We can thank the eighteenth century Russians for the kettlebell. What began as a simple weight used by farmers at market slowly worked its way into nineteenth century competitive European athletics and from there, America and global fame. Its popularity lies in the uneven weight distribution; the kettlebell is designed for ballistic movement and as such it engages the whole body, rather than just individual muscle groups, which in plain English means you get fitter, quicker, for less money (what we might call, the perfect home gym equation).
There are three things to think about when buying your very first kettlebell; weight, space and budget. You are going to be doing many sets of swinging movements, so the weight needs to be lower than those big numbers you can pull in the gym on a machine. To begin with, keep your range between 10kg and 20kg (Remember, the kettlebell is the only piece of gym equipment where you can sprain your ankle and drop a weight on your head in one fluid movement, so start small and work your way up).
Space is the next thing to consider: you are going to be swinging a 20kg weight all over the place, so make sure you have the room to do it - both around you and, more importantly, above you. Finally, budget and here’s the rule: cheap vinyl will crack, cheap iron will not. That doesn’t mean vinyl is bad, but it’s something to consider if you’re planning to take kettlebells seriously. Right then, here’s our top five options for your home gym...
1. Primal (Starting at £59.99)
If you listen to Joe Rogan, you’ll have heard of Onnit and their kettlebell range that have faces covering everything from Boba Fett to King Kong. Made from chip resistant iron, the current Primal range starts with the Howler at 8kgs and moves up to the Bigfoot at 40kgs.
Best For: Serious lifters with a genuine home gym space - a 40kg weight is going to hurt the lounge floor.
2. JaxJox Kettlebell Connect (£229.99)
If space is an issue then the JaxJox is pricey but perfect as it is an all-in-one piece of kit. Simply choose your weight (there are six to choose from) and pick it up. There’s no getting away from the price but considering these can be bought at the Apple store, it's clearly the tech you’re paying for: the app tracks reps, weight time, power and goals and talks to your watch and phone. Just don’t drop it.
Best for: Keeping track of your progress on your phone
3. XD™ Kevlar® Kettlebell (Starting at £35)
Not every floor is designed to handle a 20kg cast iron weight being dropped on it, and not every neighbour loves the idea of living under an improvised home gym. The XD is designed for silent running (not counting you puffing away like a Victorian steam train of course). The fabric design and steel sand filling means it’s soft on the floor, which is perfect for those of you who train in the early hours or late hours.
Best for: working out in small flats or houses with paper thin walls and floors
4. Gymbox portable Soft Kettlebell (Starting at £65)
The ideal travelling companion. If you are the type of person who likes to take kettlebells on holiday, then this is for you (note: we’ve never actually met someone who does this, but you could be out there). The sand filling means you can adjust the weight from 4kgs up to 20kgs and it won’t damage furniture should you accidentally clip the sofa. Also comes with an exercise poster to get you started, which is a nice touch.
Best For: Those who want a beach holiday and still workout.
5. Bowflex SelectTech 840 (£339)
The most expensive option, this is no-nonsense all in one kettlebell system. Like the JaxJox it’s six kettlebells in one, making it perfect for those who don’t have a huge amount of space, and the weight runs from 3.5kgs to 18kgs. It also looks like a little barrel of beer, thanks to the hard outer plastic shell (that’s never been a bad thing) and the large handle makes this perfect for two handed exercises.
Best for: Space saving beginners new to kettlebells (mainly due to the relatively low weights involved)