What kettlebell weight to use?

What weight kettlebell should an unfit man or woman start on?

When starting out with kettlebell training it is super important to stay safe. Picking the right kettlebell weight to start with is your first step in the right direction. Rather than listing kettlebell weight recommendations only, I will list the information you need to make the right and informed choice at each step of your journey together with a recommendation. The definition of unfit in our case means that your fitness is below the required standard and not having engaged in physical activity for a very long time.

 

What should you base your kettlebell weight selection on?

Your weight selection should be based on your:

  • Condition (unconditioned/unfit)
  • Body weight
  • Kettlebell exercise
  • Goals
  • Programming
  • Technique

In short, there really is no fixed kettlebell weight that can be recommended and works for everyone or scenario. But, I am going to provide the most extensive information you will find on the internet and I will provide some recommendations based on that. The only next best thing you can do is to employ a trainer/coach for a physical assessment prior to your kettlebell purchase.

 


Quick page navigation:

 

The first kettlebell exercise to learn

For the first kettlebell exercise that you should learn, the kettlebell weight should be light. It should be light as this exercise is not about getting a workout but about getting the movement and technique right. Therefore, you will be repeating and drilling the exercise often, and when you repeat something often for learning purposes then you don’t want to create muscular fatigue, especially not when it’s done wrong.

The assisted dead clean

The first kettlebell exercise to learn, as taught by the Cavemantraining kettlebell certification, is the assisted dead clean. This exercise involves a squat movement, a slight biceps curl, and a racking position. The kettlebell does not generally pose a challenge for the squat movement (if done correctly), but it will pose a challenge to the slight curl and racking position. The repeated curl will cause tendon injuries when done with a weight too heavy. The racking position, which is usually performed incorrectly with excessive external shoulder rotation, can cause problems around the area where the deltoids and pectoralis major attach to the humerus.

Assuming you will be performing this exercise/drill until you are familiar with the lift, grip transition, and racking position, which is often, then pick a weight that won’t create too much resistance and does not irritate your tendons around the elbow or upper humerus in any way.

Kettlebell weight

Assuming you are very unfit, then I would recommend the following weights:

I highly recommend competition kettlebells as the size remains the same no matter the weight. Most other kettlebells will become very uncomfortable, especially in the lighter weight category. It’s going to be hard to find a competition kettlebell smaller than 8kg/17.6lbs. Don’t be fooled by some sellers who list non-competition kettlebells under “Competition”, anything that looks like the following is NOT a competition kettlebell.

Kettlebell

The shape of a competition is kettlebell is as follows.

Competition Kettlebell

A video for the assisted dead clean can be found here. In summary, this exercise is to help you learn and understand critical parts of a common kettlebell exercise and avoid the most common injuries and problems. A lot of people don’t want to invest time into this exercise/drill and jump straight into the ‘fun part’ of kettlebell training, and unfortunately, that jump causes issues down the track that will stall progress, cause injury, and potentially stop your kettlebell training altogether.

 

Overhead kettlebell exercises

The weight that you pick for the assisted dead clean is in most cases also suitable for overhead kettlebell work like the shoulder press. Most people that are unfit don’t have any overhead shoulder strength, stability, flexibility, or mobility and therefore a light weight to work on all this prior to heavy weight or high reps is vital for keeping the shoulders injury-free. There is a lot more to be said here but to keep it short, spend time on that overhead position, don’t rush the movement.

 

The kettlebell clean

The first exercise listed was the assisted dead clean which is more of a drill than a true clean, nevertheless, one of the most important exercises to focus on for an unfit kettlebell beginner. A true kettlebell clean is explosive, it is a movement with power behind it. The dead clean requires the most power, more than a swing, yet, a dead clean is the next progression if we’re taking the shortest path to working out safely and effectively. It’s also the natural progression from the assisted dead clean.

The dead clean

The kettlebell dead clean is an explosive pulling exercise. That pull is to be created with the legs alone, for this purpose a heavier weight is required. A weight that does not provide enough resistance will result in this exercise being executed incorrectly with a curl. A curl with a clean is only allowed when drilling the grip transition and other parts of the clean as with the assisted dead clean.

Kettlebell weight

Assuming you are very unfit, then I would recommend the following weights:

Add 2kg/4.4lbs if your legs are quite strong for an unfit and unconditioned person.

The swing clean

This is a variation of the clean where the weight is moving with a swing. The weight to choose will depend on the style of swing you employ, but by default, most people will employ the hip hinge swing (which is more of a pulling exercise). See the kettlebell swing for weight recommendations.

 

The kettlebell swing

The kettlebell swing hip hinge swing is harder to learn than a swing performed with a squat. The swing with a squat allows you to move heavier weight. The swing with a squat is an easier progression based on our previous exercises. With all that said, the swing with a hip hinge is definately a variation of the swing that should be learned. I’m not advocating one over the other, just providing the info you need to make an informed decision on the weight to get for your kettlebell swings.

Double-arm swings allow you to move heavier weight, but with all the above knowledge and knowing that a single-arm swing is harder, you might be able to adjust your learning if you are stuck with only one weight, whether due to unavailability or budget.

Kettlebell weight

Assuming you are very unfit, then I would recommend the following weights:

Add 2kg/4.4lbs if your legs are quite strong for an unfit and unconditioned person. Deduct 2kg/4.4lbs if your own weight is very low, i.e. you are skinny. It’s easier for a person with some weight behind them to move a kettlebell.

The same weight that you use for the swing can be used for the clean. If you picked your weight based on the hip hinge swing then that weight will be suitable for your clean as well. If you are going to employ the pendulum clean then base your weight on the squat swing, i.e. you can use the same weight that you use for the squat swing.

 

The kettlebell bent-over row

The bent-over row is an exercise in which a lot of people are stronger than most other exercises listed here or quickly gain the strength. You can use the heaviest weight you have decided on thus far, or if your budget allows picking multiple weights, then you should pick a heavier weight. This same weight can also be used for progressions with your other exercises, like the press, clean, and swing.

Kettlebell weight

Assuming you are very unfit, then I would recommend the following weights:

 

The kettlebell deadlift

The kettlebell deadlift is the exercise with which most people will be able to lift the heaviest weight, especially when you squat deadlift. A deadlift means to lift a weight that’s dead, it does not mean with what movement it is deadlifted, but the hip hinge deadlift will make it the hardest.

Kettlebell weight

Assuming you are very unfit, then I would recommend the following weights:

  • Male
    • Squat
      • 20kg kettlebell
      • 44 lbs kettlebell
    • Hip hinge
      • 18kg kettlebell
      • 39.6 lbs kettlebell
  • Female
    • Squat
      • 18kg kettlebell
      • 39.6 lbs kettlebell
    • Hip hinge
      • 16kg kettlebell
      • 35.2 lbs kettlebell

 

The kettlebell squat

The kettlebell squat is one of those exercises where you really need to focus on technique prior to piling on weight. With a good squat technique you still need to have the strength and technique to clean the weight, thus, prior to your squat, you need to be able to clean. A squat involves the full-body, back, ankles, knees, hips, and arms (with racking), hence, a lot can go wrong.

Kettlebell weight

Assuming you are very unfit, then I would recommend the following weights:

  • Male
    • Good technique
      • Same as your deadlift
    • Technique is lacking
      • Same as your assisted dead clean
  • Female
    • Good technique
      • Same as your deadlift
    • Technique is lacking
      • Same as your assisted dead clean

You can work with two kettlebells and weights that are uneven, you can use this knowledge to assist with your kettlebell weight selection.

 

The basic kettlebell exercises

These are some of the basic and fundamental exercises that I covered, they are also covered in our online kettlebell course/certification. I can highly recommend you buy our books or courses to learn everything there is to learn about kettlebell training. But above all, come and join our online kettlebell workouts where you can pick a workout and complete it in your own time from your home, garage, or garden. As a member of the group, you will have access to personalized coaching, technique videos, follow-along videos, common mistake videos, and a whole lot more.

For those that are interested in free education, come and join our 30,000+ member online kettlebell community and feel free to ask questions and/or learn from watching others.

 

Conclusion

I’ve provided some general recommendations but more importantly, I have provided you with the knowledge to make your own decision. I’ll leave you with the last bit of info that can help you with picking the right kettlebell weight. If your budget is small and can only get one kettlebell, pick the one that you’ll be able to maintain good technique with. Know that for the non-ballistic exercises you can slow the movement down to make things harder, meaning, an overhead press requires double the effort if you slowly press it up and slowly lower it. The same applies to kettlebell exercises like the row, squat, and deadlift.

 


Check out what you should have in your kettlebell toolbox.

Share the Knowledge

Leave a Comment

Shopping Cart
0:00
0:00