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Adjustable kettlebells come in different styles with several mechanisms for changing the weight. It’s important to understand how they work to determine the right type for your home gym. Weight dials and pins are fast and easy to use, but plate-loaded options are generally more durable and provide a more traditional look and feel.
Kettlebells are some of the most versatile tools in the gym.
They’re excellent for building muscle, developing power, and conditioning.
But adding a full set of kettlebells can be pricey and take up valuable space in your home gym.
Adjustable kettlebells are a great alternative, offering an easy solution to consolidate multiple kettlebells into one.
But which ones should you buy when there are so many options?
In this article, I’ll take you through each type of adjustable kettlebell and show you how they work. By the end, you should be able to tell which is right for you.
Let’s dig in.
How do Adjustable Kettlebells Work?
As the name implies, adjustable kettlebells allow you to change the weight using a few different mechanisms. They can replace up to dozens of fixed kettlebells, saving you money and space. Depending on the style, weights typically range from 8kg to 32kg, but some offer more or less. Additionally, the various styles have different weight increments and possible combinations, making some more versatile than others.
In general, there are four main types of adjustable kettlebells:
- Weight Dials
- Weight Pins
Let’s take a close look at each to see exactly how these adjustable kettlebells work and which ones may be best for you.
How do Weight Dials Work?
Weight dials are one of the quickest, most user-friendly adjustable kettlebell systems. These kettlebells have a hollow center with an adjustable column that holds weight plates. A turn dial on top selects the appropriate number of plates, leaving any unused plates on the floor.
All-in, it only takes a few seconds to adjust the weight, which can range from as low as 4kg (~8 lbs) to as much as 24kg (~53 lbs). Depending on the brand, most weight dials offer at least 5 weight options.
These systems also have one of two security measures to prevent accidental adjustments while using the kettlebell:
- Docking Station – Some weight dial kettlebells have a special base that unlocks the mechanism. When docked, you simply turn the dial to change the weight. When undocked/in use, the weight dial is locked, preventing any weight adjustments.
- Press-and-Twist – Similar to a pill bottle, some weight dials have to be pressed in to unlock the mechanism. This eliminates the need for a dedicated station.
The downside to weight dial kettlebells is that they may not be as durable because of more moving parts. Some may also have a different look and feel than a fixed kettlebell.
I personally like and recommend the REP Adjustable Kettlebell to most people. It has a traditional shape, textured powder coat, and is mostly made of cast iron. Only the weight dial includes plastic, making it one of the most durable in this class. REP also offers three versions depending on your weight needs and preference for kilograms or pounds.
Further reading: REP Adjustable Kettlebell Review
How do Weight Pins Work?
Weight pins are another simple, user-friendly system with a hollow bell and stacked weight plates. By sliding a steel pin through dedicated holes, you can adjust the weight almost instantly.
PowerBlock makes the best and most popular weight pin adjustable kettlebells. They offer two options based on your strength level, with top weights of 16kg (35 lbs) or 28kg (62 lbs).
One of my favorite things about this style is the compact size. The smaller footprint is excellent for small gyms or for those who travel with their gear. However, the PowerBlocks have an unconventional shape that takes a little getting used to.
Another thing to consider is they don’t offer as many weight adjustments, making them slightly less versatile than other systems. Still, they’re among the best if you’re looking for speed.
How Do Plate-Loaded Kettlebells Work?
Plate-loaded adjustable kettlebells are generally the most durable option since they’re mostly made of all steel/cast iron. However, the biggest downside is that they take longer to set up.
To adjust these, you have to physically load weight plates onto or into them. Some use a locking screw to secure the plates, while others use sliding tabs or hitch pins. Depending on the style, it can take between 10-30 seconds to adjust a plate-loaded kettlebell.
While some options have a lower weight capacity of around 40 lbs, others can have huge capacities of up to a staggering 500 lbs. Most of them come with their own plates, but some use your existing standard or Olympic plates, which can save you money.
My favorite plate-loaded option is the Ironmaster Quick-Lock Kettlebell. It has a great weight range from 22.5 to 80 lbs and offers weight increments of 2.5 or 5 lbs. Ironmaster is well-known for making high-quality adjustable dumbbells, and they smartly designed this kettlebell system to fit the same plates. So, if you’re interested in their Quick-Lock dumbbells, you can seamlessly switch back and forth.
How Do Adjustable Competition Kettlebells Work?
Adjustable competition kettlebells are exact replicas of traditional competition kettlebells, making them ideal for serious kettlebell users. If you’re training for kettlebell sport, which uses the same size kettlebell regardless of weight, these are easily the best choice.
They’re also the most durable since they’re made entirely of steel/cast iron and use two locking mechanisms. However, that extra security comes at the cost of adjustment speed. Where traditional plate-loaded kettlebells can take up to 30 seconds, adjusting a competition kettlebell can take up to 2 minutes.
To use them, you first have to split the kettlebell in half by removing a bottom screw with an Allen key. With it open, you then have to use a wrench to add or remove plates, and then reverse the process to re-secure the kettlebell.
While they may be slow, they’re incredibly versatile. I recommend the Bells of Steel Adjustable Kettlebell because you can load them up to 32.5kg with over 40 different increments. Yes, FORTY. This kettlebell comes with plates ranging from 0.5 to 3kg, giving you numerous weight combinations.
You’ll pay more for them, but the added versatility, traditional feel, and lifetime warranty are worth it if you’re serious about kettlebell training.
FAQs About Adjustable Kettlebells
Are Adjustable Kettlebells as Effective as Regular Kettlebells?
Yes, you can perform the same exercises with an adjustable kettlebell as you can with a regular one. However, weight distribution can differ slightly, depending on how much weight you have loaded. You should also consider that some adjustable kettlebells have unique shapes that could slightly alter movement mechanics.
Are Adjustable Kettlebells Safe?
Adjustable kettlebells are safe as long as you secure them and use them properly. Some have built-in security measures to ensure safe operation, but you should always double-check that the weight plates are tight and secure, especially plate-loaded options.
Is it Easy to Change the Weight on an Adjustable Kettlebell?
Changing the weight of adjustable kettlebells depends on the brand and style. Weight dials and weight pins are very easy to use, allowing for adjustments in less than 5 seconds. Plate-loaded kettlebells, on the other hand, are more manual and take between 10 seconds and 2 minutes to adjust. Ask yourself how much speed and ease of use matter and then pick accordingly.
An adjustable kettlebell is a great addition to any home gym, but it’s important to understand how they work to pick the right one for your needs.
Ask yourself what’s most important for your training goals.
Do you need speed? Durability? Do you prefer a traditional look and feel?
The answer to these questions will steer you in the right direction.