Like any sport, you can gear up to whatever level suits your personality and budget. If you’re like me, you’ll get hooked and likely end up wanting all the gear that goes along with your new passion. Fortunately, I’ve already tested a number of different items in each area and will recommend only the ones I have or would personally use.
Along with kettlebells and shoes, the lifting belt is essential equipment for anyone looking to compete in kettlebell sport. Kettlebell Sport is unique, and as such the equipment has unique designs for specific functions. Unlike a power lifting belt, the shape of a kettlebell sport belt is tapered in the front and wide in the back. Its designed to aid in the rack position for jerk and long cycle where you rest your elbows on your pelvis. The belt provides low back support to reduce fatigue injuries as well as improving the stability of your platform for resting the elbows in rack allowing relaxation of the chest and shoulders. Below are the top 3 options for getting a belt designed specifically for kettlebell sport.
Bellevator | Kettlebell sport belt | $140 - $190 (shipping included)
This is my favorite lifting belt for kettlebell sport by far. The leather is sturdy yet supple, and the attention to detail is everything you would expect from 7 time world champion Denis Vasilev. This 3 layer belt is incredibly well made with detailed stitching, the long pronged buckle sewn in place, and one belt loop sewn in place with the other free floating to keep the tongue of the belt secured during sets. It comes in two colors of leather, black or brown with the option to customize your belt with an embossed logo on the back ($50 charge for first belt, free every belt after). Each belt is custom made by hand in Russia so expect an 8-10 week wait for your belt to be made and 10-15 days for shipping. It is absolutely worth it.
Lab of Champions | Rotor & Cutty | $109 - $150+ (plus shipping)
Once again the undisputed king of platform flash is Honored Master of Sport Arseny Zhernakov at Laboratory of Champions. He offers 2 versions of lifting belts; the unisex Rotor and the Cutty designed specifically for women. Both start at $109 US and can be customized to your heart's desire. They also offer a combo deal for custom built shoes and belt. Like the shoes, they are made by hand in St. Petersburg, Russia so there is about a 3 month lag from when you place your order until they arrive on your door if you're stateside. This belt is definitely more rigid and thicker than the Bellevator belts, which can be beneficial especially when lifting heavier bells or if you require more support.
Kettlebell Kings | 3 Layer Kettlebell Sport Belt | $149
If you don't want your belt customized or you just can't wait 10 weeks for a belt to come from Russia, you can get the same Lab of Champions 3 layer Rotor belt shown above in a standard dark brown/black finish right here in the USA from our friends at Kettlebell Kings. In stock items typically arrive in 3-5 business days with excellent communication every step of the way.
Heart Rate Monitors
Kettlebell sport is a cyclic training sport that requires specificity and precision in order to achieve your best possible results. One of the key pieces of data that can help guide your training plan is heart rate data. Throughout your training your body will rely on different energy systems for fuel depending on the intensity of the exercises being performed, and the best way to know which energy system you are using is your heart rate. You will better be able to understand how your body is responding to training stimulus as well as understand what type of training you need to be doing in conjunction with your kettlebell sessions to develop the necessary energy systems for optimal performance.
Wahoo | TICKR Heart Rate Monitor | $49.99
The Wahoo TICKR Heart Rate Monitor is a reliable low-cost monitor using a chest strap equipped with Bluetooth and ANT+ dual-band technology for simple connection to your favorite training apps. It accurately tracks your heart rate and calorie burn during any activity or workout. If you only plan to use it for indoor activities, the base TICKR model is sufficient, but if you do a lot of outdoor running or biking consider upgrading to the TICKR X which doubles as a run/ride tracker.
Polar | H10 Heart Rate Monitor | $89.95
The Polar H10 Heart Rate Monitor is another option for a reliable monitor using a chest strap equipped with Bluetooth technology to link to your phone or fitness tracker. It also has on device memory so it works away from your phone and has updateable firmware so it won't be out of date in a year, a nice feature Polar has added. It accurately tracks your heart rate and calorie burn during any activity or workout. You will find Polar Gym Link allows you to pair your HRM to compatible gym equipment, so if you do your cardio training at gyms with this technology it's probably worth the higher price.
Chalk & Hand Care
Fair warning, if you take up kettlebell sport at any level of seriousness you are going to tear your hands open at some point. I don't say this to scare you off, nor do I say it as some weird blood pact or a braggadocios testament to toughness. It's just a fact of the sport, like blisters in marathon running, bruises in hockey, or concussions in football.
That said, it's not that big of a deal and if you are smart the instances of damage will be limited and rare. It comes down to a few things; learn great technique, manage your load intelligently, use good chalk, manage your calluses, and repair any damage done quickly so you can get back to normal training.
Sand Bar | Callus File | $29.99
Regularly filing down your calluses prevents thick build up of dead skin and greatly decreases likelihood of rips and tears. This bad boy is the best solution I have found (I've tried many!) because it is about the same diameter as a bell handle so you can file in the same way you developed the callus. It's also waterproof so you can take it in the shower when your skin is already warm, moist and easy to file. Each kit comes with a SandBar®, BarButter™, a 100% all-natural salve formulated specifically for dry and damaged hands and a reusable protective tube.
O'Keefe's | Working Hands Hand Cream | $8.00
There are a lot of options out there for hand creams, I've used a CBD infused ointment which is great for some quick pain relief and anti-inflammation but when it comes to bang for your buck, I've still not found an option better than this little $8 jar. Spend your money elsewhere, this stuff works.
Kettlebell sport rules and regulations require that the lifters knees are visible by the judge, which allows them to ensure knees are extended and the rep to count. You will see lifters in different ensembles, but you won't see pants or long shorts on the platform. Most lifters opt to wear compression shorts because it allows the judges to see the knees, and there is no extra fabric within which you could accidentally snag a finger or the bell. It may seem like overkill to make a recommendation on lifting shorts, but I have WASTED more money in search of the perfect lifting shorts than any other piece of equipment. I have spent literally multiple hundreds of dollars, and have only recently stopped searching and stocked up on the winners.
WOLACO | North Moore Compression Short | $50.00
These are the best compression shorts I've found at any price point. I legitimately own 6 or 7 of these and they are what I lift in 95% of the time. They provide compression without restricting, the stitching is strong, the fabric is thick enough to not be see through but also moisture wicking, lightweight, and breathable. The pièce de résistance is the sweat-proof phone pocket stitched in that keeps your phone securely attached to your quad while running, biking, or lifting AND there is a utility pocket for your keys. Such a no brainer innovation, yet no other offerings I saw in the market have anything similar. Available in 6" or 9" length and a variety of colors.
Ten Thousand | Interval Short | $58.00 - $68.00
For those who don't feel comfortable being in compression shorts in public view, I offer the Interval Short by Ten Thousand. These guys aren't flashy with a gaudy logo everywhere, just a high quality product that is well made, thoughtfully designed, and incredibly versatile. The fabric is lightweight sweat-wicking 3 way stretch with built in side vents, pockets, and a zippered inner pocket for your phone. They can be purchased with or without a built in anti-microbial liner, come in 7" or 9" length and 5 available colors.
In the past, I did not recommend wrist guards or encourage my athletes to use them especially when first learning. I've heard them referred to derisively as diapers (not that I've ever said that...). They tend to muffle the biofeedback we are receiving from the kettlebell when it comes into contact with the wrist, which can be detrimental to improving our technique; a critical goal as a new lifter.
However, I am not a monster and as someone who bruises easily my whole life, I can understand wanting something to mute the discomfort of bruising on your wrists. It is certainly better to put some wrist guards on and keep training than needing to stop.
It's also important for me to note that I am a large athlete with a thick frame so I do not NEED or want any extra girth on my wrists because that could be detrimental for my insertion depth. But for smaller framed athletes, especially those working with heavier bells, the wrist guard can be a piece of equipment that actually improves their positioning and protects their bones from stress fractures. So like many things in kettlebell sport, what works for me may not be what is best for you.
My advice, new lifters should only use wrist guards when absolutely necessary and focus on improving their technique so they are not banging their wrist repeatedly. More experienced lifters who have good technique can decide if their frame would benefit from some extra girth and diminished impact on their forearm.
KettleGuard | Compact Version | $24.99
The brain child of Jessica DiBiase, Maya Garcia, and Steven Khuong of the legendary Ice Chamber. Together they developed a wrist guard that is slim, flexible, and has removable plastic inserts to allow you to adjust the thickness and protection level in various areas of the wrist. If you need a wrist guard, this is the way to go. You will see it on high level athletes at most competitions, but be certain to check the rules of the governing body to make sure it complies with their standards.
Kettlebell sport training at a high level requires athletes to accumulate major volume over the course of a training cycle. Even an average athlete like me will accumulate thousands of kilos of total volume in a week, and tens of thousands in a month. It's the table stakes to step on the platform and be able to finish the time.
Unless you are taking care of your joints and soft tissues, you won't be able to train at the volume required without injury. I won't get into the specifics of mobility training here, but any program for kettlebell sport should incorporate elements of mobility work and soft tissue therapy. There are many, many tools and techniques out there to help you recover and Like the other categories I have invested a decent amount of money in them. Below are some of my recommendations.
Kabuki Strength | Baby Boomer | $89.99
That little guy? I wouldn't worry about that little guy. The Baby Boomer is my favorite tool because it is small enough for my kids to use on me, and big enough to do serious work on soft tissue. I recently add this to my arsenal, and it is super convenient for self use in Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization [IASTM].
Weighing in at 6lbs and 4oz, the Baby Boomer is milled out of solid steel and zinc plated to a smooth and durable finish. The ends are contoured for trigger point precision, and the middle of the tool is knurled allowing for a shearing effect on the skin and a nice grip to the user. All of Kabuki's equipment is manufactured in house at Kabuki Strength Lab using American steel.
Kabuki Strength | Boom Stick | $139.99
Body tempering is a is a myofascial release (massage) method created by world renowned powerlifter Donnie Thompson (the first person to total over 3,000 pounds in squat, deadlift, and bench!) that uses heavy implements to assist in tissue manipulation and allows for the traditional effects of a hands-on deep-tissue massage in a drastically shorter period of time.
A 19.5 lb. high-grade steel tool; the Boomstick is highly effective as a body-tempering roller, and can be used by yourself, or by a teammate or clinician . The weight and contoured ends are designed to optimize use for targeting specific trigger points, while the knurling in the center is great for shearing force. The Boomstick can be used pre or post workout to prepare the muscle for training or to assist in post-training relief.
Kabuki Strength | Acumobility Balls | $24.95
The ACUMOBILITY ball is a deep pressure trigger point tool designed with a non-slip base that can be gripped or supported against a flat surface, which allows the ball to stay securely on a specific spot deep in the muscle rather than rolling over a spot. It comes in 2 levels of firmness, and I generally recommend having 2 of each to get the best benefit.
The LEVEL 1 Ball (orange) is the go to ball for trigger point release and stability exercises and is firm enough for most deep pressure release.
The LEVEL 2 Ball (blue) is significantly firmer than the Level 1 Ball and is meant to be used for extra deep pressure and release of larger muslce groups like quads and glutes.
I love using this in conjunction with my Baby Boomer or Boomstick to release my calves (check out the video on the vice technique here).
Rogue Fitness | Mobility WOD Supernova 2.0 | $39-45
The MobilityWOD Supernova 2.0 is a massage balls, with a groove pattern for deep tissue therapy that improves teh global shear pressure needed for good trigger point release and myofacial massage. It comes in 120MM diameter ball for larger muscle groups as well as the mini 80MM version for smaller muscle groups. The mini is a personal favorite of mine that always goes in the back with me to competitions.
Theracane | Cane Massager | $29.95
This simple and effective self-massager makes it easy to apply pain relieving deep compression directly to hard knotted points anywhere on your body, but I use it especially on my traps and upper back which are areas that are especially difficult to reach effectively on your own.
Amazon| Percussion Massager Tips (Jigsaw Adapter) | $13.99
Percussive massagers are all the rage right now, and I must admit I love the feeling of percussive massage, especially after a hard training session. As much as I enjoy it, percussive massage guns are pricey and they serve literally one function. A cordless jigsaw with a massage adapter works just as well, and you can also use it as a saw. I bought a new Dewault jigsaw and this adapter tip for less than half the money of a brand name percussive massager.
Obviously I love kettlebells, they constitute about 90% of my training, and if I HAD to pick only one tool it would be kettlebells. Fortunately, I don't have to pick only ONE tool to train with and I employ a number of other modalities in my auxiliary programming to prevent injury, work in different planes of motion, and generally keep it fresh and interesting. The items below in combination with a couple kettlebells would provide everything you need to stay strong and fit.
Kabuki Strength | SHOULDERÖK™ Loadable Mace | $189.99
Like kettlebells, maces come with a long history. The Macebell (or Gada) is a classical training tool dating back centuries. Its original use was in the wrestling for fighting cultures of ancient Persia and India. This plate loadable version is well balanced and adjustable. The rotational patterns of this device perfectly compliments the largely linear patterns of kettlebell sport. It can be used to provide strength development, improve stability and shoulder to core integration, and increase mobility at the same time.
Fitness Master| Resistance Band Set | $45.95
Resistance bands are a great way to train the opposing muscles of the back and shoulders after a kettlebell sport workout, and they can make a great, lightweight on the go option to train anywhere when bringing a kettlebell might be cumbersome. This set has 5 different resistance level bands – from 5 to 25 lbs. – you can start from 5 lbs. to a combined total of 75 lbs. with padded handles, anchors, and a carrying case.
TRX| Go Suspension Trainer | $129.95
Another great on the go option, TRX straps make use of your bodyweight for suspension training anchoring to any door, rafter, beam, tree, pole or post that supports 350 lbs in seconds. The GO set only weighs 1# and includes Suspension Training Strap, Indoor/Outdoor Anchors, 2 Workout Guides, Training Poster & Mesh Bag.
Kettlebell Kings | Adjustable Speed Rope | $24.99
The original go anywhere cardio workout, this adjustable jump rope built for high intensity workouts. Made using aluminum handles and a 3/32” speed cable. The Kettlebell Kings Adjustable speed rope has a high-speed, ball-bearing swivel design, allowing the rope to move seamlessly in any direction.