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What Kettlebell Weight Is Right for Me?

I always like to know what I’m dealing with before I start swinging

The kettlebell is not to be underestimated, and those who insist that a small handle-borne metal object with a weight below 50 pounds is incapable of phasing them because they’re capable of benching, squatting and deadlifting hundreds of pounds at a time are among those most at risk of waking up in muscular agony the morning after their introduction to those miniature muscle manglers.

The primary benefits of kettlebells are implanted in their practicality and ergonomic structures. The handled carrying mechanism is more representative of the manner in which weights are carried about in everyday settings, making the applicability of kettlebell training more inherently beneficial than barbell or dumbbell training on a pound-for-pound basis. It also makes the maneuvering of the kettlebell about your body far more functional relative to how you might manipulate a dumbbell. Also, because the bulk of a kettlebell’s weight it placed well away from the small handle — at least in comparison to the arrangement of a dumbbell — it enables a kettlebell to be passed between the legs, behind the back and moved in a variety of other patterns that are comparatively impossible to replicate with a dumbbell.

How heavy is the kettlebell I should be training with?

There are a couple different schools of thought with respect to kettlebell weight and which weight you should select for use in training. If you’re of an old-school disposition, you might believe that a kettlebell should only ever weigh 35 to 36 pounds, as that’s the accepted weight of a kettlebell according to Russian tradition, in which a kettlebell weighs one pood, or 36.1132 pounds. Either way, you should definitely consider the type of exercises you intend to use the kettlebell for. To that end, many people separate kettlebell movements into two different categories: ballistic and grind.

Ballistic exercises are movements that are explosive in nature. Everyone’s favorite foundational exercise — the kettlebell swing — is a ballistic movement because the explosive snap of the hips creates the momentum that drives the kettlebell forward and upward. Because you’re powering the kettlebell into the movement and permitting its momentum to naturally die off, there’s less of a requirement for constant muscle firing and control. Therefore, you can move far heavier weights during ballistic exercises relative to what you can move during grinding exercises. You can also fling heavy weights much further than you ever imagined this way if your concentration is broken for even a second.

In terms of grinding exercises like Turkish get-ups and bent presses, they require unbroken concentration throughout the entire duration of each repetition, and the constant firing of muscles in very unique patterns. Because of this irregularity to the nature of many kettlebell lifts, it’s advisable to begin with relatively light weights and work your way up to the pinnacle of your control.

All in all, unless you’re gifted with strength far beyond what I can fathom, your mastery of a weight in a ballistic setting will always exceed your ability to manage it during a regimen of grind training. 

You’re stalling. What weight should I buy?

There are some folks who will provide you with a weight range for kettlebell selection based on your experience level and strength level. That range can extend anywhere from 8 pounds all the way up to 50 pounds and beyond. The thing is, kettlebells are bloody expensive. If you ordered six from TRX filling in all of the weights between 8 pounds and 45 pounds, you can easily drop north of $400 on those individual kettlebells, several of which you’ll probably never use more than once.

If you want to eliminate most of the guesswork from the equation and save yourself a handsome sum of cash in the process, you should invest in an adjustable kettlebell. My personal favorite is the Bowflex SelectTech 840 Kettlebell, which can be moved through six different weights, from 8 pounds to 40 pounds. Obviously, the adaptable mechanisms have sophisticated construction, which will probably erase any predilection you may have had to haphazardly hurl your kettlebell at the earth in the fashion advocated by Pavel Tsatsouline during his park training procedures. 

Then again, the majority of kettlebell lifts reward precision and necessitate deliberate movement, so there’s no overwhelming need to jerk your kettlebell around violently, regardless of its weight.

You always pick adjustable weights!

I like to cover all of my bases and save money. Sue me.

Please remember, kettlebell exercises have a way of making very strong people feel extraordinarily weak, because the muscle control required to execute many of the movements properly necessitates slow movement as opposed to speed. In some cases, there will be no way of speeding through a movement without running the risk of dropping dozens of pounds of weight on top of your skull. If nothing else, you’ll develop a whole new respect for weight and the need to control it while maneuvering a kettlebell. After all, you don’t want to end up looking like this: