If you have been looking into buying a kettlebell lately you may have noticed that there are two different types. Competition kettlebells and cast iron kettlebells. Competition kettlebells (or pro grade as they are often called) are what the athletes in Girevoy sport use. Cast iron bells are used by people that are more interested in general fitness.
Here are the three main differences between them.
1. The size of the bell.
Competition bells are uniform size regardless of weight. This is so that lifting technique does not have to change as the athlete becomes stronger. Comp bells start at 8kg and go up to 40kg. The size and dimensions remain the same and should conform to the official standards.
Cast iron bells increase in size as they get heavier. This creates some change in the lifting groove and how the bell sits in the rack position.
2. Thickness of the handle.
Competition bells have thin handles, this is because in kettlebell sport the athletes perform very high rep sets which fatigue the forearm muscles used to grip the bell. The thinner the handle the longer your grip will last. The handles on competition kettlebells are specifically designed to prevent slipping.
Since cast iron bells get bigger as they increase in size so does the thickness of the handle.
3. Construction and material used
Competition bells are constructed from one cast and made of steel. Steel is more durable than cast iron. A good cast iron kettlebell will be made from one cast too but many on the market are not. Cheap cast iron bells often have had the handle welded to the body of the bell.
So which type of bell should you buy?
If you are new to kettlebells I would recommend cast iron bells to start off with. If you really enjoy kettlebell training and want to focus on your performance then of course you would want to start using competition bells. Having said that many people start out using competition bells and get on fine. They are more expensive than cast iron and so for that reason you might not want to start out with them.
So what weight should I start with?
As a general rule of thumb ladies should start with an 8kg and guys with a 12kg. If you are a female who is already fit and strong you could start with a 10 or 12kg. If you are a guy who is already fit and strong you could start out with a 16kg.
As with most things you get what you pay for and buying kettlebells is no different. Buy a cheap bell and it will be an inferior product that you will have to replace much sooner than you think. Cheap cast iron bells have a few issues such as the ones I have listed below.
Poor clearance on the handle causing pressure and an uncomfortable position on the wrist when in the rack.
Uneven bottoms making exercises like the renegade row, bear crawl, sprawl and push up a definite no no.
Welded handles which will eventually crack and corrode leading to serious potential injury.
Rough finish on the handle which will tear up your palms and lead to lost training time.
Where should I buy from?
If you are in the UK and looking for competition kettlebells I have a few Agatsu bells left in stock, click here for sizes and prices
If you want cast iron bells and are in the UK I would recommend you buy from www.dorsetkettlebells.co.uk
If you are in the US I would recommend Lifeline USA kettlebells.
You won’t find any good kettlebells in shops, its possible that you may find decent bells being sold in a training studio somewhere but generally this will be an online purchase.
If you have any questions about this subject don’t hesitate to contact me.