Perform Better Competition-Style Kettlebells VS. AKC Pro Grade Kettlebells
One of the key issues with those of us participating in Girevoy Sport has been the initial cost of competition-style kettlebells. While the American Kettlebell Club has been the main source for this style kettlebell, they have also suffered from quality control and supply issues at various times.
Further, the cost of a competition-style kettlebell is well above that of a basic-style (Without getting into which kettlebell is a traditional style, I’ll call the basic black version the Dragondoor, or DD style) kettlebell.
The design of the competition-style kettlebell is essential for proper execution of the three Girevoy Sport lifts – Jerk, Snatch, and Long Cycle Clean and Jerk. While a Girevik can certainly train with the DD- style kettlebell, the difference in grip position, particularly in the rack, will certainly confound the Girevik not used to training with a distinctly open “horn” as is found on the competition-style kettlebell. In a competition, this could mean a significant difference in number of reps completed due to the difference in style of the kettlebell handles.
Until a few weeks ago, Gireviks interested in training for Girevoy Sport faced a limited choice when ordering competition style kettlebells. Gireviks could order from American Kettlebell Club, USGSF, or through suppliers in Europe or elsewhere (Planet Achyball?).
Now, Perform Better, a Rhode Island-based fitness training and equipment company, has come out with their own version of competition-style kettlebells in four sizes, 12, 16, 20, and 24 kilograms. The prices are near the American Kettlebell Club kettlebells, but still less after shipping by about $20.00.
I have been interested in a cheaper alternative to the American Kettlebell Club’s Pro Grade kettlebells for some time. While I have a complete set of American Kettlebell Club kettlebells I received after attending the American Kettlebell Club certification in March 2007, I’ve wanted to buy a couple “in between” kettlebells to my complement my training. Since receiving my American Kettlebell Club kettlebells, I’ve purchased one of their pink 8 kg Pro Grade kettlebells for my daughter.
The American Kettlebell Club kettlebells are color-coded by weight. (In the picture, Pink kettlebells are 8 kg, Blue kettlebells are 12 kg, yellow are 16 kg, purple are 20 kg, green are 24 kg, orange are 28 kg and red are 32 kg.) These are the same colors and weights used for Girevoy Sport competitions.
These first American Kettlebell Club kettlebells had a rough finish to them and the handle size on my 24 kg kettlebells was different. In addition, one of my 16 kg bells had a loose piece of slag knocking around inside it. As far as I was concerned however, the finish does not affect the way I lift the kettlebell, and the loose piece of slag never bothered me nor do I think it affects my lifts.
At any rate, American Kettlebell Club bells have improved a bit since then with the introduction of their Pro-Grade competition kettlebells. The handles are now uniform in size and come pre-sanded. The lack of paint on the handle provides an adhesive surface for chalking and means less work for the Girevik to prepare the kettlebell.
Perform Better Introduces An Alternative Competition-Style Kettlebell
After reading about Gireviks speculating on the quality of the Perform Better competition style kettlebells versus the American Kettlebell Club kettlebells, I decided to purchase a 20 kg Perform Better competition-style kettlebell and see for myself what the difference was.
On 10/16/08, I placed my order for my Perform Better competition-style kettlebell and received it on 10/23/08, within the 7-10 day shipping advertised.
The kettlebell was packed inside a hard foam mold inside a cardboard box, and appeared to be packed exactly like the last American Kettlebell Club kettlebell I purchased.
Notice that the colors of the Perform Better kettlebells do not correspond to the competition colors of the American Kettlebell Club Pro Grade kettlebells.
The 20 kg kettlebell is painted a uniform silver color, including the handle. The surface of the kettlebell is very smooth, and unlike the American Kettlebell Club kettlebell’s rough texture, I found no dings, dents, or surface imperfections on the Perform Better kettlebell.
I placed the 20 kg kettlebell next to my 24 kg kettlebells and compared the handles for thickness and shape. (While my 24 kg kettlebells are not Pro-Grade bells, I do have an 8 kg Pro Grade and the handles are comparable in size).
As the photo shows, the Perform Better handle is roughly the same size and shape as the American Kettlebell Club kettlebells. In fact, it falls right between the thick and thin handles of my two American Kettlebell Club 24 kg kettlebells.
As I’m going to be chalking the handles, I decided to remove the paint on the Perform Better kettlebell handle and see what was underneath.
I first tried a citrus-type paint stripper, however it had little effect on the paint. So with a little help from a grinder and sand paper, I had the paint off in about 5 minutes. The handle underneath was almost as smooth as the painted version, with relatively few pits and gouges.
The real test was going to be if the chalk would hold. As the photo on the right shows, the chalk went on and stayed on throughout a set of 50 snatches. I would rate the handle comfort to be equal to American Kettlebell Club’s Pro-Grade competition kettlebells.
The Comparison Results
All-in-all, the Perform Better competition-style Kettlebells are a worthy alternative to the American Kettlebell Club kettlebells. While purists may be put off by the alternative colors of the Perform Better kettlebells, I believe they may be a cost-effective alternative to use as training kettlebells.
The design difference between the American Kettlebell Club and Perform Better kettlebells is so slight as to be unnoticeable during use, and the quick shipping by Perform Better may make them attractive to gyms or trainers wishing to purchase multiple sets of a particular weight.
The downside to the Perform Better kettlebells is the lack of variety in weight sizes. The American Kettlebell Club has a full range of kettlebell sizes from 8 kg (17 lbs.) all the way up to 40 kg (88 lbs).
In addition, the colors of the American Kettlebell Club bells are the same colors used on the kettlebells in Girevoy Sport competitions.
Finally, the American Kettlebell Club Pro-Grade kettlebells come with handles pre-sanded, which means that as soon as you pull your bell from the box, you’ll be able to chalk it up and start lifting. The savings you’ll earn on the Perform Better First Place Elite kettlebells will mean that you’ll have to do a little work removing paint before chalk can be applied.
With the introduction of the Perform Better First Place Elite competition style kettlebells, aspiring Gireviks or kettlebell enthusiasts have a suitable alternative to the other competition-style kettlebells available.
I encourage readers to check out the Perform Better and American Kettlebell Club web sites for further information:
On the American Kettlebell Club site, go to their store for ordering information:
Kettlebell Cook-Off! Perform Better vs AKC – Round 2!
Those of us interested in Girevoy Sport know that the proper kettlebell will help with achieving your training goals. The shape of the kettlebell helps the Girevik maintain a proper rack and prepares one for Girevoy Sport competitions. Unfortunately, the cost of the Girevoy Sport-style kettlebell has kept many aspiring Gireviks from training as they would like. Several months ago, the fitness company Perform Better introduced a Girevoy Sport-style kettlebell called the First Place Elite, which has challenged the American Kettlebell Club’s monopoly on GS-style kettlebell sales. The only down-side to the Perform Better Kettlebells initially seemed to be the lack of sizes, as they come in 12, 16, 20 and 24 kilo sizes, and a finish that could best be described as “slick”. I decided to check out the Perform Better bell and previously purchased a 20 kilo bell and wrote a comparison between the Perform Better bell and one of the original AKC (pre-Pro Grade) kettlebells.
I liked the Perform Better kettlebell and appreciated the 20 kilo size as a bridge between the 16 kilo and the 24 kilo bells. However, to be fair, it wasn’t a proper comparison as the AKC bell was not the current model – the Pro Grade. I decided, therefore, that I would purchase an AKC Pro Grade and compare that to the Perform Better model.
As it turned out, I was fortunate that my big Christmas present this year was a 20 kilo Pro Grade kettlebell from the American Kettlebell Club. As I mentioned in my last post, my new kettlebell came on the day before Christmas (Thanks UPS!).
It’s cool Grape and has a more rugged finish to it than the Perform Better’s smooth Ferrari finish. The handle on the Pro Grades comes pre-sanded and you can see where bondo has been used to fill gaps or divots in the metal. The paint seems to be a better quality than the original AKC bells from the first certifications, however.
Today I did my first workout with the two bells. I decided to use an exercise where I could utilize both bells and settled on the double jerk. To keep it easy, I did 10 sets of 10 jerks with a minute rest between sets. It took me about four sets to get my groove, and the other six to really try to find my rack. I felt really good for about 2 out of the 10 sets, where my rack and double dip seemed to really “click”. But being that I hadn’t done a proper workout for a little while, the 10 X 10 was sufficient to get a good sweat going.
Both kettlebells felt good in my hands and there seemed to be no difference in the handles or the weight. In addition, the “ball” portions of the bells seem identical in size and shape.
I’ll continue to practice with both brands of kettlebells and we’ll see how the paint jobs hold up. I don’t particularly care what happens to the finish, but I’ll write an honest assessment and take pictures in order to help everyone with their purchasing decisions.
Kettlebell Wars, Round 3…
Recently, Perform Better added a new Girevoy Sport Competition-style kettlebell to its line-up. Dubbed the First Place Competition Kettlebell, the new models have sanded handles and proper color coding as opposed to their first introduction of GS-style “First Place Elite Kettlebells”.
When Perform Better first introduced their First Place Elite kettlebells, I thought they might be a more inexpensive way to bridge the gap between standard kettlebell sizes (between a 16 kg and a 24 kg for example). I wasn’t too keen about the non-competition colors and the painted handle, but weight is weight no matter what color it’s painted, and I’m pretty handy with caustic paint strippers, so I ordered one of their silver 20 kg bells and wrote a review and comparison between the Perform Better FP Elite and the American Kettlebell Club’s first issue kettlebell.
After stripping the handle of the Perform Better kettlebell and working out with it for a while, it appeared to be a reasonably priced competitor to the AKC bell.
Enter The Pro Grade
Around that time though, AKC introduced their Pro Grade model. From the pictures I saw, it seemed to be a definite improvement in quality over their first kettlebells and I realized that my first comparison was not really fair or complete without doing a head-to-head between the Perform Better model and the new Pro Grade model.
As luck would have it, my wife got me a 20 kg AKC Pro Grade for Christmas. The new Pro Grades were a definite improvement over the old AKC bells, and seemed a step above the First Place Elite bell. The First Place Elite held the edge in pure beauty if it was used solo. Otherwise, that silky smooth finish had a tendency to crack and chip when hitting another kettlebell (or the floor), exposing the bare metal underneath.
As you can see by the photo, the paint and bondo are pretty thick, so repairing that ding is a little more difficult than simply spraying a similar color on it.
Perform Better Ups The Ante
With the introduction of their new Competition kettlebells, however, Perform Better has thrown some serious competition into the Girevoy Sport kettlebell market.
I’m always excited to save a few dollars and was interested to see how this new kettlebell would stack up against the AKC Pro Grade. Since my wife was interested in trying some double kettlebell work, I ordered a new 8 kg (pink) Perform Better First Place Competition kettlebell.
For starters, the Perform Better kettlebell is about $20.00 cheaper ($39.95 as of August 2011) than the AKC Pro Grade of the same weight ($59.97). Placing my order during one of Perform Better’s free shipping promotions saved me even more money (on ground shipping).
Upon its arrival, I found the Perform Better to be a close cousin to my wife’s 8kg AKC kettlebell. The paint jobs were similar and the size appeared to be very nearly the same (the rust spots on the AKC are from outdoor storage)
The pink was painted on and not layered with bondo as on the First Place Elite models, and the AKC and Perform Better finishes appeared nearly identical with a glossy finish.
There was one odd spot on the side opposite of the Perform Better name. It looked like something was taped over and then had bondo or paint applied over the top of it. As some of you might know, there have been rumors that all competition kettlebells come from the same factory in China. I remember seeing a post from another kettlebell blogger who stripped down a First Place Elite bell and found AKC marking under all that paint and bondo!
Now I have no idea if that’s still the case, but I can say that AKC has certainly raised their game since I got my purple Pro Grade 20 kg and compared it with the Perform Better First Place Elite. Take a look:
A Cadillac Kettlebell?
Wow! I was blown away with the quality of this bell. Definitely their best effort yet, and better than my purple 20 kg Pro Grade that I felt was a step up from their last effort.
The handle is perfect. No grooves or ridges and the masking lines are even. The surface of the kettlebell is smooth, without very slight imperfections and the paint is far superior to previous AKC kettlebells, being a flat color and evenly applied.
By contrast, the Perform Better Competition kettlebell has slight pitting in the handle,and small holes on the painted portion of the handle, most likely from imperfections in the mold or a problem in the casting process.
But maybe I’m just being too picky. Those tiny pinholes are not going to affect the trajectory of the kettlebell, nor do I think that the handle will break during your lifting practice.
Beauty Or Bargain?
Ultimately, most gireviks are probably going to go with their wallet and in this economy, the Perform Better Competition kettlebell is hard to beat.
Click here for Perform Better: First Place Competition Kettlebells
On the other hand, if you’re only using a single kettlebell for your workouts, or you’re a stickler for using the same kettlebell you’ll probably use in a meet, you may want to stick with the AKC Pro Grades.
(*I am a Perform Better affiliate and a World Kettlebell Club affiliate. I did not, however receive any free products before writing this review. I purchased all of the kettlebells shown and written about in this review)
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