Gadling Gear: Kettlestacks

A little under a year ago I decided to get serious about working out and keeping my body in peak shape. After a ton of research (the kind that finds all these cool things that I write about every week), I decided that Crossfit was the best possible choice.

Not only is it great for strength, endurance, dexterity, power, and a number of other metrics, but it’s also efficient. That means that instead of spending an hour in the gym I can spend just 20-40 minutes and still get huge results.

This is acheived by combining huge compound movements which work out several muscles at once with old fashioned weights.

The favorite tool in the Crossfitter’s arsenal is the formidable kettlebell.

The kettlebell, in its original form looks like an iron cannonball with an oversized handle on the top. It was overwhelmingly popular until the dumbbell took over by virtue of being adjustable. With cheap weight plates available to adjust the weight of a dumbbell up and down, the kettlebell found it’s way to obscurity in the main stream.

Still, serious weightlifters and trainers continued to use the kettlebell. Despite not being adjustable, the kettlebell was favored for the wider range of exercises it could support. For example, the handle can be gripped with two hands and be swung from between the legs to shoulder height.

This exercise, appropriately called a “swing”, works the back, quads, and glutes. There’s no equivalent with a dumbbell, other than awkwardly trying to replicate the movement with a dumbbell (I’ve tried it).

One of very few compromises in my lifestyle which had to be made when I decided to go totally nomadic was my workout routine. Gyms are easy enough to find everywhere, but kettlebells are usually nowhere to be seen.

To the rescue comes a company called Kettlestack, which makes the first fully adjustable kettlebell. When I found out that they use standard dumbbell weight plates that can be found in gyms and stores around the world, I was excited.

A few weeks later a package was delivered to our apartment in Tokyo containing two Kettlestacks. At first I was a bit skeptical. All kettlebells I’d ever used were made of heavy solid metal. These were a hard plastic handle and a thin steel frame, coupled with a heavy duty axle to hold the weights.

The instructions are deceptively complicated. Once you understand how they work, loading and unloading the kettlestacks is a trivial procedure barely worth mentioning.

I loaded up 35 pounds, about half the capacity of the lightest model, and started doing snatches with it. I was blown away – the handle felt at least as good as any other kettlebell I’d used, and the overall experience was exactly like using a regular kettlebell. I anticipated weights clinking around and shifting, but there was none of that. All of the plates moved as if they were fused together.

But could it handle heavy weights? I loaded up all the weight I could and did a few swings. The result? I got winded and the Kettlestack showed no signs of stress.

I’m an ultralight packer, which makes the kettlestacks perfect for me. They take up almost no room in my pack and I just buy new weights everywhere I go or bring them to a gym and use them there.

Here’s a video of me packing my 28L pack with everything I own, including the Kettlestacks.

And here’s a picture of me doing some overhead swings on the lawn of Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan last week

Besides being perfect for traveling, these are ideal for the home gym or even a regular gym rat who wants a more effective workout. Get yours at