Training with kettlebells can be an excellent way to boost both your strength and cardio fitness (just check out this kettlebell workout guide) and, like dumbbells, they’re small enough and affordable enough for you get for home use. But don’t just splash the cash on the first one you see.
“Choosing the right kettlebell can be a bit overwhelming,” says trainer Jamie Lloyd, who was British Kettlebell Sport champion in 2014. “Just ten years ago there were very few companies that sold them. These days you can buy them at your local supermarket.” Here are four things to consider when buying your first kettlebell.
1. The Weight
“Start with one kettlebell,” Lloyd says. “There’s no need to get a whole set. Build up gradually and order several at a time as you progress. You will know when you are ready to start incorporating double kettlebells and heavier kettlebells into your programme – your body will tell you.”
If you’re a kettlebell novice, Lloyd recommends the following weights for your first purchase.
- Men: 16kg
- Women: 8kg
Feeling ready to commit? Then start with these three weights.
- Men: 16kg, 18kg, 20kg
- Women: 8kg, 10kg, 12kg
2. The Handle
Of course, there’s more to a kettlebell than how heavy it is. You need to pay attention to the handle.
“Kettlebell swings, cleans and snatches are repetitive actions, so if you have a rough handle or one with a seam going down the middle, you will soon know about it,” says Lloyd. “The seam needs to be filed down to leave an even surface to hold. Cheaper kettlebell manufacturers will make no real effort to remove this nasty, sharp seam and your hands will soon tear up like you’ve done a day on a building site.”
Lloyd recommends running your hands around the entire handle, especially underneath, before buying. If you’re already in possession of a kettlebell with a raised seam, sand it down so it’s smooth.
Browse kettlebells on amazon.co.uk
3. The Handle Size
That’s the handle’s surface sorted, but you also need to check that its diameter gives you a comfortable hold.
“This is especially important if you have big hands,” says Lloyd. “Slide your hand in and place the kettlebell in the rack position [holding the kettlebell up so it rests on your forearm, biceps and shoulder]. The kettlebell should sit comfortably in your hand and your wrist should be straight.”
“Decent kettlebells will have handle diameters that measure about 30-31mm, going up to around 38mm for the heaviest bells. My favourites are competition kettlebells, which generally have a uniform handle diameter of 33mm regardless of the weight.”
4. The Price
Be wary of cheap kettlebells, as the results will be far from cheerful. “You can tell if they are cheap as they will be covered in vinyl with a rubber bottom and a handle that looks ridiculous,” says Lloyd.
“Some kettlebells are even plastic. I can think of just a few uses for these and one of them is to hold the kitchen door open! Some cheap bells can have very narrow handles that are nearly impossible to hold on to during kettlebell swings, and feel awkward for snatches.”
Lloyd’s recommendation is Wolverson Fitness. “These are a bit more pricy, but if you want consistency, good progression and form then get kettlebells from Wolverson Fitness. I’ve been using them for ten years. If you are starting out and just want a home workout, get some cast-iron bells which have a smaller cannon base, but if you are more serious get some competition bells.” Kettlebells from £15, buy on wolverson-fitness.co.uk
The Best Kettlebells
Lloyd’s favourite kettlebells don’t come cheap, but these coloured cast-iron bells are top-notch. You can pick up a set of three in various weights, starting with an 8kg/12kg/16kg trio that will fulfil all your fitness needs until you become a kettlebell master. Set of three starting at £75, individual kettlebells start at £15, buy on wolverson-fitness.co.uk
Argos’s Opti kettlebell range runs from 2kg up to 10kg, indicating it’s aimed at beginners rather than more experienced kettlebell-wielders who will want heavier options, but if you’re new to the discipline these iron kettlebells represent great value. They have a seamless steel handle that’s comfortable to hold and the most expensive 10kg option is still only £21. From £4.99, buy on argos.co.uk
Now sure, Lloyd did say that you can recognise bad kettlebells when they have rubber on the base, but let’s be honest – that rubber base also means you’re less likely to dent your floor if you put one down suddenly (aka dropping). These cast-iron bells have a neoprene cover for that very purpose, as well as a smooth handle. The weights available run from 2kg to 24kg. From £8.99, buy on amazon.co.uk
When it comes to looks, we reckon these all-black cast-iron beauties beat all comers, even if it’s harder to identify the right weight quickly because they all look the same. The weight range runs from 4kg up to a massive 40kg, so all levels of kettlebell enthusiast will be satisfied. From £7.99, buy on amazon.co.uk