I’ve always thought highly of Kettlebell Kings products but rarely 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.
Kettlebell Kings Competition Kettlebells
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
I’ve started to document our kettlebell club workouts on a separate page, check them out if you’d like to know more or if you’re looking for some short and sweet workouts you can do at home.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Starting in November 2017, Kettlebell Kings will be offering cerakote coating options on all their kettlebells!
If you’re unfamiliar with cerakote, it’s an extremely durable thin-film ceramic coating developed primarily for use as a protective finish for firearms. Cerakote is extremely resistant to abrasion, corrosion and chemicals, and looks pretty cool at the same time.
In recent years a few fitness equipment companies have started offering cerakote as a coating option for barbells. Kettlebell Kings is taking the next step by offering cerakote coatings on their kettlebells. The cerakote coating will cost a little extra, but the added durability means that kettlebell will last practically forever.
Additionally, the cerakote option allows for a nearly infinite amount of customization and personalization.
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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.
In comparison, the price of two equivalent weight cast-iron Kettlebell Kings powder coat kettlebells is $172.98
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.
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.
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.
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 want to protect your kettlebell for the long term, consider going with a cerakote coating option. At the time of this review, Kettlebell Kings is the only vendor offering a cerakote coating option for kettlebells. However, this is a great idea and I don’t think it will be long before others follow.
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.
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.
Kettlebell Kings Competition Kettlebells
I'm a software product manager 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 options for home fitness. If you'd like to build your own home gym, start here.