Choosing the right kettlebell weight can make for a frustrating decision. After all, buying an entire set like you’d find at your local gym can quickly get expensive. Even the least expensive brands charge up to $2 per pound for their durable steel and cast iron kettlebells.
Fear not, we’re here to help! 😀
We’ve included all the necessary information on this page to help you make the right decision.
Note: If you’re looking for tips on what brands to choose. Or, to learn more about the differences between generics versus name brand kettlebells, read this first. It’s a quick read, and you’ll learn what quality features to look for in the kettlebells you purchase.
Decide First What Exercises You’ll do Most
There are 2 basic categories used to describe the different types of kettlebell exercises people do:
Grinding movements include many exercises that tax your endurance and put your joints in positions that are more dangerous. Heavy weights aren’t recommended. Examples include: Turkish Getups, Windmills, Lunges, Front and Lateral Raises, Oblique Twists and many others.
Ballistic movements allow for more weight. The range of motion is more controlled and the movements more explosive. Ballistic movements use a number of large muscle groups at once to complete. Examples include: Deadlifts, Goblet Squats, Snatches, Clean & Jerk, Overhead Presses, Swings (Russian or American), and much more.
Kettlebell Size Recommendations for Men
Without being terribly sexist, let’s be honest in stating that men often over-estimate their physical limits. It’s ingrained in their genetics to let ego play a part in every decision they make. Thus, most men tend to buy kettlebells that are way too big for the intended purpose.
First, be honest with yourself about your own strength, fitness, and other limitations.
Then use these recommendations as general decision-making guidelines:
The general rule of thumb when starting out with grinds is that you should be able to lift the kettlebell overhead about 8 times.
- Out of Shape: For grinding movements like Turkish Getups, out of shape men or those of advanced age should select an 18-pound kettlebell for most grinding movements. If in doubt, choose the 13-pound variety instead.
- Active: If you’re active and/or already lift weights in your home gym, or by doing physical labor at your job, start with 18 – 26 pound kettlebells for grinding exercises.
- Strong & Athletic: Stronger men who do a lot of heavy lifting will likely prefer to have both a 26 and 44-pound kettlebell to choose from when doing grinds.
- Out of Shape: For ballistic movements like swings and deadlifts, out of shape men can generally handle a 35 – 44 pound kettlebell comfortably. In fact, it’s wise to choose both weights to account for strength differences between various exercises.
- Active and Athletic: If you’re active or considered the strong and athletic type, choose a weight starting anywhere from 35 – 62 pounds. For movements like kettlebell swings, an active male can easily handle 44 pounds or more. For deadlifts and snatches, you might find that weight too low and choose a 62 – 88 pound kettlebell instead.
Kettlebell Size Recommendations for Women
Women tend to do the exact opposite from men when choosing an appropriate kettlebell weight. Instead of going too big, they tend to underestimate their strength – particularly when it comes to ballistic movements.
As with the men, choose a weight you can lift overhead at least 8 times as a general rule of thumb.
- Out of Shape: Out of shape women should stick with either a 9 or 13-pound kettlebell for grinding movements like Kettlebell Twists, Turkish Getups and Lunges.
- Active: A good range for active women to start out with here is 13 – 18 pound
- Strong Athletic Women: Stronger women will tend to find that 18 – 26 pound kettlebells are just perfect for doing grinding movements. However, for certain exercises like Windmills, having a 9-pound weight around might be a good idea too.
- Out of Shape: Most out of shape women will still want to use a lighter weight when starting out with ballistic movements. Choose a 13 – 18 pound kettlebell for these movements to avoid injury.
- Active and Athletic: Choose a kettlebell weight based on your current strength level for ballistic movements like Deadlifts and Swings. Generally, a range of 18 – 35 pounds is recommended to start with. Choose a weight on the lighter side, as well as one on the heavier side to accommodate for strength differences between various movements.
Final Thoughts about Choosing a Kettlebell Weight
When in doubt, go a size down from what your gut is telling you. Most kettlebell enthusiasts will want to upgrade and purchase a wider selection in the future anyhow. With that in mind, don’t go out and buy the heaviest weights, or an entire collection before you’ve had a chance to practice a variety of movements first.
Adjustable kettlebells are also a great idea for beginners or advanced users if you just can’t decide on one or two individual kettlebells to start your collection with. While they are a more expensive initial investment, they’re actually far cheaper and more versatile than the standalone variety. For more tips on what to buy, you can read our Ultimate Kettlebell Buying Guide.