Recently, after 6 months of working out with a 35 lb. kettlebell, I purchased a new 45 lb. kettlebell to further challenge myself. I knew it wouldn’t be an easy adjustment, however, I didn’t realize just how difficult it would be. Obviously, the more weight that is added, the harder my muscles would need to work in order to execute various kettlebell exercises properly. This wasn’t a surprise, although, I hadn’t considered other factors besides the increase in weight. I’m still excited about performing at a higher level, it’s just that I’ll need to change my approach and expectations as I continue to build strength with my new kettlebell.
The purchase that I made wasn’t done on a whim. I had been planning to upgrade for some time. In fact, I asked for advice and settled on the Kettlebell Kings 45 lb. Fitness Edition kettlebell. Based on feedback from members in the Kettlebell Training group on Facebook, it seemed like a perfect fit. I have absolutely no regrets, but if you’re about ready to upgrade, consider these things carefully so there’s no surprises.
Changing From Regular Style to Competition Kettlebell
While competition kettlebells do come in sizes as small as 8 kg (~17 lbs.), many newcomers will most likely start out with a traditional style kettlebell. Why? Pound for pound they are cheaper. That doesn’t mean that they are less durable or reliable, rather, the size and design costs less to produce. Those savings are then passed on to the consumer. As someone who is unfamiliar with kettlebells, what sounds more appealing? A 20 lb. regular style kettlebell for $30 or that same weight in competition style for upwards of 2 to 3 times that price? Most people will opt for the lesser expensive item.
Construction & Design
The other main difference between the two is the materials. Competition kettlebells are made from steel. They have wide handles that attach to the kettlebell in a parallel fashion. Contrast that to a standard kettlebell which is typically comprised of cast iron with a more trapezoid-like handle.
The difference between textures while gripping each kettlebell is very apparent. The smoothness of the steel handle versus the course granular feel of cast iron is more noticeable than I anticipated. This is further compounded by the fact that my 35 lb. kettlebell has a powder coat finish which allows for an even better grip. It’s starting to make sense why these heavy lifters use chalk on their hands!
Different in appearance and in texture, it will take some getting used to for sure.
Finally, competition kettlebells are uniform in size. No matter which weight you use, you’ll always know exactly where it will rest on your arm in the rack position. If you’re changing sizes among different competition kettlebells, it’s not such a shock. However, I’m finding that the clearance and space I had with my 35 lb. kettlebell is a lot different than my new one. Therefore I’ve needed to compensate by widening my stance slightly to accommodate for this as I do swings and figure-eights.
More Weight Requires More Force
Of course, it does! Greater effort is necessary to perform the same exercises I’ve been doing month after month. That’s no surprise. What I didn’t think about was how this force would translate into friction. I finally got used to and comfortable working out without gloves with my lighter kettlebells. Now as I’m swinging my 45 pounder, there is much more strain on my palms which results in more callouses and blisters. I know that many trainers and pros will say that proper technique will solve that. I think that’s very true, but I also believe that strength and power, which can only be gained from experience, is also necessary to reduce those problems.
Speaking of which, I underestimated what effect the increase by 10 pounds would have on my technique. At this weight, I can’t really muscle my way through moves anymore. All of the flaws I could get by with before are no longer possible. This has made me evaluate how I perform a kettlebell snatch. Perhaps I was in too much of a swing move before. Now, I really need to use my lower body to generate the power upwards and quickly punch the kettlebell upward to finish the move. It’s an eye-opener for sure. In a way, it’s almost like learning all over again!
Changing Your Workout Environment
Since I started using kettlebells over a year ago, I primarily work out inside. I live in a large house so there are a few rooms at my disposal to choose from. I really love the convenience of an in-home workout. It doesn’t matter what the weather is like and you’re also guaranteed privacy. I didn’t think there were any downsides until I dropped my 35 lb. kettlebell on the hardwood floor. Yikes! At least I’m not alone in this embarrassing situation.
Aside from scaring everyone else in the house half to death, I was worried about the damage done to the floor. Thankfully, I didn’t notice any major issues. I got lucky I suppose. I was still getting acclimated to that size kettlebell and to this day I won’t perform certain exercises inside. Namely around-the-body moves. So, you can imagine the reservation I have working out inside with my new competition kettlebell. The damage that could do if dropped or flung would be substantial.
Speaking honestly, I’m not going to completely stop working out inside. I like to follow DVD programs from time to time and I have a much better understanding of what exercises I should and shouldn’t do inside. However, if I want to get creative and free (hello hand-passes!), then I must do so outside.
This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s quite refreshing to exercise out in the open. Although, there is the possibility of getting a few peering eyes here and there as my house is tucked in between apartment complexes. On the plus side, the constant worry of dropping is gone. I’ve actually dropped my kettlebell many times on the ground outside. Only a faint thud is audible. That’s much better than damaging your property wouldn’t you say?