Selecting Your Kettlebell- Two Primary Categories

While there are a number of variations on a theme, there are two common types of kettlebells: the cast-iron classic, or fitness kettlebell and the steel competition, or sport kettlebell. In spite of their names, the competition kettlebell can be used for fitness goals and the classic bell can be used for competition. However, there are differences that should be taken into consideration when selecting a kettlebell from either category.

The Cast-Iron Classic Kettlebell

The cast-iron classic, or fitness, kettlebell is the first category and was the first type of kettlebell hence the label classic.  Compared to the competition kettlebell it is less expensive because it is easier to make. However, the material is very sturdy and it will last for years or even a lifetime.

If your goals is general fitness you can’t go wrong with the cast iron classic. These kettlebells are great for general fitness because unless you are very advanced, you will not be doing hundreds of repetitions without stopping, so the precise shape and weight of the kettlebell is not as critical an issue as it is for the competitive lifter.


Official RKC (Russian Kettlebell Certification)
Classic Fitness Kettlebell

Cast-iron kettlebells are made using molds of various sizes. The heavier the kettlebell, the larger it is.

For example, an 8-kilogram (18 lb) classic kettlebell will have a small ball or body and a thin handle. Whereas, a 32-kilogram (71 lb) kettlebell will be similar in dimensions to a competition kettlebell which I will cover in the next section.

When training with kettlebells for general fitness, kettlebell dimensions do not matter as much as they do in competitions. We will cover this in more detail in the next section.

For a competitive kettlebell athlete, these varying sizes are not ideal because every time you use a kettlebell of a different size, the position of the kettlebell in your hand and against your body will be slightly different, making it harder to develop a consistent technique.

However, for general fitness, this difference will not be as noticeable because you will be starting with 10, 15, 20, or 30 reps at a time, not 50, 80, or 100 reps.

Another advantage of the cast-iron kettlebells is that they are a bit less expensive than competition kettlebells but they are still very sturdy. Consequently, they are a good overall selection when you consider the factors of cost, quality, and performance.

The Competition Kettlebell

The competition, or sport, kettlebell is the international standard of measurement and design for kettlebell training and competitions. Although kettlebell lifting is only about 10 years old in most of the Western world and Asia, in Eastern Europe and particularly in Russia, kettlebell training has developed into a high-level competitive sport.


The Competition Kettlebell
Standardized All-Steel Construction

As in all competitive sports, there are standardized equipment and rules. Kettlebell experts looked at design and performance and came up with measurements that are best suited for performance. All competitive kettlebell lifters train and compete with the standardized competition kettlebells.

The competition kettlebell is made of steel but has a unique design that sets it apart from the cast iron classic. Aside from being made from steel and thus more expensive than types made from less expensive materials, the competition kettlebell has a universal design and measurement:

Height—228 millimeters (8.5 in.) Diameter—210 millimeters (8.25 in.) Handle diameter—35 millimeters (1.4 in.)

The universal dimensions of the kettlebell do not change regardless of the weight.

For example, an 8-kilogram (18 lb) competition kettlebell will be the exact same dimensions (within a specified standard margin of error) as a 16-kilogram (35 lb), 32-kilogram (71 lb), or even a 48-kilogram (106 lb) kettlebell.

Apart from universal dimensions another unique feature of the competition kettlebell is that it is hollow. The hollow feature of this kettlebell allows the weight to change while keeping the same universal dimensions.

For example, a light competition kettlebell such as 8 kilograms will be made from aluminum and will be hollow inside. However, in order to maintain the same dimensions and make the kettlebell heavier, steel is used in place of aluminum, and the inside is filled to produce the desired weight of the kettlebell.

So, the difference between an 8-kilogram and a 48-kilogram kettlebell is that an 8-kilogram kettlebell will be aluminum and completely hollow inside. Whereas, a 48-kilogram kettlebell will be made of steel and filled with solid lead on the inside.

Weights heavier than 48 kilograms can also be specially made for advanced lifters, but in order to keep the standard dimensions, a very heavy metal has to be used and the cost becomes high.

Why the Colors?

Since all the different weights are all the same size, the competitors and judges need a way to distinguish the differences in weight quickly. So, a color code is used to help the kettlebell athletes to quickly recognize what weight each kettlebell is, without having to read a number, and also help the judges verify the weight used quickly as well.

An important reason for the universal dimensions as well is to enable competitors to develop a precise technique. In kettlebell competitions, an athlete may lift the kettlebell 100 or even 150 times or more without stopping Thus, every repetition has to be precise to increase the efficiency of your movements. Standard sizing helps make this possible.

Uniform equipment allows for uniform practice. As a result of this attention to detail, paying a little extra for the competition-style kettlebell is understandable and is, in turn, a worthwhile investment over the long haul.

Making Your Choice

If your goal is to use kettlebells to increase general strength and conditioning, you may not want to invest in the extra expense for competition kettlebells. In that case, a good quality cast-iron kettlebell will get the job done very effectively. (See the reviews or visit Amazon for selections.)

However, if you can afford it and prefer the highest quality, you may want to invest in competition kettlebells.

To use a car analogy, competition kettlebells are like the Mercedes or Porsche of kettlebells. They are worth the extra investment if cost is not a deterring factor. (Don’t assume however that you will be paying Mercedes prices as opposed to a Honda Civic, the cost differential is not that extreme.) However, if you only need to drive to the corner office, a Ford or Chevy may be the better choice for you.

The main advantages of the competition kettlebell are quality and uniformity of technique performance even though the weight may change.

Other Choices

Now that you have the basic categories down you can pivot from there to other choices.


One Type of Adjustable Kettlebell

If space is a premium but quality is important, you may want to consider the adjustable kettlebell. Adjustables will allow for a wider range of weights without having to purchase multiple kettlebells. They are also good for a couple who wish to practice or roommates who vary in strength, need and proficiency and allow the same kettlebell to be used for each individual.

There are also vinyl coated and cement filled. I recently saw a kettlebell being pushed that was water filled and plastic.  I personally would not call these real kettlebells in the sense of the kettlebell above, but you can review them on other pages of this site. If your budget is a pressing issue but you want to get started with kettlebell fitness, other choices are better than sitting on the sidelines when you could be swinging your way to fitness and weight loss.

Select Kettlebell Reviews in the categories bar above for a review of wider varieties of kettlebells.


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