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Kettlebell Kings Competition Kettlebells Review - Featured Picture - Tested

Kettlebell Kings Competition Kettlebells Review

Rock the Bells

I’ve always thought highly of Kettlebell Kings products but never used their competition-style kettlebells in my own practice, choosing instead to stick with their powder coat kettlebells. I’ve owned a 16kg competition kettlebell from Kettlebell Kings for over a year, but I found the smooth bare metal handle difficult to use without lots of chalk, which is a no-go for my home and office gyms.

I also tend to prefer a slightly thinner handle than the standard competition 35mm diameter because it helps me maintain my grip for longer periods of time. As a result, I’ve mainly stuck with cast-iron kettlebells when using Kettlebell Kings kettlebells.

Kettlebell Kings recently introduced an updated line of competition kettlebells with a brand-spanking-new handle design. The introduction of this new design has made me reconsider their competition kettlebell for home use, and I really like what they’ve done with it.

Video

Unboxing

I received four kettlebells with the newly designed handle and all were packaged the same way. Every competition kettlebells sold by Kettlebell Kings is shipped double or triple boxed in a form-fitting styrofoam mold, and the new product line is no exception.

As a result, they’re well protected from all but the most reckless of delivery personnel.

Kettlebell Kings Competition Kettlebells Review - Unboxing

Typical unboxing of a Kettlebell Kings competition kettlebell

Impressions

The most obvious visible difference between the new design and the current design is in the shape of the handle horns. The existing design has straight horns, while the new design has cone-shaped horns.

This is a functional difference rather than a purely aesthetic one, which I’ll cover in the Usability section.

Kettlebell Kings Competition Kettlebells Review - Old vs New Competition Kettlebells

Left – current design, Right – new design

The other main difference is not visibly obvious, but immediately noticeable once I put my hand around the handle. The handle width of the new kettlebell design is 33mm wide by 35mm tall, with a pitted steel finish.

Although a 2mm difference in width doesn’t seem like much, it’s actually enough of a difference to make the grip much more comfortable. It just feels “right” in my hand, although I realize this is entirely subjective experience. Your mileage may vary, but I’d be willing to bet that most people that try this new design will like it.

Kettlebell Kings competition kettlebells are shipped with a very thin layer of clear coat applied to the handles to protect them from rust during shipping. The kettlebell handle will be more resistant to rust if you leave it on, just know that it does interfere a bit with grip retention if you don’t use chalk. I chose to remove the coating from mine with some fine grit sandpaper in order to take full advantage of the pitted finish.

Test plan

I’ve been using these new Kettlebell Kings kettlebells for the last two months during meets of my office kettlebell club. We meet twice a week and go through various kettlebell complexes that include a mix of one-hand and two-hand work.

I also used these kettlebells twice more per week for solo work. I used the 20kg exclusively for two-hand work and alternated between the 14kg and 16kg for one-hand work during the test period.

I’ve also had other people in my office kettlebell club try these new kettlebells and give me their opinion. They’ve used the 10kg, 14kg, and 16kg kettlebells during club meets.

We also used two other Kettlebell Kings competition kettlebells with older handle designs as a control group, one 16kg with a 35mm round bare steel finish and one 10kg with a 35mm round pitted steel finish. These two kettlebells were used to compare the different handle designs during testing.

Kettlebell Kings Competition Kettlebells Review - Kettlebell Club

The complexes we do during club meets vary, but they all consists of five rounds of 4-8 exercises from the following list, with varying rep counts:

  • Two-hand swings
  • One-hand swings
  • Snatches
  • Cleans with overhead press
  • Windmills
  • Rack squats
  • Figure eights
  • Lunges
  • High pulls
  • Rows
  • One-legged deadlifts
  • Two-legged deadlifts
  • Halos
  • Goblet squats

Some examples of typical workouts we do:

Five rounds:

  • 10 one-hand swings
  • 5 snatches (or high pulls if not able to do snatches)
  • 5 clean & press
  • 5 rack squat
  • 5 rows
  • switch hands, repeat previous sequence
  • 10+ pushups (end of round)

Five rounds:

  • 50 two-hand swings
  • 10 goblet squat to overhead press
  • 10 deadlifts (one or two legged depending on ability)
  • 10+ pushups (end of round)

Five rounds:

  • 50 one-hand swings (switch hands each swing to preserve grip strength)
  • 5 clean & lunge with overhead press
  • 5 figure eight to static hold
  • 5 clean & lunge with overhead press (other hand)
  • 5 figure eight to static hold
  • 10+ pushups (end of round)

Fitness Test Lab - First Rule of Kettlebell Club is Tell Everyone About Kettlebell Club

Usability

I need to be able to work with the kettlebell for extended periods without resorting to using chalk for the sake of keeping my house and work gym clean. The quality of finish and coating are the biggest factors that impact my ability to hold on to the bell without needing chalk. 

I got my first competition kettlebell from Kettlebells Kings over a year ago. Back then, the handles were 35mm in diameter with a smooth bare metal finish. Although this might be great for kettlebell sport (which I don’t do), it wasn’t so great for home use without a hefty amount of chalk.

Thankfully, some time within the last year they’ve moved away from the smooth finish and adopted a pitted steel finish instead, which is now standard on all their competition kettlebells. This change alone is a huge step up in terms of grip retention.

The newly introduced product line retains the pitted finish while introducing cone-shaped handle horns and new handle geometry.

The cone shape of the horns is intended to allow the kettlebell to sit more comfortably against the forearm when in the rack position or when held overhead. The new shape allows more surface area of the kettlebell to rest on your arm, which spreads the resting weight of the kettlebell across a broader area.

My kettlebell clean and snatch techniques aren’t refined enough for me to detect a noticeable difference during regular workouts, although I imagine an elite kettlebell sport lifter would notice immediately.

For what it’s worth, I can definitely tell the difference when I do a side-by-side comparison with the kettlebells perfectly positioned on my forearm. I just rarely manage to achieve the same positioning when I’m actively working with the kettlebells.

Kettlebell Kings Competition Kettlebells Review - Rack Position

Rack position – current design on left, new design on right

The change I’m more interested in is the new handle geometry.

The updated handle is oval-shaped rather than perfectly round, measuring 33mm wide by 35mm tall. A 2mm difference in width isn’t much to speak of, but it makes an immense difference in my grip. I have medium-sized hands, and I can work with these new kettlebells for much longer than with the regular 35mm handle.

The new handle design is also a hit with the office kettlebell club. We have a large assortment of cast-iron kettlebells but only a few competition-style kettlebells. These new kettlebells always get chosen first, even ahead of the cast-iron kettlebells that earned five stars in the Ultimate Kettlebell Comparison Review.

The one usability drawback is the size of the handle window. It’s smaller than other competition-style kettlebells I own, which makes it somewhat awkward to use for two-hand swings. I don’t have large hands by any stretch, but even I find my pinkies cramped when I use one of these kettlebells for two-hand swings.

To be fair, the handle window is small by design. The small window is intended to improve hand insertion and comfort when the kettlebell is held in the rack position or held overhead for kettlebell sport, which is centered around snatches, jerks, and clean & jerks.

The small window allows the hand, wrist, and forearm to slide in and against the bell quicker as opposed to a larger window that takes more insertion time and risks smashing your arm while executing the lifts. The small window also brings the resting weight of the kettlebell closer to the wrist, so it sits in the rack position more easily and will stabilize overhead faster than a kettlebell with a larger window.

Although I don’t do kettlebell sport, I do enough one-hand work to confidently say the handle is well suited for its intended purpose, it’s just something to be aware of when trying to use this highly optimized competition kettlebell for non-competitive general fitness workouts.

Durability

The kettlebell needs to hold up to constant use, and occasional accidental misuse for those rare times when a bell gets dropped due to grip fatigue or a failed rep. 

Kettlebell Kings competition kettlebells are cast as a single piece of steel with a hollow core. This is significant because many competition kettlebells are constructed as a shell with filler material placed inside to make up the bulk of the weight. A base plate gets welded on the bottom of the shell to seal the weight inside.

As a result, the bulk of weight ends up in the base of the kettlebell and there’s potential for pieces of filler material to break loose inside the shell. This is a common problem with lower quality kettlebells, which can rattle when filler material starts to break loose.

Kettlebell Kings Competition Kettlebells Review - Hollow Core

Single-cast hollow core design, no fillers

The single-cast design of the Kettlebell Kings competition kettlebell provides a more balanced weight distribution and therefore a more balanced load displacement when working with the kettlebell. By extension, the kettlebell is easer to work with for prolonged periods of time.

The paint may wear off a bit with extended use, and in fact I’ve already seen some paint come off from use during club meets, but that’s a purely aesthetic issue that doesn’t affect usability or long term durability. The all-steel construction of the kettlebell means it will easily last you a lifetime with proper care. In fact, Kettlebell Kings is the only kettlebell vendor I know of that offers a lifetime warranty on their products.

Just be sure to keep the handles and any exposed metal on the body dry by wiping the kettlebell down after every use in order to avoid rust buildup. This care advice applies to any competition kettlebell, not just Kettlebell Kings, since the bare uncoated steel is susceptible to rust if not kept dry.

Kettlebell Kings Competition Kettlebells Review - Straight Horn vs Cone Horn

Straight horn vs cone horn

Price

I’m not necessarily looking for the absolute cheapest option, I want the best product I can afford that meets my need. I weigh quality against cost with the understanding that price is not always reflective of quality level.

At the time of this writeup the combined price of a 16kg and 20kg Kettlebell Kings competition kettlebells with free shipping is $211.98. The price is the same for the new 33x35mm and current 35mm round handle versions.

Kettlebell Kings Competition Kettlebells Review - Competition Kettlebells Price

In comparison, the price of two equivalent weight cast-iron Kettlebell Kings powder coat kettlebells is $172.98

Kettlebell Kings Competition Kettlebells Review - Powder Coat Kettlebells Price

The prices may vary over time, so you may see a different price when you eventually read this. However, the current price difference is $39, which isn’t enormous, but isn’t exactly cheap either.

By the way, the Kettlebell Kings powder coat kettlebells are awesome kettlebells, check out my review of them if you haven’t already.

Personally, I think the extra cost for the competition kettlebells is worth it, especially for the new model because it’s much easier to work with. The best piece of equipment is one that gets used consistently, and I find the competition kettlebells with the new handle design to be very easy to work with for long periods of time.

Ultimately, you’ll need to make the choice based on your needs and budget. Just know that if you decide to buy the competition kettlebells, it will be money well spent.

Pros

The introduction of a new thinner handle geometry in the Kettlebell Kings competition line of kettlebells is a welcome change for those of us with smaller hands. I’m also a big fan of the pitted steel finish since it provides more grip than the original smooth bare metal finish.

Kettlebell Kings Competition Kettlebells Review - Bare Steel vs Pitted Steel Handle_

Smooth bare metal (left) vs pitted finish (right)

Cons

Aside from the price premium over their cast-iron brethren, there are no real cons to speak of in terms of ways I think the Kettlebell Kings competition kettlebells could be better.

However, there are some things you need to know about before choosing Kettlebell Kings competition kettlebells for your home gym.

First, you’ll need to accept at least a small amount of chalk use. The handles of competition kettlebells aren’t finished with any kind of coating, which means you’ll need to keep your hands dry somehow in order to keep your grip during extended workouts.

I tend to keep a towel handy to dry my hands and the handle between sets, but when I do need to use chalk I’ve found that a climbing chalk ball kept in a zip-lock bag works well for keeping my hands dry and grippy with minimal mess.


Second, the handle design of the Kettlebell Kings competition kettlebell isn’t well suited for two-hand swings, especially for those with large hands. Yes, two-hand swings can still be done with this kettlebell, you’ll just have to deal with cramped fingers.

However, I can’t really knock the kettlebell for having a small handle window. After all, this piece of equipment is designed specifically for kettlebell sport, not general kettlebell fitness, and two-hand swings have no place in kettlebell sport.

Kettlebell Kings Competition Kettlebells Review - Two Hand Swings

Cramped fingers with two-hand swings, but whatevs, it’s a competition kettlebell

Verdict

Kettlebell Reviews Rating - Five Stars

The new line of Kettlebell Kings competition kettlebells are without question a five star product.  They’re an excellent choice whether you practice kettlebell sport or just need solid kettlebells for your home gym, provided you’re okay with at least a minimal amount of chalk use.

You’ll pay a small premium for them over Kettlebell Kings powder coat kettlebells, but I consider the premium to be reasonable for the improved usability.

If you choose to go with Kettlebell Kings competition kettlebells for your home gym, you’ll need to decide whether to go with a 33x35mm or 35mm round handle.

For men and women 5’10” and under with small-to-medium sized hands, I recommend the new 33mm-wide handle version without reservation. Heck, even if you’re tall with large hands I’d still recommend the new model, it’s just easier to work with overall.

However, if you’re a traditionalist or just prefer a round handle, stick with the 35mm version.

Kettlebell Kings Competition Kettlebells Review - Kettlebell Kings 20kg competition kettlebell

Click to buy competition kettlebells from Kettlebell Kings

I hope you’ve found this review helpful. If you have any questions I didn’t cover in the review, post them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them.

About the Author Mario

I'm a software engineer with a full-time job, family, and a desire to stay strong, mobile and fit. I separate fact from fiction to find the most effective and affordable home fitness options and pass the knowledge on to you. Want to know more?

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