For those not wanting to get into the nitty-gritty, I will list a quick and simple opinion and for those wanting to delve deeper, I will cover all the kettlebell features.
1) If you know that you will be sticking with kettlebell training and progress one step at a time, then the competition kettlebell is for you.
2) If you’re not sure about kettlebell training yet and want to test the waters or will be sticking to a few basic exercises, then a cheaper cast iron kettlebell is for you. But know that if you experience annoyances, spending a bit more money in the beginning, could have avoided that.
Whether you choose 1 or 2, make sure to avoid these things.
The following describes the features of a kettlebell and how they could affect your training.
Kettlebell Handle And Window Size
Let’s talk about kettlebell handle sizes and the window, in particular, the differences and why they are different. The major differences in handle/window sizes are found with cast iron kettlebells and not with competition kettlebells, as all good competition kettlebells regardless of weight should have the exact same dimensions with only the thickness of the handle changing between the standard 33mm and 35mm.
The bell of a competition kettlebell remains the size whether you get an 8kg or 48kg, whereas cast iron kettlebell increase in size as the weight goes up. That increase applies to the bell and the handle. More about that here.
Competition Kettlebell vs Cast Iron
At Cavemantraining we promote and prefer competition kettlebells for many reasons, but we also believe in being able to work with both. The competition kettlebell doesn’t require changes in regards to racking or other positions when it comes to an increase in weight, whereas the cast iron bells do require changes and adjustments.
|Competition Kettlebell||Cast Iron Kettlebell|
|More durable||Less durable|
|Same size||Changes in size|
|Color-coded||Not always color-coded|
|Less grip fatigue||Increased grip fatigue|
|More space required for two bells||Easier to work with two bells|
|Bigger base||Smaller base|
|More suited for juggling||Not well suited for juggling|
|Same size handle||Handle narrow or wider|
|Rectangle-shaped handle||V-shaped handle|
Competition kettlebells are always color-coded whereas cast iron kettlebells are only recently starting to be color-coded with a color-coded ring around the horn(s) of the kettlebell.
A larger diameter handle means a tighter grip for most people, which results in early grip fatigue.
Steel vs Iron
Steel is harder and stronger than cast iron, approximately 30 to 40% stronger and therefor the bigger handle diameter when the weight increases, the more reliable it will be.
Double kettlebell work
Double kettlebell work is easier for shorter people as there isn’t as much space between the legs required, whereas two competition kettlebells require a lot more space. During cleans, swings, snatches, etc. this could mean having to step out to the side and in upon each rep.
The base of the competition kettlebell is larger than the base of the cast iron kettlebells which makes the competition kettlebell more suitable for exercises like push-ups, L-sits, plank, burpees, etc.
If you have large hands and intend to do a lot of kettlebells swings with two hands then a cast iron kettlebell with a wider handle/window might be the option for you. From personal experience, I find that a wider handle is great for double hand swings, but that’s all it’s great for as anything single hand, which is really most exercises, then the width of the handle becomes very uncomfortable.
When you are going to press extremely heavy weights overhead then a thicker handle will provide a larger surface to distribute pressure within the palm, hence, potentially making the pressure of the handle within the palm less painful.
The reason for competition kettlebell handles/windows being smaller than most cast iron kettlebells is because as the name suggests, they were designed for kettlebell competitions which only involves one-handed exercises.
The shape of the handle for the competition kettlebell resembles more of a rectangle whereas the cast iron kettlebells commonly have more a V-shaped design. The v-shape design makes it easier to hold with some grips, however, the same exercises can be performed with different but just as comfortable grips with the competition kettlebell. Get a free copy of the kettlebell grip PDF to see over 25+ grips in action.
- Kettlebell Handle
In the end, try both and see which one you prefer, but make sure that whatever kettlebell you get, it does not have:
- rough spots (seams or ridges)
- loose filling
If the kettlebell is made out of two molds as opposed to one, then it might have rough seams or ridges that can eventually become annoying and/or create blisters. If the kettlebell has fillers then this might come loose at some stage and rattle, which becomes extremely annoying. If the kettlebell has a logo or text imprinted then this can become annoying on the forearm and/or get sharp edges that will wear at clothing.
Vinyl, Adjustable, KettlebellConnect, or Other Kettlebells
We do not recommend anything other than competition or iron cast kettlebells with the plain reason being, none of these other options are for serious kettlebell enthusiasts, and they’re only good for a couple of exercises, and those are usually executed poorly due to the filling, grip, weight distribution, etc. Although money has been offered, we stand by our principles and only promote the best.
Should you get a second-hand kettlebell?
Absolutely! From a personal point of view, there is nothing better than a worn-in kettlebell, it adds character, it feels like it has more value, and there is absolutely no difference between a chipped/rusty kettlebell in regards to performance with a new one, other than you needing to sand it down a bit. I have actually paid just as much as a new kettlebell for two pairs of old and used kettlebells because they just felt good (they had soul). To me a kettlebell is more than just a piece of iron/steel, it’s a piece of my life!