The Difference Between Vinyl & Cast Iron Kettlebells

Vinyl-coated kettlebells come in bright colors.
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Something about the basic black color and unadorned cannonball texture of a standard kettlebell may strike you as un-Nesty, a bit more aesthetically like what you’d find in a testosterone-soaked gym devoted to powerlifting. So you may be sorely tempted on your first kettlebell purchase to go with a pretty vinyl-clad bell, ranging from pink for 2 kilograms to brown for 36 kilograms. But it’s those cast-iron beauties stealing the hearts of the queens of kettlebell training in the United States -- including Lorna Kleidman, Neghar Fonooni and Lauren Brooks.

Cast-Iron Kettlebells

    Fitness kettlebells vary in size, shape and weight and are the kind you almost certainly will start working out with. These are made of cast iron, with a cannonball-shaped body and a thick handle shaped a bit like connecting bull’s horns. Their purpose is to provide you with an effective workout at home or at the gym. Competition or pro kettlebells come in a single size and shape, with internal hollows of varying volume that govern the finished weight, and are made of steel rather than cast iron. If you get into kettlebell or Girevoy Sport -- timed lifting competitions -- you’ll be working with competition bells.

Vinyl Coatings

    The goal of adding a vinyl coating to a cast-iron kettlebell is to protect your floor and reduce noise if you drop the weight. The coating may cover the bell only or extend partway up the handle. Certain manufacturers add a rubber, non-skid bottom, useful for doing planks and renegade rows on your kettlebell, and others color code their vinyl bells.


    Certified kettlebell instructor Sarah Lurie cautions against vinyl-clad bells. Despite their visual appeal, she notes that they will still ding your floor even if you drop them. She also writes in “Kettlebells for Dummies” that a vinyl coating can uncomfortably grab your skin in certain positions, such as during the rack; can crack and peel easily; and may cover imperfections in manufacturing. She recommends sticking with cast-iron kettlebells.

What the Experts Say

    Lurie isn’t alone in her preference. Kleidman, Fonooni and Brooks only recommend cast-iron fitness and steel competition kettlebells. Kleidman notes the vinyl covering makes for an unstable base for your rows. Kettlebell enthusiast Rachel Banner of Kettlebell Body Shop defends the vinyl-coated version though, stating that not every vinyl-coated bell is necessarily a cheap product and that certain manufacturers do take care in casting the handle and base before adding the vinyl.

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