The best kettlebells for crossfit
With crossfit being such a demanding discipline, that strive for functional fitness, and pushing the boundaries of human exercise, it is unsurprising that kettlebells play such an integral part in training. Seen as essential as an Olympic bar in a crossfit box, the kettlebell is a piece of equipment many will be familiar with, simply due to its recognisable appearance and function. It is hard to get a kettlebell wrong, they are essentially just cannonballs with handles, but in order to get it perfect, especially for crossfit, there a few things to look out for.
What to look out for when picking a kettlebell.
A kettlebell is a kettlebell, you will ever be able to vary too much from its basic and effective design. There will always be a handle, there will be the bulbous construction that varies in size a the weight increases or decreases, and there will be a flat base. On top of that, the variables will come in the coating, and again, the handle and the bulb can have very different coating for very different reasons.
Kettlebell handle grip
The handle is a loop that sits ontop of the bul and allows you to grip, with two hand, either on the sides in a vertical manner, or on top for a horizontal hold. This is where your hands go, and of course, this needs to be the most comfortable aspect of this rugged piece of equipment. In crossfit, there can be huge rep ranges, so any slight discomfort or rough edge can wreck havoc on your hands, that’s why you want the handle seam, or flashing, to be perfect.
- Flashing – When a kettlebell is cast, it will leave a seam across middle of the underside of the handle. This seam needs to be filed down before coating to a perfectly smooth finish, and while it sounds obvious, cheaper brands will not even bother.
- Handle diameter – This can be quite an important aspect to take note of, for there is no enforced standard, however, a good range is about 30-31mm diameter going up to about 38mm for the heaviest bell. Again, cheap bells will look to save on material and provide uncomfortably thin handles that make kettlebell swings near impossible.
Generally, kettlebells will get thicker around the handles as they get heavier, however, in competition bells this won’t happen. They are a little more expensive, but if you are looking for uniformity, that’s what you pay for.
- Handle width – The width of the handle differs from the diameter in that you need a wide handle to be able to fit both your hands in, compared to a wide diameter for you to close your hand around the handle comfortably. Again, the width of a bell tends to get larger as it gets heavier, but there are some companies that make them uniform by utilizing a “V” shape for smaller bells. It is the same with competition bells, that again look for uniformity in their handle width.
- Handle finish – Because you are making contact with the handle everytime you pick it up, the width, diameter and feel are important, but most of important is the finish. There are loads of different types of finishes, but you will most likely come across enamel, vinay, powder coating and bare steel, most often. Powder coating is a good standard for crossfit bells, as they take chalk nicely, whereas competition bells are usually bare steel. Enamel is okay, but vinyl is not really recommended for the rigours of crossfit, although it may look pretty, it will soon fall apart.
The actual construction of the entire bell, or the bulb in particular, can be done in two ways – one piece casting, or two piece construction. Two piece construction is not really recommended for crossfit bells, or any use really more than occasional, it involves attaching the handle to the bulb, and f course, that makes a weak seam that could see the bulb flying off in a swing causing massive damage.
One piece casting means that the bulb, and its handle, are of the same construction, so there is no fear of it coming apart in activity.
Although part of the construction is to have a flat base, some kettlebells, those of less repute, may not be entirely flat, and can wobble and cause problems. This is especially apparent if you use them for things like renegade rows, handstands, or mounted pistol squats.
Again, this should not be a problem with good kettlebells, but some cheaper brands which you can get from sporting goods store may be off of their stated weight. This becomes a problem when you become used to a certain off-weight bell, and then are made to use a standardized one which may well be heavier than you expect.
Four Kettlebells worth buying for crossfit
Kettlebell Kings – Powder coated Kettlebells
As it has been stated already, there is not much you can get wrong in constructing a quality kettlebell, but when it comes to a crossfit bell, there is a lot you can do to get things right, and make the experience that much better for high rep ranges, and different movements.
The Kettlebell Kings are designed for crossfit, and while they are not competition bells, they are a good set for a home gym if you want quality equipment. The handles, and in fact the entire one piece construction is powder coated which is great for high intensity workouts where sweat and grip becomes a problem. Smooth enough to swing, yet rough enough to grip, and perfect for taking chalk, the handles have a great feel to them and are comfortable both in diameter and width.
The construction of these one piece bells is also gravity cast, this means that there is no worry about weight differentiation as it is extremely precise. It is a slight modification in casting, but it maintains the durability and adds huge levels of precision to the weight.
Finally, the look of these bells is really good. They look robust, yet clean with a good powder coating throughout the construction. The bands at the base of the handles are subtle, but enough to tell the different weights at a glance.
CFF Pro Competition Russian Kettlebell
As you would expect from a competition bell, uniformity is key with these from CFF. The handle, and indeed the entire construction is 100% all steel. This is not a cast iron bell. This differs from the standard bells in that for the handle there will immediately be no flashing, and of course the handle will be a lot smoother due to the steel design.
The width of the bells, throughout the weights, is uniform, while the diameter remains at a slightly thicker 33mm throughout as well. The all steel design also allows for precision weight differentiation, which is another must in terms of competition bells, and the base is perfectly flat to allow for use of all movements with the bells, from renegade rows to handstands.
The overall appearance of the bells are also very nice. Painted steel differentiates the weights across the bulb and halfway up the handle, leaving only steel to grip on to where the hands would go.
Titan Cast Iron Kettlebells
These Titan kettlebells are pretty standard in term of what they offer. They are well enough constructed to be usable over and over, but nothing to elaborate or expensive. They would make a good addition to a small home gym, or for someone starting out.
A cast iron design adds to their durability, however, there is no coating on whether the handle or the bulb, leaving only exposed cast iron. While this is not the worst thing in the world to grip, it can be a little uncomfortable as the cast iron varies in feel from place to place.
In saying that, it takes chalk as well as powder coating and the seam has been filed away so that it won’t cause hassles with your hands.
The handles are standardised, and provide enough width for both hands, and the bottom is flattened, however, it is not a very big diameter, so can be prone to falling over.
These kettlebells are probably not exactly made for crossfit, but there is no doubt that you could get away with using them as crossfit bells for beginners.
Rage Competition Kettlebells
Another set of competition kettlebells, but this time from a company that is known for some of its crossfit equipment. The Rage competition bells stick to the usual principles of uniformity expected in competition bells, both in terms of weight and handle diameter and width.
The handle diameter is a comfortable 32mm throughout the weights of bells, while the width is also standardized to 21 cms in the handle. Like most competition bells, the handle is raw steel and smoothed throughout while the bulb is one piece and coated in colour coded paint.
As you would come to expect from competition bells, the construction is excellent and precise, from the handles to the smooth, flat base.