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The Ultimate Kettlebell Comparison Review – 2017 Edition

Kettlebell Reviews - The Ultimate Kettlebell Comparison Review Title Picture

Everything you ever maybe wanted to know about kettlebells, and lots of stuff you probably didn’t. Updated for 2017!

Used properly, kettlebells can serve a unique place in your home fitness arsenal as an efficient way to stay mobile, strong, and fit. They’re also great for supplementing movement rehabilitation work on a path toward injury recovery or performance improvement.

I’ve used many major brand of kettlebells, including experimenting with a homemade kettlebell made out of plumbing parts. If you’ve been looking for real-world feedback on cast-iron kettlebells in general or a specific brand in particular, read on.

Warning – this is a ridiculously long and detailed write up, so if you just want to know about a particular kettlebell use the table of contents below to skip to the Rating section of any kettlebell included in the testing. If you just want to know which kettlebells came out on top, skip to the Best cast-iron kettlebells for home use section. 

If you’d like a PDF version of this article to read offline, use the sign-up option in the sidebar (or scroll to the bottom of the page on mobile devices).

What’s a kettlebell?

If you’ve never heard of a kettlebell before, think “cannonball with a handle”. There are two main types of kettlebells – classic “Russian” style, which increase in size as the weight increases, and competition style, which are the same size regardless of weight.

Competition kettlebells are typically differentiated by color coding. Some classic-style kettlebells also offer color coding, but not all. The focus of this review will be on classic “Russian” style cast-iron kettlebells suitable for home use.

Kettlebell Reviews - Classic vs Competition kettlebells

Classic vs Competition Style Kettlebells

Why train with kettlebells?

If you’re like me, you want to stay healthy and strong to consistently meet the challenges of everyday life. You don’t have the time or budget for a gym. Equipment storage space at home is limited. You want a regimen that keeps you motivated, and the latest fad fitness DVD isn’t cutting it.

If you can relate then consider kettlebell training. Kettlebells are easy to store, relatively inexpensive, and provide an efficient way to work nearly every part of the body in a short period of time.

My kettlebell criteria

My evaluation criteria is primarily centered on kettlebells I can use at home and at work with minimal need for chalk. I’ve written a kettlebell buyer’s guide that answers every question I had when I first started. It also goes into detail on the criteria I look for, but the short version is a clean finish, a durable coating, and a properly sized handle.

After working with many different brands of kettlebells I’ve learned the quality of the finish is the biggest factor impacting the usability of a kettlebell. Grip on a slick coating can be improved with chalk, but chalk can’t mask casting flaws. Imperfections in the finish like seams or metal burrs can cause injury by catching, cutting, or pinching bits of skin.

I thought pinching was normal at first because I had nothing else to compare to. However, I came to find it isn’t normal at all. It’s actually a sign of low quality sandblasting and grinding steps intended to eliminate casting imperfections before the coating is applied. If you find yourself having to use sandpaper or a metal file on a kettlebell handle to remove metal imperfections, you have a low quality kettlebell.

My kettlebell test plan

Last year’s reviews were based solely on my own observations from working with various kettlebell brands. This year I’ve started a kettlebell club at work and I’ve been able to solicit feedback from others in the club as well. The reviews have been updated accordingly.

The following five short workouts using various skills form the basis of the kettlebell test plan. Different combinations of workouts are done a minimum of three times a week for a period of at least two months.

Workouts:

  • 100 two-hand swings in under 5 minutes
  • 100 snatches in under 5 minutes, switching arms every 10 reps
  • 5x5x5 one hand complex – 5 rounds of 5 reps of each of the following 5 exercises, performed once on each side for a total of ten sets, in under 10 minutes:
    • One hand swing
    • Snatch
    • Clean + overhead press
    • Squat
  • Turkish get up, 10 reps each side – not timed
  • Windmills, 2 sets of 5 reps each side – not timed

My kettlebell rating scale

I use a simple five point rating scale to score each kettlebell:

Kettlebell Reviews Rating - One Star

One star – Not recommended at all. 

Kettlebell Reviews Rating - Two Stars

Two stars – Not recommended but with some redeeming qualities. 

Kettlebell Reviews Rating - Three Stars

Three stars – Not the best experience but far from the worst. 

Kettlebell Reviews Rating - Four Stars

Four stars – Very good, with caveats.

Kettlebell Reviews Rating - Five Stars

Five stars – Excellent all around kettlebell. 

Kettlebell Reviews


Do-It-Yourself Kettlebell Review

My introduction to kettlebells came via Tim Ferriss’ book The Four Hour Body. He describes an experiment performed using a do-it-yourself kettlebell made from parts found in the plumbing section at Home Depot.

I’m all about DIY when I can, especially if it means I get to build a cool new toy. According to Tim the parts are supposed to cost under $10, not counting the weight plates. However, inflation has taken its toll because I paid closer to $18 after tax. That doesn’t include the price of the plastic clamp I already owned.

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - DIY Kettlebell Review Parts

DIY Kettlebell parts. My setup has athletic tape around the handles for grip, but this isn’t strictly necessary.

The DIY kettlebell has two big advantages. First, it  takes the guesswork out of deciding what size kettlebell to buy for two hand work. I was able to experiment with different weights to find a starting point I was comfortable with, eventually settling on 20kg (44lbs).

Second, it allowed me to establish proper swing form with a lower weight before moving up to a real working weight. Proper form is important, because improper swing form can cause back injury.

If you don’t already have a background lifting weights or being active, or if you are out of shape, consider working with a certified kettlebell trainer to get instructed in proper technique.

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - DIY Kettlebell Review Loaded

DIY Kettlebell with weights

A DIY kettlebell also has two major disadvantages. First, usefulness is limited to two-hand work.

Second, there are upper limits to the weight that can be applied to the bar and how long the bar will last. Plumbing parts weren’t designed to sustain a dynamic load swinging in an arc.  This puts stress on the metal that will eventually lead to fatigue and fracture. If you decide to pursue a regular regimen of kettlebell work, invest in real kettlebells or plan on replacing your T-bar parts at least once every four to six months.

Rating

Kettlebell Reviews Rating - Three Stars

The DIY approach is a great way to experiment with basic kettlebell work without committing to an expensive purchase, provided you have some weight plates to work with.


CAP Kettlebells Review

I felt noticeably stronger in my butt and back after experimenting with the DIY kettlebell for a few weeks, so I decided to dive in and purchase some real kettlebells. When looking for fitness equipment, I always check Craigslist first to see if I can score a good deal before I resort to paying retail price.

I didn’t know much about kettlebells at this point in time, and I naively thought all kettlebells were pretty much the same. I bought a couple of CAP kettlebells off Craigslist for fifty bucks. One was a 16kg enamel coat bell, and the other was a 9kg cast iron bell with a rust-resistant coating.

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - CAP Kettlebells Review

The 9kg bell had a very rough finish with several burrs on the handle. I was learning how to perform the kettlebell snatch at this time, and the burrs kept digging into my palms during the transitions. I toughed it out as long as I could but eventually used a metal file to smooth down the handle and make the bell a little more usable.

I said it before but it’s worth repeating – if you have to file down the handle of your kettlebell to eliminate casting imperfections, you’ve bought a low quality kettlebell. 

Ironically, the body of the bell with the rust-resistant coating was badly rusted. I painted it with Rustoleum to try and stem further rust damage, which is why the kettlebell is colored brown in pictures.

The coating on the 16kg bell was chipped in several places but luckily there were no chips on the handle. I used the small kettlebell for one hand work and the larger kettlebell for two-hand swings. The enamel finish on the large bell was extremely smooth and hard to hold once I broke a sweat. It also generated heat on my palms through friction. After working with these kettlebells for less than a week I knew I’d be replacing them.

I used these kettlebells for three weeks while I researched other options. Once I found another option I disposed of the CAP bells by re-selling them on Craigslist.

Rating

Kettlebell Reviews Rating - One Star

I don’t recommend CAP kettlebells for your home gym. In fact, I actively recommend you stay away from them entirely because you will inevitably rue the day you purchased them. The enamel coated kettlebell chips easily and provides a lousy grip, while the finish quality of the cast iron kettlebell is the worst of any brand-name kettlebell I’ve seen.


Dragon Door RKC Kettlebells Review

Dragon Door was among the first companies, if not the first company, to reintroduce kettlebells to the US mass market in 2001. As a result, they have a large amount of brand recognition in the kettlebell community. The recognition is reflected in the price because Dragon Door kettlebells are the most expensive option included in this review.

At this point in time I’d been training for three weeks with the CAP kettlebells, hating them a little more each day. I kept my eye on Craigslist, and eventually someone offered a set of used Dragon Door RKC kettlebells for sale. I had done some research by now and read many reviews singing the praises of Dragon Door kettlebells, so I jumped on that offer and managed to score a 12kg, a 16kg, and a 24kg for $100 total.

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - Dragon Door Kettlebells Review Front and Back

The previous owner told me they were about three years old when I bought them. The coating on each has worn off in places and given way to rust, especially on the 16kg bell. They don’t look great, but the coat on all of them is in okay shape considering they were stored year-round in a garage subject to three years of humid central Texas summers.

The RKC kettlebells all have prevalent seams left over from the casting process on the handles. These seams usually pinched the skin of my palms, indicating a poor finishing and grinding process.

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - Dragon Door Kettlebells Review Finish and Coating

Speaking of grinding, none of the bottoms of the Dragon Door kettlebells are ground completely flat – they all wobble when on flat ground.

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - Dragon Door Kettlebells Review Bottoms

The Dragon Door kettlebells have the lowest quality finish of all the kettlebells tested, with the exception of the cast iron 9kg CAP kettlebell. This is notable because the cost difference between CAP and Dragon Door is huge, and that extra money is clearly not being invested back into quality control at Dragon Door.

The handle of the 12kg bell is small enough to be gripped entirely in one hand, and the coating doesn’t generate much friction. If it wasn’t for the poor finish these would be nice kettlebells to use on a regular basis.

To be fair, I’m evaluating old kettlebells. There’s always a chance Dragon Door has upped their game since these bells were originally made. I reached out to customer service again to tell them about my experience and asked if my RKC kettlebells are representative of the quality of newly made Dragon Door kettlebells. Here is the relevant portion of their response:

“While we have not made significant changes to molds for our kettlebells, our coating process has only been getting better over the years. Without knowing exactly what your current kettlebells look/feel like, I can tell you that things such as seams could indeed have been a problem exclusive to a batch or perhaps they were kettelbells that made it past inspection.”

The rep went on to say this:

“My advice to you would be to give our latest kettlebells a try on your own and if you are dissatisfied you can of course return them. We have a 1 year, 100% money back guarantee.”

I give props to Dragon Door for offering a 1 year 100% money back guarantee, this is one of the best warranties offered by any of the kettlebell brands included in this review. In fact, several of the companies offer no guarantee whatsoever and will not accept a return at all unless your purchase is defective.

I’m willing to give Dragon Door the benefit of the doubt and assume their newer kettlebells have a higher quality finish than what I currently own. However, since the guarantee doesn’t cover the cost of shipping to me and back, and shipping heavy hunks of iron is expensive, I don’t plan on taking them up on that offer.

Rating

Kettlebell Reviews Rating - Two Stars

The best things Dragon Door RKC kettlebells offer is a 1 year satisfaction guarantee and a durable coating. However, given the quality of the competition these factors aren’t enough to offset their substantially higher cost.


Perform Better First Place Kettlebells Review

Once I got serious about kettlebell training I started lugging 12kg and 16kg kettlebells to work and back depending on my work schedule. Lugging around 50+ pounds of cannonballs is a workout all by itself. It’s also a major pain in the ass. Needless to say, this got old really quick.

I asked my employer to add kettlebells to our work gym, and they agreed. They purchased six “Performance First Place”  kettlebells of different sizes and a storage rack from Perform Better, a company I had not previously heard of.

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - Perform Better Kettlebells Review Overview

When I started working with the Perform Better kettlebells I was impressed with the consistency of finish on them.  The handles of all six were well rounded with no prevalent seams, although there are a few small metal burrs on the underside of a few of the handles.

Perform Better customer service told me the coating is a powder coat, but up close it looks much more like an e-coat to me. Whatever it is, the coat provides just enough grip with low friction to allow for some high rep work without needing chalk. This set includes a 10kg and a 14kg (no 12kg or 16kg) and the handles on both can easily be gripped in one hand.

These are nice kettlebells to work with overall, despite the small metal burrs on the handles of some of the kettlebells. The burrs only exist on the smaller kettlebells that I don’t use as much, which might be why they haven’t been an issue for me. I do have a couple of other nits to pick though.

First, the markings on these kettlebells are color coded according to weight, but the color scheme doesn’t conform to a standard kettlebell color scheme. 

Second, not as much care was taken with painting the logo as was taken with the finish and coating. The paint job looks sloppy, as if someone was in a hurry to get the job done.

These kettlebells aren’t scratched, just sloppily painted

These issues are purely cosmetic and don’t take away from the usability of the kettlebells at all, but they do detract from the overall perception of quality.

Rating

Kettlebell Reviews Rating - Three Stars

Perform Better kettlebells are a good option if you catch them on sale. I like working with them, but they aren’t my first choice. Don’t pay full price for Perform Better kettlebells. They go on sale often and there are better options at the same non-sale price point.


Kettlebell Kings Powder Coat Kettlebells Review

Another six months go by and I’m very into training with kettlebells. This is the point where I decide to start documenting my experience for review purposes, and I reached out to Kettlebell Kings to source a couple of powder coat kettlebells to evaluate.

I picked up 12kg and 20kg kettlebells in person from the Kettlebell Kings warehouse in south Austin. The finish on the kettlebells is extremely smooth with no seams or burrs anywhere on the handles or bodies. The powder coat feels like chalk to the touch, and the handles of both the 12kg and 20kg can be easily gripped in one hand.

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - Kettlebell Kings Kettlebell Review Overview

Pictured from top to bottom, left to right – 20kg, 12kg, 16kg, 6kg, 12kg

The powder coat on these kettlebells provides a smooth yet ‘grippy’ finish that is very easy to use without chalk. The smooth finish means no pinching of skin and the low friction powder coat makes it easy to maintain grip during high-rep sets.

Another nice touch is the color bands around the handles that conform to kettlebell sport weight classification standards. This makes it easy to determine the weight of any given kettlebell at a glance.

Perform Better 20kg (left) vs Kettlebell Kings 20kg (right)

For a powder coat, the durability of this coating is impressive. These kettlebells have withstood several hard blows without chipping. I did manage to chip the coat, but only after dropping another kettlebell directly on top of it. Incidentally, I don’t recommend trying this at home!

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - Kettlebell Kings Kettlebell Review Chip and Bottom

The one chip in the finish (left) is because I dropped another kettlebell directly on it. Oops!

I purchased a smaller powder coat kettlebell for my wife and had it shipped to me so I could evaluate the packaging. I placed my order on a Thursday afternoon at 3pm and by 5pm I was notified it had been shipped! That’s the fastest order turnaround I’ve seen for a kettlebell. I found the following information on the Kettlebell Kings About page that explains the speed as part of their business model:

“Shipping is one of the biggest parts of purchasing anything online, we ship out all orders the same day that are received before 4PM central so you can enjoy your kettlebells as soon as possible.”

The kettlebell was delivered the next day, well packed in a sturdy double-walled box. The finish and coating of this third kettlebell was consistent with the first two. Everything about the Kettlebell Kings powder coat kettlebells indicates a high quality manufacturing process.

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - Kettlebell Kings Kettlebell Review Unboxing

Rating

Kettlebell Reviews Rating - Five Stars

The Kettlebell Kings Powder Coat kettlebell is a high quality kettlebell that provides an excellent balance between durability and usability. At the time of this writeup, Kettlebell Kings is the only company offering the option to build your own set, with an increased discount applied for every kettlebell added.


Onnit Labs Kettlebells Review

Onnit Labs offers a line of classic-style kettlebells at the lower end of the kettlebell price spectrum. Since they’re local to Austin I visited the Onnit Academy Gym in person to buy a kettlebell to evaluate.

The kettlebell was packed in a very sturdy shipping box. It looks like it could take a decent amount of abuse from a careless shipper, but the lack of reinforcement straps around the box could be an issue if the kettlebell has to travel a long distance.

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - Onnit Kettlebells Review Unboxing

The finish on the Onnit kettlebell is not easy to evaluate because the textured coating is thick enough to mask small imperfections. I can’t feel any seams on or burrs on the handle but the kettlebell has slight bumps and dips all over that give it a lumpy look and feel.  There are spots on the bell where I can see how the coating application ran down the handle and dried, similar to how spray paint drips when applied too thickly.

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - Onnit Kettlebells Review Finish and Coat

As for durability, although the coat is described as chip-resistant, in practice it isn’t very hard to chip. I only had to carry it to my backyard along with another kettlebell to knock the first chip out of it. The two kettlebells accidentally banged together and a piece of the Onnit kettlebell coating came flying off.

I thought maybe this was a fluke, so I intentionally banged the kettlebells together again with medium force and another chip flaked off. The coating chipped several more times during the testing period through normal use, mainly from getting bumped against other kettlebells.

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - Onnit Kettlebells Review Chip

I get that “chip-resistant” doesn’t mean “chip-proof”, but it really doesn’t take much to damage the coat on the Onnit kettlebell. I don’t see this kettlebell holding up over the long term when compared to some of its more hardy kettlebell brethren.

The Onnit kettlebell handle window is taller than most of the other kettlebells tested by roughly one centimeter. It’s a small difference, but enough to change the dynamics of exercises like the snatch. An adjustment of technique is required to accommodate the extra distance.

Getting back to the grip – the finish is smooth enough to rotate smoothly in my hand without catching skin during transitions, but the coating generates too much friction for my preference. I can’t use this kettlebell for very long before the friction starts forming blisters unless I resort to chalk.

Rating

Kettlebell Reviews Rating - Three Stars

Onnit Labs kettlebells are a budget option and it shows in the overall quality. They’re okay to get started with if they’re all you can afford, but save for a higher quality option if possible. If you do buy these, take extra good care of them because the finish is prone to chipping.


Kettlebells USA Metrixx® Elite Kettlebells Review

Kettlebells USA have been around for over a decade, and although they now offer a variety of fitness equipment their core business has always been kettlebells. Their Metrixx® line of cast iron kettlebells are offered in two styles – a “Classic” line that is roughly equivalent in size and coating to Dragon Door kettlebells, and a newer “Elite Precision” line that has a different formulation of e-coat and a redesigned handle. This review will focus on the “Elite” version. The “Classic” line is reviewed separately.

The Metrixx® Elite Precision is marketed as an improvement on the classic kettlebell design, including modifications to the handle and a reformulated e-coat. I purchased one of the Elite Precision 12kg kettlebells and it was shipped out the next day. The packaging was solid double-walled cardboard and the kettlebell well packed. They even included a sticker!

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - Kettlebells USA Kettlebells Review Unboxing

The finish on the kettlebell is very clean, and although the casting seams are slightly visible on the body due to how thin an e-coating is, they are not prevalent on the handle at all. The handle is very smooth and well rounded.

The Metrixx® Elite line of kettlebells have a reformulated e-coat intended to increase grip over a traditional e-coating. It’s also the most durable coating I’ve seen on any kettlebell. I tried damaging the coating by banging it against another kettlebell, and the Metrixx®  Elite just laughed. I tried dropping another kettlebell on it from waist-height, and the finish did scratch but did not chip. This coating is bomb-proof. It will likely outlast you, your children, and your children’s children.

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - Kettlebells USA Kettlebells Review Comparisons

Top row – Metrixx Elite vs Dragon Door RKC. Bottom row – Metrixx Elite vs Onnit Kettlebell

The most unique aspect of Metrixx® Elite kettlebell is the redesigned handle. With traditional cast iron kettlebells, the thickness of the handle typically increases as the weight of the kettlebell increases. This can be problematic for people with hands too small to close around the handle, or hands to large to fit both comfortably within the gap.

The redesigned handle of the Metrixx® kettlebell is noticeably thinner than most cast-iron kettlebells and is very easy to hold. This is the most comfortable kettlebell in the review group for two-hand swings.

The handle window is also taller than most classic kettlebell designs. The increased height means the kettlebell will sit just a bit lower on the forearm rather than resting right on the wrist bones, which is more comfortable for some people.

The reformulated e-coat is stickier than the e-coats on the Dragon Door and even the Metrixx® Classic line. This definitely helps improve grip, but it also creates some friction. The friction is alleviated with light chalk use though, which is a small tradeoff for the durability and comfort the Metrixx® Elite Precision kettlebell provides.

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - Kettlebells USA Kettlebells Review Closeup and Bottom

Rating

Kettlebell Reviews Rating - Five Stars

Kettlebells USA gets kudos for raising the bar by improving the classic kettlebell design. The Metrixx® Elite Precision kettlebell is a very comfortable kettlebell to work with, especially if you’re able to use a small amount of chalk. This is also the most durable kettlebell you’re likely to find anywhere. Quite simply, the Metrixx® Elite Precision is the best E-coat kettlebell you can buy.


Kettlebells USA Metrixx® Classic Kettlebells Review

Kettlebells USA have been around for over a decade, and although they now offer a variety of fitness equipment their core business has always been kettlebells. Their Metrixx line of cast iron kettlebells are offered in two styles – a “Classic” line that is roughly equivalent in size and coating to Dragon Door kettlebells, and a newer “Elite Precision” line that has a different style of e-coat and redesigned handle. This review will focus on the “Classic” version. The “Elite” line is reviewed separately.

The Metrixx® Classic E-Coat Kettlebell came packaged in a double-walled box with foam inserts around the handle to keep the kettlebell from moving during shipping. Like the Metrixx® Elite, the Classic has a very clean finish. There are no noticeable seams on the handle or body.

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - Kettlebells USA Kettlebells Review Metrixx Classic Review Unboxing

An e-coat is the most durable coating available on a kettlebell, and this coating does not disappoint. The coat has remained intact even after extensive use and intentional attempts to damage it for the sake of this review. If you intend to store your kettlebells in the garage or subject them to extreme abuse, the Classic line is for you. I get the impression this thing would survive a nuclear apocalypse, although I wouldn’t want to be around to find out.

The handle on the Classic is slightly thicker than other similarly sized kettlebells, and much thicker than the handle on the Metrixx® Elite. The thickness of the handle reduces the available space in the handle window, which makes it harder to use these for two-hand swings than some of the other options tests. This is especially true for people with large hands.

The coating is sticky, which helps with grip but also adds friction. Like the Metrixx® Elite, the Classic is best used with a light amount of chalk.

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - Kettlebells USA Kettlebells Review Metrixx Classic Review - Different Views

Rating

Kettlebell Reviews Rating - Four Stars

The Metrixx® Classic E-Coat Kettlebell is as old school as it gets as far as kettlebells go. It’s a Russian-style cast-iron kettlebell similar to Dragon Door RKC kettlebells, but higher quality and lower cost. This is an excellent e-coat kettlebell with practically bomb-proof durability, surpassed only by its redesigned younger sibling Metrixx® Elite Precision.


Rogue Fitness Powder Coat Kettlebells Review

Rogue Fitness has a huge amount of brand recognition through their affiliation with Crossfit. Rogue makes the gear the Fittest on Earth use and swear by, so I had high expectations for the 12kg powder coat kettlebell I ordered.

Unfortunately quality control seems to be an issue with Rogue, starting with the packaging the kettlebell was shipped in. The box  was severely damaged when it arrived, and the damage to the box extended to the kettlebell inside.

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - Rogue Fitness Kettlebells Review First Kettlebell Unboxing

The coating was badly scratched in several places, which is significant because the coating is supposed to protect the kettlebell from damage and corrosion. If the coat can’t stand up to abuse by UPS, can it really stand up to regular use as a fitness tool?

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - Rogue Fitness Kettlebells Review First Kettlebell Damaged

I gave Rogue the benefit of the doubt and assumed the shipper had badly mishandled the box, so I reached out to Rogue customer service to tell them about my experience.

They were extremely helpful and responsive. I sent them pictures of the damaged kettlebell and they immediately offered to send me a replacement. They were even nice enough to let me hang on to the damaged kettlebell till the replacement arrived.

However, when the replacement arrived I was disappointed to see it had been damaged during transit as well. Not as badly damaged as the first, but still damaged.

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - Rogue Fitness Kettlebells Review Second Kettlebell Unboxing and Damage

One instance of damage could a fluke but two in a row suggests the need for better packing materials. The boxes the Rogue kettlebells shipped in are the flimsiest of all the kettlebells I was able to unpack, and neither box was wrapped with plastic strap reinforcements.

I want to make clear the damage to the kettlebells was entirely superficial. The damage didn’t interfere with usage in any way. I only bring it up because it casts doubt on the long term durability of the coating.

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - Rogue Fitness Kettlebells Review First and Second Kettlebells Comparison Front and Back

The handles of the Rogue kettlebells are the thickest of the test group, making them the most difficult to easily hold in one hand. In fact I’m barely able to touch the tip of my thumb to the cuticle of my index finger when I wrap my hand around the handle of the 12kg kettlebell. These are definitely sized for people with larger hands.

The finish of the Rogue kettlebells is rough, with prevalent seams on the underside of both handles. They aren’t finished as roughly as the Dragon Door kettlebells, but rough enough to have imperfections that sometimes pinch during use.

The powder coat on the Rogue kettlebells is the coarsest of all the kettlebells tested. It has a feel of fine grit sandpaper. The coat looks intentionally designed to hold lots of chalk, but without chalk it can be somewhat uncomfortable to use for extended periods.

The Rogue powder coat kettlebells have color coding bands around that conform to the kettlebell sport color convention, which is a nice touch. This praise comes with a caveat – the painting of the color bands is sloppy on one kettlebell and sharp on the other. It’s a minor detail but it speaks to a lack of consistency in quality control.

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - Rogue Fitness Kettlebells Review Sloppy Color Stripe

After receiving two damaged kettlebells in a row I contacted customer service about returning both kettlebells for a refund. To my surprise they refunded my full purchase price plus shipping and let me keep both kettlebells.

This was a classy move, and awesome customer support could be one of the reasons Rogue Fitness is so popular. However, I prefer not having to deal with customer support because it means something has gone wrong. Or is it gone Rogue?

Rating

Kettlebell Reviews Rating - Three Stars

Rogue powder coat kettlebells are a budget option and it shows in the quality control. Customer service is top notch though, so you can at least have confidence they’ll make things right if something goes wrong with your order.  If you have small or medium hands, look elsewhere. If you have large hands and prefer a rough grip, Rogue powder coat kettlebells could be the right option for you.


Christian’s Fitness Factory K2 Powder Coat Kettlebells Review

Christian’s Fitness Factory was founded in 2005 with a mission to make quality fitness equipment available and affordable to everyone. CFF offers a full line of athletic equipment, including kettlebells.

The CFF K2 kettlebell is not fancy. It has no color coding bars or an elaborate logo etched into the body. I keep my K2 on a cart with other kettlebells for use in my office kettlebell club, and it doesn’t stand out in any way. However, there’s a lot going on under the humble exterior.  Much thought has clearly gone into making a kettlebell that can be used by nearly anyone, with or without chalk.

I received a 16kg K2, which was bagged, packed in it’s own form-fitting foam, and double-boxed. This is by far the most well-packed cast-iron kettlebell I’ve seen. The form-fitting foam is an extra level of protection that’s typically only used for shipping more costly competition steel kettlebells.

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - Christians Fitness Factory Kettlebells Review 16kg Kettlebell Unboxing

The finish of the K2 is extremely clean. There are no visible seams or burrs, and the bottom is ground completely flat.  The coating has a slightly rough texture, which works very well for maintaining grip without needing chalk. It’s also one of the most durable powder coatings I’ve seen on a cast-iron kettlebell. I’ve used this kettlebell extensively and even intentionally banged it against other kettlebells to test the durability. I’ve yet to see a chip in the coat.

The handle diameter is documented as 34mm. In real world use, it feels roughly equivalent to other kettlebells in this size range. The combination of finish and textured coating will hold a lot of chalk if I ever need it.

Kettlebell Buyers Guide - Christians Fitness Factor K2 Kettlebells - Different Views

Rating

Kettlebell Reviews Rating - Five Stars

I’m very impressed with the CFF K2 kettlebell. Simple and efficient yet durable and versatile. The overall impression it leaves me with is minimalist but refined. I’ll grant that’s an odd way to describe a kettlebell but that’s how the K2 comes across.  It’s clear to me a lot of thought went into the creation of the K2 and it shows in every aspect of the design and packaging.


Rep Fitness Powder Coat Kettlebells Review

Rep Fitness was started in Colorado in 2012 by two brothers with a passion for fitness. Their stated goal is to provide fitness equipment that meets the quality standards they themselves would look for when purchasing fitness gear.

I received two Rep Fitness kettlebells for testing purposes – a 16kg and a 20kg. The 20kg came packaged in a Rep Fitness-branded box and the 16kg came packaged in a USPS priority mail box. Shane, one of the owners of Rep Fitness, told me the flat rate USPS boxes are cheaper and often delivered faster than UPS ground.  Generally speaking, 16kg and below go USPS, while UPS takes the heavier ones.

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - Rep Fitness Kettlebells Review 16kg Kettlebell Unboxing

The kettlebells came well packed, with plenty of foam inserts and even bubble wrap on the 20kg. The outside of the 20kg box was completely wrapped in shipping plastic, which helps strengthen the integrity of the box. I appreciate that Shane made sure I knew he would replace the kettlebells if they were damaged in any way during shipping.

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - Rep Fitness Kettlebells Review 40kg Kettlebell Unboxing

The first thing that struck me when I unwrapped the Rep Fitness kettlebells was how similar they were to Kettlebell Kings powder coat kettlebells. I set them up side by side to be sure, and apart from the different brand logos they could almost be twins. There are differences, which I’ll get to shortly.

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - Rep Fitness Kettlebells Review 16kg Comparison with Kettlebell Kings

Top row – Rep Fitness 16kg (left) vs Kettlebell Kings 16kg (right). Bottom row – Kettlebell Kings 16kg (left) vs Rep Fitness 16kg (right)

The finish of the Rep Kettlebells is very good. I can’t see or feel any seams or casting defects on the handle or on the body of the kettlebells. The powder coating has a chalk-like texture that is very smooth while still providing a decent amount of grip without the need for chalk.  The handle diameter is on par with other similarly sized kettlebells.

The powder coating is very similar to the Kettlebell Kings powder coat but not exactly the same. It feels a little rougher and looks a bit lighter than the Kettlebell Kings powder coat.  I’ve used the Rep Fitness kettlebells side-by-side with the Kettlebell Kings equivalents and there is a small but noticeable difference in the amount of grip between the two, with the Kettlebell Kings kettlebell providing just a bit more.  However, the grip offered by the Rep Fitness finish and coat is still very good for high repetition work without the use of chalk.

Kettlebell Reviews 2017 - Rep Fitness Kettlebells Review 40kg Kettlebell Front and Back

I wouldn’t ordinarily devote so much time comparing one brand of kettlebell to another, but the Rep Fitness kettlebells are so similar to Kettlebell Kings powder coat kettlebells that they could have been forged in the same factory. Maybe they were for all I know, I have no way of knowing for sure.

Regardless of the similarities, the Rep Fitness kettlebells are good enough to stand on their own, especially considering the lower price point they’re offered at. The price plus the customer service offered make these a definite winner.

Rating

Kettlebell Reviews Rating - Four Stars

Rep Fitness powder coat kettlebells offer an excellent value for the price. They have a great finish and coating that is almost on par with a five star kettlebell without the five star kettlebell price. If you’re looking for a good quality option that won’t bust your budget, consider Rep Fitness kettlebells.


Best cast-iron kettlebells for home use

If you’ve read through the entire review, congratulations! Your attention span is long and strong. If you came directly to this section for the TL;DR version, read on for a summary of the best cast-iron kettlebells for home use.

After testing multiple kettlebell brands I’ve narrowed the list down to the three options that earned a five-star rating during testing:

Kettlebell Kings Powder Coat

Kettlebell Buyers Guide - Kettlebell Kings Powder Coat Kettlebells - Front

Kettlebell Reviews Rating - Five Stars

Kettlebell Kings powder coat kettlebells offer an excellent balance between durability and usability. They have a very smooth finish with a powder coating that feels like chalk has already been applied to it. They’re very easy to use for extended periods without needing chalk.

Metrixx® Elite Precision E-Coat

Kettlebell Buyers Guide - Kettlebells USA Metrixx Elite Precision Cast-Iron Kettlebell - Front

Kettlebell Reviews Rating - Five Stars

The Metrixx® Elite Precision kettlebell is an improvement on a classic design that is very comfortable to work with, especially when using a light amount of chalk. This is the most durable kettlebell you’re likely to find anywhere.

Christian’s Fitness Factory K2

Kettlebell Buyers Guide - Christians Fitness Factor K2 Kettlebells - Front

Kettlebell Reviews Rating - Five Stars

The CFF K2 is a minimalist and versatile kettlebell with a  clean finish and one of the most durable textured powder coatings I’ve seen. The combination of the finish and textured coat result in a handle that can be used without chalk, but will hold a lot of chalk if needed.

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Certified Kettlebell Instruction

There are several organizations that offer certifications in kettlebell training. It’s very likely one or more of these organizations has certified trainers near you.

StrongFirst, The School of Strength – Focus on ‘hard style’ kettlebell work, which emphasizes explosive movement expressed over a short period of time.

RKC, Russian Kettebell Challenge – Focus on ‘hard style’ kettlebell work, which emphasizes explosive movement expressed over a short period of time.

IKFF, International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation – Focus on kettlebell sport, which emphasises efficient movement over a long duration of time.


Kettlebell Workouts

If you want a super simple beginner program to start with, check out Simple and Sinister by Pavel Tsatsouline. The main programming literally involves only two exercises with enough progression built in to keep you busy for a good long while.

For more variety in your workouts, check out Kettlebell Movement.  They have some free resources to get you started, but the meat and potatoes is in the online Kettlebell Gym. I recently reviewed the online gym and I liked it so much I signed up for a year-long membership.

Kettlebell Kings also maintains a page dedicated to workouts and a mailing list specifically for new workouts.


Standard Kettlebell Color Coding

This is the standard color scheme used for kettlebell sport, and followed by some of the vendors of classic style kettlebells as well.

  • 8 kg / 17.6 lbs – Pink
  • 12 kg / 26.4 lbs – Blue
  • 16 kg / 35.2 lbs – Yellow
  • 20 kg / 44.0 lbs – Purple
  • 24 kg / 52.8 lbs – Green
  • 28 kg / 61.6 lbs – Orange
  • 32 kg / 70.4 lbs – Red
  • 36 kg / 79.2 lbs – Grey
  • 40 kg / 88.0 lbs – White
  • 44 kg / 96.8 lbs – Silver
  • 48 kg / 105.6 lbs – Black

How Kettlebells are Made

An interesting and amusing video showing how kettlebells are made. The guy narrating the video, Pavel Tstatsouline, was affiliated with Dragon Door when the video was filmed so the process likely shows how Dragon Door kettlebells are made.

“When we say kettlebell…we mean strength. When we say strength…we mean…kettlebell.”


Explanations of Coatings

Links to descriptions of the various types of coats offered on the kettlebells that were reviewed.

Powder coat

E-coat

Epoxy coat

Enamel coat

E-coat vs Powder coat

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