Kettlebells are great things. If you need any convincing, just take a look at Tracy Reifkind’s site. Her transformation has been nothing less than amazing.
Once you’ve decided to try a little kettlebell training – particularly if you’re working out at home – there’s one question to answer :
Which one should I get?
I’m glad you asked.
What exactly is a Kettlebell?
Often referred to as a ‘cannonball with a handle’, a kettlebell is simply a solid chunk of cast iron, comprising a spherical weight with a flat bottom and a curved, thick handle on top. Although there are adjustable models made up of several parts, these have never felt quite right to me. Personally, I stick to the original.
Kettlebells were traditionally manufactured in various sizes, each of them based on the old Russian unit of measurement pood (approximately 16.38 kg/36.11 lb). Although the pood was abolished in the USSR in 1924, many kettlebells are still manufactured in multiples of 16kg. There are also lighter weights, if that sounds a bit daunting.
Where do you get them?
Although they’ve been around for centuries, it’s only fairly recently that they’ve been seen in regular use. Still, tracking them down can be slightly more difficult than finding dumbbells or weight plates.
Generally, kettlebells are sold in stores specializing in supplies for martial artists; as well as larger online fitness retailers. In the US, great places to start are Dragon Door and the Art of Strength. For those in the UK, somewhere such as London Kettlebells is a good start in your search. Elsewhere in the world, your nearest martial arts supplier is a good bet.
NB: they’re heavy little things, and shipping costs can be considerable. Keep this in mind if you find somewhere fairly remote that appears to sell them cheaply.
Also remember that they’re virtually indestructible, and the design hasn’t changed much over the centuries. If you see one on eBay, or your friend is selling one, grab it.
How do you know which one to get?
For guys, a good starting point is a 16 kg/36 lb bell. This was the first one I bought, and it’s more challenging than the weight would suggest. For anyone with a few years of weight training under their belt, or anyone over 183cm/6′ and about 90kg/198lb, consider starting with a 24 kg/54 lb bell. If you get a chance to try one out somewhere before you buy it, pick it up and clean it (lift it to your chest, don’t get out the polishing rag). That’ll give you a reasonable idea.
The female equivalents are about half these (on average – of course there are those who would easily work with more than this), 8 kg and 12 kg. Again, if you can try before you buy, great.
If you already have a kettlebell and are considering a second, typical progressions are 16/24/32 kg (for men) and 8/12/16 kg (for women). Once you have these three, if you want more, start again at 16 or 8. There are plenty of exercises involving two bells, and many of these are easier with the same weight for each.
NB : younger athletes may wish to consider halving the recommended weights for adults (depending on their age, size and strength).
What do you do with them?
This is where the fun really starts. Although there are plenty of books and DVDs available, there are many great (and free) resources which will take you through the basics. For starters, take a look at these :
Mike Mahler’s list of kettlebell exercises
This page covers the basic kettlebell exercises beautifully. As you’ll quickly discover, these alone will have a marked impact on your physique.
Anthony DiLuglio’s Minute of Strength
This is an excellent newsletter, featuring video demonstrations of variour kettlebell techniques. Superb.
Straight to the Bar : Kettlebell exercises
Finally, you might like to take a look at my own (constantly growing) list of kettlebell exercises. This includes the ones I perform regularly, as well as a few of the more interesting video demonstrations I’ve come across.
My own experience
I first decided to buy a kettlebell about a year ago, and it’s a decision I’ve never regretted. One look at the increased strength and fat loss I’ve experienced puts it firmly in the ‘essential‘ category.
Now it’s your turn.
Target is now carrying kettlebells in 3 different weights.
You’re shitting me! Target? The chain store?
my thoughts too… they are a little posh and too light in weight for me, but next time I go buy I’ll snap a pic and get more info on the price and the weights.
Target? That’s excellent. If it gets people exposed to them, all’s good.
I just went and bought my first Kettlebell. Got it in imperial units – 20 pounds. Cost me $50 plus tax. They said that they just got a shipment in and that I was lucky because they go quickly. Got mine at Luckie’s Fitness Equipment here in Edmonton. Their website is http://www.luckis.com. Tell Mark that I sent you.
I’m planning on buying a new kettlebell every two weeks or so until I have the entire set
Fantastic Rob. I’ve no doubt you’ll love working with them.
Target? I need to go test this at my local target. Thanks for the good info you shared here. I am planning on buying one real soon.
Great posting. There just are not enough postings about weightloss on these boards. great work!
So @Ty, would you think then that exercise is not a part of weight loss? Kettlebells are an exercise tool (as you’re quite aware), which would facilitate weight loss as well as muscle gain.
and, there are LOTS of postings about weight loss on this blog
Hi! I’m a 19 year old male and I was introduced to and have been lifting weights for 3 years, mainly using Craig Ballantyne’s TT fat loss workouts. Only last year have I started training for strength. I now want to buy a kettlebell and use it for metabolic conditioning and strength and power gains but I’ve never used one before in a workout, though I’ve practised the technique before. Which weight/s should I buy and in what quantities?
Some information about me:
Bench press 3RM: 45kg
Pullup max: 7
Incline chest press: 3×8 firstname.lastname@example.org
DB one-armed row: 3×12 reps@15kg
DB forward lunge: 3×6 email@example.com in each hand
@Clement, If you’ve already been conditioning, I’d say start with something just a little heavier than what you’re used to, but just slightly.
Consider a 8 or 10 kg bell (20 lb’er)
Remember, you’re swinging them more often than not, so some momentum comes into play. Then move up from there.
I began with a 20, then got a 35 and now have a 53 as well.
Wal-Mart has them, too.
I have been considering purchasing a kettlebell for quite some time, but now that I’ve found this site, am more serious about it. My ex told me about them a few years ago.
I am 58 (female) , and in fairly decent shape, but don’t want to begin with too much weight, hence getting discouraged if I start too heavy. What weight would you suggest I begin with?
@Pat. If you’ve been training for some time and in fairly decent shape, then begin with at least 20 lbs. You should be able to swing that no problem, snatch it easily and press it fairly easily too.
If you can shoulder press a 20lb dumbell, then swinging it would be a breeze. 20lbs might be too light even
Daughter and I are using a 20# and loving it. Im ready for a 35# bell. Tried a 55# and that is a crazy weight, maybe some day.
@Ken, I used to think that too, but began to work the 53 into my workouts if even for 5 swings a day. I did my normal work with bells, then threw in a few extra swings of the 53. Then I was snatching it for 5, then snatching it for 5 a side and then 10 a side. The more you work the 53 into your training, the easier the 35 gets too, then the 53 becomes your main bell.
My goal this year is to be swinging double 53’s for the long cycle clean and jerk (10 minutes)
I have been training with free weights for years and recently tried kettle bell but realized that most of the exercises can be done using dumbbells.
thanks for the resource information on starter exercises for kettlebells. I just checked out MMahler site and some great info.
Yeh target has Kettle Bells but they are so light and come in fruity colors.. it only solidifies the idea that kettle bells are gaining more and more reputation among everyone..
I am just starting my blog on health, fitness and weight training..
Gimme a few hits?