What Weight Kettlebell Should I Use?

​There are a huge variety of kettlebells out there, and they come in almost every weight imagineable. ​(If this is a problem for you, you can always look​ for adjustable kettlebells instead.) The common question becomes “what weight kettlebell should I use?”

If you’re new to this type of training you might be unsure where to start with your kettlebell weight, or when to move up in weight level. The answers to these questions depend on many factors including your gender, fitness level, and what type of kettlebell exercise you’re doing.

​What Weight Kettlebell Should I Use?

A good rule of thumb is that a man of average to good fitness should start with a 35lb kettlebell. However, if you have a lot of experience with weight training and can bench press over 200lbs, you can try starting with a 40lb kettlebell. A 40lb kettlebell is roughly equivalent to a 20kg weight, FYI A man who is older or out of shape should start at about 25lbs.

Learning proper form is extremely important in kettlebell training, and starting with too high of a weight can lead to injury quickly. It is better to learn on a smaller weight first and then move up to the bigger weights and not hurt yourself.

woman kettlebell weight

​What Weight Kettlebell Should a Man Use?

A good rule of thumb is that a man of average to good fitness should start with a 35lb kettlebell. However, if you have a lot of experience with weight training and can bench press over 200lbs, you can try starting with a 40lb kettlebell. A man who is ​out of shape or ​older should start at about 25lbs.

Learning proper form is extremely important in kettlebell training, and starting with too high of a weight can lead to injury quickly. It is better to learn on a smaller weight first and then move up to the bigger weights and not hurt yourself.

​What Weight Kettlebell Should a Woman Use?

For women who are in average to good shape, an 18lb kettlebell should be a good starting weight. Women who are older or out of shape would be more comfortable starting with a 12lb kettlebell. However, women who have previous weight training experience may want to start with a 25lb bell. 

For converting weight to kilograms, a 12lb kettlebell is roughly equivalent to a 5kg bell, and a 25lb kettlebell is roughly equivalent to a 12kg kettlebell.

​Women have a tendency to start with kettlebells that are too light. Remember that this is a very different training technique than other types of weight lifting. You will probably be able to start with much more weight than you think.

When deciding what weight kettlebell should a women start with, always consider a balance. You want to make sure you have enough weight to get a good workout in, but not so much that you sacrifice learning form. Of course it is highly variable between individuals and your comfort is the first priority.

​Different Weights for Different Exercises

Kettlebell exercises fall into two basic categories: ballistic and grind. The distinction is that grind exercises are meant to be done slowly, focusing on control. Some grind style exercises include overhead press, squats, and deadlifts.

Ballistic style exercises are meant to be done quickly and “explosively.” Ballistic exercises are those that incorporate a large number of your muscles and are done with a wide range of motion. They not only get your muscles working, but also get the heart pumping. Think movement.

​Some examples of ballistic exercises include swings, snatches, cleans, and jerks. While these are the two major categories, there are also some varieties that include combinations of grind and ballistic movements.

​One of the biggest mistakes a kettlebell novice can make is choosing a kettlebell that is too light when doing ballistics. This is because you need it to be heavy enough to create the correct form. If the weight is too light you can use your muscles incorrectly and never learn proper form.

​You will generally want to use more weight for ballistic exercises than for grind exercises. This is because with grinds you are working more slowly and targeting more specific muscle groups. Ballistic exercises use the full body and therefore require a heavier weight.

​The general rule is that the more muscles are involved, the heavier you want the weight to be.

​Usually, active men can start with 35lbs for ballistic exercises and 18-25lbs for grinds. Active women can start about 18lbs for ballistics and go as low as 13lbs for grinds. Those highly athletic individuals may want to start at higher weights.

Active Men Start Weight

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    ​Ballistic Exercises: 35lbs
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    ​Grind Exercises: 18-25lbs

Active Women Start Weight

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    ​Ballistic Exercises: 18lbs
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    ​Grind Exercises: 13lbs

​No matter what your fitness level, always have a trained fitness professional observe your workout when first starting kettlebells. A trained eye will ensure you’re using proper form and let you know if a weight is too light or too heavy.

​When to Increase Weight

When you begin kettlebell strength training you will probably notice yourself getting stronger relatively quickly. While this can mean different things to different people, it is important to take stock of your progress. If you notice your training getting easier, you may want to increase the weight you are using so that you can continue to improve.

​Moving up in kettlebell weight can be a bit more difficult than with traditional weights because kettlebells usually progress in increments of 8.8lbs. This is a pretty big jump so don’t get discouraged if moving up is harder than you expected. Before you decide to try a heavier weight, there are a few things you want to keep in mind.

​A good way to know when you’re ready to move up is the number of reps you’re capable of doing, and not how much weight you've lost. In addition, the amount of time it takes to complete a certain number of reps can be indicative of the strength you are gaining. A classic example is the Kettlebell Snatch Test, which involves doing 100 snatches with a certain weight as quickly as possible.

​First, you must make sure your technique is perfected before you try to increase the weight. Save yourself from potential injuries by improving your form before you go for the bigger weights.

​Make sure you’re practicing your technique for each exercise regularly before you move up in weight, especially if you're starting with a beginner's routine. When you do move up, be ready to perform fewer reps while you’re getting used to the new weight. Remember, technique is more important than the number of reps!

​Additionally, you should not be maxing out on your weight at every training session. Doing this can impede your performance. Testing your progress by maxing out should be done sparingly, as it takes your body time to recover after doing this.

Tip: rather than having to purchase a new kettlebell every time you move up in weight, grab an adjustable kettlebell. You can use an adjustable kettlebell to perform different exercises at different weights, and it will grow with you as you add weight to your routine. Read our review of the best adjustable kettlebells here. 

​Conclusion

The main factors to consider when choosing the proper kettlebell weight are your gender and fitness level. People who have a lot of experience with weight training can start at a higher kettlebell weight than those who have no prior experience, or are out of shape. However, kettlebell training is considerably different than other types of weight training so it is important to remember that previous weight training does not directly correlate to how much weight you should be using with kettlebells.

​Additionally, you should take into account the type of exercises you are doing. Generally, ballistics require more weight than grinds. Overall remember to put your form and technique first in your training and you should be increasing your weight before you know it!