a group of different sizes of kettlebells

Complete Guide to Buying the Correct Weight and Size Kettlebell

Juhi

Written by health expert Juhi. Last updated:

If you’ve mastered dumbbells and barbells but have steered clear of kettlebells thus far, you’re missing out on an exceptional workout. Kettlebell training uses more muscles and burns more calories than many other types of weightlifting. Kettlebells come in various sizes, and if you’re wondering, “What size kettlebell should you buy?” there are some things to keep in mind.

Kettlebell workouts are not isolation-based exercises. Rather, they are full-body movements. Therefore, a light kettlebell is not challenging enough, and a heavy kettlebell can cause injury. The kettlebell size a woman should start with is 15-lbs. (8 kg.). The kettlebell weight a man should use is 25-lbs. (12 kg). However, factors like your age, fitness level, and training experience are also important if you want to choose the right kettlebell.

Why Are Kettlebell Exercises Beneficial?

a woman doing push-ups with kettlebells

Many people have the misconception that kettlebells are just dumbbells in a different shape with goofy handles. So, let’s put the kettlebells vs. dumbbells debate to rest once and for all. Dumbbells are used to perform isolation-based exercises. For instance, you use a dumbbell to do a biceps curl and work on a specific muscle in your upper arm. Kettlebell workouts, on the other hand, are based on the movement of your entire body. This means when you do weight training with kettlebells, you’re using hundreds of muscles at a time and fast-tracking your body to conditioning and toning.

To get the most out of your kettlebell training, you need to choose the right kettlebell. You also need to do the exercises and movements with the correct form. If you start with a lighter kettlebell, you won’t challenge your full body. If you start out too heavy, you could cause injury.

What Are the Different Kettlebell Sizes or Weights?

A traditional kettlebell comes in five different sizes: 8 kg, 12 kg, 16 kg, 24 kg, and 32 kg. Competition kettlebells are color-coded according to a universal standard so that regular users can find the weight they need at a glance.

Due to the growing popularity of the kettlebell sport, in addition to the standard kettlebells, some manufacturers have started making in-between sizes to bridge the gap. This provides users with more flexibility and range. As a result, kettlebells now start from 5 lbs. and can go all the way up to 200 lbs. This is great if you’re struggling to find the correct kettlebell among competition kettlebells. You can use these if you find that a lower-level kettlebell feels too easy and the next level is too challenging.

You can also buy adjustable weight kettlebells in cast iron and other materials. This type of kettlebell saves space in your home gym. Adjustable kettlebells also allow you to transition from one kettlebell size to the next without investing in multiple kettlebell sets.

What is a Pood?

Kettlebells trace their history to 18th century Russia where cast iron or steel metal balls were used to weigh crops. The unit of measurement for these cannonball-like weights was the pood. In modern times, different kettlebell sizes are classified according to the same traditional Russian weight called the pood.

One pood is roughly 16.38 kg or 35 lbs. Therefore, the starting weight 8-kg kettlebell is half a pood. The 16-kg, 24-kg, and 32-kg competition kettlebells are 1 pood, 1.5 poods, and 2 poods, respectively.

What Features Are Important When Choosing a Kettlebell?

Dumbbells, including heavy adjustable dumbbells, have a relatively simple structure. Competition kettlebells are more complex. The kettlebell design has various parts such as the base, bell, handle, horn, corner, and window. The bell is the central circular part that constitutes the ball diameter and mass of the kettlebell. The window is the part that separates the handle and the bell and allows you to perform flexible movements. The obtuse shape of the handle is where you grip the kettlebell for free weight movements. Besides choosing the best kettlebell weight, here are some features you should consider:

two kettlebells lying on a wooden floor

  • Chip resistant coating: This not only enhances grip strength but also ensures your kettlebells give you years of use without damage.
  • Smooth shape of the handle: This is important for a comfortable and strong grip during kettlebell training.
  • Window width: A sufficient window width is essential for a comfortable hold of the kettlebell.
  • Anti-rust material: If your kettlebell material is cast iron or steel, make sure it comes with a guarantee that the kettlebells do not rust.

How Many Kettlebell Sizes Do I Need?

The best thing about kettlebell training is that you can do a complete workout with just one kettlebell. If you’re new to weight training, you don’t need many kettlebell sizes. Buy a single type of kettlebell and focus on form, lifting techniques, movement pattern, and proper mechanics. Your aim should be to master the simple aspects of kettlebell exercises before moving on to more complex movements.

However, if you want more range in kettlebell movements, a few different weights are recommended. The exact kettlebells to start with will depend on whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced weightlifter (more on this later).

With a training kettlebell set or adjustable kettlebells, you can scale your training up or down. For instance, some movements such as windmills, Turkish get-ups, and bottoms-up presses should be done with a lower kettlebell weight for beginners. On the other hand, a kettlebell deadlift or simple kettlebell swing will not be challenging enough unless you lift a heavier weight.

Having a range of kettlebell weights will give you flexibility in your workout. You’ll be able to progress to heavier weights as you build strength. Therefore, if your budget can handle it, invest in two or three kettlebells of different weights, and add to your kettlebell set as you go along.

What is the Ideal Kettlebell Weight for Women?

Most trainers recommend that the correct kettlebell weight to start with for the average woman is 8 kgs or the 0.5-pood kettlebell. This weight is neither too heavy nor too light, and therefore, it is ideal for the new female kettlebell trainee. It may sound like a lot, but some workouts involve large muscles where an 8-kg kettlebell is not that heavy. Lifting too light during these movements can lead to improper form and poor techniques.

If you’re not comfortable with an 8-kg starter kettlebell, the general rule of thumb is to start with a weight that you can comfortably do five repetitions with. When you reach a stage where you can easily do 20 reps, it’s time to move on to a more challenging weight.

What is the Ideal Kettlebell Weight for Men?

a man training with a kettlebell in the gym

Your kettlebell workout will hit muscles you haven’t used before. That’s why it’s essential to focus on proper form and balance rather than simply muscling your way through a movement.

If you’re a man who has a fair bit of experience with lifting weights, you may be wondering, “How heavy should a kettlebell be?” With few exceptions, trainers recommend the 16-kg or 35-lbs kettlebell as a good starter kettlebell for the average man at intermediate and advanced levels.

Many men will look at this kettlebell and feel like it’s too light for their skill level. However, it’s important to remember that the function of kettlebells is different from the function of adjustable dumbbells and barbells. You’re not going to be doing simple squats, deadlifts, or barbell curls. And even when you do these exercises while lifting the weight with a kettlebell, the movement will be done differently.

Choosing a Kettlebell Size Based on Fitness Level

To a large extent, the ideal size of a kettlebell depends on a person’s current fitness level. It’s more important for beginners with no weightlifting experience to focus on the mechanics of the exercises rather than the kettlebell sizes. The best type of kettlebell for this group, which is comfortable yet challenging, is 8 kg for women and 16 kg for men.

Intermediate level lifters include those who can bench press at least 200 lbs. or 90 kg without a lot of effort. This is a group of men and women who have a fair amount of weightlifting experience. Such individuals can use kettlebell weights of 12 kg for women and 20 kg for men.

People who are at an advanced level with lots of weight training experience have both massive strength and exquisite control over body movements. Therefore, such individuals can use heavier kettlebell weights of 16 kg for women and 24 kg for men.

You should be able to do five repetitions comfortably without pain to avoid injury for all fitness levels. When you can do 20 reps without feeling the burn, it’s time to move on to a heavier weight.

Choosing a Kettlebell Size Based on Your Fitness Goals

Another factor that plays a role in choosing the ideal kettlebell size is your fitness goals, which can be anything from weight loss to building strength to improving flexibility and joint health.

For many people, the goal of kettlebell training is improved balance and coordination. This can be achieved with flow movements that combine two or three movements in succession. The recommended kettlebell size for such exercises is 8 to 12 kg for women and 12 to 20 kg for men.

If you want to develop agility and tone up your muscles through the kettlebell sport, exercises such as the Turkish get-up will strengthen your core and improve your posture. A good kettlebell weight for such a workout is 4 to 12 kg for women and 8 to 20 kg for men, depending on their current fitness level.

Those who want to build strength and power with kettlebell training can do exercises such as the kettlebell swing, which involves a pendulum motion at knee level. The recommended kettlebell size for such a workout is 12 kg for women and 16 kg for men for single arm swings, and 14 kg for women and 24 kg for men for double-handed swings.

Kettlebell goblet squats are a great way to build endurance and lose weight. Active women can use a 12 kg kettlebell, and active men can use a 20 kg kettlebell size for weight loss, depending on experience.

Kettlebells are a great piece of equipment to bring along on your journey to a strong, toned, flexible body. Ensure that you select the correct kettlebell size based on your age, gender, and current fitness level, and you’ll be on your way to achieving your fitness goals.

References

  1. Take a swing at kettlebells – Harvard Health Publishing

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