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Where did the Kettlebell craze start?


Kettlebells have been around for a while and found their way into mainstream fitness offering fun for those who know to use them. But still, they are surrounded by the aura of being a tool for the ‘real’ insider or strong trainee. This first article will give you an idea about possible roots of the kettlebell. We will also be following up with articles on the basic kettlebell moves.

So where did the craze of Kettlebells come from?

Kettlebells have been used by various cultures as a conditioning tool. Their origins are not clearly traceable, but archaeological records show us that they were used in Ancient Greece, proof being a 143kg heavy kettlebell at the Archaeological Museum of Olympia, in Athens Greece.

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The story of contemporary kettlebells, with its rich vocabulary of exercises and the sport of kettlebell lifting, starts in Russia around 1700. In 1704, the word ‘Girya’, meaning kettlebell, was first published in the Russian Dictionary, then used as a weight to measure grains and other goods.
The Russian culture has a long tradition in seeing strength as an honourable quality, demonstrated and admired during festivals and fairs. Here the kettlebell found a forum and the strongmen that used them soon recognised its advantages and benefits over other training tools.

Where did the Kettlebell craze start?

In the early 20th century, kettlebells became more and more solid training equipment of the strong men and circus performers around the world; such as Jean Moors, Julius Hackenschmidt, Hermann Goerner, Edgar Mueller and Eugene Sandow. However, Russia’s increasing isolation caused its sports and traditions, and ultimately the kettlebell, to stay within the Russian borders. In the Soviet Union, training with kettlebells became common practice for the military and Olympic weightlifting athletes who made it an essential supplement in their training programme.

Its popularity as a training tool finally helped the development of kettlebells into a sport in its own right. In 1974 it officially became the ethnic sport of Russia and in 1985 the First National Championship of the USSR was held in Lipetsk, Russia.

After the fall of the iron curtain, kettlebell training found its way to the ‘West’ in particular North America. Former Soviet instructors made them popular. Today there are a number of federations and organisations certifying instructors. The most known are the RKC certification, the International Kettlebell & Fitness Federation, the Agatsu Kettlebell Certification in Canada, and The World Kettlebell Club.

For the fitness enthusiast who wants to compete, the kettlebell sport, also known as Girevoy Sport (GS), offers a platform. The three main disciplines are the jerk, the long cycle clean and jerk, and the snatch. It is a sport that focuses on power/strength-endurance using submaximal loads. The aim is to complete as many kettlebell lift repetitions as possible in a set time frame. The sport is organised at international level, with leading organisations such as the International Union of Kettlebell Lifting (IUKL), the World Kettlebell Club (WKC) and the International Kettlebell & Fitness Federation (IKFF).

No matter what the reasons were that made you shy away from training with kettlebells, find a knowledgeable and willing instructor and give it a try – it’s worth it. You won’t find many tools that are so versatile in developing your cardiovascular systems, strength and power. Kettlebells as a strength and power training tool have definitely stood the test of time, and are only likely to become more popular over time, so take the plunge and have a go, but be sure to ensure your instructor is properly qualified.

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