Written by Travis Mattern from Fitness Education Online
As a young trainer I remember my first big investment into any equipment. It was a set of grungy looking cast iron kettlebells, 4kg-20kg. For me, it was a lot of money and at the time, at least 10 years ago, there weren’t a plethora of quality fitness stores to buy from. Kettlebells definitely weren’t available in Kmart or Aldi! These bells have served me really well over the years and are still in pretty good nick. But, if I had my time again (in today’s buying climate), what kettlebells would I buy? I’m going to give you a bit of a breakdown on which bells I think are the ones to buy and the reasons why.
The first thing to understand is that there are several different types of kettlebells on the market and they vary from bell to bell, far more than say different sets of dumbbells. Realistically there are three key types of kettlebells which you could buy; Plastic, Cast Iron and Pro-grade/Competition Style.
These are typically the absolute cheapest on the market and are typically found in stores like; Big W, Kmart, Aldi and probably even more specific sports chain stores like Rebel. With these kettlebells, I would include the vinyl wrapped, or the neoprene wrapped bells in this category. Would I/do I recommend anyone buy these bells?
No. Here’s why. In a nutshell, they vary too much from each bell. What I primarily am referring to here are the handle size and the bell size. Sometimes the handles are wide enough for 4 hands, sometimes they’re so thick you can’t close your hand around it, sometimes there’s a plastic seem running through the middle, and often it could be all of the above, whilst also being different every time you use a different weight (we’ll get into the importance of this a little bit later).
My personal opinion is that people buy these for two reasons:
- They’re cheap
- They’re less intimidating to beginners than a big ball of metal!
Only buy these types of kettlebells if you’re after a doorstop or just want to use something heavy. If you want to learn the art of kettlebells, avoid them.
Cast Iron Kettlebells
Cast iron bells, I suppose, are the ‘coolest’ ones. They’re grungy, hand, cold, only for the hardcore. One thing is for sure they can take a beating and last forever!!
However, these essentially have the same problem as the plastic kettlebells. There is no consistency to the shape or size of either the handle or the actual bell.
So would I recommend you buy these bells? No. But, with a less strong opinion compared to the plastic kettlebells. Why? Well if they’re good enough for Pavel Tsatsouline, well they should be good enough for anyone!!
I mentioned my first set of kettlebells were a cast iron set and would I buy them again with my knowledge now?
Pro-grade or Competition Kettlebells
Now, these are the gold standard in kettlebells! Yes, you will get better quality ones and for sticklers there are also minor variations in how the weight is set, but I’m going to assume you’re not reading this if you’re a giveory sport competitor.
If you’ve got this far, you’ll probably know why I recommend these kettlebells. Consistency! The handles, the bell, the whole thing, should be identical from weight to weigh. 8kg, 12kg, 32kg, 48kg, it shouldn’t matter, apart from the colouring they should look and feel (despite the weight difference) identical.
Why is this so important?
Because, it allows for the user to develop a consistent technique no matter the weight being used. If you’re using kettlebells for just goblet squats and bent over rows, this isn’t that important. But, if you’re doing anything where the kettlebell is in the rack position, or on the back of the forearm, such as cleans, snatches, Turkish getups, the consistent size and shape definitely helps.
So, what kettlebells should you buy? I suppose the answer is how do you want to use them? If you’re just using them for basic level movements at home, maybe you can save some cash and if you’re just after some hard arse looking equipment buy the ones with the gorilla face on them. But, if you want to use them to learn more complex movements, are serious about learning techniques and progressing through the weights, spend a few extra dollars and get the pro-grade or competition bells.
If you’re a personal trainer and you’re looking to upskill yourself in kettlebells, at Fitness Education Online we have a wide array of Fitness Australia registered CEC courses – including courses specifically focused on kettlebells!
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