A Guide to Your First Kettlebell. What Weight? What Style?

by Marianne  - February 11, 2012

(Updated March 2018)

Hi everyone,

As part of my FAQ section, I want to help you choose the best weight to start your Kettlebell Training with.

Depending on the source you go, to there will be differing opinions on this, so I am recommending these weights based on how I see many beginners cope and with consideration to the type of training I do here.

Absolute Beginners (people who have never lifted a Kettlebell before).

This is the most vulnerable group, as these individuals need as much focus to be on good form for the exercise, rather than being distracted by the struggle to hold a heavy weight too.

One thing I can’t stand is feeling pressure to be strong already!  I think some beginners put a lot of stress on themselves to be great, especially those who already train. Strength with Kettlebells takes time to build, and this cannot happen without first understanding what the heck you are doing.  Making sure you can perform the exercise effectively before increasing the weight is SO important, which is why I am playing it safe with my recommendations.

Generally, women tend to play it safe (too safe) when it comes to selecting weights for themselves, were as men over-estimate their strength and ability to endure an exercise.  So I have taken this into account in my advice.

The one main lesson I have learned with KB training is you must leave your pride at the door!! When I trained with Steve Cotter in Dublin, he told ME to use an 8kg for the 1 handed swing!  I chuckled to myself  “pah, doesn’t he know that I can lift, like, 20kg already” … After 30 seconds swinging that 8kg, I was wishing for a 6kg!!  So there is no shame in playing it safe. When we become arrogant and proud is when we stand to get hurt the most (which doesn’t just apply to Kettlebells).

Women:

I highly recommend women start with 6kg or 8kg for most exercises, with a view to quickly increase to 10kg or 12kg. Consider 6kg and 8kg more suitable for upper body exercises and 10kg and 12kg more suitable for lower body exercises.  If you are planning to buy two Kettlebells to use from home, then I recommend women buy an 8kg and a 12kg, as these will give you more value for your money.   You will likely use the lighter KB for most exercises during the first few weeks, but you should aim to increase your ability and strength to allow for a heavier KB (even just for the lower body exercises and swings). Once you get the hang of the exercises, your confidence will improve and you will feel happier about using that heavy KB.  I remember thinking I would never use a 16kg, and only used it for the swings. Now I consider 16kg “light” for the swings and use 24kg! So there is no reason to be afraid of weight progression, provided your form is good.

Many women often struggle with strength, stability, power and confidence, so these things will be overcome quickly with KB training, provided the correct progressions are made.  Always remember that I am here to answer your questions and support your training 🙂

One thing I have noticed with women beginners is that they get comfortable with a weight and tend to stick with it long term! This will do you no good in the long run. You must aim to progress your training if you are to continue to see results. Please try and orientate your mindset toward seeing your strength WINS, rather than how far you still think you have to go. Remember, there is no destination, but the journey is pretty awesome if you’re prepared to see it.

Don’t be afraid to increase the weight once you can perform 12 “easy” reps of an exercise, or 30 “easy” seconds of a swing. You all know what I mean by “easy” – when you know deep inside, you have more to give, but you choose to coast through instead because you have had a shitty day or you want to live in a bubble where that is enough etc etc etc. NO MORE EXCUSES … Training should be CHALLENGING, so don’t sell yourself short. You have the ability to be better than even you expect. So never get complacent.

Also, remember:  Using a heavier Kettlebell for these workouts will never make you bulky. I can attest to that personally because I have trained with KBs, in this fashion, for over 2 years now and the only part of me that has become “bigger” is my booty! 😉 Remember that I also do considerable Barbell training too and I am nowhere near bulky! The high intensity and explosive nature of KB training make it very difficult for you to gain much muscle; instead will get a lot stronger and very well conditioned. Which translates  as “tighter” and “leaner” (provided your diet supports your training goals).


Men:

I recommend men start at 10kg – 16kg.  This may seem “too safe”, but I have seen many men struggle to complete my workouts with weights they normally find easy.  Also bear in mind that KB training is unlike any other, as it requires strength, power, mobility, stability, cardiovascular fitness and good endurance.  Very few of us can master all these things in one session; so again, progression is key.  Many men lack mobility, flexibility and endurance – so a lighter weight will allow them to focus on these things which are vital to KB exercises.

Men tend to try and progress the weight too rapidly and they end up not mastering good technique.  Aches and pains will happen, but you do not want to impair your ability to progress just because you wanted to lift the heavier KB.

Basically, I am trying to say, don’t worry about being the strongest now. That will come.  Focus on being good at moving well, then build strength on that.

If I offend anyone with my generalisations about men and women, I am sorry. It just happens that the genders do behave differently around weights, and even more so when there are spectators present.  It’s not ALWAYS true, but I see this trend over and over 🙂

What if you’ve been training with weights for a while?

It will come down to how good you are in reality. Many people assume that because they can lift Xkg with a Barbell or Dumbbell, that they can go right to the equivalent with a KB. In reality, though, this is rarely the case. I’d recommend testing your SKILL (not your strength) by choosing one of the lower weights first. Women: 8kg-12kg Men: 12kg-16kg.

Then set about mastering some of the fundamental/foundation KB exercises:

  • KB Deadlift
  • Two-handed Swing
  • Single Arm Swing
  • Clean (master the rack hold)
  • Overhead Pressing and Carry
  • Snatch
  • And others

What weight should you aim for?

The sky’s the limit!  However, women should realistically be using 16kg regularly as an intermediate and moving on to 20kg and 24kg as they advance (depending on the exercise).  For my workouts, 16kg and 20kg are realistic goals for this type of conditioning.  Men should be aiming for 18kg or 20kg as an intermediate and 24kg + as they advance.  Again it depends on the training style you adopt, but for my workouts 24kg is realistic.  It’s all to do with the duration and intensity you want to achieve.  Also consider what you are using my workouts for and what other training you are doing.

What type of Kettlebell should you buy?

There are two main styles of KB and I recommend you chose between these two:

  1. The Standard Russian Kettlebell:  Made of Cast Iron. As the weight increases, so does the size of the Kettlebell.  The advantage of these is that the Bell is fairly compact and can be easily racked by smaller individuals and will not be as likely to get in the way of females’ breasts.  They are also better for racking double KBs, but the handle is often thicker.
  2. The Competition/Pro Grade Kettlebell (usually more expensive): Made of Hollow Steel, they are all the same size no matter the weight. The inside is simply filled to make up the weight. The advantage of this is that your technique never alters to accommodate a different weight through progression.    Personally I love my Pro-Grades, as they have a very stable base for doing push ups, renegade rows etc, plus the handles are thinner and smoother than most Standard KB, making grip less of an issue. (However I know there are now Standard KBs with thinner handles on sale in places).

What to look for:

  • I recommend sourcing good quality Kettlebells with smooth (single cast are best), rounded handles. If it has a very angular handle, forget it!
  • Always try before you buy or at least be sure of the dimensions, so when you rack the KB, for example, it doesn’t rest on your wrist! Look for companies that have a good returns policy.
  • The handle should be long enough to allow you to hold it with both hands side by side.
  • A flat stable base.
  • Good quality paint that won’t easily chip, crack or rust – check for reviews from other buyers.

Where do I get my Kettlebells?

I bought all my original Kettlebells from Wolverton Fitness, UK. Currently, they only ship within the EU, but the ones I got are great quality and they are competitively priced.

Since moving to the USA, I have discovered the BEST Kettlebells and best company for these Kettlebells (either competition or standard style) are at Kettlebells Kings. Why? They are great quality (and price), they offer free shipping AND FREE RETURNS!

I have bought Kbs from Rogue in the past, but I am not a fan of the handles as they are very thick and rough. I prefer smoother and thinner, more standardised design. Kettlebell Kings have everything you’ll ever need. This is where I will be getting all my Kbs from in the future 🙂

Hopefully this will provide you with a good idea of what you need to get you started. If there is something you feel I have not covered, then just ask below.

Cheers

Marianne

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  1. Thanks for the article. just discovered kettlebells can be so cool.

    i see lot of 1kg /2kg /4kg kettlebells on sale at various places. what are they useful for?

    1. Paperweights? Not much else. I could maybe make an argument for 2kg or 4kg Dumbbells, but that’s for rehab! Most healthy adults can lift 4kg+. KB training usually starts with 8kg for women.

  2. Oh my soul. Thank you from South Africa for this article – now to find them here…. This is going to be fun.

      1. Thank you, Marianne.

        I am now up to 16kg on snatches and getups for 10-20 reps, hopefully progressing soon to 24kg for swings. I have followed your form guidance and workouts to good results. (PS: I am male, weigh 60kg at 1.80m, so a thin frame.)

        I may try the other style of kettlebell for my next set. They seem easier on the wrist for snatches.

        Thank you.

    1. I think they look reasonable, but the handle might get really slippy? Not sure. Anyway there’s a lot worse out there and at least the handle is smooth. Check their returns policy before getting it. Then try it out when you get it and test it for comfort 🙂

    2. Hi there! There are so many posts about the purchase of kettlebells!! Here I am adding mine, but I cant wait to go back and read about what everyone else found! I browsed and even saw someone who found free shipping. Well, here is what i found: I bought online at muscledriverusa, and I am really happy with them. I bought 2 competion style kettlebells – 1 12k for $55.99, and a 16k for $66.99. Their competition kb’s are called, “V2 Pro Series Competition Kettlebells”. Then I bought an 8kg from their V3 Gray Series of kb’s for $29.99 not competition style – but because it is lighter, i thought I could get away with saving a little money and buying this type – only now I am not so sure – but i will get to that in a moment. Anyway the shipping price and fast delivery were great – the first purchase at $24.46 abd the 2nd at $13.29. The shipping was 1/2 the price of perform better. Both shipments arrived in 2-3 days. My only diemma now, being new to kb training, is the 8kg. t doesn’t seem to fall righ. I am thinking to trade it in for another comp kb, but not sure yet. Any thoughts on this? Thanks! Tara

      1. Good question 🙂 I think you’re fine to keep the one you have. It really won’t make any difference to you progress. It might even be a good thing to get used to performing the moves with that different feel to it. That way you get even more skillful and never blame the tools 😀

  3. Hi Marianne,

    Do you have a preference between the painted and unpainted kettle bells? I noticed you have both types. I’ve heard people talk about the paint chipping on the fully shellacked ones but yours seem to be in good shape! Any advantages or disadvantages?

    Love your site!

    1. Melisssa, I would say the unpainted are best. Or at least that the handle is unpainted, because it’s a pain when they chip! And who can be bothered sanding all that paint off – not me! It’s annoying because my 14kg KBs are painted, but they weren’t meant to be when I ordered them. A smooth metal handle is best.

    1. Thanks for the reply.

      If you had to pick only brand who would you go for? i have some birthday cash to spend and my eye on a wolverson set but if there is something better/ cheaper then my ears are open.. I live in the UK btw

  4. Hey Marianne!

    I am currently in training to become a PT (see my BodyworkX FB page) and the more you learn, the more you want to know (next step: kettlebells). Now I finished two of the four courses I gave myself my first kettlebell as a present 🙂 Sooo excited. Ordered it today and can’t wait to receive it. I have often watched your site and I will defenitely use to for my kettlebell trainings 😀 Many thanks for everything you do for this site!

  5. Hello Marianne,
    Thank you for this website.I stumbled upon your KB workouts on youtube and was compelled to buy my first KB and give it a go.
    I do a lot of cycling and was under the impression I was reasonably fit….WRONG!!!!
    The only problem I have is that although my hands aren’t particularly butch or manly I have trouble fitting them inside the handle for a two handed swing.
    Do you know a make of KB that has a larger handle design?
    Anyway keep up the good work.
    You have possibly the best form I’ve seen when you do your exercises!
    All the best.
    Clive

    1. Hey Clive, thank you for your comment!

      I’m afraid I don’t know of any off hand except maybe the Dragondoor ones. Maybe someone else knows?

      Cheers

  6. Hi, am a recent convert to kettlebells, this is my third week and already Im hooked. Ive bought my first kb a 7.5 kg which is a little heavier than the 6kg’s I use in class. Would love to post a question on one of your forums but havent had membership activated yet (requested to join on 6th May). Is it possible for an admin to approve my application please.
    Thanks Muchly

    1. Liza, I think they actually look alright. The handle is round enough by the looks of the picture. Make sure they have a good returns policy, in case you don’t like the feel of them in the rack position. And make sure there’s enough room for both hands during your swings.

    2. Hey not sure what part of Canada you are in – but http://www.bellsofsteel.com has the prograde ones. I have several and they are AWESOME. You can save the shipping too if you are anywhere near Edmonton or Calgary. Just thought I’d share 🙂

  7. Hi Marianne….It’s been a little bit since I posted last. Great article. I happen to be looking into different kettlebell suppliers at the moment. My little side passive cash flow venture 🙂 Here are a few suppliers/brands I have listed at the moment. You already listed Dragon Door, which are my favorite. You should be able to take any of these and add “kettlebells” at the end when searching through Google to find them.

    Ader
    Apollo
    Cap Barbell
    First Place (by PerformBetter.com)
    Gary Series
    J-Fit
    KBUSA
    Lifeline
    MedBells (not traditional KBs, but medicine balls with handles)
    Pro Series (offered by MDUSA)
    York (traditionally barbells, they now make KBs)

    Also….Did you know (probably) that kettlebell lifters are called “Girevik” and that the competitive sport of KB lifting is “Girevoy”? That was a fun fact I discovered.

    http://store.worldkettlebellclub.com/
    http://www.usgsf.com/

    Keep up the great work! Looking good as usual and glad to see the “Girls Gone Strong” venture is moving forward 🙂

  8. At the gym I have access to chalk to prevent sweaty grips but I was wondering if you can reccommend a glove of some sort for training at home. What style or type or even if there is such a thing. Thanks for the help…Mikey

  9. Thanks so much for this article. I’ve been vascillating on moving up in weight for a couple of months and you motivated me to finally do it. I bought a 16kg prograde ‘bell from Wolversons, it’s lovely. Had a go with it today and it’s really put the fun back in to the workout. It’s so important to be challenged otherwise I think you can end up just going through the motions.

    1. To me, it actually looks good for an adjustable KB! I like how the change in weight won’t affect the dimensions. Have you heard any feedback from people who have used this KB?

      1. I had a look around for reviews but didn’t find any. There was a guy who reviewed a kettlestack (bunch of plates bolted onto a handle) who said the bolt kept coming loose. It may be an issue with this one as well since it’s held together the same way, though it looks a bit more nicely put together than the one in the review. Hmm!

  10. hi there

    found your site by accident – glad I have. plenty great quality advice and focus on technique. are blokes allowed??!!

    just got pair of 16kg competition bells and enjoy the doubles as a alternative, shame there are too few workouts to follow…..

    for bells – I have a 12kg Marcy (nice shape prefer its roundness, handle not great, got yellow vinyl on it which I thought would be better for home just in case I drop it) but not great. a bodymax 12kg too, wider handle, poor finish tho, bit squared off and very much entry level quality. Ive use jordan neoprene (average quality, tendency to chip at the handle), jordna rubber (nice chrome handle, rubber coating isnt comfortable tho) and bulk standard russian (handle was huge on 16kg, too thick to hold and swing)

    My 16kg pair are wolverson competition – steel handles, bigger bell as they are competition style but well finished. bought off ebay but via wolverson very reasonable inc post in uk

  11. hi marianne i ordered 2 16kgs competition bells from mark http://www.d8fitness.com. by txt message on friday(i saw the advert on donedeal.ie) and recieved them by courier monday morning. i paid 90 euros 10 was delivery from dublin(their base) to kerry. i believe delivery is same for all over ireland. its my second time ordering from him no complaints 🙂

    1. Sandy. Funny you should mention the DVD thing. I have been asked and asked about that and, well, I am thinking of doing “something” 😉 It’s in the pipeline and I can’t give anything else away. But I have been thinking I should do something else to help my viewers. So hold that thought and I will get on it asap!

      🙂

  12. Does anyone know of a good dvd to start out with. I can’t take my comp. to the gym to watch Marinnie. I have to use the ones at the gym, but they have a tv I can put a dvd in.
    Thanks

  13. Hi Marianne,

    I was just wondering if I should purchase kettlebells in pairs. m new to kettlebell training and I am planning to buy some this week. Im and purchasing the 8kg and 16kg to start.

    Thanks for your good advice and keep up the good work. 🙂

    1. I wouldn’t normally recommend buying pairs of the same weight at the start. Also, there is a huge jump between 8kg and 16kg – are you sure that is wise? I would advise opting for a closer gap for progressions. As I suggest in the post, I advice an 8kg and 12kg for the start. Then save up for the 16kg and 20kg, or two 16kgs in the future.

      Do you do any sort of weight training?

      1. Oh ok, thank you so much. I currently do some sandbagging with 20 lbs of weight. I find it a bit odd though because the cases shift around in the bags so the weight is not evenly spread.

        1. Hi Shannon

          I have just bought some cast iron kettlebells from Jordan Fitness in the UK http://www.jordanfreeweights.com/

          They did a great deal and I got a 4kg, 8kg and 12kg bell for £62. I realise that I probably wont need the 4kg for long but it will be useful for working with my clients. They also did deals for 8, 12 and 16kg bells. If youare in the UK they are worth cheking out.
          I have also just bought a sandbag from them which I am excited to try out. I think beacause the weights shifts about it will add an extra dimension to my training.
          Hope you find the right bells to take your training to the next level.
          Kirsty:)

  14. Hi Marianne

    I recently did my Level I Kettlebell Certification Instructor course with Jordan Fitness, check out http://www.jordanfreeweights.com/. We used their own rubber and chrome kettlebells for that course. Now I am not an expert but found them comfortable and easy to use. I am currently looking to buy a set of kettlebells for my own use and also for working with my PT clients but having read your post am seriously considering spending a bit more money and getting some competition grade bells. Your article is interesting and has focused my mind on which weights I should now consider.
    Kirsty

    1. Kirsty, I would at least reconsider the rubber covered ones. They can be unpredictable if dropped and they are less stable on the ground, plus the rubber caused more friction against the skin when doing cleans, push presses, snatches etc. Maybe consider getting the cast iron or prograde. The other gym I go to has those Jordan Rubber”ish” KBs and I find the handle rough and the Bell chips easily. They may just be extra old ones, and the design may have improved since, but I really like fully cast iron or steel with a good paint job.

      Good luck 🙂

      1. Thanks Marianne! I’ve just ordered some cast iron bells. Would have loved to get some competition bells but they were just a bit to expensive right now. When I can I will upgrade but right now I am excited to put in to practice what I have learnt and to be finally able to try some of your ketlebell workouts! Keep up the great work, Kirsty.

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  16. Great article Marianne, it’s such a tricky thing to get right. I found I’ve been able to progress really quickly on swings (24kgs) but still not comfortable with more than 12kg for snatches, get-ups etc.

    I live in the Rep. and buy my kbells from http://www.buykettlebelldublin.com/
    Deliveries are really quick and they’re good quality kbells.

    1. Thank for the link Lisa! I’m the same with the snatches; a 16kg is still too heavy because I can quite get the grip right. But then it might help if I practiced more.

      Way to go with the 24kg on your swings!! 😀

      1. Thanks Marianne, I was inspired by your workouts to push myself on the swing weight. I can’t pretend I’m swinging away there with a 24kg for endless reps but I can make about 60 in a row if I’m in the mood.

        I don’t know if it’s a mental thing with the snatches, probably still worried about my form and don’t want to make smashy-wristy with a heavier weight! Snatches and get-ups are more technical I suppose, so I feel no shame in sticking with a manageable weight while I get better at them. And if it’s good enough for Marianne Superwoman, it’s good enough for me 😀

        Just noticed, that kettlebell shop will be migrating to a different domain name soon, says they’ll be trading at http://www.d8fitness.com in the near future.

  17. Hey Marianne!

    Thanks for putting all this info in one place! I ended up finding a good place here in western Canada after searching heaps and heaps – it’s called bellsofsteel – just for all the Canadians out there who are looking to take up the Kbs. I’m still brand new to these, and use your videos all the time to show me how to train. What a great website! Thanks so much for posting this stuff…..

    XO
    Chaz

  18. Neptunebarbell.com… Shipping is free on the standard KBs within the continental U.S.! And their prices are very good when you shop around

    1. Wow. They have great prices…how do you like the KB? I am looking to buy a 24kg and theirs is so much less than Dragon Door with free shipping; but how does it compare to DD?
      I bought some perform better KB’s when I first started and I hate them. The handle is too close to the ball so it hits you right on the wrist.

      Marianne…I just recently found your website and I love it!!

  19. I bought my Pro Grade Kettlebells from Kettlebell Inc. the sell Adler brand and I am very pleased. They are in Dallas, Tx.
    http://www.kettlebellinc.com/index.php
    Another one is Kettlebell USA. Also in the Dallas, Tx. area. I told a guy at work about them and He ordered the one of their standard Russian Kettlebell models and says he can not tell the difference between it and his Dragon Door Kettlebells.
    http://www.kettlebellsusa.com/
    I also have a pair of Go Fit 12kg/26lb kettlebells, the handles are different thicknesses on each bell, not a big deal for me, but, I plan on getting a pair of Pro Grade 12kg/26lb in the future.
    You were right on target with this post! Thank you.
    Art Kiser

  20. I got my kettlebells from GNC online… 50% off sale plus free shipping! ( free shipping saved a bundle being as they are so heavy!) Perform better does also have great sales, as stated in last comment.
    Marianne, have you ever used the Ultimate Sandbag? I find it a great complement to KBs.

  21. I got my competition kettlebells from performbetter.com. Watch the sales, and you can get some good deals. In the past, they sold the kettlebells with odd colors and painted handles. I had to strip the paint off mine. Now, the bells they sell are competition standard in color and the handles are pre-stripped (or maybe just not painted in the first place).

    1. I got mine from performbetter.com as well during a free shipping sale. Getting 100# of kettlebells shipped for free saved me a lot of money.

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