When you get started with kettlebells at a health club, you'll likely end up hoisting what is called a fitness KB, often one with vinyl coating. If you fall in love with these cannonball-shaped free weights, which seem to offer the ultimate blend of an intense strength and cardio workout, you may decide you need a little trio of your very own for the nest. A heavy one can work for swings, a light one for presses and a medium one for rows, windmills and similar exercises. The best-rated kettlebells offer features endorsed by experienced trainers to maximize hand comfort and stability.
Made of cast iron, fitness kettlebells are almost certainly what you see at your gym, varying in weight from little 2- or 3-pounders up to 30 pounds; you can also find giants of 80 pounds or more at well-equipped strength rooms. Better-rated kettlebells have a nice balance in the height between the top of the bell and handle, allowing for a comfortable grip, according to kettlebell trainer Lorna Kleidman. She observes that the Muscle Driver line features a bit of texture in its handles, permitting a good grip even when your palms get sweaty. Bells by Kettlebell Concepts feature a balanced handle. If a handle is too thin, it will displace excess weight in the handle, too thick and it will make for a tough grip. Other leading brands include Dragon Door, Ader and Lifeline.
Competition or Pro Kettlebells
Made of steel, competition or pro kettlebells all externally appear to be the same size, with a globe measuring 210 mm, or 8 ¼ inches. They are internally hollowed out to varying degrees to allow for lighter and heavier weights. Women often compete in kettlebell sport -- timed competitions for various lifts -- with blue bells at 12 kg or yellow ones weighing 16 kg. Stronger lifters may go for the green 24 kg. Leading brands include IKFF, World Kettlebell Club and Perform Better, according to John Sifferman, a certified kettlebell specialist.
For fitness kettlebells, the best-rated brands have a smooth base that allows the weight to settle firmly on the floor. A wobbly bell with lumps and gouges on the bottom makes it hard to perform KB-assisted pushups or renegade rows, which require you to balance your upper body in a plank position while gripping the handles. Also look for a handle free of seams created during casting to avoid the need to smooth the handle with a rotary tool.
Certain manufacturers have tinkered with the traditional thick handle and cannonball-shaped weight of the fitness kettlebell. This is to their detriment, according to certain experts. Kleidman notes that bells with unusually long, straight handles make passing drills, swings, torso circles and figure 8s more challenging. Another innovation, the contour kettlebell, features concave scooped-out areas on either side of the bell. The concept is to protect the wrist and make the rack position more comfortable, according to Kleidman. However, what the contour kettlebell does is pull the palm back and place the handle uncomfortably straight across the palm during a rack.
An award-winning writer and editor, Rogue Parrish has worked at the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and at newspapers from England to Alaska. This world adventurer and travel book author, who graduates summa cum laude in journalism from the University of Maryland, specializes in travel and food -- as well as sports and fitness. She's also a property manager and writes on DIY projects.