How heavy should my kettlebell be?

Mike Luque

While this is a common question when it comes to kettlebells, you'd almost never hear anyone ask this question when if they were talking about free weights.

So what's the difference?

When using free weights, you wouldn't use the same weight for bicep curls as you would for a chest press. Well, hopefully not. A chest press is a compound motion (using more than one joint) that involves more muscle groups and larger muscles than a bicep curl. This is probably intrinsically obvious to anyone who's done any strength training at all. You can use more weight on a chest press than you can on a bicep curl.

So what makes you think you'd use a single weight for kettlebell training?

To properly answer this question, the question has to be rephrased. "How heavy should my kettlebell be for [name of particular exercise]."

For example, you wouldn't use the same weight for a two handed swing as you would for a one handed swing. I mean, you could, but you'd be losing the advantage of using more muscle groups. 

Another aspect of kettlebell training that affects how much weight to use is the compound motions. You may be able to use a 20Kg bell for a one handed swing, but can you also use it for an overhead press? If not, should you choose to do a compound motion of a swing clean to an overhead press, you'd choose the weight for your overhead press and not for your swing.

As you can see, it's not really cut and dry. Obviously this can pose a problem for someone looking to start a kettlebell practice at home. But since most people want to be able to swing, let's focus on the weight you'd use for that.

Because a kettlebell swing is a full body exercise with the power being driven from the hips, the weight you'd use would be based on how much power and strength you can generate from your hips, not what your arms can lift. Your arms are only stabilizing the motion. When I see trainers having female clients doing kettlebell swings with a light weight, like 15 pounds, I shake my head and turn away. Those women have more power in their body and in their hips than 15 pounds. They're kind of wasting their time.

So, broad generalization: go by your weight and your fitness level. 

If your weight is between 90 and 140 lbs: a 12Kg bell, 140 and 170: a 16kg bell, 170 and above: a 20kg bell.

These are beginning weights. Adjust down if you're deconditioned and adjust up if you're in shape.

As you get stronger, you're gonna want more bells!

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Types Of Exercise

Types Of Exercise

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.