Choice. So many kettlebell types, so hard to choose. I’ve given you some idea of what weights to get when you are setting off for the first time along Kettlebell Road. But if you were looking online or on eBay for your first bell you’d see a bewildering choice of shapes, styles and colours, with huge differences in price.
Since The Market and The Industry realised they could make money out of kettlebells, all sorts of designs have been created, when traditionally there was but one: a round, cast iron blob with a rounded handle. [See photo above, on the left.] In my opinion, this original design is just fine. Relatively recently the ‘competition’ bell [above right], with a narrower, straighter handle shape, was introduced. This is primarily for one-handed work: snatching and pressing, as you would do in competition, and two-handed swings, the bread-and-butter kettlebell exercise are uncomfortable. Not impossible, but more unpleasant, after a few dozen swings, than they ought to be. The rounded handle allows a two-handed grip and is fine for one-handed work too.
Referring to the above photo again, you’ll see that the rounded-handle bell has a completely round profile facing you, while the competition bell has a flattened area in which the weight (24kg in this instance) is marked. Both these bells are perfectly round on the side opposite the weight mark, but not all bells are – they are flattened on both sides, and the flat area has a ridge or corner around it. For the beginner, I’d say avoid these, because you’ll get a corner crashing onto your forearm every time you practise a clean or a snatch. If you can see an image with a nice round surface facing you then that’s good.
So far, I’m recommending a traditional round bell with a rounded handle. A kettlebell is made by pouring molten iron into a mould. There are bells, though, that are made by welding a handle onto the round part. Much cheaper to produce and potentially not safe. I’ve never come across one of these, but I’d avoid them like the Brexit. Some handles are painted, like the rest of the bell, some are left unpainted and smooth, some are chromed. I like them all. It’s a question of taste and practice. You might develop a preference for one or the other over time.
Ebay isn’t a bad place to look. Lots of people get a kettlebell with the best intentions and end up using it as a doorstop. I have got some good ones from there. A UK retailer that I really like is Wolverson. Nice, well-made bells, very good range, excellent service. They have no idea who I am, and this recommendation is entirely unsolicited.
Prices vary. I paid £100 for a 20kg bell in 1999 or 2000, can’t remember. There were hardly any bells on the market then and I even got a discount because the seller/importer was a friend. It’s still my best 20kg bell, in use most days and wih no dust gathered on it. My point is that it doesn’t matter a whole lot what you spend on a kettlebell – these days you might get a good 20kg bell for £40 or £50, but it won’t be long before that 20kg of mine has cost me £5 a year, so even an expensive one works out cheap if you stick with it. And compared to gym membership, it’s very cheap!