Whether you are building the armory in your own home gym, or a fitness professional purchasing equipment for your clients, you are more then likely focused on the price tag than durability or quality. At the end of the day, it’s just a cannonball with a handle, what more can there possibly be to it?
A simple decision in purchasing a powder coated finish could be paramount to your training success, and avoiding torn skin in your hands from ballistic exercises. It can also affect the level of pain or discomfort from stabilizing and grind movements. Over years of training with these tools to assist with Olympic movements and to prepare for my Strong First certification, I’ve acquired a broad assortment of bells, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
Here are my recommendations on the best bang-for-your-buck kettlebell purchase for personal use. I will cover kettlebells from Dragon Door, to ONNIT, rating their quality and in no particular order. Kettlebell sport will be for another blog, as this is entirely another animal.
RKC’s by Dragon Door Kettlebell
This was the first company I purchased a kettlebell from. I bought this kettlebell used in 2012. It looks and feels exactly the same from the day I bought it. I’ve used and abused this single-piece cast iron flat bottom kettlebell from indoor to outdoor, concrete to grass, rain or shine—its’ rust resistant E-Coat has certainly gone the distance.
South Florida can be very humid at times, (all the time) which can break down, rot, and rust anything not treated or covered. The E-coat not only kept the bell from rusting in outdoors (your garage if not insulated), but even from the salt and oils from your body. I would have never even considered the possibility of it if I didn’t purchase from other brands and notice rust form where the bell wipes the sweat and salt from the forearm in the racked position or top of your snatch. But we’ll cover that later.
Let’s face it, you’re going to sweat using these things. If you don’t, you should either read the manual, hydrate, or see a doctor. And the last thing you want is rust chipping into the paint, and making its way through pores and open wounds.
Cast iron Bells are virtually indestructible. But the RKC’s have certainly proven there worth. From strength and grind exercises, pressing Single arm rack, and getups to ballistics and performing 100 snatches in 5 minutes, the friction in the handle in next to none and very comfortable. Remaining smooth but still allowing the handle to also hold chalk.
RKC con’s, would be the price. A single 16KG/35LB bell can be upwards of $96.00USD, and that doesn’t include shipping and rarely on sale. The color coded handles from other companies has proven to be very useful, other than that, the durability and consistency in weight and size is excellent.
Rogue and Perform Better and KettleBell Kings OH MY!!
I’ve paired these up for the striking similarities in their pros and cons. Rogue And Perform better, like RKC, also are a single-piece cast with a flat iron bottom. If you have used similar bells with a rubber protectant piece at the bottom you know that after a couple days use, the hole in the rubber where the screw holds it into place will stretch, causing it to eventually come off. Now you have an exposed screw scratching your floors or box instead of a flat bottom. But I digress.
I’ve owned Rogue, PerformBetter, and Kettlebell Kings Kettlebells for just over three years. I was impressed and loved the matte black finish with powder coating. Having a matching set of “murdered out” equipment from leading quality brands does feel great and seems to be the best on the wallet as well.
All three brands receive a thumbs up for comfort, consistency in weight and size, as well as durability. If you have multiple brand kettlebells, and you’re trying to double arm swing and clean from the floor, you would like to have your arms set and packed evenly, instead of one arm longer than the other.
The color-coded handles from Rogue and Kettlebell Kings have proven to be very useful and a god send depending on how you store your bells. Easier to pick up and keep moving when your oxygen deprived brain is trying to soldier on. Perform Better’s attempt in color coding at the center was a good try, but after scraping against other bells, it quickly scratched off after a few months, making it a little harder to identify.
The biggest con on all three brands was also its pro. The matte black powder coated finish. I would assume this doesn’t allow for an anti-rust coat finish. After just two years of normal use between clients and myself (and having only ever been stored in an air-conditioned studio) rust began to form in the small chips in the powdered coating exposed through wear and tear. If you’re planning on sanding and repainting again or discarding after this time period, it’s not that big of a deal. But shelling out the extra cash for bells with anti-rust coating may be cheaper in the long run. The powdered coating on the Rogue tends to be a tad bit grittier, causing a little bit of added friction over time, but holds chalk very well.
As far as pricing for a single 16KG/35LB kettlebell, Rogue comes in at $48, PB at $64, and KB Kings at $80–shipping and handling not included. If you are ordering from the US, and do not live in Ohio, paying no taxes on Rogue’s bells is a huge break, and leaves you more money for more kettlebells. Perform Better tends to have sales often at 25-33% off, you just have to stay on top of that. And lastly, although Kettlebell Kings is the priciest of the three it does include shipping (and lifetime warranty) which brings the cost down closer to the other two brands.
When I saw the ads for their Primal Fit line, I, like most people, thought “Damn, that’s cool”. From Bigfoot, to Iron Man, even Star Wars, I knew I wanted, nay, needed a storm trooper kettlebell in my studio yesterday. But as I placed the order and waited I started to think of the logistics. Like the rest, it is a single-piece cast iron bell with flat bottom and smooth matt black powder coated finish. But Bigfoots pointy fucking facial features (or any bell with a face on it) do not feel very comfortable on your forearm. If you are performing a single arm press or a Turkish getup, you are focused on spacial awareness, your body, and most importantly the kettlebell not falling on top of you. The more comfortable and confident you are in your mind, the more it will translate in your movement. But if you are focused on the discomfort on your loaded arm, chances are your focus is not at its full potential.
Using the back side of this bell is better for most models. But the pronounced parietal and occipital (back of the head) part of the back side of this kettlebell still tends to put unwanted pressure on the forearm. Exercises such as snatches, and cleans would be uncomfortable as well.
The inconsistency in height of handles is also an issue. Anything over 14 KG, and the handle is set a bit high. If you’re positioned in a deadlift preparing for a swing, this may place your body in a compromising position. Great for two or one hand swings, novelty, paper weight, or goblet squats.
A Cyclops single bell at 20KG/44LB will be about $104.00, shipping not included. They do have normal Kettlebells as well for a decent price.
While these are my opinions of the kettlebells I’m most familiar with, here are other worthy mentions such as Kettlebell USA and CAP which were pretty decent as well. At the end of the day, the most important things to consider are your budget and your intended use. If these bells are just for you, you’ll probably get by just fine with the mid-grade bells. If you’re a trainer or just really like grinding your hands on metal balls regularly, you may want to consider investing in the RKC bells. Comment below with any other thoughts/ recommendations/ experiences.