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Vulcan Absolute Training Kettlebell Review Title

Vulcan Absolute Training Kettlebell Review

 

I recently had an opportunity to get my hands on a Vulcan Absolute Training kettlebell from Vulcan Strength Training Systems and I jumped at the chance to do a review. This line of kettlebells occupy a unique niche in the crowded kettlebell market – sized for kettlebell sport but intended for the non-sport market. As such, they offer a competition-sized package without the competition-sized price. Are they worth considering as an addition to your home workout arsenal? Read on to find out!

Unboxing

I received one 12kg Absolute Training kettlebell via Fedex and promptly tore into the box. The kettlebell was well packed and arrived undamaged.

Vulcan Absolute Training Kettlebell unboxing

I picked up the bell after it was unwrapped to get a closer look and was surprised to see some kind of black residue on my fingers and palms. I don’t know exactly what it was, my guess is that it was some remnant of the coating process. Whatever it was, it wiped off easily. I used a wet paper towel to wipe down the kettlebell and I had no further problems with black dust.

Vulcan Absolute Training Kettlebell dirty

Impressions

My first impression of the Absolute Training kettlebell was that it was HUGE. It looks like a big black balloon with a handle on top. Prior to receiving this bell I had only worked with traditional cast-iron kettlebells, so I was unprepared for how big a competition-size kettlebell actually is.

Another impression worth noting was that the kettlebell somehow felt lighter than a cast-iron bell of equivalent weight, so much so that I took the time to weigh it against one of my 12kg Kettlebell Kings powder coat kettlebells using a luggage scale. Sure enough, the weights matched. My guess is the difference in weight distribution between the two bells results in a different center of gravity in each, which affects my perception of how heavy they actually are. Not terribly important, just something to be aware of when you pick one up for the first time.

*Update – Cyrus from Vulcan Strength Systems read this review and had the following to say about the sensation of lightness I noted above:

The light feeling you describe is often mentioned by our customers. It’s a positive attribute of a balanced design as well as the hollow body and solid steel handle. Most kettlebells have all of their mass at the bottom which creates an extreme offset center of gravity. The design of the training kettlebells was based on kettlebell lifting. With better weight distribution and balance the lifter should be able to achieve more repetitions using our kettlebells.

Test plan

I worked out with the Absolute Training kettlebell 3-4 days a week for a month, and to keep the evaluation simple I stuck to the following two complexes mixed in with other workouts I’m currently doing:

  • 5x5x6 one hand complex – 5 rounds of 5 reps of each of the following 6 exercises, performed once on each side for a total of ten sets:
    • 5 – One hand swing
    • 5 – Snatch
    • 5 – Clean + overhead press
    • 5 – Windmill
    • 5 – Overhead squat
  • Turkish get-down complex – 10 reps of the following sequence, alternating arms each time
    • Clean + press
    • Turkish get down (also called reverse get up)
    • Swing to switch hands and repeat with other arm

I evaluate kettlebells based on usability, durability, and price. I did a monster kettlebell review earlier this summer and in that article I went into a lot of detail on each of these criteria (Update – I’ve moved the criteria out of the review and into a separate kettlebell buyers guide). I won’t repeat all that information here, I’ll just briefly summarize each point in turn.

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.

The finish on the Absolute Training kettlebell is one of the best I’ve seen, and I’ve seen quite a few. There are no surface imperfections visible to the eye and the handle is very smooth to the touch, all the way around. I suppose this is to be expected – these kettlebells are made of steel rather than cast-iron, which automatically bumps up the quality several notches. The powder coat has the kind of chalky texture I like, providing just the right amount of grip without generating much friction. This type of coating allows for high-rep snatch and swing sessions without the need for chalk.

Vulcan Absolute Training Kettlebell finish

Another interesting feature worth mentioning is the size of the handle window. The design of the handle differs in a couple of ways from the handle on a typical competition-style kettlebell. The Vulcan Absolute Competition kettlebell product page has this to say about the design:

The design of the Vulcan Absolute Kettlebell allows the handle of the kettlebell to sit further down on the lifters forearm, bringing the majority of the weight proximal to the lifters body. All other designs of competition kettlebell handles fit higher up on the lifters wrist displacing the majority of the weight to a more distal position away from the lifters body. 

The handle design is unique enough to have been patented, but I have no experience with kettlebell sport so I’m not able to evaluate whether or not the change is a useful innovation. However, I will say that the extra width provided in the handle window is extremely beneficial for two-hand swings – both of my hands fit in easily without pinched pinkies, which is a big step up from any of the cast-iron kettlebells I currently own.

I will also say that training with a competition-style bell took some getting used to. The larger size meant I had to adjust how I held the bell in the rack position, and my snatch technique needed some refinement as well to accommodate the different center of gravity. However, it didn’t take very long to get used to at all, and once I did the bell was very comfortable to work with for extended periods.

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.

Just like traditional cast-iron kettlebells, steel competition kettlebells come in varying degrees of quality. Since competition kettlebells are all made to be the same size, some manufacturers use cheap filler materials to add weight for their heavier kettlebell offerings.

Vulcan does not rely on fillers – the Absolute Training kettlebell is made entirely of one piece of steel, and it feels like a high quality tool that will last many years to come.

The coating is also a winner, I couldn’t get the coat to chip despite several attempts to damage it by intentionally banging it against other kettlebells.  Obviously no coating is going to stand up to metal-on-metal abuse forever, but this is one of the best powder coat finishes I’ve seen on a kettlebell. Two thumbs up!

Vulcan Absolute Training Kettlebell ding

Dinged, but not chipped

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.

Competition kettlebells tend to be made of steel, and the measured weight must be within 100-500 grams of the listed weight in order to qualify for use in kettlebell sport events (exact tolerance is dependent on the sport event governing body). The steel composition and tight weight tolerance add significantly to manufacturing costs, which is reflected in the price tag. This is one reason why people like myself who don’t train for kettlebell sport tend to gravitate toward cast-iron kettlebells rather than pricier competition kettlebells.

The Absolute Training kettlebells are Vulcan’s answer to the flood of cheap cast-iron kettlebells on the market. This line of bells is for those who aren’t necessarily interested in competing but want the benefit of a consistent size between different weights. Since this line of kettlebells is not intended for kettlebell sport, they don’t have to conform to strict weight tolerances and can therefore be offered at a lower price.

On average, the Vulcan Absolute Training kettlebells can be bought for $20-$40 less than a similarly sized competition-style kettlebell, depending on the weight.

Pros

The biggest pro of the Absolute Training line of kettlebells is the consistency of sizing as the weight increases. This consistency allows a lifter to stay focused on strength gains with each increase in weight rather than having to adjust technique to accommodate different bell sizes, as is typical with cast-iron kettlebells.

The increased width of the handle window is also really nice. It’s refreshing to be able to perform two-hand swings with a full grip rather than attempting to squeeze my pinkies into a smaller window.

Vulcan Absolute Training Kettlebell size comparison

Vulcan vs 12kg cast-iron and 12kg competition-steel

Cons

The biggest con I noted with this line of kettlebells is the absence of any kind of color coding that helps differentiate weights. All of the Absolute Training kettlebells look exactly alike, which means you can’t discern the weight a particular bell without close examination. A small color band on one or both of the handles would be helpful, as long as it could be done without significantly increasing the price.

Another con relates to storage – the larger size means the kettlebell takes up more storage space, which could be problematic for those of us who have limited space at home for storing fitness equipment. However, as can be seen from the size comparison above this applies to competition-style kettlebells in general and not specific to Vulcan.

Vulcan Absolute Training Kettlebell storage

Mixing steel and cast-iron kettlebells? Are you out of your Vulcan mind??

Bottom line

The Vulcan Absolute Training line of kettlebells are high quality tools that definitely deserve a place in your home fitness arsenal, provided you have the storage space available to accommodate competition-sized kettlebells. If you do happen to have the space, you can reap the benefit of training with kettlebells of a consistent size at a significantly  lower cost than pure kettlebell sport kettlebells.

If you have any questions about the Vulcan Absolute Training kettlebell, sound off in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

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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