What Sizes do Kettlebells Come in? Which One Should I Buy?

What Sizes do Kettlebells Come in?

 

I love kettlebells. They offer more bang for your buck than almost any other piece of fitness equipment out there.  Kettlebells hit all four movements: pull, push, hinge and squat.  You can train every part of your body using minimal space because of the compact size without breaking the bank. 

What is a Kettlebell? 

If you are a novice and have no idea what a kettlebell is, here is some basic information. A kettlebell is a free weight used for muscular and cardiovascular training. It has a round base shaped like a cannonball with a handle that arches out from the sides and forms “horns.”  The shape resembles a teapot without the spout. That is how the term kettlebell was born. (What Is A Kettlebell, n.d.) This shape makes it versatile and unique because it can be used in numerous ways.

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History of Kettlebell 

Originally, kettlebells were used in Russia during the 18th century as counterweights to measure dry goods and grains.  The Russian measurement is a pood which is 16.38 kg or 36.11 pounds. Kettlebells were first used as a sport when Russian farmers became bored and started having contests on who could throw a kettlebell the farthest. This was the inception of using it more than just to weigh something. Years later they were utilized as training tools for the Soviet troops during World War II.  

In the 1970s, kettlebell lifting became an official sport in Russia. They were introduced in America in the 1940s and have become a staple in gyms around the country. According to Statista, 13.56 million people, six years and older, in 2021 used kettlebells compared to 10.24 million in 2014. (Statista, n.d.)

Categories of Kettlebells

There are three categories of kettlebells: standard, competition (pro), and adjustable. 

  • Standard Kettlebells 

    • They are made from cast iron. As the weight of the kettlebell increases so does its size. The handles are a little thicker and wider than the competition kettlebells, so they are the best option for two handed exercises. Just make sure they are not too thick causing your fingers to not grip all the way around the handle. This can lead to forearm fatigue. They are also easier to rack and good for beginners.

  • Competition/Pro Kettlebells 

    • They are made from hollow steel. Their size stays the same regardless of their weight. The handles are thinner than the standard, so your hand will not slide as much. Performing two handed exercises are more difficult because of the space between the handle and ball. They are color-coded to help people in competitions grab the correct weights quickly. Competition kettlebells have a more stable base which is more suitable for exercises like renegade rows and kettlebell pushups. They are more suitable for advanced one arm exercises like the snatch and jerk.

  • Adjustable Kettlebells 

    • I have never used adjustable kettlebells, so I cannot give an opinion of them. However, I do use adjustable dumbbells. Personally, I like the stability and structure of a fixed kettlebell. This is an important consideration when doing exercises like Kettlebell swings and Turkish get-ups. I know when I use adjustable dumbbells, I can hear the weight shift because there is a plastic piece holding the weight together.

  • There are some good benefits of adjustable kettlebells though. They are a good budget option. One kettlebell can take the place of six or more fixed kettlebells. This is not only beneficial for space and cost but also for your goals. They allow the ability to switch from one weight to another quickly while doing exercises requiring different weight ranges. 

Benefits of Kettlebells

 

1. Health

 Kettlebells are low impact and are a great substitution for jogging. You can do a full-body workout. The use of kettlebells increases overall strength and core strength, improves stability and range of motion, improves grip strength, and helps with imbalances by doing unilateral exercises. 

2. Convenience

They are portable and compact which simplifies workouts.

3. Inexpensive

The cost of two or three kettlebells is significantly cheaper than buying several pieces of equipment or a gym membership. 

What are Different Sizes of Kettlebells

The size range of kettlebells is exceptionally large. Starting at five pounds to well over a hundred plus pounds. They come in increments of four, five, and nine pounds. 

How to Choosing the Right One?

There are some considerations when choosing the right size kettlebell.

1. Based on the kind of movements you will perform

There are two basic movements with kettlebells: ballistic and grind. Ballistic exercises are dynamic and powerful. Examples are the swing, snatch and clean and jerk. The general range for ballistic exercises for men is between 35lbs (16kg) to 53lbs (24kg) and between 18lbs (8kg) to 35lbs (16kg) for women. Grind exercises are controlled, and the tension is held for an extended period. Examples are the Turkish get-up and Kettlebell windmill. The range for grind exercises for men is 18lbs (8kg) to 44 (20kg) and 13lbs (6kg) to 26lbs (12kg) for women. 

2. Based on the Fitness level

Your fitness level makes a significant difference in choosing which size to begin with. If you are new to fitness and especially new to kettlebells, start with a lighter weight so you can learn the proper form to prevent injuries.

  • 2.1 Kettlebells for Beginner

The focus is on proper form over heavyweight.   Males should begin with a weight of 35lbs (16kg) and females with 18lbs (8kg). Learning the correct form will minimize injuries when advancing in weight. I cannot express this enough. I have seen a few people over the years injure themselves trying to lift a weight that was way too heavy. Leave your ego at the door. The only person you are competing with is yourself.

  • 2.2 Kettlebells for Intermediate

After learning the correct form using the lighter weights, you should advance to a heavier weight.  Males should aim for 44lbs (20kg) and females at 26lbs (12kg)

  • 2.3 Kettlebells for Advanced

This is when you can really push your limits with weights and exercises. Males should be able to handle 53lbs (24kg) and females 35lbs (16kg).

3. Based on Experience Level 

The more experienced you are with handling kettlebells, the more comfortable you will be doing various exercises. This is especially true with exercises that require balance and coordination like the one-leg deadlift

4. Based on Age and Injuries

As you get older, you will find you will have to adapt.  I cannot lift the weight or do the exercises I used to do in my twenties and thirties. I have had to adapt because of age and injuries by focusing on functional training.  This training focuses on doing exercises that help with everyday activities like overhead presses and squats. I suggest using lighter weights if you have joint problems and if you are a senior (55 or older).  Male seniors' kettlebell weight range should be between 20lbs (9kg) and 26lbs (12kg) and female seniors should be between 15lbs (7kg) and 18lbs (8kg). This is for general fitness, so there are probably a lot of seniors that can go heavier than this. 

5. Based on Fitness Goals

Your goals will also determine which weight you should use. Balance, coordination, agility, speed, and endurance generally use lighter weights. Strength and power exercises use heavier weights. 

  • 5.1 Balance and Coordination

Exercises that emphasize balance and coordination will provide benefits of preventing injuries, enhancing athletic performance, overcoming age-related changes, and better cognitive function. Examples of exercises for balance and coordination are single-leg deadlifts, squats, or lunges using a balance board or BOSU and the bird dog. Male's weight should range between 26lbs (12kg) to 44lbs (20kg) and females between 18lbs (8kg) to 26lbs (12kg).

  • 5.2 Agility and Speed

The benefits of agility and speed exercises are increased cognitive function, injury prevention, and improved recovery times. Examples of exercises for agility and speed are pistol chair flows and squat chair raise. Male's weight should range between 18lbs (8kg) to 44lbs (20kg) and females between 9lbs (4kg) to 26lbs (12kg).

  • 5.3 Strength and Power

The benefits of strength and power training: increased muscle mass, stronger bones, joint flexibility, injury prevention, help balance, and helps control weight by burning more calories efficiently. The more power you have, the lower the energy cost equals less muscle fatigue and that equals better performance. Examples of exercises for strength and power are the clean press, squat, swing, and snatch. Male's weight should range between 35lbs (16kg) to 53lbs (24kg) and females between 26lbs (12kg) to 31lbs (14kg). 

  • 5.4 Endurance

Examples of endurance exercises are the clean to plyo squat, the swing to rack snatch, EMOM (every minute on the minute) swings, and alternating swing AMRAP (as many reps as possible) but any exercise will work. I use a Tabata-style training program with my clients. This is twenty seconds of work followed by ten seconds of rest for a set number of rounds. Male's weight should be between 26lbs (12kg) to 35lbs (16kg) and females between 18lbs (8kg) to 26lbs (12kg).

When deciding on which kettlebell to purchase- standard, competition or adjustable keep these considerations in mind: your budget, space and goals. I suggest reading reviews, doing price comparison and look for deals. See what the warranty is especially for adjustable kettlebells. Also, go try them out at a gym or a retail store. This will give you the opportunity to make an informed decision on both the type and weight of the kettlebells. 

Kettlebells are a tremendous asset to any home or commercial gym.  They are the most dynamic and versatile pieces of equipment on the market. By engaging your total body, kettlebells will push the boundaries of your fitness limits. Happy Swinging!

Kathy Bateman

ACE Certified Personal Trainer

Owner of Kat’s Ironclad Fitness

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