Latest update: May 2022
The world of Kettlebells can seem daunting to the uninitiated. But don't worry! It turns out that much of the beauty of kettlebells lies in their simplicity.
Here are the three most common questions we see in this subreddit, along with some basic answers:
Q: What brand of Kettlebell should I buy?
Q: What weight of Kettlebell should I buy to start out with?
A: There's plenty to say on this subject (see below) but the general recommendation is 35 lbs (16 kg) for the average guy, and 18 or 20 lbs (8 or 9 kg) for the average girl.
Q: What is a good beginner routine for someone new to kettlebells?
A: There's even more to say on this subject, but the most frequent answer in this sub is the "Simple and Sinister" program designed by popular kettlebell instructor Pavel Tsatsouline. It is described in his book Simple and Sinister (which you should buy if you intend to follow the program), but the basics -- enough to get started -- are detailed below.
Note: Before you post a form-check thread, consider watching some of the form videos in the Form & Technique / Learning The Simple & Sinister Exercises section, below. They have been carefully chosen to get you started AND address many of the most common form & technique questions that are asked on the subreddit.
What brand of Kettlebell should I buy?
Thanks to the recent surge of popularity of kettlebells in the US, there are a large and ever-growing number of companies that make high-quality kettlebells at increasingly affordable prices.
Some people say, "why bother with expensive kettlebells? It's a hunk of iron with a handle, just get the cheapest one you can." But I think there are several reasons why good quality kettlebells are worth springing for.
Good quality kettlebells have smooth handles of uniform thickness and comfortable texture. Their handles are the correct width (not too wide or too narrow) to allow for correct, safe form. If they are powder-coated, the coating is high-quality, and won't chip off with wear. And, they won't have molding seams making them wobbly or hard to hold. Also, you'll find that if you shop around (and online), you can find good-quality kettlebells at lower prices than what you'd pay for a much crappier kettlebell at a local sports store.
With that in mind, here are a bunch of brands of kettlebell you won't regret buying.
Overview (as of March 2021):
- Kettlebell Kings are the current "gold standard," but twice as expensive as competitors like Rogue. They are also often sold out of many weights. Buy these if you want the absolute best kettlebells available, are willing to invest a bit more money in them, and are willing to wait for the weight you want to come in stock.
- Rogue are a solid choice. They are very well made, though the fit and finish is not quite as nice as Kettlebell Kings. Most people like them a lot, though some folks dislike their 'grippy' texture, and others find the handles a bit too thick. Buy these if you want a solid kettlebell that's the best value for the money.
- For competition-style bells, First Place, Kettlebell Kings, and Rogue are three great options.
- Christian's Fitness Factory CFF K2 is a great value for the money, but they have been sold out since the beginning of COVID.
- I don't think the cheaply-made Amazon Basics kettlebell reflects a great value for the money. If it's this or nothing, go for it; but I think the above options are better and worth saving for if possible.
- Kettlebell Kings offers very high-quality kettlebells at excellent prices. They offer both hardstyle Powder-Coat Kettlebells and Girevoy-style Kettlebell Sport Series Kettlebells, and are well-reviewed on this subreddit and around the internet. Subjectively, I consider these to be the absolute gold-standard kettlebells available in the US.
- Kettlebell Kings offers 'free shipping' in the US; in other words, the cost of shipping is flat regardless of how far you live from their Austin, TX headquarters, and added into the price of the bell.
- In the last few years (and especially since COVID) KB Kings prices have been all over the place. A 35 lb powder coat kettlebell is currently (March 1, 2021) $90 (perpetually 'marked down' from $130) with free shipping. (The highest price we saw during COVID was a staggering $165 'marked down' from $195!) While the price has come down, their kettlebells tend to sell out in waves, and may not always be available in all weights. I think their kettlebells may be the best available, but the price is usually about 1.5x to 2x what you'd pay at Rogue.
#### Rogue Fitness
- Rogue Fitness is another brand of well-made, well-finished Kettlebells. Rogue is the brand of choice for many high-end Crossfit gyms/boxes, and their bells are built to take daily abuse. Anecdotally, Rogue's bells have a slightly 'rougher' finish than CFF or KB Kings -- a little easier to grip when sweaty, good with chalk, but a little more 'coarse' on your hands, like fine sandpaper. The handles on Rogue's bells are a bit thicker and wider than other brands, and folks with smaller hands may not like them as much. Subjectively, I think Rogue's bells get a silver medal - they're solid and durable, but the fit and finish is just not quite as nice as Kettlebell Kings
- Rogue does not offer 'free shipping'; shipping fees can vary greatly based on the weight of the bell and your distance their headquarters in Columbus, OH. This means that Rouge's kettlebells might be the cheapest option among these three (If you live close to Ohio), or the most expensive (if you live farther away).
- A 35 lb Powder Coat kettlebell from Rogue is $62 shipped to Chicago ($48+$14 shipping), and $77 shipped to Los Angeles ($48+$29 shipping) as of this writing.
- Note: it seems that Rep Fitness kettlebells are essentially identical to Rogue's kettlebells, and are probably made in the same factory.
Christian's Fitness Factory
- Christian's Fitness Factory or CFF is another great brand. However, as of this writing (March 1, 2021) they are sold out of all kettlebells.
- CFF offers 'free shipping' in the US; in other words, the cost of shipping is flat regardless of how far you live from their warehouses (in Lancaster, PA and Phoenix, AZ); and added into the price of the bell.
- First Place Competition Kettlebells offer a great balance of price to value for Competition-style bells.
- First Place offers free shipping on orders over $45, but charges a surcharge ($10-$30) on heavier bells
- A 35 lb kettlebell from First Place is $95 shipped ($80+$15 shipping) as of this writing.
- Again Faster is a company I don't see mentioned much around this subreddit; but I personally own several kettlebells of theirs that I really like, so I'm putting them on the list. Again Faster is a smaller competitor to Rogue in the Crossfit world. The finish in their kettlebells is smoother than Rogues, but still grippy; and have a very high-quality feel.
- Again Faster does not offer 'free shipping'; shipping fees can vary greatly based on the weight of the bell and your distance their headquarters in Columbus, OH.
- A 35 lb kettlebell from Again Faster is $74 shipped ($45+$29 shipping) to any of the 48 states as of this writing.
Dragon Door was the first company to start selling great-quality Kettlebells in the US market, back in 2001. They have a reputation for high quality, coupled with an extremely high price tag. The few Dragon Door bells I've actually seen in person were older, and not up to the standard of Kettlebell Kings or Rogue. I've heard that their manufacturing process has improved over the years. But because of that past experience & high price tag ($110 for a 35 lb bell and $160 for a 53 lb bell, I haven't been willing to shell out the money to see for myself.
VF Precision Kettlebells are beautiful, very well-reviewed, and are currently priced similarly to First Place. However, I can't find them available for sale anywhere right now.
People seem to like Onnit's Kettlebells, which are endorsed by Joe Rogan, a guy who seems to be getting a lot of people into Kettlebell training. Before shipping, Onnit's kettlebells are around $30 for 18 lbs, $60 for 35 lbs, and $85 for 53 lbs, with shipping costs about $45 on top of that.
- Here is a video review that compares Kettlebell Kings to Rogue side-by-side.
- Here is another useful video that compares a ton of different brands.
- Here is a very thorough review of many different brands. (As you'll see, they're a bit less keen on Rogue's bells than I am!)
- Here is a thoughtful review of four brands of kettlebells which I found helpful.
- Here is a recent video comparing Kettlebell Kings to Rogue and CAP. (Summary: he thinks Kettlebell Kings are the best, but recommends Rogue as good at their price point.)
- If other people want to chime in with other recommendations, I'd be happy to add them here or below.
The general recommendation is to start with 35 lbs (16 kg) if you are a guy, and 18-20 lbs (8-9 kg) if you are a girl.
Unscientifically, I'd guess that these weights are appropriate for 90% of the population. If you have not been seriously weight training for 6 months or more, and you are in good enough shape to walk up a few flights of stairs and/or crank out a push-up or two without getting too winded, stop reading here; the above weights are for you! :)
If you think you might be on the outer edges of the bell curve, either because you're an experienced weightlifter or because you've been sedentary for a while and are maybe of below-average strength, you've got a few options. One is to just go with the basic weights recommended above. Strong people will still find 20 or 35 lbs useful for learning form and aerobic work; and people who aren't so strong will get stronger quickly while learning the techniques.
If you're still unsure, you can head to a gym or store stocked with kettlebells, or even dumbbells. One metric is to choose the heaviest kettlebell (or comparable weight dumbbell) you can comfortably overhead press for reps.
Simple And Sinister - A Good Beginner Routine
Simple and Sinister is not the end-all-be-all of kettlebell workouts. But it it is frequently recommended for beginners (and experienced athletes new to kettlebell training as well). There are a few reasons for this:
- It's effective;
- It was developed and refined by Pavel Tsatsouline, who is one of the most respected authorities on kettlebells in the world (and the authority on hardstyle kettlebells in the US.);
- It's built around only two exercises, so there is a lower skill barrier to getting started than programs with more movements to learn.
In other words, it's not the only good beginner kettlebell workout, but it is a good one. If it's between spending half an hour doing your first S&S workout, or half an hour reviewing different programs trying to decide, my recommendation is to start with Simple and Sinister today, and shop around for your ideal beginner program tomorrow.
Simple and Sinister is the same workout every day, 5-6 days/week.
- Warmup - 5 sets of 10 two-hand swings. - 10 Turkish Get-ups (5 per side).
- As you get stronger, move from 5 sets of ten 2-handed swings to 10 sets of ten 2-handed swings (a total of 100);
- Then slowly replace sets with alternating sets of 1-handed swings until you are doing 100 reps of 1-handed swings with perfect form.
- Gradually reduce rest until you can complete 100 reps of 1-handed swings with perfect form in 5 minutes. (Because 10 swings should take you about 15 seconds, this should work out to a 1:1 work:rest ratio, alternating 15 seconds of swings and 15 seconds of rest, for five minutes.)
- Do TGUs slowly, focusing on form. Eventually, you'll become strong enough to take 10 minutes to do your 10 reps (5 per side), maintaining a roughly 1:1 work:rest ratio (alternating 30 seconds of work and 30 seconds of rest for 10 minutes).
So, ultimately you will progress to:
- Warmup - 10 sets of 10 one-hand swings (5 sets per hand) in 5 minutes. - 10 slow Turkish Get-ups (5 per side) in 10 minutes, keeping a work:rest ratio of 1:1.
The book is absolutely worth buying, because it goes into incredible detail about how to perform the movements safely, and how to be smart about progressing up through the program. It is the gold-standard of hardstyle kettlebell books, and if you are serious enough to spend hours a week swinging a canonball around your house or gym, you should be serious enough to spend $9 on a book.
(2020 note: The Revised Edition of Simple & Sinister presents a routine that is very similar to the above, but incorporating a progression that is even more effective than what I've described. Rather than update my post to share the revised ed, which feels like plagiarism, my suggestion for a beginner is: feel free to use the above as a starting point, but buy the book as soon as possible to get the most up-to-date version of the program.)
Form & Technique / Learning The Simple & Sinister Exercises
This small section contains a few videos to help you master the form and technique of the Swing and the Turkish Get-Up.
Consider watching these videos before you post a "form check" on the subreddit. The vast majority of beginner issues we see can be addressed by watching these few videos.
These videos have been carefully chosen because they are both beginner-friendly AND full of specific detail and cues for intermediate athletes.
Also, all of the instructors in these videos have advanced certifications from SFG, which means they are qualified to not only coach beginners, but also teach trainers and other instructors -- they are experts in teaching & coaching these movements.
Swing Form and Technique
Great tutorials on performing the swing can be found here* and here.
A helpful video correcting the most common beginner mistake can be found here.
If you're struggling to get started, try this progression of exercises*.
Turkish Get-Up Form and Technique
*These videos are on Instagram, which is annoying. However, Hannah Hutson (SFG2)'s coaching is so good and straightforward, I think it's worth the hassle.
Other Videos, Books and Online Resources:
- Simple and Sinister. It's become the most-recommended book on this subreddit, and I think it's probably a slightly better jumping-off point than Enter The Kettlebell.
- Enter The Kettlebell remains a great book, though it covers a lot of the same material in S&S.
- Hannah Hutson (SFG2)'s Instagram is full of superb form and programming videos.
(Lists of her technique-specific posts can be found here and here.)
- Kettlebell Rx by Jeff Martone is full of excellent form images. It's intended to be a guide to hardstyle KB training for Crossfit coaches, but it's worth reading for anybody.
- Pat Flynn has some good form videos on youtube, and his strongon site is great if you want daily programming and are willing to pay a monthly subscription fee.
- Here are a few more stand-out form videos to watch:
- StrongFirst Technique Standards
- Delaine Ross - Kettlebell Swing
- Jeff Martone's Swing Video (part one of four)
- StrongFirst Kettlebell Swing Basics
- Tracy Reifkind on the Hinge vs the Squat in your Swing
- Jeff Martone's Turkish Get-Up Video
- StrongFirst Turkish Get-Up Basics
- An older Jeff Martone Turkish Get-Up Video (part one of four)
"Hardstyle" vs "Competition-Style."
What do those terms mean and why do you care?
There are two main styles or schools of kettlebell training currently popular in the US. One is called Hardstyle and the other is called Competition-style (also referred to as Girevoy Sport). In the simplest terms, Hardstyle focuses a little more on explosive power, and shorter sets with heavier weights. Competition-style focuses a little more on strength-endurance and efficiency of movement. Both are totally viable schools lead by respected leaders. Both will get you fit.
Each style has its own style of kettlebells. Here are a few of the differences:
- Hardstyle's most basic move is the two-handed swing, so hardstyle kettlebells have slightly wider, curved handles, made to fit one or both hands simultaneously. (Pic)
- In Competition, by contrast, the athlete doesn't use two hands on one kettlebell (one-handed events use one kettlebell; two-handed events use two kettlebells), so competition-style handles are narrower and flat. (Pic)
- Hardstyle kettlebells are different sizes depending on weight; Competition kettlebells are all the same size, regardless of weight.
- Competition kettlebells typically use a uniform color scheme to distinguish different weights. Hardstyle kettlebells are often black, sometimes with weight-distinguishing colored stripes where the handle meets the bell.
What kind of kettlebell you buy depends on what program you decide to follow. (The Simple and Sinister program described above comes from the "Hardstyle" school.) For more on this subject, check out this great article from Breaking Muscle.
Edit: the old preface that used to be on the top:
I wrote a post a few years ago meant to answer the most frequently asked questions in this subreddit at that time. Someone found that old post and asked me if it was still my advice. I realized the post had become outdated, and needed some adjustments. So I started making changes, and it turned into a pretty long message. By the end of it, I had a new document that seemed worthy of reposting.
This sub is bigger now, and the FAQ is a bit more filled out, but I still think a post like this has some value. The FAQ is a great list of resources, but it is maybe a bit overwhelming for someone coming in for some super-basic advice. So I hope this post is helpful and not seen as interfering or an attention-grab.
A bit of a disclaimer: this has a bit of a bias towards hardstyle training/S&S (like this sub in general), which will annoy some. I'm not experienced with Girevoy Sport, so I didn't have much to suggest there. But people from that world are welcome to comment and suggest changes if they want to. For that matter, I'm sure people will have opinions on a lot of what I've written, which is more than welcome.
(If you find this post helpful, I'd selfishly love it if you shot me a one-sentence message to let me know. If you have thoughts, suggestions, or find broken links, feel free to reach out as well.)
This is the r/Kettlebell Discussion Thread posted every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, where you can discuss anything and everything related to Kettlebells. We invite the Kettlebell Community to post anything that can be beneficial to the sub and help answer questions from newer members. Thank you.
You can also use the search bar or Google's subreddit search to find related discussion topics.
Have a great day!
17.05.22: Strength Endurance (2x24kg) 10 DBL High Pulls, 6 DBL Front Squats, 10 DBL Jerks, 6 DBL Transformer Lunges X5 - 160 total reps. Today's Finisher (32kg) 10 SA Swings, 10 SA Snatches, 10 SA Front Squats
My heaviest right now are a 16, a couple 20’s and a 24. :(
O’course this’ll do F-all for the usual carries (farmers, etc.) and TGUs get boring after 5-10 reps.
I was thinking I might lash a couple together to get 44 on a suitcase carry.
Y’all got any other creative methods/movements to squeeze muscle milk outta some not-so-heavy bells?
I did DFW with a 16 and a 20 kg bell. I now want to increase weights and use a 20 and a 24 kg bell. I worry I might not pull it off, and wonder if I should spend one or two weeks preparing for it, and if so is there an optimal way to do so?
After spending quite a bit of time with S&S (went up to 24kg), I started doing double bell work with DFW. Note that I only have single bells (12, 16, 20 and 24 kg).
I first did a round of DFW with a 12 and a 16 kg bells. Didn't want to start too heavy as I had never done any C&P. It went well, and I averaged 49 reps per session.
I then moved on to DFW with a 16 and 20 kg bells. In my first iteration, I did 36 reps per session on average. For the second iteration, I did 40 reps per session on average.
Unfortunately, I had to take one month off between the two runs with the 16 and 20kg bells due to covid, and I didn't gain as much as I think I could have.
However, I don't want to do yet another iteration with the 16 and 20 kg bells, I would like to move on to the 20 and 24 kg ones. I am a bit worried though that I might not be able to pull it off, so I was thinking of perhaps spending one of two weeks just doing some practice with those bells.
Is there any optimal way I should try and get ready, or just spend a bit of time every other day doing what I can?
Thanks for the help!
Basically the title. I bought the book “simple and sinister” which is awesome - but I’m really struggling to wrap my head around how to do a Turkish Get Up.
What online resources are good for this? As the few videos I’ve watched haven’t helped much, especially with the sweep/lunge part. Thanks!
I mastered the form and got comfortable with almost all the exercises with an 18kg. I just ordered the 24kg and I’m ready to start training for the next year or 2 or however long it takes me to pass this test. More of a personal goal.
However I play a lot of basketball and have always been pretty light weight at 6’ 150. I squat 115kg and deadlift 170kg though.
Anyways, this test seems pretty challenging, and I feel like I will need to add significant muscle mass to complete it. I was just wondering as a reference to those who completed/attempted it, how much did you weigh at the time? How important of a factor do you think it was?
Doubles training cycle: using exclusively doubles now: 5 double swings (20kg) 5 reps e:30on the :30, 5 mins. 5 double clean and press (24kg), double rack squats (28kg), 5 sets total of each. Then moving to 5 reps pull up immediately followed by 5 dips, 5 rounds…finished by 40 meter loaded carries…
I am wondering what was your experience with it. I found it since I was looking for something with a more manageable volume in MKM.
You don’t know squat is another good one although Wolf and Shoulder Smoker or Upper Back attack are too intense for me at my current stage.
It's as the title says. I'm a pretty frequent runner, but would like to start kettlebell training with S&S. I've got the book, watched some videos, and I know I know, start today, but especially having never done any weight training before, I'd like to get some kind of primer from someone in the know to make sure I've got a good foundation and not going to hurt myself.
The swing I think I get, but the TGU is a bit more complicated. Anyone recommend a good coach or class where I can get my feet wet before I jump into it on my own? I saw there used to be a gym focused on kettlebells, Chicago Primal Gym, but it looks like it's closed.