Kettlebell is an often recommended piece of workout equipment but what is it exactly and do you need it in your home gym? Let’s find out if you need some kettlebells in your home gym.
Kettlebells are a great addition to all home gyms. The less equipment the more benefit of a kettlebell. Kettlebells can build muscle, improve cardiovascular health and burn calories. A single kettlebell can be used for a full body workout while being relatively cheap and taking up little space.
Who needs a kettlebell exactly and what weight should you start at? Find out below.
What is a kettlebell?
Before we dive into the question if you need a kettlebell in your home gym, let’s quickly look at what a kettlebell actually is.
A kettlebell is a metal ball of a certain weight with a metal handle attached. The metal handle is suitable to hold with two hands. The bottom of a kettlebell is usually flat so it doesn’t tip over when set down. The outside of a kettlebell can be bare iron or have a layer of rubber/vinyl.
So kettlebells are a very simple piece of equipment. There are some other benefits to kettlebells that are unique and why you would want one (or more) in your home gym.
Why have kettlebells in a home gym?
So now we know what a kettlebell looks like, let’s look at our main question of if you need one in your home gym. To get something it has to provide a solution for a problem. In a home gym, the problem we have is our workout goals. The equipment is part of the solution for that problem.
So what do you expect from your home gym and how does a kettlebell help you get there?
What do you want from a home gym?
To know if you need one, you need to know what your goals for you home gym are.
There are different types of home gyms and different purposes for them. The exact setup doesn’t really matter. You can have a complete free weights gym an all in one home gym or only a cardio machine, we can see a few common purposes;
- General health
- Cardiovascular health
- Muscle building
- Fat loss
- Training for a specific purpose
General health. Many people go to the gym or have workout equipment at home to improve their overall health. There is not necessarily a specific goal in mind. It can be achieved through a wide range of different exercises. Some people focus more on cardio, some more on muscle building or flexibility.
Cardiovascular health. For people that have a more specific goal in mind, improving their cardiovascular health is often that goal. Usually this is done through steady state cardio and/or interval training.
Muscle building. When you say gym, everyone thinks; meathead. And it’s true, many people go to a gym to get bigger and stronger. For this purpose, you often need heavy weights and big pieces of steel.
Fat loss. A very important purpose for many people working out is to get rid of some excess weight. This can be done in many ways. Most people will focus on cardio exercises in different forms but muscle building tactics can also be used to lose weight.
How can kettlebells help you reach your goals?
Above, we have the most common goals why people get a home gym in the first place. How can kettlebells help you reach those goals?
- General health: Kettlebells are absolutely perfect to work on your overall health. You get a combination of building muscle, burning calories and improving cardiovascular health if the workout is done correctly. A good combination for general health.
- Cardiovascular health: Increasing your cardiovascular health is done by having a raised heart-rate for an extended period of time. Kettlebell workouts usually target the whole body. This means your heart has to pump harder to get enough blood to all those different muscles. Do this for an extended period of time (Change up the exercises so you can keep going for longer), and you have a great cardio and muscle building workout.
- Muscle building: Kettlebells also work well for muscle building. Especially if you use a bit higher weights, you will see some decent muscle growth from using kettlebells.
- Fat loss: For fat loss, the best way to go about it is to create a calorie deficit. Diet is one part of that puzzle but exercise is another. Kettlebell workouts are quite intensive and can be used to create a calorie deficit. On top of that, kettlebell workouts build muscle which increases your resting energy expenditure.
As you can see, kettlebells are useful for all goals most people have in their home gym. Of course all these things can also be done with other equipment as well but, a kettlebell is a single piece of equipment that does it all. If you want other equipment, you’ll get equipment that’s more specific and bulkier.
Do you need a kettlebell in a home gym?
Now you know everything the kettlebell is good for. But does that mean you have to buy one?
Of course you don’t HAVE to. But there are a few situations where a kettlebell would be a good addition or even foundation of a home gym.
- If you don’t have any workout equipment, a kettlebell is a great starting place. You can build muscle, burn calories and get a cardio workout. All with a relatively compact piece of metal. If you can only pick one thing to work out with, a kettlebell is a good bet.
- For people that already have a cardio machine, a kettlebell is a great addition for some light muscle building and just workout variety.
- Already have dumbbells and/or a barbell+weights? You can do a good warm up with a kettlebell. It’s also possible to do a cardio workout with kettlebells. So if you don’t want to get a treadmill or go outside to run, a kettlebell is a good alternative to burn some extra calories.
- If you already have a weightlifting setup and cardio machine, a kettlebell won’t add much in the way of reaching your goals but you can still get one or two just for exercise variety.
Most people don’t have a full home gym setup yet so a kettlebell is an invaluable addition to whatever you have now. If you just want to start working out a little and don’t want to spend too much now, get a kettlebell. Need something to build some muscle next to your cardio workout? Get a kettlebell. Want to build some muscle without getting a full weights setup? Get a kettlebell.
Already have everything else? You don’t need a kettlebell but it’s still a good addition to your setup.
So a kettlebell is a good addition to almost everyones workout routine.
What kind of kettlebell for a home gym?
Luckily kettlebells are pretty simple pieces of equipment so it’s not difficult to get one that works for you. There are just two things you need to know;
- Outside material
Kettlebells all have the same rough shape. It’s a ball with a handle. So in that regard, it doesn’t matter too much which one you get. The two important things to decide on are the weight and what’s on the outside.
By far the most important characteristic when buying a kettlebell is the weight. Because kettlebells are pretty similar, this is very important.
For people that already lift weights, the average kettlebell weight might seem low. But because of the way kettlebell workouts are performed, lighter weights are appropriate. You don’t need 100 lbs. kettlebells.
With kettlebells, you’re not doing super heavy 1 rep maxes or even 5’s. You’ll perform lifts for higher repetitions so a lighter weight than you would use for strength building is OK.
Everyone is different, has different training levels and training goals. There are some guidelines you can start from when choosing a weight though;
These are starting weights;
- Women (starting) 8kg/15 lbs.
- Women (some weight training experience) 12 kg/25 lbs.
- Men (starting) 12kg/25lbs.
- Men (some weight training experience) 16 kg/35 lbs.
Those are starting points to be used for a full kettlebell workout. You might think that’s light but kettlebell workouts are usually pretty continuous without much rest time so at the end that ‘light’ kettlebell will feel pretty heavy.
Of course once you get in better shape, you can handle a bit more weight. Women can often go up to 16 kg/35 lbs. with training. Men up to 24 kg/53 lbs. That is not a starting weight though. So if you’re starting to work out or you’re starting with kettlebells, pick one from the guidelines above.
If you have no idea what a certain weight would feel like and what’s suitable to you, it’s possible to do a little experiment;
- Take shopping bag with large handles.(Make sure it’s a sturdy one)
- Fill it up with the weight you intend to get. Water bottles are the easiest and safest way to do it.
- Try it out.
- Keep in mind that this is just to test the weight and it will be a bit more cumbersome than an actual kettlebell.
You could also see if your local gym has kettlebells, ask for a demo class and see which weight suits you.
Most kettlebell models are available in all the weights you need. So one other selection criteria is the material you see on the outside.
Some kettlebells are just bare cast iron with a black/grey finish while others have a soft coating on the outside. That coating often consists of rubber or vinyl.
The soft coating makes a kettlebell more comfortable to use and protects it and your floor if you would drop it. They don’t cost that much extra with this coating so you should definitely go for one that has it.
There is one type of kettlebell that’s a little different and that’s the adjustable kettlebell. Just like adjustable dumbbells, this is a single handle you can attach different weights to. This means you get a whole set of kettlebells in just a single package.
This is really useful if you’re just starting to work out with kettlebells. Sure you can see some guidelines above but everyone is different. This way you can get a lot of different weight dumbbells easily and in a very compact package.
It’s more expensive to buy an adjustable kettlebell than to get a single heavy kettlebell. On the flipside, if you want to experiment and/or different weights, an adjustable one will be cheaper in the end.
If you want to do workouts that use two kettlebells of the same weight, adjustable ones aren’t super useful. In that case it’s better to get two of the same fixed kettlebells. That does require you to know which weight you need though.
Could you have home gym with only kettlebells?
Is a kettlebell alone enough for a complete workout? Yes, a kettlebell can provide a complete workout as long as you get a bit creative. People that are highly trained might think that a single piece of equipment can’t provide enough of a training impulse. Well, to solve that you can use a heavier one of course.
Kettlebells are a very flexible piece of workout equipment that can be used to accomplish many different training goals. If you have a selection of suitable weighted kettlebells, you can find a workout that will fit your fitness targets.
If you’re training to dead lift 700 lbs., a kettlebell is probably not going to cut it. However that falls under training for a specific purpose.
For the sake of variety, it’s always good to have other exercise options. A Yoga mat allows you to do a lot of bodyweight exercises which are a good addition to a kettlebell workout.
If you’ve already got a power rack with barbell and weights, a full rack of dumbbells and a treadmill, adding a kettlebell has fewer benefits but if you only have one thing you can pick, a kettlebell is going to give you the most bang for your buck.
Compared to a set of dumbbells or a power rack + barbell + weight plates, kettlebells are very cheap, take up very little space and are just as flexible or maybe even a little more flexible in the ways you can use them.
Two or three kettlebells will give you the different weights you need to train all parts of your body with the appropriate weight.
If you compare this to a set of dumbbells, it’s a lot cheaper and takes up a lot less space. You could easily put kettlebells in a cabinet somewhere and no one would know you have them. Add in a yoga mat and you have a super flexible setup that is about as compact as you’re going to get. The amount of size a few kettlebells take up versus the potential results of using them is unparalleled.