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Kettlebell is an often recommended piece of workout equipment but do you really need one and how many do you need? Here’s what you need to know.
Kettlebells are a great piece of gym equipment. Even a single kettlebell can provide a full body workout that increases cardio, strength and muscle size. It can be a standalone piece of equipment but is also a good addition to a fully equipped gym.
What are kettlebells good for, what weight do you need and how many do you need? Keep reading to find out.
Do You Need Kettlebells?
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.
While kettlebells aren’t a necessity for a home gym, they are a very efficient piece of equipment that could be used to build a complete physique, strength and cardio. They also take up very little space and aren’t very expensive. That means what you get in a kettlebell has a lot of benefits without too many downsides.
Kettlebells can be used to build muscle with both compound and isolation exercises. Click here to find an example kettlebell workout.
How can kettlebells help you reach your goals?
A home gym and gym equipment gets bought because you want to reach a certain goal. Let’s look at a few common goals and if kettlebells are the right choice for reaching this goal.
- 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. You would have to get a cardio machine and some weights/multi-gym to get the same results from other equipment which is much bigger and costs way more.
- 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. Kettlebells aren’t great for pure, low-intensity long duration cardio. A cardio machine is better for that.
- 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. They can be used for specific kettlebell exercises or dumbbell substitutes. For muscle building, higher repetitions and volume are important. So while a barbell and weight plates would be better for outright strength, for muscle building, kettlebells work well.
- 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 can be 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. Many kettlebell workouts are a form of HIIT which is great for an efficient calorie burning workout.
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 usually get equipment that’s more specific and bulkier.
How Many and How Heavy Kettlebells Do You Need?
Decided you need some kettlebells? The next thing you want to know is probably how many you actually need.
By far the most important characteristic when buying a kettlebell is the weight. Because kettlebells are otherwise 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 often 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 pure 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 the ideal weights for a fully body workout. These full body workouts are often done with compound exercises. For isolation exercises of the arms and shoulders, slightly lighter weights are often better. About 40%-50% of the starting weight would be good for isolation exercises.
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, that’s after many months of training with kettlebells. So if you’re starting to work out or you’re starting with kettlebells, pick one from the guidelines above.
Wondering how much kettlebells cost? I’ve written a whole post on that you can find by clicking here.
So you need at least 1 kettlebell of the recommended starting weight. If you want to add some extra isolation exercises for building adding one more kettlebell that’s lighter is an option but so is a set of light or adjustable dumbbells.
You will probably need a heavier kettlebell after a few weeks so you can immediately add that one. People tend to go up in 2 kg./5 lbs. steps.
Should you get cast iron or vinyl coated kettlebells? Click here to find out.
Are Kettlebells Alone Enough For a Home Gym?
If you just have a set of kettlebells, would that be enough to get in shape?
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 deadlift 700 lbs., a kettlebell is probably not going to cut it. However that falls under training for a specific purpose. For most people that are just looking for general health combined with some muscle and strength gains, kettlebells are great.
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. If you’ve already got all the other equipment, adding a set of kettlebells won’t add too much but still some good exercise variety.
A kettlebell is a good addition to an existing home gym for extra exercise variety or a standalone solution for people that want a super compact and cheap way to do full body workouts at home.