When it comes to strength training, there are a multitude of accessories in an athlete's arsenal. But if there's one piece of equipment that stands out from the rest of the pack in terms of versatility, it's kettlebells, says Chris Travis, CPT, owner of Seattle Strength & Performance.
"I love using kettlebells for [strength] training," he tells LIVESTRONG.com. "The weight distribution of the instrument is unique, given the positioning of the bell relative to the horns and handles. This requires greater body awareness and stability."
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Translation: Kettlebells have a different weight dispersion than, say, a dumbbell, so it will feel heavier or lighter depending on its location throughout certain exercises. (For example, a kettlebell will feel lighter at the top of a kettlebell swing and heavier at the bottom.) You're also not holding the weight directly and evenly (like you would a dumbbell), forcing your muscles to attempt to stabilize the kettlebell at any given time when gripping its handle.
Plus, as Travis adds, kettlebells are uniquely great for power-oriented exercises, where exercisers use force and momentum to move the weight (think: swings and snatches).
That said, kettlebells vary in construction and use, so it's important to choose one that fits your individual exercise goals. With help from Travis and Albert Matheny, certified strength and conditioning specialist and co-founder of SoHo Strength Lab, we've compiled a list of our favorite kettlebells.
How We Chose
In addition to sourcing product reviews from consumers online, we interviewed two certified trainers who specialize in strength training for their top picks. Other criteria for selecting the best kettlebells include:
- Comfort and grip
- Range of weights
- Best Kettlebell Overall: Rogue Kettlebell E Coat ($30 to $140, RogueFitness.com)
- Best Budget Kettlebell: Amazon Basics Cast Iron Kettlebell ($21.51 to $71.75, Amazon.com)
- Best Softshell Kettlebell: Hyperwear SandBell Sandbag Workout Bag ($14.69 to $138.99, Amazon.com)
- Best Adjustable Kettlebell: Apex Adjustable Heavy-Duty Exercise Kettlebell Weight Set ($53.88, Amazon.com)
- Best Kettlebell Set: Powder Coat Kettlebell Partial Kettlebell Set ($777.69, KettlebellKings.com)
- Best Kettlebell for Beginners: First Place Gravity Kettlebell ($16 to $210, PerformBetter.com)
- Best Kettlebell for CrossFit: Rogue Kettlebell ($35 to $320, RogueFitness.com)
- Best Kettlebell for Cardio: StrongFirst Kettlebell ($51.99 to $314.99, StrongFirst.com)
1. Best Overall: Rogue Kettlebell E Coat
Both of the experts interviewed with this piece agreed: When it comes to quality, the Rogue Kettlebell E Coat is a top choice.
With an extra-wide range in weights (from 9 to 203 pounds, or 4 to 92 kilograms), each bell is crafted with a special cast "E coat" that helps to ward off adhesion and corrosion while still maintaining a slightly shiny, smooth finish that tends to be easier to clean than powder-coated (or more matted) varieties.
Buy it: RogueFitness.com; Price: $30 to $140
2. Best Budget: Amazon Basics Cast Iron Kettlebell Weight
With more than 12,000 five-star reviews, the Amazon Basics Cast Iron Kettlebell Weight is a no-frills, no-fuss piece of strength- training equipment Travis recommends for people seeking a budget-friendly kettlebell.
While the sleek enamel finish doesn't have the same tough texture as, say, a Rogue kettlebell, Travis says these are still relatively easy to grip during exercise. You'll find weights ranging from 10 to 50 pounds (or 4.5 to 22.5 kilograms).
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $21.51 to $71.75
3. Best Softshell Kettlebell: Hyperwear SandBell Sandbag Workout Bag
Although softshell kettlebells might appear as though they'd function differently than a hard one, their weight is still distributed in a similar, spherical manner — and can provide some peace of mind if you're worried about dropping it and accidentally scuffing your floors.
Despite having no handle, this sand-filled softshell kettlebell is still easy to grasp, according to Matheny. Choose a weight ranging from 2 to 50 pounds (or 1 to 22.5 kilograms).
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $14.69 to $138.99
4. Best Adjustable Kettlebell: Apex Adjustable Heavy-Duty Exercise Kettlebell Weight Set
Matheny's favorite adjustable kettlebell set, this is a great option for the athlete who plans to adjust their load for a particular exercise or use the equipment for a variety of exercises throughout a workout (like using a lighter weight for Russian twists and a heavier weight for goblet squats). This particular set ranges from 20 to 50 pounds (or 9 to 22.5 kilograms).
Buy it: Amazon.com; Price: $53.88
5. Best Kettlebell Set: Kettlebell Kings Powder Coat Kettlebell Partial Kettlebell Set
Although you can technically purchase a number of kettlebells to create a full set, Kettlebell Kings offers a reduction in price when you buy a set of seven — making this set a go-to in Matheny's strength studio.
The weights range from 18 pounds (or 8 kilograms) to 70 pounds (or 32 kilograms), so this set is ideal for a full-body workout that focuses on both smaller and larger muscle groups.
Buy it: KettlebellKings.com; Price: $777.69
6. Best Kettlebell for Beginners: First Place Gravity Kettlebell
With a wide range of weights, including a kettlebell as light as 1 pound (or 2 kilograms), Travis recommends First Place Gravity Kettlebells for beginners seeking to gain comfort using the equipment.
"We use them in our gym and they are great quality and fairly affordable," he says. The bottoms are also flat, which gives the kettlebell extra stability on the ground.
Buy it: PerformBetter.com; Price: $16 to $210
7. Best Kettlebell for CrossFit: Rogue Kettlebell
Like its E Coat cousin, the traditional Rogue Kettlebell is ideal for a multitude of strength exercises, Matheny says.
What makes this a preferable kettlebell variety for CrossFit, however, is its slightly easier ability to hold with chalk — which is often a staple for many of the workout's signature moves, like snatches, deadlifts and cleans.
These kettlebells also have color-coded handles by weight, ensuring it's easy to grab the right weight at a glance.
Buy it: RogueFitness.com; Price: $35 to $320
8. Best Kettlebell for Cardio: StrongFirst Kettlebell
Any of the kettlebells on this list can technically be used for cardiovascular-based or high-rep movements, Travis says, but the StrongFirst Kettlebells are his top choice.
"The StrongFirst Kettlebells are the benchmark for hardstyle training," he says. (FYI: "Hardstyle" just means there's a higher likelihood the weight will move in a faster, more plyometric motion throughout the workout.)
Buy it: StrongFirst.com; Price: $51.99 to $314.99
How to Choose the Right Kettlebell for You
1. Decide on Kettlebell Style
There are four overarching styles of kettlebells, according to Travis, each with different intended uses: sport, hardstyle, adjustable and softshell.
Hardstyle: With the exception of the adjustable and softshell varieties, all of the kettlebells on this list are hardstyle, which means they're made of cast iron and contain flared handles, Travis says. "The training I do with myself and clients [uses hardstyle kettlebells]," he adds.
Sport: "Sport kettlebells are the same size [regardless of weight] with different bell colors. They are made of steel and the handles go straight down to the bell." With a flat (instead of flared) handle, these kettlebells don't contain as natural of a grip. However, they are standard for some strength-related competitions. There were no sport kettlebells featured on this list, as neither certified trainer recommended them for everyday use.
Adjustable: An adjustable kettlebell tends to operate more like a dumbbell or other non-spherical weight, according to Travis. That said, those extra benefits associated with kettlebells (the constant fight to maintain balance and the weight feeling heavier or lighter depending on its location) aren't always applicable with these. However, if you want the ability to move up and down in weight throughout your workouts, these can be an ideal choice.
Softshell: While a softshell kettlebell does feature similar benefits to traditional hardstyle or sport kettlebells (like having a spherical shape), you're better off using this variety for exercises you might also use with a medicine ball, like Russian twists, goblet squats or any other movement where grip is focused on the bell and not than the handle.
2. Find a Weight Suited to Your Exercise Goals
For an experienced kettlebell user, Travis recommends choosing a weight that's applicable to a variety of movements (i.e. squats, deadlifts, swings, presses, rows) and tailored to your lifting goals (building muscle endurance, hypertrophy, strength, power). The American Council on Exercise (ACE) has recommendations for how many repetitions you should be able to complete with each goal.
That said, if you're just starting out with kettlebells, "I would start with 4 or 6 kilograms [9 to 13 pounds] to get comfortable with various exercises," he says. Another option: Consult with a certified trainer to find the best weight (and lifting goal) for you.
3. Settle on a Budget
Generally speaking, the heavier the kettlebell, the more expensive it is (this is true for most free weights, which are often priced per pound). If you're looking to save on costs, consider choosing a smaller weight and save larger weights for gyms or group settings.
4. Pick Your Material Preference
Kettlebells will generally have two finishes: powder-coated or glossy, according to Travis.
"I generally find [glossy] kettlebells to be too slippery, but I know some who prefer it," he says. "It will all come down to preference."
Travis prefers the power-coated varieties because they are "easier to grip and hang onto."