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Working as a certified personal trainer for over a decade, I’ve come across and identified some workout gear that I’ve determined belongs in the “gym only” bucket. Think fitness devices like cable machines, boxes for jumps and even some free weights, specifically kettlebells. To me, kettlebells always seemed too clunky and heavy and I couldn’t fathom how to stash them in my living room — my workout area — in a way that would be both stylish enough and functional enough for my preferences. All that aside, kettlebell workouts also just didn’t seem necessary since I have dumbbells and resistance bands to cover lots of fitness routines. However, given the inherent difficulty of attending gyms right now with a face mask and the potential risk of exposure, I decided to shake things up and took the plunge: I ordered a kettlebell.
While the kettlebell I got was smaller than I’d expected, I’ve actually come to really enjoy this purchase and am now a fan of the at-home kettlebell routine — even if I bucket it alongside my other routines and not in replacement of them. If you’re likewise looking for the best kettlebells to buy, you’ll quickly find lots of options and some might seem very similar to others. After all, the kettlebell design is ubiquitous for the most part. So what are the best kettlebells to buy? To help guide your shopping, I talked to some fitness experts about their tips and recommendations for the best kettlebells to shop in 2021.
Best kettlebells to buy
Since getting a kettlebell, I’ve added a 5-minute kettlebell routine to my regular strength training regimen. I’ve found a lot of value in even basic exercises, which challenged my body in gym-worthy ways, an especially significant value in workout gear as we head into winter. Personally, I decided I didn’t need an entire row of kettlebells in different sizes in order to get going with the kettlebell style of lifting and swinging — planned appropriately, your kettlebell routine can do a lot for your body even with lesser weights. But that’s just my taste and aligns with my fitness priorities. Other fitness pros I talked to had predictably different takes on the best approach to equipping your home gym with kettlebells.
While Conlon’s favorite RKC kettlebell model is sold out right now, consider alternatives like this highly-rated option from AmazonBasics, which comes in 10 different sizes, from 10 pounds to 60 pounds, and which boasts a 4.8-star average rating from more than 6,000 reviewers. The 25-pound variant will ship out in about two-and-a-half weeks and others will ship later or are also out of stock.
Personal trainer Dominic Kennedy has a similar sentiment about kettlebells at home. “They can take up a lot of space and with so many people working out at home or parks, etc, it's important to use one that is easy to carry and doesn't take up too much space,” said Kennedy, whose top recommendation is a kettlebell that allows you to adjust its total weight, essentially a set of kettlebells built into the space of one. The adjustable kettlebell can give you one of seven possible weights, from about 6 pounds to 40 pounds and swapping the total weight takes seconds. “This is one of my favorite kettlebells because you can adjust the weight to your comfort level all in one kettlebell — you do not need to carry five different kettle bells around.”
Peter Beitia, director of personal training at Athletic Development and Performance Training, told me he he realizes a kettlebell can be a substantial investment for some, but still considers it a unique piece of equipment that can build functional strength and improve range of motion — both worthwhile endeavors in the work from home reality many of us face. His favorite kettlebell for an in-home workout is an adjustable contraption that snaps dumbbells into the kettlebell configuration. I tried out this device a few years ago and absolutely loved it. It’s easy to use and ultimately gives you unrivaled flexibility with what weight size you want in your kettlebell given you have the appropriate dumbbells to match with it. The aforementioned Yes4All brand offers a similar gadget for a few dollars less.
Are you worried about bringing such a heavy piece of equipment into your home and the associated risk of denting your floors? Personal trainer Eric Guilmette is. “If you picked up a standard cast-iron kettlebell and dropped it on granite or hardwood — or whatever material your flooring is — it'll at the very least leave a dent, if not worse,” he told, adding that he recommends people ease into the kettlebell space with a soft kettlebell. “It is durable, can withstand general wear and tear — but most importantly, it isn't going to damage your home or hurt (as much) if you slam it into your foot.” The handle on this kettlebell is relatively large, too, which gives you plenty of grip space for two-handed movements like a kettlebell swing.
Former gym owner and personal trainer Alicia McKenzie said that a kettlebell is always one of the first pieces of equipment she recommends for anyone attempting to start a home gym — it took me more than eight months of in-home workouts to find the motivation to test a kettlebell. “It comes in multiple sizes, it's durable and CAP makes long-lasting products. I used the CAP brand when I owned a gym and their equipment can really take a beating,” McKenzie said. “Grab a 10-pound kettlebell if you want to get your kids involved."
For a few dollars less, iconic at-home fitness brand Bowflex will deliver to you a similar adjustable kettlebell, which gives you six different weight configurations, from 8 pounds to 40 pounds. Its elevated design will make it fit in better with your other non-fitness decor and style.
Kettlebells are personal trainer Colleen Conlon’s specialty. She told me her favorite kettlebell is one with a specific coating that she loves. “They are slick upon purchase but, eventually, the slickness fades and it's the easiest bell to hold in your hand for moves like swings, cleans and snatches.” Conlon noted that the size of the horn is key to finding the best kettlebell for you. This kettlebell is especially comfortable for exercises like Turkish get ups and presses since it lays on the forearm.
Heidi Loiacono, a personal trainer and manager of training at GYMGUYZ, recommends a vinyl coated cast iron kettlebell. “This is my go-to piece of equipment, no matter where I’m training,” Loiacono said, noting the “comfortable” cast iron handle glides smoothly in her hand whether she’s performing a kettlebell swing, snatch or a windmill. “The vinyl coating is great when putting it on the floor, but is also comfortable when holding it bell-side up.”
Kettlebell tips for beginners
Kettlebells challenge your balance because they change your center of gravity, turning regular exercises like lunges and squats difficult. If you’re going to add a kettlebell into your at-home workout, start with a few basic moves like kettlebell swings and a kettlebell reverse lunge.
Once you feel comfortable performing a kettlebell swing with two hands, try holding onto the kettlebell with one hand and turning the move into a single-handed kettlebell swing to challenge your shoulders, arms and grip strength. Throughout all movements with the kettlebell, remember to keep your core tight by drawing your naval into your spine, maintaining control of the kettlebell throughout all movements.