When I first started training with kettlebells I had no idea what weights were appropriate for my level of strength and experience, especially for more skilled movements that I wanted to start learning. I’ve now learned how to determine when a kettlebell is too heavy, and which movements are likely possible for each person at each kettlebell weight increment.
Is your kettlebell too heavy? A kettlebell is too heavy for us if we cannot perform at least 5 repetitions of stronger movements like the squat, deadlift, and the 2 arm kettlebell swing. If we cannot use a kettlebell for foundational movements, we will not be able to use it for more complex movements like the snatch, clean, or jerk.
Finding the right weight for a kettlebell can be challenging if we have limited experience selecting weights for our exercises, and we don’t want to end up with a kettlebell that is too heavy for us to actually use.
In this article, I’ll discuss which weights are likely too heavy for us based on our level of experience, our level of strength, and the movements we are capable of.
Looking for a kettlebell? Check out our reviews of the Top 5 Kettlebells For The Money, which are still high quality.
Table of Contents
Is An 8kg Kettlebell Too Heavy?
An 8kg is likely not too heavy for anyone. It can be a perfect weight for women and young athletes who are beginners to use for stronger foundational exercises, like the squat, deadlift, and 2-arm kettlebell swing.
An 8 kg kettlebell may feel heavy for those who are beginners, but it is not too heavy. It is likely the perfect weight to start practicing movements such as the kettlebell deadlift and kettlebell swing – which are beginner-level exercises but use stronger, more explosive muscles, like the glutes, hamstrings, and low/mid back.
Beginners are likely not performing movements like the turkish-get up (which requires more control and therefore a lighter weight) because they should instead be focused on learning foundational movements, which tend to also be stronger movements.
Is A 12kg Kettlebell Too Heavy?
A 12kg kettlebell could be too heavy for women and young athletes who are new to strength training; especially for individuals that have not been active before starting with kettlebell training. It could also be too heavy for intermediate level women, who are learning new exercise progressions.
Women and young athletes who are just becoming active, may find the 12kg heavy but as long as they can do more than 5 reps with good form in the goblet squat, and the deadlift then it could be an appropriate weight to progress and to learn the 2 arm swing, which would be the next progression.
The 12kg kettlebell could also be too heavy for intermediate women (those who have general strength training and/or kettlebell experience) when performing more controlled stability exercises (like the turkish-get up, the 1 arm swing) or when first learning how to properly perform a snatch or clean – which are intermediate level power exercises.
Is A 16kg Kettlebell Too Heavy?
A 16kg kettlebell is likely too heavy for all beginner lifters (men & women), and even for lifters with some strength training experience – if it's being used for more controlled and skilled exercises, rather than foundational exercises.
A 16kg kettlebell is too heavy for those who cannot perform 5-8 reps consecutively of the desired exercises; for a beginner this would be squats, deadlifts, and eventually the 1 arm swing. For more intermediate lifters, this would be the snatch, clean, jerk and 1 arm swing.
A 16kg kettlebell is likely too heavy for most people, except for intermediate-to-advanced men and women who train regularly with kettlebells (like those who do crossfit), or have a strong athletic base and have mastered the basic exercises (squat, deadlift, and swing) and most intermediate exercises (1 arm swing, push press, and eventually snatches and clean + jerks)
Is A 20kg Kettlebell Too Heavy?
A 20kg kettlebell is too heavy for all beginners, for women who are at an intermediate level trying to perform more skilled movements, and for intermediate level men when performing more controlled/skilled movements.
The 20kg kettlebell is likely only used for controlled/skilled movement patterns (turkish get-ups or windmills) by advanced-level men who have larger amounts of muscle mass and lots of kettlebell experience, and is too heavy for these types of movements for all other lifters.
It is also used by more intermediate-level women when performing more foundational exercises like the 2 arm kettlebell swing, the goblet squat, the deadlift for moderate-to-high reps (10+ reps) but is likely too heavy for intermediate women trying to perform the snatch and clean & jerk.
Is A 24kg Kettlebell Too Heavy?
A 24kg kettlebell is too heavy for beginners and women with an intermediate level of strength/experience. It is likely only appropriate for women at an advanced level (of strength/training experience), intermediate men performing foundational exercises, and for advanced men.
The 24kg kettlebell is likely too heavy for most people when performing more strict movements like kettlebell presses, turkish get-ups, and windmills. Instead, it would be more appropriate when used for a push press, or jerk if we’re wanting to perform overhead movements.
It is appropriate for 2 arm swings for more advanced females and intermediate men, but could probably still be used for 1 arm swings for men at a more advanced level.
The 24kg kettlebell is the heaviest kettlebell that women will use in kettlebell sport (a kettlebell competition where we try and complete as many repetitions of the competition movements within a set time frame).
This tells us that for the most advanced women, this weight is likely appropriate for snatches, cleans, and jerks which are all exercises performed in kettlebell sport.
The 24kg kettlebell is likely too heavy for intermediate level men when performing more skilled exercises such as the snatch, clean, overhead squat, and jerk but could be the right weight for foundational movements such as the goblet squat, deadlift, and 2 arm swing.
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.
Is A 28kg Kettlebell Too Heavy?
A 28kg kettlebell is too heavy for all beginners, and is likely too heavy for all intermediate lifters who are training with higher rep ranges (8+), especially for more skilled movements.
A 28kg kettlebell is not a weight that I would suggest for those who are new to kettlebell training and/or strength training in general. It is likely only appropriate for more advanced men and women.
Women will typically use these weights to train at lower rep ranges (≤ 8 reps) for foundational movements (squats & deadlifts) and some more powerful movements such as 2 arm swings, cleans, and jerks.
More advanced men could potentially perform skilled movements like 1 arms swings, overhead squats, and push presses at this weight, but it is more likely to be used for more powerful movements such as the 2 arm swing, snatches, cleans, and jerks.
Is A 32kg Kettlebell Too Heavy?
A 32kg kettlebell is too heavy for beginner and intermediate lifters, and most women. It is likely only appropriate for men who are advanced lifters in terms of strength development, power development, and in experience levels.
The 32kg kettlebell is the heaviest weight for men in kettlebell sport, and is likely only appropriate for men at this level of competition, or those who have higher levels of muscle mass and kettlebell experience.
How-To Determine The Right Size Kettlebell For You
We need kettlebell weights that are not so heavy that we can use them for at least 5 repetitions; whether that is for more skilled movements that are complex in terms of technique or stability, or it is for more strength and power movements involving the lower body.
In addition, we want a weight that is going to help us to progress in strength. For this reason, it cannot be too light, as we will not get stronger if the weight is not challenging enough to present a stimulus that the body needs to adapt to.
It should be noted that the weight that is appropriate for the upper body or more stabilized movements, will not be the same weight that is appropriate for the lower body or more powerful movements.
For this reason, it makes sense to invest in 2 different kettlebell weights – if we get a lighter weight, the power exercises will not be challenging enough; if we get a heavier weight, then we won’t be able to use it for most upper body/stability exercises.
It should be noted that there are heavier weights that could function for those who want a kettlebell solely for foundational movements (squats & deadlifts) which require less skill and are therefore stronger movements.
However, these movements can be loaded more heavily with a barbell, so it does not necessarily make sense to buy a kettlebell weight that we can only use for squats and deadlifts.
If you struggle with the kettlebell hitting your wrist while swinging, check out my article on How To Keep Kettlebell From Hitting Your Wrist (7 Tips).
Frequently Asked Questions: Which One To Get?
I get a lot of questions from lifters on whether they should go for one kettlebell size over another. Here are my answers:
24kg vs 28kg Kettlebell
A 24kg kettlebell is appropriate for women and intermediate men who are strong enough to squat/deadlift this weight for more than 8 repetitions, and have mastered the snatch, clean, and jerk. The 28kg kettlebell is suited to more advanced men who are comfortable performing snatches, cleans, and jerks at heavier weights.
24kg vs 32kg Kettlebell
A 24kg kettlebell is appropriate for women who are at the most advanced level and intermediate men who can comfortably perform snatches, cleans, and jerks. The 32kg kettlebell is only appropriate for men at the most advanced level who have the strength and endurance to compete in Crossfit or kettlebell sport.
28kg vs 32kg Kettlebell
A 28kg kettlebell is a better fit for men at an intermediate level who are comfortable with snatches, cleans, and jerks but not strong enough to achieve 8+ reps of these movements with a heavier weight. The 32kg kettlebell is more appropriate for those who are skilled and strong enough to compete with kettlebells.
Other Kettlebell Resources
- Kettlebell Swing vs Deadlift: Differences, Pros, Cons
- Powder Coat vs Competition Kettlebells: Pros & Cons
- Cast Iron vs Steel Kettlebells: Pros, Cons, Differences
- 33mm vs 35mm Kettlebell Handle: Which One Should You Get?
- Kettlebell Window Size: What Is It? How Big Should It Be?
- E-Coat vs Powder Coat Kettlebell: Pros, Cons, Differences
- Adjustable vs Standard Kettlebell: Pros, Cons, Differences
- Plastic vs Iron Kettlebell: Pros, Cons, Differences
- Best 5 Kettlebells For Small Hands
- 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)
Selecting weights can be difficult when we are learning new exercises and becoming stronger but it is important to get a weight that challenges us to improve, but is not so heavy that we risk injury, or develop improper movement patterns.
About The Author
Amanda Parker has a passion for competing and coaching in both powerlifting and weightlifting. She uses her knowledge from her Kinesiology Degree, CSCS, and Precision Nutrition certification to coach athletes and lifestyle clients for performance in training and nutrition. Connect with her on Instagram.