sets of between 6 and 12 reps with rests in between.
As your confidence grows and your kettlebell handling skills improve, consider organising those exercises into a circuit. Also, you could apply the AMRAP (as many reps as possible) or EMOM (every minute on the minute) training methods to the kettlebell exercises.
Related: Try this Beginner Kettlebell Workout
What’s a kettlebell pood?
A pood is an old Russian measurement for 16kg (36 pounds). Traditionally, kettlebells came in just three weights: 16kg (one pood), 24kg (one and a half poods), and 32kg (two poods). In Girevoy Sports competitions, juniors use 16kg, men 24kg, and advanced men 32kg.
To achieve a national ranking in Girevoy Sports, the girevik must perform 40 snatches on both arms with a 32kg kettlebell and, after a 30-minute break, jerk two such bells 45 times.
However, because the traditional increments can be a bit too steep for many beginner trainers, manufacturers have introduced a wider range of weights. For example, ATOM competition kettlebells start at 8kg and increase in 2kg increments up to 32kg.
Related: Best Kettlebell Workouts for full-body fitness
Benefits of kettlebell training
There are loads of benefits to kettlebell training. So many, in fact, that we wrote an entire blog on them. If you want to know how kettlebells can improve your health and fitness, follow the link: The Awesome Benefits of Kettlebell Training.
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