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The best kettlebells for any workout
Kettlebells easily fall into the love-it-or-leave-it category. At most fitness centers, these cast iron tools are in a corner where only a brave few go. And if you do want to give them a try, it’s tricky figuring out what types of kettlebell exercises are the right ones.
The secret power of a kettlebell is that it is a simple piece of exercise equipment.
But with just one kettlebell you can:
- Lose weight
- Burn fat
- Build strength
- Increase muscle
- Increase flexibility
- Boost cardiovascular health
That’s just with one kettlebell. Imagine what can happen with multiple!
With kettlebell workouts, you can increase your power with dynamic swing and snatch exercises. Take it slow to rehabilitate after an injury. Or burn fat with a HIIT workout.
They may not be popular at most gyms, but that changes now.
Check out 10 of the best kettlebell exercises you can do
What does a kettlebell do for your body?
Kettlebells are great for engaging the entire body at once. Compared to static exercise machines – where you sit without engaging your core – kettlebells keep your entire body active.
Because kettlebell movements mimic real-world activities, they’ve become a must-have for every functional training program.
Standard kettlebell exercises primarily focus on the lower back, legs and shoulders, and they build muscle strength and endurance. And, just like other free weights, they improve grip strength.
While kettlebell workouts are mostly filled with advantages The one big con is that the movements you see on social media may be too advanced for your level at first.
Going all-in with a Turkish Getup or a pistol or goblet squat before you're ready could lead to back or shoulder problems. Kettlebell exercises require a strong core. Having a weak one could cause you to compromise a movement and injure yourself.
The good news? With the right technique, kettlebells are super beneficial to your health.
We’re talking about improved mobility, range of motion, agility, cardiovascular endurance, weight loss, and (of course) more strength and power.
Can you lose weight with a kettlebell?
Yes. Kettlebell workouts are a great way to lose weight. This is because each kettlebell exercise activates more muscles and requires more body focus than other types of free weight and resistance training.
When you work several muscles at one time, your body needs to burn more calories to support the movement. And we all know that burning calories is the number one way to lose weight. Research shows that a 10-minute kettlebell workout burns as many calories as running on a treadmill for the same time.
The best part about kettlebell training for weight loss is that you continue to burn calories after every workout.
Kettlebell exercise creates afterburn or Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) for the die-hard fitness pros out there. That means you keep burning calories up to 24-36 hours after each kettlebell workout.
Can you get ripped with kettlebells?
Getting ripped, jacked, shredded… Whatever you call it, a kettlebell can do it.
Why? Glad you asked.
1. Kettlebells are designed for compound exercises.
Compound exercises require multi-joint movement, not single-joint isolation. Think bicep curl versus a deadlift. A bicep curl is quite static, but a deadlift requires more of your body to accomplish the movement.
Compound exercises are more efficient for hypertrophy (building muscle), strength gains and weight loss, too. What does all that equal? Shredded.
But it’s shredded in the right way. The primal way. The way people were created to move.
The body moves in compound movements – never in isolation. You’ll get jacked from the core out. And you’ll never have to worry about having just one big bicep.
The best kettlebell exercise program to get ripped involves functional movements like squatting, pushing, pulling, rotation-based movements, and hinging.
2. Kettlebells work joints through their full range of motion.
Increasing your range of motion means you’re working your muscles to their full potential. When that happens, you build muscle and gain the strength and power you’re after.
Kettlebells, by design, work your joints through their full range of motion.
Think about performing a squat. How far can you move with a barbell (or worse, with a Smith Machine)? Now think about how much deeper you can go with a kettlebell. That’s what an increased range of motion looks like.
3. Kettlebell training requires offset loading.
Kettlebells provide offset training simply by their design. Compared to a dumbbell, where the weight is evenly balanced, a cast iron kettlebell is a unique shape that requires your body to fire more muscles to hold it, swing it, snatch it, and exercise with it properly.
This is the ideal condition for building muscle. Take that further by exercising with only one kettlebell. You’re multiplying the offset loading and activating even more muscle fibers.
The top 5 benefits of kettlebell training
From their start in Russia to circus strongmen and performers who impressed audiences with feats of power and agility, kettlebells have always had one thing in common: strength.
Here's what you can do with a set of kettlebells and a kettlebell workout:
Benefit 1: Simplify your exercise routine with 1 kettlebell
All you need for a total body workout is your body weight (you have that) and one kettlebell. With those two, you can train anywhere and target your entire body.
From hypertrophy to conditioning, kettlebell exercise is adaptable to any level. And when you search kettlebells at Shape Nation, you’ll see that we’ve already considered every size – from beginners up to competition kettlebells.
Benefit 2: Substitute cardio with a kettlebell workout
Forget the treadmill, kettlebell workouts, when kept at a consistent pace, have major aerobic benefits – like HIIT workouts.
Not convinced that a kettlebell workout gives you the same results? Cardio on a treadmill or elliptical is performed for a set length of time, right? Do the same with your kettlebell training program. This improves your metabolic rate and cardiovascular health. And you’ll burn more calories because you’re building muscle mass.
Benefit 3: Improve posterior chain strength with kettlebells
The body’s biggest muscles are on your backside – your posterior chain. That includes everything from your neck to your ankles:
Placing focus on the posterior chain, with a kettlebell training program, reduces lower back pain, improves posture, and raises your level in other sports and functional movements.
While these muscles aren’t the first ones you see in the mirror (we see you, biceps). They are the ones responsible for:
- Creating power in explosive movements
- Improving overall athletic performance
- Helping prevent injuries caused by sitting too long at work
- Improving posture
Benefit 4: Learn to move better (and safer) with kettlebell training
Because exercising with kettlebells requires you to move through multiple planes of motion (side to side, front to back, etc.), kettlebell training is a great tool for anyone building strength or rehabilitating from an injury.
Cast iron kettlebells are also great to use when practicing proper form before moving on to harder, more advanced movements with heavier loads.
Consider training for a loaded back squat by starting with a kettlebell goblet squat. This teaches your body to engage the core without loading your spine before you’re ready.
Benefit 5: Correct posture imbalances with a kettlebell workout
Ask any personal trainer and they’ll tell you that they love the way kettlebell exercises are perfect for training unilateral movements (one arm or one leg at a time).
Why are these so loved by trainers and coaches everywhere? Unilateral training with kettlebells helps to address your weaknesses and make you stronger.
Our lives are all about one arm or leg at a time. Imagine walking with both legs at the same time. Exactly. It’s impossible.
Functional fitness builds on these movements, and kettlebells teach you to stabilize and engage your core more than other forms of resistance training.
What’s better? Adjustable kettlebell or standard, single-cast kettlebell
If you’re serious about training with kettlebells, then a standard, single-piece kettlebell is the only way to go.
If space is an issue for your home gym, there are plenty of great adjustable kettlebells out there. These allow you to adjust the weight by adding or removing weight plates or turning a dial to adjust the weight increments.
For the majority of the exercises we’ll talk about here, we suggest a one-piece cast iron kettlebell.
How to choose the right kettlebell weight and size
How heavy should a kettlebell be? That all depends on:
- Your exercise experience and level
- Your fitness goal and motivation
- Your age
- The type of exercises you want: ballistic or grind
Whatever weight you start with, when you’re able to do 5-8 reps of any exercise, it’s time to choose something heavier.
What are ballistic and grind kettlebell exercises?
According to Kettlebell Kings, these are the 2 main types of kettlebell exercises – ballistic and grind.
- Ballistic exercises include kettlebell swings, kettlebell snatches, or kettlebell jerks or cleans. These are multi-joint, explosive movements.
- Grind kettlebell exercises are slower movements that require control. These include windmills, overhead press, and deadlifts.
Best kettlebell sizes for ballistic exercises
Double-down on your technique and practice with a smaller weight first. The goal is to work up to the following weight range, once your technique is in place:
- For men: 35 pounds (16 kg) - 53 pounds (24 kg) kettlebells
- For women: 18 pounds (8 kg) - 35 pounds (16 kg) kettlebells
Suggested kettlebell sizes for grind exercises
Grind exercises are usually performed for 8-15 repetitions. With that in mind, check out these weights to aim for:
- For men: 18 pounds (8 kg) - 53 pounds (24 kg)
- For women: 13 pounds (6 kg) - 26 pounds (12 kg)
What kettlebell weight should a man start with?
For beginners, men should choose a kettlebell between 24 and 35 pounds (10-16 kg). While you might want to start with something heavier, it’s important to start the right way and build up the core strength to lift heavier.
- For a man of intermediate level: Choose a 44 pound (20 kg) kettlebell.
- For an advanced male athlete: Choose a 53 pound (24 kg) kettlebell to start with.
What kettlebell weight should a woman start with?
For women just starting with kettlebell exercises, start with kettlebells of 13 to 18 pounds (6-8 kg). Don’t be afraid to go heavier, when you’re ready to progress. To tone and shape your physique, you have to level up when an exercise gets too easy.
- For a woman of intermediate level: Choose a 26 pounds (12 kg) kettlebell.
- For an advanced female athlete: Choose a 35 pound (16 kg) kettlebell to start with.
What’s the best handle diameter for a good grip?
The best kettlebells have handle diameters around 30-31 mm, increasing to 38 mm for the heaviest ones. A competition kettlebell generally has a standard handle at 33 mm.
Is a competition kettlebell better than a cast iron kettlebell?
When it comes to choosing the best kettlebells, you’ll see 2 options: competition kettlebells and cast iron kettlebells.
Both types of kettlebells are made from one piece of metal – one single cast – with the handle and the base connected. That means they’re more stable and you can confidently swing, snatch, and flip your kettlebell without worrying about it falling apart.
Sounds obvious, but if you use adjustable kettlebells, the multiple pieces are something to consider.
The main difference between competition and cast iron kettlebells is the metal:
- A competition kettlebell is made of steel.
- A cast iron kettlebell is, you guessed it, cast iron.
- There are even plastic kettlebells that are filled with cement.
Steel lasts longer than cast iron, but cast iron kettlebells are usually coated with either a powder coating (powder coat kettlebells), ceramic coating, or covered with neoprene. This increases their durability and improves their resistance to rust and chipping, giving them the long-lasting power of a steel kettlebell.
Competition kettlebells are also universally colored, making it easy to find the weight you’re after. They are also the same size regardless of weight. That means a 44 pound (20 kg) kettlebell will be the same as a 35 pound (16 kg) one.
The drawback to a competition kettlebell (and what makes a cast iron kettlebell extra great) is its larger size. It’s difficult to work out with two at one time.
That negative turns positive when you work on floor-based exercises, like plank rows. In that case, the larger size of a competition kettlebell makes a safer base than a smaller cast iron kettlebell.
The best kettlebell exercises for all levels
It’s time to give this under-loved free weight its well-deserved place in your fitness program.
Grab a kettlebell and try some of these exercises. Want to make it harder (or easier)? Just change the weight of the kettlebell you're using.
Target: hamstrings, glutes, lower back, core
How to perform:
- Stand with your feet set a little wider than your shoulders.
- Bend your knees and grab one kettlebell with both hands.
- Keep your back flat (engage your core,), drive your hips forward and swing the kettlebell up to shoulder height.
- Keeping the momentum, return to the start position and repeat.
- Perform 3 sets of kettlebell swings for 60-90 seconds per set.
Target: full body
How to perform:
- Hold 2 kettlebells so the weight is resting on the back of your shoulders. Hold by the handles with your elbows out.
- Squat down, keeping your knees in line with your ankles.
- Instead of slowly standing up, push through your ankles to stand up. At the same time, drive the kettlebells above your head (like in an overhead press).
- Lower your arms back to the starting position as you squat and repeat.
- Perform 10-12 repetitions for 3 sets.
Target: full body (shoulder, lower body, core)
How to perform:
- Hold a single kettlebell in one hand between your legs.
- Bend your knees for a shallow squat.
- Powerfully drive up through your legs (connecting your ankles to the floor) as you bring the kettlebell to shoulder height.
- In the same movement as step 3, rotate your hand and push it above your head.
- As you squat, return the weight to the position in step 1 and repeat.
- Perform 10-15 reps with each arm. 3 sets per arm.
Kettlebell Goblet Squat
Target: Core, legs, glutes
How to perform:
- Stand with your legs in a squat stance – feet shoulder-width apart.
- Hold a single kettlebell in both hands in front of your chest. Grip the base as though you’re cupping a goblet – one hand on either side, palms facing each other.
- Lower your body into a squat. Do not move the kettlebell.
- As you return to standing, connect to the floor through your ankles and engage your glutes and knees. Repeat.
- Perform 3 sets of 10-15 reps.
Kettlebell Farmer's Walk
Target: full body (core)
How to perform:
- Hold two kettlebells by your sides.
- Without hunching or rounding your shoulders, walk as far as possible. Think about a farmer carrying bags of feed… or a hotel porter carrying luggage.
- Perform for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Rest and repeat.
Nail your fitness goal with kettlebells from ShapeNation
At ShapeNation, we’re excited that kettlebells are moving from the pro-only area to the mainstream. We’ve been big fans of the kettlebell for forever… finally the rest of the world is catching on.
From a powder coated kettlebell to plastic kettlebells and everything in between, our ever-evolving choice of kettlebells won’t cost you a second mortgage. That’s part of our promise – to help you reach your fitness goal without costing a fortune.
The fitter, stronger you is waiting. And with a kettlebell from ShapeNation, that ‘new you’ won't have to wait much longer.
Looking for more? Check out other options for resistance and strength training here. Your next best workout is just a click away.
Are you looking for more products to take your training to the next level? Our most popular categories are dumbbells, kettlebells, exercise mats, resistance bands, protein powder, workout clothes, headphones, massage guns, foam rollers, and exercise balls. Find all the best exercise equipment on ShapeNation