best kettlebells

Kettlebell: Test & reviews

Author: Manuel Heitmann

Coach & Fitness Expert

The kettlebell is a ball dumbbell, which is now essential for fitness. For our list of the best, our team of experts checked countless tests on the Internet and was therefore able to include ratings on inserts, coatings, weights and other advantages.

Questions to Consider Before Buying A Kettlebell

What is a Kettlebell?

The kettlebell is a rounded weight that has a handle that you can hold onto while exercising. The sports equipment resembles a cowbell; the name of this weight type is most likely derived from the English terms “kettle” (“cattle”) and “bell” (“bell”).

A kettlebell usually weighs 4–32 kg. In competitions with dumbbells, weights between 8 and 32 kg are usually used, which have the same dimensions and are color-coded. That means the competition kettlebell, which weighs 8 kg, is just as big, wide and high as the weight, which weighs 32 kg. The colors range from pink for 8 kg to yellow for 16 kg to red for 32 kg.

In order to meet different requirements, the handle of the kettlebell can also vary. Some models have the handle closer to the ball, while other dumbbells have the handle further away from the weight. In addition, the width and circumference of the handle can vary from kettlebell to kettlebell.

How does a kettlebell work?

The kettlebell is a simple weight that you can lift or swing in a controlled manner using the handle. In addition, you can use kettlebells as a supplement for other exercises and, among other things, incorporate a variation in the push-up that makes the exercise more challenging. Beginners should first get used to the sports equipment with simpler exercises in order to avoid the risk of injuries from incorrect handling.

When you train with the kettlebell, you use certain muscles in the body. Which it is depends primarily on the specific exercise. Kettlebells can be particularly challenging for the hands, arms, shoulders and the upper back.

Regular training gives the body the signal to maintain or increase muscle mass. A muscle consists of muscle fiber bundles that are surrounded by a layer of connective tissue. Each bundle contains several muscle fibers, which in turn are made up of myofibrils.

Myofibrils are fibrous units that have different longitudinal sections (sarcomeres).

The shortening of the sarcomeres causes the myofibrils as a whole, and thus also the muscle fibers, to contract: The muscle is then in a tense state, for example when you lift a kettlebell. As the exertion gradually increases, the body creates new muscle fibers that strengthen the existing muscles.

Advantages of kettlebells

Kettlebells or kettlebells are free weights, which means they are not built into a machine or otherwise bound. This is also one of the advantages of the kettlebell: They are freely movable and can therefore be stored and stowed in almost any location until you need them. Despite their weight, the kettlebells take up little space and are therefore a practical fitness device for people who want to train in their private rooms or outdoors.

Restrictions arise only from safety considerations and space reasons: You should rather not swing a kettlebell weighing 8 or more kg in the living room, but instead go to a suitable room. Some kettlebell athletes prefer workouts in their own garden or on the terrace. However, you may have to take the special features of the soil into account.

At first glance, kettlebells seem like loads that primarily train the arms. In fact, the muscles of the upper extremities are particularly in demand during kettlebell exercises. However, this is far from enough: The muscles of the hands and fingers, shoulders, the upper back and chest are also among the main addressees.

Nevertheless, the other muscle groups in the body also play a role: the abdominal and lower back muscles ensure stability and have to withstand strong pressure through tension during some exercises – for example when you perform a swing. The forces that work in such exercises are sometimes enormous.

For beginners, coordination during kettlebell training can initially cause some difficulties. Not only the weight may require muscles that previously had to withstand little stress during training (or due to lack of training), but the new exercises can initially take a lot of getting used to. If you are very unsure, it can help to ask a personal trainer or experienced kettlebell athlete for advice. Everyone starts at some point; therefore, do not be ashamed to seek help from others when the opportunity arises.

Kettlebells come in many different shapes, sizes, materials, and weight levels. This gives almost everyone the opportunity to integrate kettlebells into existing training routines or to use them to start a more active lifestyle. If in doubt, newbies should use a lower weight, as it is very easy to overestimate your own performance. Light weights can also be used sensibly for advanced exercises and are therefore by no means wasted money.

Although most people can benefit from this type of sporting activity, you should act with caution if you suffer from physical limitations, disabilities, joint diseases, neurological or muscular diseases have comparable symptoms or risks. Kettlebell training does not have to be a thing of the past for you, but you should exercise reasonable care and caution and, if necessary, consult your doctor, physiotherapist or other specialist.

When used correctly and with a balanced selection of exercises, kettlebells offer an all-round workout for the whole body. They are therefore also of interest to people who only want one or two small fitness machines at home that can be easily stowed away and still enable them to work out effectively and efficiently. Like all sports equipment, the kettlebell is not perfect either – but it offers numerous possibilities and varied exercises that you can try out one after the other after you have got used to the new sports equipment.

What types of kettlebells are available?

Not all kettlebells are created equal: the differences can be felt in your workout. In the worst case, the wrong choice not only means that your full performance potential remains unexploited, but can also result in injuries.

Probably the most important differentiator between different kettlebells is their weight. You will usually find weights of 4, 8, 12, 16, 24 and 32 kg in weight training.

However, there are now also lighter versions – including mini kettlebells that weigh less than 1 kg each. These weights are particularly suitable for enriching sports such as aerobics, power yoga and other exercises that focus not only on building muscle but also on endurance training.

In addition, mini kettlebells and other lightweights can help you get going again after a long period of abstinence. However, if you have physical impairments that could limit your training, you should make sure beforehand that you are doing something good for your body with the kettlebell training and not increasing the discomfort. If in doubt, you should therefore rely on the advice of your doctor or physiotherapist.

Kettlebells weighing 12 kg or more each fall into the category of weights, which often encourage you to test your strength in various competitions. In general, however, it is not advisable to start training with a 20 kg dumbbell or even a higher weight. Even if you already have experience with other strength exercises, the right posture and movement execution are also important when starting out with a new device.

Although people typically have 656 different muscles and don’t build entirely new muscles in their lifetime, different strength exercises will challenge different muscle groups and muscle sections in different ways. An untrained muscle among many well-trained ones can endanger strength training – and thus your health – if you have to use this muscle for a specific movement.

Some gyms provide a range of kettlebells with different weights (and other differentiators) for their members. In a sports club like this, you can try out the different versions at your leisure and get used to the handling without necessarily having to buy three, five or ten different kettlebells yourself. If you have such an option for extensive testing, this option is definitely worth considering.

But kettlebells do not only differ in terms of their weight. The width of the handle, its distance to the ball and its diameter can vary with fitness kettlebells; Competition kettlebells, on the other hand, follow established standards and have uniform dimensions. The diameter of the handle is, for example, 3.3 cm

Our criteria for the kettlebell comparison

The list of possible test criteria is endless – that’s why we had to limit our kettlebell comparison to the features that make the most sense to us. The following list is therefore naturally imperfect and does not claim to be complete or exhaustive.

Weight of the kettlebell

Even our top 10 cannot do without a certain variety in terms of the weight of the kettlebells. In our test table, you can see at a glance the weight of our comparison test winners and you can estimate whether they meet your individual requirements. Many manufacturers offer the same model or the same type of dumbbells in different weights – if you do not see what you are looking for in our selection, it is still worth doing a quick online research; Success is not guaranteed, but in many cases after just a few clicks you will come across a kettlebell that has exactly the weight you had in mind.

Material

Iron and steel are among the materials that have a certain tradition in kettlebells. The raw materials are stable, resistant and equip the dumbbells with the necessary weight. The iron is often cast iron, which has a higher carbon content than steel. Foundries heat the metal alloy to high temperatures and pour it into molds while still liquid.

In addition to iron and steel, which many people also subconsciously associate with strength and stability, kettlebells made of plastic can appear sobering at first. However, the modern material does not necessarily have to be inferior to its metal relatives. When it comes to the question of the right material, it depends on your preferences and plans.

Grip

A good grip is extremely important in many strength sports. Regardless of the weight with which you train and how well your muscles are already developed: If you lose your grip on the kettlebell because it does not fit the shape of your hand, you will be left out in doubt.

Not being able to grasp a kettlebell well because of a suboptimal grip also has other disadvantages. For example, such a constellation represents a potential source of injury for you and other people. Our tip: Take a little more time to get to know the individual types and handles and weigh up which type of handle suits your needs.

Size

Kettlebells basically come in different sizes – with the exception of the competition kettlebells. A uniform size of the kettlebells is essential so that everyone who takes part in a competition has the same chance as their competitor. But with the competition kettlebells not only dumbbells of the same weight have the same spatial dimensions, but also kettlebells of different weights.

In contrast, kettlebells, which are optimized for recreational athletes, can have different dimensions. Especially with mini-kettlebells, which you can use for endurance sports such as power yoga or fitness dances, the smaller size is ideal for practical reasons. However, the volume and size of the kettlebell also depend on your intentions during training.

Type

As we mentioned in the previous section, kettlebells can vary not only in weight, but also in size. On this basis, two basic types of kettlebells can be distinguished: competition kettlebells and fitness kettlebells. If you are toying with the idea of taking part in competitions or if you want to unofficially (for example in online groups) compare your performance objectively with that of other athletes, competition kettlebells are probably the right thing for you. If, on the other hand, you want to increase your general fitness with kettlebell exercises or intend to integrate the additional load into endurance training, fitness kettlebells are probably more in your favor.

Coatings and other features

Some kettlebells have a plastic coating that is designed to increase grip and prevent you from sliding off during a workout or competition. Although there are advantages to having a coating, some athletes prefer cast iron or steel kettlebells that do not have a coating. Other dumbbells are made mostly of plastic. A protective plastic layer around iron or steel kettlebells may help to protect the floor; this is especially important if you work out at home, in your weight room, gym, or similar location.

However, coatings can also hinder training if the surface of the handle is rough and rubs the hand uncomfortably. In the worst case, this can lead to blisters in the fingers and palms or other unpleasant side effects. However, if the grip is too smooth, there is a risk of slipping in the middle of an exercise or, especially if you are sweating heavily, not finding a good grip from the start. Coatings can be made of plastics such as vinyl or neoprene, for example.

Another special feature of some kettlebells is the design of the underside of the heavy round weight. Some kettlebells have knobs to protect the surface and to achieve a firmer stand.

What do I have to look out for when buying a kettlebell?

With the increasing popularity of classic fitness and weight training equipment, the market offers more and more models and variations that vie for your attention. But how do you find your way through the jungle of possibilities, how do you recognize a good kettlebell – and what does “good” actually mean in this context? In the following we have summarized some tips that can help you make the right choice.

Challenging without overwhelming: choose the right weight

It can be very difficult for beginners to make the right weight decision. There is certainly no guaranteed solution to this problem that is valid for all people and all situations. However, you can use a few factors that may play a role in order not to leave the decision entirely to chance and to reduce the likelihood of mistakes.

If you already have relevant experience in weight training, you have reference values ​​that you can use as an aid. If you have strong muscles and are currently good at training, you know the meaning and effect of various loads on your body and do not see weight as just an abstract figure. You may therefore be able to start with a higher kettlebell weight. However, you should take into account that new movement sequences require greater care at the beginning: Training with kettlebells is a different type of load than, for example, exercises with a barbell. For this reason, you can usually not transfer your previous muscle performance 1: 1.

Recreational athletes should generally take it a little more calmly and not do too much at once. Using too heavy loads right from the start increases the risk of injury and frustration. Because no matter how enthusiastic and determined you are at first: Enthusiasm and motivation evaporate faster than you would like if you set yourself too ambitious goals and cannot achieve them as hoped. Elaborated training plans and realistic goals, however, can help you to maintain motivation over longer distances. Excessive demands are not necessarily the best incentive for improvement; Challenges that challenge you rather than overwhelm you usually produce the best results. Also keep in mind that muscle mass and numbers are not everything.

Those who don’t exercise, very inactive people and people with physical limitations or complaints should weigh even more carefully where the line between appropriate challenge and unrealistic standards lies for them. Especially – but not exclusively – with diseases that affect the joints, muscles or the nervous system, a medical evaluation can be useful before you devote yourself to the sporting task.

In addition, if in doubt, you should start with light weights in order to gradually get your body used to the strain. If your goal is to maintain muscle mass, but not necessarily increase it by a lot, heavy kettlebells aren’t necessary either. In the fitness area in particular, there is always the option of choosing a lighter weight and doing more repetitions instead.

The right type of kettlebell for you

If you have already decided at this point what your goals should be for kettlebell training, you can easily answer this question: Which type of kettlebell comes closest to your individual requirements? Competition kettlebells and fitness kettlebells each exist in different versions – our above list of best offers, for example, an initial overview.

If you are interested in competition kettlebells, but find out afterwards that you have little interest in comparing performance, the investment does not have to automatically turn out to be a bad buy – because you can also train at home with a competition kettlebell in complete exclusion of the public. It is more important that you cope with the weight itself. However, competition kettlebells tend not to be suitable for endurance workouts and the like; if you are interested in both and pursue both strength training and kettlebell cardio, it is generally worth getting at least one of each.

Quality & Quantity

Quality has many facets, some of which are in the eye of the beholder. While some athletes prefer kettlebells that went through the hands of long-established manufacturers and retailers, others swear by young start-ups and aspiring business people who give hope for a breath of fresh air.

Aside from personal preferences, however, you shouldn’t be tampered with by names: pay attention to qualities that are important to you. For example, if you are looking for a steel or cast iron kettlebell, you would probably not be very happy with a state-of-the-art model with an attractive design if it is made of plastic.

Metal vs. Plastic is the subject of much heated and passionate debates among kettlebell athletes. However, kettlebells made of cast iron or steel seem to be more popular among ambitious athletes, strength athletes and bodybuilders, while kettlebells made of plastic are particularly widespread in the fitness sector. However, there are many exceptions, especially since the kettlebell sport is not at home in a single scene, but is practiced by many different groups of people with very different demands and goals.

Regardless of how you define quality: it often has its price. In principle, kettlebells are not an exceptionally expensive investment, as they are relatively simple to manufacture, do not require any mechanics or even electronics, and do not have hair-thin components. The wear and tear is rather low compared to more complex fitness equipment. Nevertheless, many beginners only afford one kettlebell at the beginning – which can also be a good move to get to know this type of weight training.

Unfortunately, the downside is that it limits the number of exercises you can do. Weights that are relatively light are particularly suitable for entry, because even 8 kg weighs heavily on the arms of a newbie after a few swings and lifts. However, if you are serious about doing kettlebell exercise, you should keep in mind that at least after some time that you have spent with regular exercise and corresponding performance increases, you will likely feel the need for additional weights. Having a small but fine selection of kettlebells at home – and thereby achieving a certain quantity in addition to quality – can help to bring more variety to the training units and to develop optimally. In this sense: quantity does not necessarily have to represent something negative, but it should not be at the expense of the quality of the individual kettlebells and maintain a healthy average. To give you a clue: Even kettlebell athletes who train very seriously rarely have more than 10 different weights.

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Useful accessories

In order for the kettlebell training to produce the desired effects, you usually do not need any special accessories. The most important thing is to do your workout safely, correctly and regularly. Only the first accessories that we would like to introduce to you here may be an exception and – depending on the kettlebell used – may be painfully necessary.

Gloves against sore or slipping hands

Some kettlebells have a very rough surface that can rub the skin of the hand on the handle. Blisters, skin irritation and injury are possible consequences. This unpleasant side effect can occur particularly with kettlebells made of plastic or with a corresponding coating.

Fitness gloves, such as those used in weightlifting, are a potential solution to this problem. Even if the grip of the kettlebell is too smooth, gloves may help. You should definitely use fitness gloves and not be tempted to use normal winter or gardening gloves, as this may further increase the risk of injury. Gloves that are suitable for kettlebells have a non-slip surface on the palm and are sufficiently stable.

Kettlebell shelf

If you improve your performance as you continue to exercise and accumulate a number of kettlebells over time, the question of proper accommodation soon arises.

Because of their weight, kettlebells shouldn’t be stored on a regular shelf, such as a discarded bookcase or living room shelf. Otherwise, the result could be fatal, especially with higher weights, as these shelves or cabinets are not designed for the high load that is placed on a point when you place a 24 kg kettlebell on a shelf. Weights that suddenly break through and fall, or can topple the entire shelf, pose a high risk to your safety – and to other roommates and visitors, especially children.

In contrast to common household storage options, kettlebell shelves are sufficiently stable to withstand the load. When buying, you should pay attention to the weight limit and make sure to adhere to it.

Kettlebell Alternatives

Dumbbells

Dumbbells are just as popular in the fitness sector as they are in the weight training and bodybuilding scene. As free weights, they belong to the same category of sports equipment as kettlebells and for this reason have comparable advantages.

However, due to the different nature of the two devices, there are also some differences. The swing exercises, which are essential in training with kettlebells and are an integral part of the basic repertoire, cannot be performed with dumbbells in this form.

Nonetheless, dumbbells are an acceptable alternative to kettlebells, with training more focused on the arms.

Pull-Up Bars

Minds split over pull-ups in a way that is hardly the case with any other athletic aid. At the same time, however, they also have an ardent following who are enthusiastic about the simplicity and effectiveness of classic physical training.

The gap between these two groups is easy to explain: pull-ups require different muscles and require arm strength as well as body tension and well-developed shoulder and back muscles. Since you have to hold your entire body weight with your upper extremities when doing pull-ups, the hurdle for the first pull-up is relatively high: You cannot choose a lighter weight than with the kettlebell or dumbbell, but sooner or later you have to work your way up to the first pull-up, if You choose this type of exercise.

Under certain circumstances, a preparatory phase may therefore be necessary in which, for example, you increase your strength with the help of push-ups before you dare to do the pull-ups. Beginners can avoid knee push-ups until they feel more confident and do the right push-up. Once you’ve dared to do your first pull-up, you can usually get better soon. It is important that you pay attention to regularity and correct execution.

Sports retailers offer pull-up bars that you can assemble at home. For example, some rods are suitable for mounting in the door frame. Before you start with the attachment, however, you should clarify whether your door and the available pull-up bar are suitable for this assembly.

Frequently Asked Questions: Kettlebells

How often do I have to train with the kettlebell?

Experts do not fully agree on the required frequency of strength training. Hobby athletes tend to benefit from two effective workouts per week and can thus achieve good results in terms of fitness and muscle strength.

However, if you have set yourself more ambitious goals and want to build your muscles in top form, you will need more than two training units per week. Many athletes and coaches recommend training five days a week and taking a break on the remaining two days. On rest days, you shouldn’t work the same muscle groups – not even with another training device. In addition, the two rest days should be spread over the week and not immediately follow one another. The body needs this time out to repair the muscles and build them stronger. For this reason, these targeted training breaks do not prevent your training success in any way – they even help you.

However, with clever planning and careful selection of different exercises, you can also train daily if desired. For example, there is the possibility to train arms, shoulders, back and chest with the kettlebell on five days of the week, and to plan a workout for the legs on the other two days.

Which muscles can I train with kettlebells?

Depending on which exercises you are doing, you can use different muscle groups when training with the kettlebell. A general answer to this question is therefore hardly possible. However, there is a tendency to say that kettlebells mainly stimulate the arm and shoulder muscles and can train shoulders, back and chest. The smaller muscles of the fingers and hands are also intensely involved in the training, since they hold the weight with one or both hands. However, with the right exercises, kettlebells provide a comprehensive workout for the whole body.

What is the difference between fitness and competition kettlebells?

Competition kettlebells are the same size, while fitness kettlebells are often larger, the higher their weight. Which type of dumbbell is best for you depends on how you plan to use the load. There is no such thing as a fundamentally superior type, it all depends on the fit between the type and your goals.

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