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Kettlebells can be a useful piece of home workout equipment and provide an alternative to traditional hand weights. Kettlebells tend to be dome shaped and made of iron with a single handle. People can use them to perform a variety of strength and cardio exercises.
This article will discuss what to look for in a kettlebell and their potential health benefits. It will also list some workouts to try and some kettlebells to consider purchasing.
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People often use kettlebells for exercises that involve movement against gravity, such as swinging or pushing motions. One 2017 article also notes that people commonly use kettlebells for circuit training activities.
Some of the research-backed benefits of kettlebell training include:
- enhancing strength
- enhancing cardiovascular fitness
- improving endurance
Kettlebell use during certain exercises may generate extra demands on the body to help build muscle. For example, one 2020 article found that using a kettlebell for a power clean and squat exercise activates greater use of the muscles in the lower back.
Although most kettlebells retain a basic shape, there are still some factors to consider in terms of weight, handle shape, and design.
The following are some considerations that a person may wish to make before purchasing kettlebells.
According to one 2017 article, contoured (rounded) kettlebell handles may be a good choice for people with a small build due to their smaller design and often smoother feel.
If a person will be using kettlebells for exercises that involve them holding the kettlebell with two hands — such as the swing, deadlift, or press — they may wish to look for an extra wide handle.
Kettlebells come in a variety of weights, with some being nearly 100 pounds (lb). Lifting kettlebells that are too heavy could increase injury risk, while using kettlebells that are too light may affect a person’s results.
Generally, the kettlebell should be of a weight that allows the person to perform about 10–12 repetitions in a set of an exercise.
However, this may vary based on the exercise program a person is following. For example, some people choose to lift very heavy weights for few repetitions.
The right weight will depend on the person’s goal.
Some kettlebell manufacturers offer versions that have adjustable weights. These often have small, stacking plates that a person can add or remove from the kettlebell.
Although these are traditionally more expensive than other kettlebells, this option is much the same as purchasing several kettlebells in one.
Some kettlebells may have unique shapes or use a color-coding system to arrange them by weight. These variations do not usually impact their effectiveness.
Many different kettlebells are available to buy. Below are some options that are suitable for people to use at home.
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried any of these products. All information presented here is purely research-based.
SPRI Kettlebells are available in weights of 5–50 lb. They feature a flat face on the front and back so that they can easily lie flat when placed on a gym mat.
The bell portion of these kettlebells features vinyl coating and color-coding by weight. For example, a yellow kettlebell is 5 lb, while a 20-lb kettlebell is teal.
Rogue Kettlebells are available in a powder coated, or matte, finish. This special coating gives the kettlebell a textured feel for easy grip. The coating also helps limit chipping and scratches.
These kettlebells are available in 11-lb increments, with weights available in the range of 13–88 lb.
Onnit Primal Kettlebells
Onnit Primal Kettlebells have unique rounded shapes and are designed to mimic the faces of different monkeys and apes. These include a 36-lb chimpanzee, a 54-lb orangutan, and a 90-lb “Bigfoot,” which is the company’s largest kettlebell option.
These chip-resistant iron kettlebells feature enlarged handles, which can be helpful for people with larger hands.
Tribe WOD Thor Kettlebells
A slight variation on the traditional kettlebell, the Tribe WOD Thor Kettlebell is in the shape of a hammer. The equipment features a rectangular iron bottom with a straight handle.
These cast iron kettlebells are available in weights that include 25, 35, 55, and 70 lb.
TRX Rubber Coated Kettlebells
TRX Rubber Coated Kettlebells comprise iron and rubber to provide a surface that is easy to grip and clean. The kettlebells are available in multiple weights in the range of 8.8 lb to 61.7 lb.
They also feature color-coding by weight and powder coated handles.
Amazon Basics Cast Iron Kettlebell Weights
Amazon Basics Cast Iron Kettlebell Weights are available in weights in the range of 10–60 lb. They have a painted surface that acts as an anti-corrosive.
In addition, the kettlebells have a wide handle. This allows the user to grip them with one or two hands.
Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Kettlebell Weights
The Bowflex SelectTech Adjustable Kettlebell Weights have an adjustable weight option that allows the user to adjust the weights by anywhere from 8 lb up to 40 lb. This eliminates the need to purchase several different kettlebell sets.
These weights have a dial at the top that allows a person to adjust the weights quickly.
The following are some examples of common exercises that a person can perform using kettlebells.
People can perform a few different variants of squats using kettlebells. For example, they can do a goblet squat, which involves holding the base of the kettlebell with both hands at chest height.
To perform a goblet squat:
- Stand with the feet shoulder-width apart. Bend at the hips and knees while pushing the hips back.
- Try to keep the chest up, the back straight, and the elbows forward while lowering into the squat position.
- Keeping the weight on the heels, drive the hips forward and return to the standing position.
- Repeat this motion for 10–12 reps.
Deadlifts with a kettlebell can challenge the legs, hips, buttocks, core, and back.
To perform a deadlift:
- Stand with the feet shoulder-width apart, holding the kettlebell with both hands in front of the body. Keep the arms straight.
- Bend at the knees to lower the kettlebell toward the ground, between the legs.
- Stop when the buttocks align with the knees, then return to standing.
- Repeat this motion for 10–12 reps.
A swing exercise with a kettlebell requires a person to maintain control of the weight. This can increase the cardiovascular demands of the exercise.
To perform a swing exercise:
- Place the kettlebell on the ground, within arm’s reach.
- Squat, pick up the kettlebell, and swing it back between the legs.
- Once the kettlebell starts to swing forward, extend the hips and knees and ultimately let the kettlebell reach chest height, with the arms extended.
- Lower the kettlebell and squat down again, allowing the weight to swing between the legs.
- Repeat this motion for 10–12 reps.
A clean and press exercise focuses on the shoulders, arms, and upper back.
To perform a press exercise:
- Stand with the feet hip-width apart. Grip the kettlebell in one hand.
- Do a movement similar to the swing, but as the kettlebell is in front of the body, in a smooth motion, quickly pull it to the chest, drop the elbow toward the rib cage, and rest the kettlebell on the shoulder of the hand holding the kettlebell.
- From this position, push the kettlebell up toward the ceiling while straightening the arm. Return the kettlebell to the shoulder, then let it drop down back into the swing position.
- Continue into the next rep or place the kettlebell on the ground and begin from a stationary position.
- Aim to repeat this motion for roughly 10–12 reps.
People can also perform a military press version. This is where they do not perform the swing (or clean) motion, instead performing the shoulder press movement with a kettlebell in each hand.
There are several kettlebell alternatives that allow a person to strengthen their muscles against resistance. Some examples of these include:
- free weights
- exercise machines
- resistance bands
Each of these options can help a person build muscle and enhance strength.
Sometimes, the choice will come down to personal preference, cost, and exercises of choice. For example, kettlebells or free weights may be better suited than exercise machines to circuit training.
Kettlebells may provide an easy and versatile at-home training option, as people can use them to perform both cardio and strength exercises.
People should choose kettlebells that best fit their goals, space, and budget.
Also, people should always maintain good form when performing any exercise. This helps maximize results and prevent injury.