Like any item, there are high quality and low quality kettlebells. We work hard to make all of our kettlebells really high quality. The reason we choose to focus on high quality equipment is because we know that the quality of a kettlebell can actually affect not only an individual workout, but your overall fitness goals. If you do not have a piece of equipment you trust or enjoy working with If it will affect your ability to workout correctly and you will end up not using it over time or will simply be unable to because of the physical deterioration of you or the bell.
WHAT SHOULD YOU LOOK FOR IN TRADITIONAL KETTLEBELLS?
SINGLE PIECE CASTING
Kettlebells can be made in multiple ways. Some kettlebells have the handles welded on and some kettlebells are made from a single mold of metal. A single piece of metal is much stronger than one that is welded together. If the handle is welded onto the kettlebell than it can much more easily break if it is dropped. If the kettlebell drops, not only are you out of the money you spent on the kettlebell but you also risk injury from pieces of heavy metal landing on you. Make sure that you check descriptions on kettlebells for them to say 'Single Cast' or 'Single Piece Casting', you might also consider looking at the images very closely to see if you can tell welding around the base of the handles where the handle meets the ball of weight.
As mentioned above, kettlebell can actually break depending on the construction. It is very important to look for kettlebells with lifetime warranties in case anything ever happens to the bell you can get it replaced. This should be mentioned in the kettlebell description on any website.
There are hundreds of different kettlebells out there and most of them have different types of paint depending on the brand. The ideal kettlebell paint is durable so that it does not chip easily. If the paint chips easily then it can tear up your hands or make the kettlebell slip out of your hands during workouts. Additionally, you want a paint with some texture or something that is 'grippy' if you are doing non-competitive kettlebell lifting. If you are lifting competitively you want to look for a bell that holds chalk really well. One of the best ways to determine how the paint holds up is to look through reviews on a website, this is usually one of the most important things to lifters so verbiage about how previous customers have experienced the paint should be evident in reviews. The most durable kettlebell paints are powder coat paints that are epoxy based. These prevent easily chipping, rusting and scratching.
Most kettlebells have a brand name and/or weight on the front of the kettlebell so you can identify which weight or bell you are working with. The more durable kettlebells will have the logo and/or weight engraved in the mold of the kettlebell. If they do not, then it is inserted with a plastic insert which is glued into the mold of the kettlebell. This is fairly common in some well known brands, but if it is inserted you risk the insert coming out and then the service of the bell being uneven which will be very uncomfortable on your arms when you do any movement that involves contact with the body of the bell.
SEAMLESS AND BURR FREE CASTING
One of the biggest differences in kettlebell quality is the smoothness of the casting. All kettlebells come out of their molds with imperfections in the metal. A seam is on the underside of the handle and it keeps the handle from being smooth and cylindrical in your hand, if a bell has a seam there is more of a point or lump on the underside of the handle which is extremely uncomfortable and painful during workouts. This can be hard to tell looking at product images at the web, but if you have ever picked one up at the gym with a seam you can tell the difference. The best thing to do is read the reviews of the product and look at general kettlebell review sites on the web to see feedback on brands. A burr is another imperfection in the metal. Default to reviews as well for these but these you should be able to tell more if a website has detailed product images you can zoom in on and look at imperfections in the cast. The ideal bell should have a perfectly smooth body which is not to be confused with a smooth paint. A good textured or grippy paint on a smooth cast is ideal.
WHAT SHOULD YOU LOOK FOR IN COMPETITION KETTLEBELLS?
Competition kettlebells are all the same size and dimensions regardless of weight. This creates a uniform feelings and training experience as you move between different weights.
Generally speaking, everything mentioned above is important for competition kettlebells as well with a few exceptions. It is important that the bells have a Lifetime Warranty, single piece cast, engraved logos as well as seamless and burr free casting for all the same reasons mentioned. Paint is less important on competition kettlebells because the handle should always be bare steel in order to hold chalk and not be as tough on the hands. Competition kettlebells are designed for high repetition workouts getting into the high tens and hundreds of reps and a bare steel handle is easier on the handles during tons of reps. In competitive kettlebell lifting the bells bang together a lot so there is not a focus on the durability of the paint.
FILLERS VERSUS NO FILLERS
There are two ways to make competiton kettlebells. Most competition style kettlebells in the United States including our Steel Standard Kettlebells are a steel shell and then have fillers tightly packed to achieve the desired weight while maintaining the same size and dimensions regardless of weight. This helps keep the manufacturing costs down and those savings can be passed on to the buyer. The cost is able to be kept down because it is the same amount of steel in every bell and more fillers to gain the weight. In these types of bells, the weight is distributed throughout the entire bell.
The other way to manufacture competition kettlebells is cast as a solid piece of steel. This is how our Competition Kettlebells are made. In order to maintain the same size and dimension regardless of the weight, the steel is poured into the handle and the top of the bell. This creates a unique feeling of balance as most of the weight is in the top of the bell so it can sit in the rack and overhead position more comfortably. You do not have the feeling of the weight pulling you down like you do in bells with weight throughout the bell. You can identify this make of a kettlebell because they should have an opening in the bottom so you can actually see inside and see the steel.
We have published before to help you determine which type of kettlebell would work best for you. You can read about that here as well as our Kettlebell Kings Community page which covers an number of frequently asked kettlebell questions like 'Which Weight Should I Train With?" and various workout programs you can use depending on your goals. If you are considering competitive kettlebell lifting you definitely need a competition style kettlebell but they are also great for high rep workouts involving snatches, jerks and clean and jerks.