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Before I got more involved in kettlebell training it seemed clear to me that the iron kettlebells were of better quality than the plastic kettlebells, and were therefore more expensive. But I wasn’t sure how to know when to splurge on a more expensive option, and/or if there were situations when the plastic kettlebells were a better option.
So what are the differences between a plastic vs iron kettlebell? The plastic kettlebell is made with a vinyl coating. It is a budget-friendly option for most beginners. The iron kettlebell is made from cast iron. It is of higher quality, more durable, and is suited for a wide variety of kettlebell exercises. However, cast iron kettlebells are more expensive.
I think It's important to get all the information about each style of kettlebell before making a decision on which to purchase – which is why I’ve done the research on both products. In this article I’ll discuss the differences between the plastic and iron kettlebells, the pros and cons of each style, and which one I think is the best fit for you.
If you're in the market for a kettlebell, then be sure to check out our article on the Best Kettlebells For The Money, where we tested and researched 5 of the most popular kettlebells.
Plastic Kettlebell: Overview
Plastic kettlebells are the most cost-effective kettlebells on the market, and are great for beginners; but they may not be appropriate for those who want to take kettlebell training more seriously.
Plastic kettlebells are not sold by companies who specialize in kettlebells because they are not made for serious kettlebell users based on their design and durability. Instead they can be found at general stores like Walmart, who offer options that are more-effective but perhaps not made for long-term durability and performance.
That being said, plastic kettlebells are used by many individuals who are perhaps just getting started with strength training, have a lower budget, and/or are not sure if kettlebell training is something they are going to enjoy or not. The plastic kettlebells allow us to dabble in kettlebell training before investing more money into a product that we may not use down the road.
They are also beneficial for beginners because as a beginner we will be getting stronger quite quickly, and progress to heavier weights at a faster rate. Rather than buying a more expensive kettlebell that we would only use for a short-time, we can instead buy a plastic kettlebell that isn’t as much of a waste if we never use it again.
My favorite plastic kettlebells on the market are the one’s made by Amazon. You can check out today’s price of the Amazon-branded plastic kettlebells here.
Iron Kettlebell: Overview
Iron kettlebells are made from cast iron and sometimes have a powder coating or e-coat to prevent chipping, to increase our ability to grip the kettlebell, and to provide a surface that better retains chalk.
The iron kettlebells are popular amongst athletes interested in general fitness, because they can vary in size, shape and weight, suiting many different types of individuals and their lifting preferences.
The iron kettlebells with a coating applied increase our ability to grip the kettlebell which is important because we are then better able to hold onto the kettlebell without our hands slipping, especially if we’re performing higher-velocity movements like the kettlebell swing, snatch, or clean.
Iron kettlebells change in size and shape depending on the brand that we purchase and the weight that we purchase. Iron kettlebells typically increase in size as the weight increases, which is ideal for those interested in general fitness who are performing many one handed and two handed movements.
While iron kettlebells are not the cheapest option available for kettlebell users, they are also not the most expensive (steel kettlebells are the most expensive) – they are moderately priced because they are used primarily by individuals who are training more frequently with kettlebells but are not competing in a kettlebell competition.
My favorite iron kettlebells on the market are Kettlebell Kings Powder Coat Iron Kettlebells (click for today’s price on Kettlebell Kings).
Plastic Kettlebells: Pros & Cons
The plastic kettlebells are more budget-friendly and we can likely have multiple plastic kettlebells for the price of one iron kettlebell.
If we’re looking to spend as little money as possible when acquiring kettlebells, the plastic kettlebells are going to be our best option. This is likely the option that we should choose if we’re not sure if we want to dabble in kettlebell training but are not sure that is something we are going to enjoy long term.
Built For Beginners
The plastic kettlebells are ideal for beginners who are progressing rapidly and require increasing weights more frequently.
The plastic kettlebells are ideal when we’re working our way up in weight very quickly in the beginning stages of strength training. We may not want to purchase higher quality kettlebells for weights that we are only going to need temporarily; in this situation, the plastic kettlebells would be a better option than an iron kettlebell.
The plastic kettlebells are going to be hard to grip when we get sweaty in a workout because our hands will be slippery in contact with the plastic.
Normally we can combat our grip slipping off the kettlebell by chalking the hands and/or kettlebell but the plastic will not hold chalk the way that an iron kettlebell would. If we are someone who sweats easily and/or struggles with grip strength then the plastic kettlebells are likely not the best option for us.
Inefficient Oval Shaped Handle
The plastic kettlebell’s handles are not a perfect circular diameter and instead are more oval shaped – which is inefficient for movements like cleans and snatches that require a smooth transition of the kettlebell to a different grip.
The imperfect shape of the plastic kettlebell handle causes the plastic kettlebells to get caught and grab the skin and potentially damage the hand with higher repetitions.
This shape is more noticeable when the kettlebell needs to be rotated efficiently through the hand – this occurs with movements such as cleans and snatches, where the kettlebell needs to rotate from a regular grip to a racked position (with the handle across the palm and the bell resting against the forearm).
Plastic kettlebells are less durable and are more prone to cracking or indenting (especially when dropped); but for the price we are paying for this product, this is to be expected.
The plastic kettlebells are less likely to last as long as the iron kettlebells because they are made of less high-quality material. Although, it should be mentioned that they will not rust like the iron kettlebells can.
They are likely durable enough to withstand any beginner use but are probably not durable enough for those who are using kettlebells daily or training at higher intensities.
Iron Kettlebells: Pros & Cons
Iron kettlebells are more durable because they are made of higher-quality material that is more resistant to chipping or breaking – especially when powder coated or e-coated.
While iron kettlebells are still not as durable as steel kettlebells, they are the second most durable kettlebell on the market – which is ideal for those who are interested in general fitness training but don’t want to spend money on a steel competition style kettlebell.
The iron kettlebells are a great option for those who want a product that will be durable enough to survive daily use, but does not require us to purchase the most expensive option out there.
Check out the differences between a powder coat vs competition kettlbell.
The iron kettlebells are easier to grip because of the texture of the material, and its ability to hold chalk more efficiently – which prevents our grip from sliding, even once we begin to sweat.
The grip of a kettlebell is arguably one of its most important features because if we cannot hold onto it, then we are likely not going to want to use it. Personally, I would rather spend a bit extra if it is going to make the difference between a kettlebell being functional for me or not.
Built For General Fitness/Performance
The iron kettlebells are great for those who want to use kettlebells more frequently in their training and need kettlebells that are going to function more efficiently.
The iron kettlebells are built to be more versatile for general fitness training by changing in window size and shape based on the weight of the kettlebell. They are designed so that the light weights are more accommodating for one-hand movements, and so that we can fit 2 hands more comfortably on the handle for heavier movements.
By designing the iron kettlebells this way it makes them more versatile – which allows us to use them for a variety of movements to really get the most out of the kettlebells we purchase.
Iron kettlebells are more expensive than plastic kettlebells; so if we’re looking to spend as little as possible then they are likely not our best option.
While iron kettlebells are not the most expensive kettlebell on the market, they can get expensive if we’re planning to buy multiple weights – it is for this reason that the adjustable kettlebells have become more popular.
When deciding how much we want to spend we should think about how long we intend to use the kettlebell. If we want something that is going to last, then the iron kettlebells are the best option; but if we want something only for the short-term because it is a weight that we will only use as a beginner, then it makes sense to go for a plastic kettlebell instead.
Which Style Of Kettlebell Is Best For You?
If you’re looking for the cheapest option out there and are not particularly concerned about the durability of the kettlebell itself then the plastic kettlebell is likely the best option for you.
It is a great option for those who are progressing through weights quickly and may not necessarily need the current weight for many exercises down the road – rather than spending money on a weight that is only valuable to us in the short-term, it would be best to get a cheaper plastic model that we won’t regret purchasing.
If you’re looking for a higher-quality kettlebell that is going to be more durable and reliable, then the iron kettlebells are going to be the better choice. The iron kettlebells are better for those who plan to train regularly with kettlebells either as their main movements in training or even just for accessory movements.
It is best to purchase the iron kettlebells at weights that we will use for a longer amount of time for a larger variety of exercises. I suggest one at a moderate weight for the upper body and one at a moderate weight for the lower body.
To learn more about what kettlebell weight you should get based on your strength/experience level, check out my other article Is Your Kettlebell Too Heavy?
Plastic vs Iron Kettlebell: Product Recommendations
Amazon’s Plastic Kettlebells – Best Overall
If we’re looking for the most cost-effective option for kettlebell training , then we can’t beat the prices of the amazon plastic kettlebells – especially if we qualify for free shipping.
The selection is extensive and we can likely find any weights that we will need.
If you’re looking to stretch your money even further, I suggest choosing a weight that is more versatile and can be used for multiple movements, just to make the most of the kettlebells you do purchase.
1. Kettlebell Kings Powder Coat – Best Overall
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.
Interested in learning more about kettlebells for two-handed movements? Check out our article on the Best Kettlebells For Two-Handed Swings.
2. Yes4All Powder Coat Kettlebell – Best Budget Option
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.
Check out our other kettlebell resources:
- How To Get Rust Off A Kettlebell (4 Steps To Restore)
- 33mm vs 35mm Kettlebell Handle: Which One Should You Get?
- How To Keep The Kettlebell From Hitting Your Wrist?
- 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)
It is important to decide whether we’re at the phase of training where it makes more sense to invest in maybe less optimal, but more cost effective kettlebells; or if we’ve surpassed the beginner stage, and can purchase a more high-quality weight that we can see ourselves using for a longer period of time.
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.