Updated: Dec 6, 2020
Competition Bell Cast Iron Bell
Whether you’re a KPP novice or have been practicing for years, you might wonder what the best type of kettlebell is for partner passing -- especially now that there are numerous websites and manufacturers selling kettlebells online. It’s hard to know what to buy! The short answer to what type of kettlebell to use for KPP is that all types of kettlebells should be used. The long answer is that cast iron and competition bells are the best kettlebells to use for KPP, and each has specific benefits that are outlined below.
First things first: kettlebell anatomy.
Check out the picture below to see what each part of the kettlebell is called, which will be helpful for reference throughout your KPP journey.
Cast iron kettlebells are the ones you find at most gyms. They generally have thinner, thicker and everything in between sized handles and they are usually rougher handles, and a wider window. The bell is relatively small, and increases in size as the weight of the bell increases. These bells tend to be bottom heavy.
Competition kettlebells can also be found at gyms, but they are not as common -- probably because they are more expensive. These bells are used in Kettlebell Sport competitions and other activities that require a high number of repetitions and precise movement. Competition bells are standard in size, regardless of the weight. Their handles are generally thicker and smoother, especially if they have not been sanded down to hold chalk. The window is smaller than the window of most cast iron bells. While competition bells can be bottom heavy as well, if they are hollow cast then the weight is distributed more evenly through the bell.
Now that we are more familiar with the anatomy of the bell and the differences between cast iron and competition kettlebells, let’s get to the heart of the matter. When it comes to choosing whether to use a cast iron or competition bell for KPP, there are several things to consider.
Here are three reasons why you might use cast iron bells versus competition bells, and vice versa:
Different bells lend themselves to different styles of KPP. For instance, competition kettlebells are ideal for single hand solo work, single bell KPP, and freestyle KPP. Competition bells flip easily and uniformly because of their design, and the window of the kettlebell is made for one hand. Cast iron kettlebells, on the other hand, are best for two hand KPP work and for the hour test for instructors. The bell has a wider window, which makes it easier to get both hands on the handle. Even though the competition bells spin better and have better balance, the smaller windows chew up your fingers in a way the cast iron ones do not.
It’s good to be able to train and pass with all kinds of kettlebells, as you may not always have access to one of your preference. If you only practice with one type of kettlebell, you may get tripped up when using another type of bell. Using both types will reduce the chances of finding yourself in a situation where you are not showing up as a good partner because you lack experience with a certain type of bell.
Different types of bells behave differently when passing and juggling them, and you develop a greater degree of sensitivity by using them both. If you can direct both styles of kettlebell equally well, your ability to be accurate with your passes will be greater.
Where to get Kettlebells?
In the early days of the kettlebell revolution, there was only one distributor of kettlebells in the USA and they only sold cast irons bells. They are still around selling quality kettlebells, albeit some of the most pricey. If you are the type of person who likes to support the first to market, Dragon door is your huckleberry. Fortunately, they are not the only game in town and there are many choices nowadays to get kettlebells, from Dicks Sporting Goods to various online sources that will ship the kettlebells to you. Keep in mind shipping can be expensive and some companies offer free shipping. Some of the online sources that I have used are Kettlebell Kings, Kettlebells USA and Perform better. Kettlebell Kings and Kettlebells USA are specifically geared towards kettlebells. Perform Better is a general fitness site, but I enjoy their kettlebells and they generally sell quality equipment.
So there you have it. When it comes to KPP, any type of kettlebell can be used, with cast iron and competition bells as the ideal types to use. That being said, the most important thing is to practice, so use whatever kettlebells you have available and have fun!