Best Kettlebells that won't tear up your hands?

Discussion in 'Product Recommendations - Kettlebell' started by Herp Derp, Jul 11, 2016.

  1. Herp Derp

    Herp Derp Still New to StrongFirst Forum

    I am interested in upgrading from my cap kettlebells, and would like to get into competition style kettlebells because I heard they were much easier on the skin of my hands compared to that of cast iron powder coated bells such as rogue. While I like kettlebells and its workouts, the preservation of my hands are important (I'm a soon to be doctor of physical therapy, and thus use my hands quite a lot for work). In addition, my skin already gets torn up from rock climbing.

    I am looking for a 24kg/53lbs kettlebell that will be used for mainly for hardstyle training. I am looking for feedback for those that own these kettlebells.

    These are the bells I am considering. I am mainly considering competition bells of 35mm handles but not at all closed off to non competition bells:

    Competition Bells

    Kettlebell pro elite precision 120$
    24 kg - 53 lb Paradigm Pro® Elite Precision Steel Competition Kettlebell

    Steve cotter mentions the handles on the elite are different than the classics which are 33mm. He mentions that they aren't as smooth as the classics because they are designed to be used with chalk. Unfortunately I don't plan to use chalk. Are they still acceptable for high rep work without chalk? The handles also look to be different than the classics for sure, a lot less shiny.

    Kettlebell Kings Sport competition 120$
    24 KG | 53 LB Competition Kettlebell

    These look great and have the same features, but it also has a shiny handle similar to that of the classics with a 35mm handle. However, I also perform two hand swings and the windows for these are advertised as small!

    Vulcan Sport Competition 150$
    These have a relatively wide window for 2 hand swings, however another poster on here mentioned that they have issues with it hitting their inner thigh. I already find this true sometimes with other kettlebells. These are lower on my consideration list. They also cost about 150 dollars which are 30 dollars more than the others.

    Non competition bells

    kettlebell USA Mettrix elite 110$:
    I heard the E-coat on these are far better than the powder coats, and are far easier on the hands. However, I'm not sure how much better they are compared to the handles of competition bells.

    Rogue Powder Coat cast iron (personally sanded?) 88$:
    I heard these are quite gritty compared to other cast iron powder coats, however I heard they can be sanded down to work well with a persons hands, but just how much better? I know there are other cast irons powder coated bells from other companies that are smoother out of the box, but I may intend to purchase a matching set one day and wish to stick with a more popular brand.

    So just looking for some feedback regarding those that have multiple experiences with these bells.

    Stefan Olsson likes this.
  2. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Dir. of Community Engagement, SFB, Senior SFG Staff Member Senior Instructor

    Unfortunately, there is no "best" here, IMHO.

  3. offwidth

    offwidth More than 5000 posts

    +1 to what Steve said about no best. Personally I have Ader non-comp KB's and I have had zero issue with the skin on my hands. I too rock climb and my hands get trashed from time to time from that, but overall maybe that toughens them against the KB's?
    Just keep care of any calluses and use some manly lotion...
  4. Geoff Chafe

    Geoff Chafe Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    I polish the handles of all my bells myself. I use a hand grinder, and die grinder. I take the paint off with a wire wheel on a grinder. Then polish with a fine grit flap disc mounted on the grinder, and die grinder for the under side of the handle. If you do not have a die grinder you could use a drill instead.
    Stefan Olsson likes this.
  5. Tarzan

    Tarzan More than 500 posts

    I normally strip the paint or powder coating of mine too Geoff. I normally use emery cloth but there have been a few that have needed some more intensive treatment.

    If you intend to snatch anything over about 20 kg it will tend rip your hands up no matter what bell you are using if you use the wrong grip. In some instances the competition bells can actually be worse for someone with small hands (like myself) if I grip it too tight. When you snatch with a tight grip the handle folds some skin over at the first knuckle and repeatedly compresses and stretches it when snatching. You have to learn to relax your grip and let the bell skip past that point and catch it further down your fingers to minimise that compression and stretching which is what causes most of the damage.

    If you are not intending to do high volume snatching then just keep an eye on the callouses and sand them off with a pumice or something similar before they get too thick.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2016
  6. Geoff Chafe

    Geoff Chafe Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    @Tarzan Emery Cloth, and a file is ideal if you do not have tools. Just a little "Sweat Equity".
    offwidth likes this.
  7. Anna C

    Anna C More than 5000 posts Certified Instructor

    I had a deja-vu moment last week after 6 weeks of heavy snatches now, back to an experience I had months ago with high-volume heavy swings... that is, BEFORE you get the grip optimized, it's better to have a smooth handle so you don't tear your hands up. But then AFTER you dial it in (relaxing and grip changing on the fly), it's better to have the powder coat like Rogue; you can really get a good grip on the handle, and it's not overly rough on the hands when the hands become skilled in the movement. Just my experience.
    Michael Scott, Mark, Baker and 3 others like this.
  8. Steve W.

    Steve W. Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Not getting your hands torn up is less about the bell and more about hand strength, technique, conditioning and discretion.

    Hand tears come from overgripping the bell, and holding the handle too far into the ball/palm of the hand rather than the fingers, especially when the handle is rotating in the grip. Friction enhancers such as chalk exacerbate the risk of hand tears.

    Exercises where the grip is relatively static, such as swings and get ups should not put much stress on the skin at all (after an initial acclimatization period). If they do, it is probably a matter of overgripping (or using too large a bell so you HAVE to overgrip) and/or poor technique where the bell is moving in your hand when it shouldn't.

    The stronger you are, the more you can securely hook the handle in the fingers and maintain that kind of grip when fatigued. Also, the stronger you are, the less you need chalk. Not using chalk gives you a lot bigger margin for error. The increased friction with chalk gives a more secure grip, but will more harshly punish overgripping and tends to dry out and irritate the skin. You will probably find that not using chalk will slow your progress to bigger bells, since your hip power will progress faster than your ability to hold onto the bell. Personally, I really hate to use chalk and avoid it as much as possible, but do find it useful when transitioning to a larger bell, when conditions are more hot and humid, or I am doing a longer session that gets me sweating a lot.

    The better your technique, the more consistently you can keep the handle hooked in the fingers, and avoid gripping tightly when the handle is rotating. You also get a feel for when you need to grip more tightly and when you can relax. This not only reduces stress on the skin, but also minimizes fatigue so you can maintain good technique longer.

    Skin becomes conditioned through frequent and consistent practice so that the skin is tougher and less prone to tearing. It isn't just developing calluses, which can cause problems if they get too thick, but a general overall toughness, even where the skin is not obviously thick or rough.

    Discretion is the better part of valor when it comes to your hands. Cutting a set or session short if you feel a hot spot developing is much better than pushing through and getting a blister or tear that will affect your training until it heals.

    All that being said, the CAP bells I've tried are about my least favorite style, with handles that are finished in a thick coat of filler and paint that is very smooth and slick (before it eventually chips and starts looking like the surface of the moon). I find this finish extremely hard to hold onto, with chalk or without, compared to most other styles.

    BTW, all my bells are various generations of DragonDoor and a couple from Rogue. I've never felt the need to do any sanding or modification to these bells. I've also used older Perform Better bells and random CAP and Ader cast iron bells, all with painted finishes, and all of which sucked. My experience with competition bells is limited to picking them up briefly in a store, so I can't comment on how they compare for actual training.

    Hope this helps.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2017
    Mark, Kettlebelephant and Anna C like this.
  9. Steve W.

    Steve W. Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    This is a good point and fits with my experience/comments about chalk. More friction gives a more secure grip, but is more stressful on the skin and more punishing of errors.

    It's all about finding the right balance that works for you, which can be a moving target with experience and circumstance.
  10. Kettlebelephant

    Kettlebelephant Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Same experience here. I like the grippy surface of the Rogue bells for almost anything, but they can be a pain in the butt for snatches. That's why I keep my old 20Kg comp bell for practicing snatches.

    @Herp Derp
    What exactly do you want to do with your bell?
    I did a workout of the 10K swing challenge twice (not the whole month, just one of the 500 swing days). Once with a comp bell and once with a Rogue and I feel that you need to sand the comp bells to make the surface rougher, because even with chalk they get way to slippery after some time. Also I have relatively big hands and I can't fit my pinkys in there when doing 2H-swings. Could be a problem for you, too.
    I started out with comp bells only and unless you intend to switch to GS, I'd always advise to go for cast iron bells.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2016
    Steve Freides likes this.
  11. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Dir. of Community Engagement, SFB, Senior SFG Staff Member Senior Instructor


  12. Baker

    Baker Triple-Digit Post Count

    100% agree that in MOST cases, technique is to blame.

    Humidity is also a factor. I train outside in the Pacific Northwest, and I am definitely more prone to tears in the rainy months.

    Also: Rogue Bells are awesome. Removing the finish from the handle would be a mistake IMO.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2016
  13. Michael Scott

    Michael Scott Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Has anyone tried the Kettlebell Kings KB's? I am wondering about the width of the handles. I have wider hands, and I am wondering which brand has the wider handles, Rogue or KB Kings.
  14. MattM

    MattM SFG1 Certified Instructor

    @Michael Scott I have Rogue kbs and they are not too friendly with a high volume of 2 handed swings. I don't have that big of hands and my pinkies rub the sides, can get quite painful until the callousus develop.

    Previously I had a DD/RKC 40 and the handle was very 2 hand swing friendly
    Michael Scott likes this.
  15. Steve W.

    Steve W. Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    @Michael Scott,
    I recently bought a couple of pairs of Kettlebells USA Paradigm Pro Elite competition style bells.

    I like a lot of things about them, but one thing I didn't realize before using them is that the width inside the handle is actually greater than on my cast iron KBs (DragonDoor, plus a couple of Rogues).

    Note that I've seen some other brands and styles of competition style KBs that appear to have narrower handles (in pictures), so I wouldn't generalize about all competition KBs.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2017
  16. Michael Scott

    Michael Scott Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    @Steve W., thank you for that information. I was not trying to paint them all with a broad brush stroke. I was, and I am still, just asking those that own their kettlebells to please chime in on which one they feel has the wider handle. I apologize for not being specific in my question.
  17. Steve W.

    Steve W. Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    @Michael Scott,
    No need to apologize for anything.

    That comment about not generalizing about competition KBs was not intended to criticize anything you said; I was just trying to clarify that my description of the specific competition KBs I got might not be true for all competition KBs.
  18. Michael Scott

    Michael Scott Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    Ahh, that makes sense. Thank you for the clarification. Back to window shopping for now. :D
  19. Sean M

    Sean M Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    My 24kg is from Kettlebell Kings, and I love it. Width is fine for two-hand for me, but I have (I think) average size hands. I can imagine someone with "large/wide" hands might have their pinkies not able to fit...
  20. Bonkin

    Bonkin More than 300 posts

    @Michael Scott What size are you looking at getting? I can't find my tape measure, but I have a KBK 20KG and a Rogue 24KG and when I 2HS either of them (I have medium-large hands) - I have the same problem of pinky fingers being in the way as @MattM mentioned.

    I imagine that when you get to 32KG and beyond - they all have more space. When I 2HS my 24 or 28 I just let the pinky fingers stick straight out down the bell handle. Avoids the pinky pressure and let's me practice english tea time simultaneously. :p
    patterner and Michael Scott like this.

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