Kettlebell Sport: A Quick Guide
Kettlebell Sport, also known as Girya Sport (GS), is a power-endurance sport where athletes attempt to lift a kettlebell for as many repetitions as possible in a set period of time. It is a sport which requires a significant mental and physical stamina to succeed. It is not for the faint of heart.
The Girya (Russian for Kettlebell) originated as a measure of weight, referred to as poods, in Russia. They had the appearance of crude kettlebells of today, resembling cannonballs with handles. These handles allowed circus performers to use the bells in feats of strength, which eventually led to contests of strength at local fairs and festivals.
Modern kettlebell training can be divided into two general camps: The first is commonly referred to as ‘hard style’ and refers to a kind of strength and conditioning approach popularized by Pavel Tsatsouline. This method is outside the bounds of this article, and deals primarily with the use of kettlebells for strength and conditioning, and not the actual sport of kettlebell lifting itself. The ‘Sport’ Style of kettlebell lifting, sometimes known as ‘soft’ style, emphasizes economy of motion and efficiency to allow the greatest number of repetitions possible.
Kettlebell Sport, in its classic sense, involves three lifts: The Snatch, the Jerk, and Long Cycle (sometimes referred to as the clean and jerk). An athlete may attempt each as an individual event, or combine the scores of the jerk and snatch together in what is known as Biathlon. No matter the choice of events the athlete has ten minutes to complete the most number of repetitions – without setting down the bell to rest. In the case of a single arm lift the athlete can switch hands only once during the set. It is this test of continual endurance which makes Kettlebell Sport so challenging for many.
Kettlebell Sport also distinguishes itself with the use of a standard sized kettlebell. No matter the weight the bells are a fixed size, allowing for universal technique even as the lifter advances in the weights of the bells.
The sport of Kettlebells is still in its infancy in the United States, though in Russia it has been competed since the 1940’s. It was not until 2006 that the sport of Kettlebells was introduced to the United States, and since then it has had a continued, if modest, growth among fitness enthusiasts. It is one of the few strength sports where women are as prolific as the men.
Kettlebell Sport continues to evolve. As the sport was introduced to the United States and the participation of women increased primarily in western countries the events open to women also increased. In Russia women were only allowed to participate in national championships in 1999, and then only in the Snatch. This was eventually expanded to a single arm version of the men’s two-arm longcycle. This concept of women being unable to perform two arm lifts was challenged by many of the western athletes; and in 2015 for the first time the American Kettlebell Alliance (AKA) began recognizing two arm events equal for women; as well as allowing men to choose to perform the single arm variations of the lifts; bringing equality to the sport.
Likewise variations on the sport of Kettlebell are emerging in the United States. A variation known as ‘BOLT’ allows the lifters to rest the bells on the ground, and incorporates additional lifts to compete in. This reduces the often intimidating requirement to hold the bell for the full ten minutes, as well as decreasing the local muscular endurance needed in favor of more global conditioning.
Here at 3rd Attempt our first love is the barbell, but we have a deep appreciation for the strength of body, and will, it takes to be a competitive kettlebell lifter. In recognition of this we have created a whole line of apparel representing what it takes to lift several tons of kettelbell in just a few minutes time. Check out our All The Reps (ATR) clothing to find something which represents just how much grit is necessary for this unique and challenging sport.
Below you will find more articles and information to help you down your journey in Kettlebell Sport:
International Kettlebell Fitness Federation
American Kettlebell Alliance (AKA)