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How Heavy do Kettlebells Get?

The most recent trend in the weightlifting world has got to be the kettlebell.  Although originally used by Russian circus performers in the 19th century, they only became truly popular in North America at the beginning of the 21rst century.  They differ from dumbbells because their centre of gravity extends outward from the hand.  The kettlebell handle is positioned on top of the weight to allow swinging ballistic exercises.  And although there are now modern adjustable kettlebells, traditionally each kettlebell had a distinct weight.  So, how heavy do kettlebells get?  They can range from as light as 2.5 kilograms to the heaviest kettlebell currently manufactured which weighs in at 92 kg.  And while you probably shouldn’t need to use either of these sizes in your workouts, choosing the proper weights to start off with will save you money, space and wasted effort.

Choosing the Right Kettlebells

Because you probably don’t want a full set of kettlebells at home, choosing a couple of useful sizes can be an important decision – especially if you don’t have a lot of money.  Factors such as age, sex, strength, degree of fitness and weightlifting experience will all play a role in choosing the correct product.  There are also two main types of kettlebell exercise that generally require different degrees of strength and, therefore, kettlebell weight.  Ballistic exercises are more explosive types of movements that include swings, cleans, jerks and snatches that allow you to move more weight.  Grinds are based on slower, more controlled motions such as presses that don’t require as much weight to be challenging.  This means you should begin with at least two different kettlebells if possible.

Style of Kettlebells

Kettlebells have evolved a lot over a short period of time, so there are several styles available on the market.  But there are some basic things you should be looking for when purchasing your first set.  Most important is probably the kettlebell handle.  They come in various diameters and finishes, so choose one that fits the size of your hand while allowing for a comfortable grip with some ability for slippage during swings.  Beyond that you should be looking for a smoothly curving handle that allows you to grab it from any angle.  There are kettlebells available that have squared handles, but this limits the grip area and could become problematic during ballistic movements.  You should also look for a one-piece construction with smooth edges.  You don’t want to risk buying a kettlebell with a welded-on handle or one that has seams that will dig into your hand.  There is also a difference between classic and competition style kettlebells, but for the beginner, the extra cost of a competition model isn’t necessary.

Choosing an Appropriate Weight

Getting the weights correct on your first kettlebell purchases is important to ensuring you have a positive initial experience.  Again, the right weight will have a lot to do with your own personal situation, but some generalities do seem to consistently pop up.  It’s often found that men overestimate their strength while women underestimate theirs.  For those who have only used dumbbells and barbells before, there is a definite difference when making the transition to kettlebells.  For beginners, men can usually start with the 16 kg size for ballistic movements and 8 kg for grinds.  A good way to test for grind weight is to do an overhead press 8 to 10 times.  For beginner women, a 6 to 8 kg weight is a good starting point for ballistics while grinds should start at 4 to 6 kg.  Of course, if you’re in good shape and experienced with free weights, you may need to consider heavier weights.

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