When deciding which kind of Kettlebell is best, the two most popular options are cast iron and steel. Depending on your training needs, budget, and hand size there are pros and cons for each.
So, what are the differences between cast iron and steel kettlebells? Cast iron kettlebells are designed for general fitness and have more variability in their size and shape across different weights. Steel kettlebells are made for competitive use or for lifters who use kettlebells frequently in their workouts and are uniform in size and shape across all weights.
We want to ensure that we are getting a kettlebell that is going to function for us in our training endeavors but to do so we need to know the differences between kettlebell styles. Without all the information, we could end up spending money on a kettlebell that is not going to function for us in the way we want.
In this article, I’ll discuss the differences between a cast iron and steel kettlebell, and which one could be right for you depending on your preferences and training style.
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4 Differences Between Cast Iron And Steel Kettlebells
|Cast Iron Kettlebell||$-$$||Changes Based On Brand & Weight||The Most Durable||4-92 kg (also available in pounds)|
|Steel Competition Kettlebell||$$-$$$||Standard Size At All Weights||Durable||8-48 kg|
Cast iron kettlebells are more affordable than steel kettlebells because of the material that they are made from and the differences in sizes across different weights.
The cast iron kettlebells will vary in price depending on which coating is applied to the kettlebell, with powder coating being the most expensive option and a traditional cast iron with a regular paint coating being the least expensive.
We may prefer a powder coating (which is a paint applied to the kettlebell) if we are concerned about the kettlebell chipping or cracking as it is the most durable form of paint coating a kettlebell can have.
The powder coat also improves our ability to grip the kettlebell because of the texture of the coating and the ability of the coating to hold chalk better than the traditional cast iron kettlebell.
If you’re looking for more kettlebell comparisons, then check out my article on Powder Coat vs Competition Kettlebells.
Steel kettlebells are the most expensive kettlebells but vary in price based on whether the kettlebell contains fillers or is one solid piece of steel.
Some steel kettlebells contain filler to achieve the desired weight while maintaining the uniform size in a more cost-effective way. It costs much less to fill the kettlebell with sawdust and ball bearings than to achieve the desired weight with pure steel. For this reason, the kettlebells made purely of steel are more expensive.
The steel kettlebells that are made purely from steel are typically used for competition use whereas the ones made with fillers are not.
If we are someone who competes in kettlebell sport or a higher level of CrossFit style training, we will want to spend the extra money to purchase a steel kettlebell. If we are a recreational lifter or just dabbling with kettlebells, we can save our money and opt for a cast iron kettlebell.
Cast iron kettlebells vary in size and shape across different brands and weights because they are made to accommodate more general fitness which would incorporate one-handed and two-handed movements.
Cast Iron kettlebells are different sizes to accommodate a larger variety of movements by increasing the window size of the kettlebell as the weight increases to be able to use two hands to grip the handle for heavier exercises (squat, deadlift, swings)
Steel kettlebells are made to be the same size and shape regardless of the weight because they are generally used for kettlebell sport or high repetition one-handed movements. The consistency in the dimensions of the kettlebell allows for more efficient movements because it allows the lifter to maintain the same technique no matter the weight.
If we plan to do more two-handed movements we will likely prefer the size/shape of a cast iron kettlebell; however, if we are doing more high repetition one-handed movements we will want a steel kettlebell.
While both cast iron and steel kettlebells are durable, the steel kettlebells are the most durable.
Cast iron kettlebells get their weight based on their size and density but it is common for steel kettlebells to contain fillers such as sawdust and ball bearings to make the kettlebell weigh its specific weight.
Check out my other article explaining the differences between Plastic vs Iron Kettlebells.
Steel and Cast Iron kettlebells that are the most durable are those that are made from a single-cast, meaning they are poured in one solid piece and not made from parts that are welded together.
If our priority is durability because we are planning on using kettlebells every day for training or we are dropping kettlebells, the steel kettlebells that are not filled and made purely from steel will be the best option.
If we are using our kettlebells less often and/or we are not concerned about dropping or slamming them, we can consider a cast iron or steel kettlebell with a filer (steel if we prefer the uniform sizing, cast iron if this is not an important feature for us).
The cast iron kettlebells have a wider range of weights available in different increments because they are more general use and serve to accommodate everyone no matter their strength level.
Cast iron kettlebells are also available in pound increments to appeal to individuals who train in pounds and not kilograms. They are made lighter and heavier because they are used for one-handed upper body exercises which tend to be weaker and two-handed lower body movements which are stronger.
The steel kettlebells are built to accommodate kettlebell sport which requires high repetition one-handed movements and therefore will not require as heavy of kettlebells. Steel kettlebells are traditionally only available in kilograms and not in pounds.
If we are looking to train upper and lower body movements we will likely prefer a cast iron kettlebell which has a wider range of weights, with more options for weight increments. If we are performing mostly high repetition power movements (snatch, clean, jerk), a steel kettlebell will likely offer the weight range we need.
Cast Iron Kettlebell: Pros & Cons
- More Versatile
- Available In Different Coatings
Cast iron kettlebells are more budget-friendly, while still being a good quality product. They vary in price depending on the brand and coatings (powder coat, e-coat, rubber coating) that we are interested in, but are overall more budget-friendly than steel kettlebells.
The price point makes them an ideal kettlebell style for beginners, or those who do not plan to compete and instead want kettlebells for general fitness.
Cast iron kettlebells are also more versatile because the window sizes are generally big enough to accommodate one or two-handed movements.
Typically they are made so that the window size increases as the weight increases which is ideal for upper and lower body movements which are typically performed with a two-handed grip and are stronger movements (deadlift, kettlebell swing, goblet squat).
Upper body movements are typically performed at lower weights and with a one-handed grip and therefore the smaller window sizes of the lower weights is also ideal.
Available In Different Coatings
Cast iron kettlebells are available in different coatings such as a powder coat or e-coat, which increase the grip-ability of the kettlebell and hold chalk better than the traditional paint coating.
They are also available with a rubber coating that surrounds the bell (round base) of the kettlebell which is typically suited for apartment use or whenever more protection of surfaces is required.
- Variability Across Brands And Loads
- Not Suited For Competition Use
Variability Across Brands And Loads
Cast iron kettlebells are more variable between brands and across different weights which is not ideal if we need a particular window size to accommodate larger hands or different grips.
The variability makes it more difficult to purchase a cast iron kettlebell without trying it first because there is no standardized sizing.
Not Suited For Competition Use
The inconsistency in the size and shape of cast iron kettlebells can decrease our movement efficiency by forcing us to adjust our technique to accommodate the changes in window sizes and/or bell sizes across different brands and weights – which is why they are not the preferred choice for those who plan to compete and want to maximize movement efficiency.
How to care for your kettlebell and ensure it doesn’t get any rust is important. Check out our guide on How To Get Rust Off A Kettlebell, which also includes prevention tips.
Steel Kettlebell: Pros & Cons
- Built To Competition Standards
- Window Size Suited For One-Handed Exercises
Built to Competition Standards
Steel kettlebells are built to competition standards which makes them easier to purchase because of the uniform size and shape regardless of the weight of the kettlebells being purchased. There might be slight variations across brands but for the most part they are similar because they are made to a competition standard.
The steel kettlebells are ideal for kettlebell competitors because they are uniform in size, which will help them to build consistency in their technique.
Kettlebells come in different handle sizes. Check out my other article comparing the 33mm vs 35mm Kettlebell.
Window Size Suited For One-Handed Exercises
The steel kettlebells are built for high repetition one-handed exercises because they have a smaller, more rectangular window size/shape which increases the ability of the lifter to properly rack (a way of holding the kettlebell with the handle cutting across the palm and the bell resting on the wrist/forearm) the kettlebell.
If we are doing more one-handed movements, especially racked movements (snatch, clean, jerk, turkish get-up), the steel competition kettlebells are going to be the ideal kettlebell.
- More Expensive
- Not Suited For Two-Handed Exercises
- May Not Accommodate Larger Hands
Steel kettlebells are more expensive, therefore if we are new to kettlebells or do not plan to compete they may not be worth the money. There are more budget-friendly options available for these individuals.
Although, if we are someone who does crossfit-style workouts or plans to compete then it may be worth it.
Not Suited For Two-Handed Exercises
The steel competition kettlebells are designed for high repetition one-handed exercises and for that reason they are not the best choice for those who want to incorporate more two-handed exercises (goblet squats, deadlifts, two-handed swings) into their training.
May Not Accommodate Larger Hands
If we have larger hands, the smaller window sizes of the steel kettlebells may not be big enough for us to grip comfortably, especially if we are planning to do two-handed movements with the kettlebell.
Cast Iron And Steel Kettlebell Options
We reviewed the best kettlebells for the money, and here are some of our favorite picks for cast iron vs steel kettlebells.
Cast Iron Kettlebells
1. Kettlebell Kings Powder Coat
The kettlebell kings have a powder-coated cast iron kettlebell that increases the grippability of the kettlebell and is the perfect base for applying chalk. It is a great option for those interested in training for general fitness by accommodating one-handed and two-handed movements with window size increasing as the weight increases.
2. Yes4All Powder Coat
The yes4all brand is a more budget-friendly option for a cast iron kettlebell that is still powder coated to help increase the grip, and allow for better chalking of the kettlebell. The downside to this product is that the weight range is limited and it is only available in pounds.
Steel Competition Kettlebells
1. Kettlebell Kings Steel Competition
The kettlebell kings steel competitions kettlebells are the gold standard in steel kettlebells and are the perfect option for those who are looking for a high quality kettlebell for high repetition one-handed movements that is a key component of kettlebell sport and crossfit-style training.
2. Amazon Competition Kettlebells
Although steel kettlebells are the most expensive style of kettlebell, amazon has multiple cheaper options for those who are interested in the uniform sizing of the steel kettlebells for kettlebell sport or high repetition training.
Is A Cast Iron Or Steel Kettlebell Better For You?
If we are using a kettlebell for general fitness and/or we are new to the kettlebell world, we will be better off with a cast iron kettlebell.
This is because they are generally more available in commercial gyms, they are a cheaper option if we’re interested in purchasing our own kettlebell, and they are built for a wider variety of exercises (one and two handed kettlebell movements).
If we are using a kettlebell with the goal of competing in kettlebell sport or we are performing more crossfit-style workouts, we may prefer the competition-style (steel) kettlebell.
This is because of the consistency in size across all weights for movement efficiency and the window size and shape which is designed for high repetition one-handed movements.
Interested in learning more about kettlebells for two-handed movements? Check out our article on the Best Kettlebells For Two-Handed Swings.
If we are looking for a budget-friendly option then we should consider purchasing a cast iron kettlebell, as they tend to be cheaper but are still made well enough that they will last us a long time.
If we want to spend more money to ensure the quality of the kettlebell we are purchasing or we are purchasing for kettlebell sport, we should consider purchasing a steel kettlebell.
Hand Size will also help determine which kettlebell style we purchase because if we have a larger hand size and we plan to do two-handed movements, our hands may not fit in a steel kettlebell window because they have a smaller window size as they are primarily used for one-handed movements.
If we are not planning to do two-handed movements and we have bigger hands, we may be fine with the window size of the competition kettlebell but it is worth trying first before purchasing. If we have smaller hands we may prefer a steel kettlebell, especially if we’re planning on using the kettlebell for higher repetitions of one-handed movements.
If you have small hands, check out my other article reviewing the Best 5 Kettlebells For Small Hands.
Other Kettlebell Resources
- Adjustable vs Standard Kettlebell: Pros, Cons, Differences
- How To Keep Kettlebell From Hitting Your Wrist (7 Tips)
- Kettle Gryp Review: Pros, Cons, Is It Worth It?
- 7 Best Kettlebell Swing Alternatives (With Pictures)
- 5 Best Competition Kettlebells (Crossfit or Kettlebell Sport)
- Kettlebell Gloves or Chalk: Which Is Better? (Pros & Cons)
- 5 Best Kettlebell Gloves To Protect Your Hands
- Best 5 Kettlebells For Two-Handed Swings
- 3 Best Rubber-Coated Kettlebells
- 7 Best Kettlebell Apps For Both iOS & Android
- How To Chalk A Kettlebell Properly (4 Steps To Follow)
Both styles of kettlebell are great options, but depending on our training preferences we may prefer one over the other. The cast iron is the best option for general fitness at a lower cost, or we may prefer the steel competition-style kettlebell to improve movement efficiency if we’re looking to compete or wanting a more high-caliber kettlebell.