What Is Kettlebell Sport?
Kettlebell Sport is for people who truly love lifting, enjoy getting stronger with a determined goal to work towards, and who enjoy being part of a team.
Originated in Russia, it is known there as “Girevoy Sport” or simply G.S. Girevoy means Kettlebell Lifter in Russian. The first known competition was held in 1948. Over the next several decades came unified rules and regulations which culminated into the Russian National Sports Federation. Today not only do the Russian military train using Kettlebell Sport as their main source of exercise, but schools and other organizations throughout Russia do the same.
Here in the U.S., Kettlebell Sport is a sport driven by beginners and intermediate lifters. First-timers through advanced all participate together at every event and it’s a great learning opportunity to be able to see the more experienced athletes performing.
The object of kettlebell sport is pretty simple. It is strength endurance based with the goal being to perform your relative lift over a 5 or 10 minute time limit and achieve as many reps as possible without setting down the kettlebell(s).
There are 4 main classical Kettlebell Sport lifts.
1) Long Cycle (clean & jerk) using 1 or 2 kettlebells
2) Biathlon (1 jerk set & 1 snatch set)
3) Snatch Only
4) Jerk Only
For Long Cycle and Jerk lifters use 2 bells and for Snatch 1 bell. During Snatch only one hand switch can be performed, but it may be done at any point during the set.
Most people choose to train and compete in one of the classical lifts, but there are also a few other lifts that are not traditional which athletes may train for and compete.
1) Jerk Team Relay
2) 5 minute Triathlon sets of Jerk, Long Cycle, and Snatch
3) 30 minute Half Marathon (1 bell or 2 bells) in one of the traditional lifts.
4) 60 minute Full Marathon (1 bell or 2 bells) in one of the traditional lifts.
You don’t need to compete in order to train for Kettlebell Sport, most do, however many people practice it solely for the exercise component because it is unmatched when it comes to workout efficiency. With Kettlebell Sport you are getting strength, endurance, and cardio benefits all at once without any high impact to the joints and body. Everything can be easily scaled to the fitness level and weight level the lifter needs so it is very versatile as well.
Most competitions take place on a Saturday and last anywhere from 4-6 hours. A small competition may have 25 competitors on up to over 100 competitors for larger events. For those larger events of 150 competitors or more they can even be over 2-3 days.
Each lifter gets put into a weight class, similar to boxing or wrestling, so that they compete only against other people who weigh the same as them. It would be unfair to have a small person compete with the larger person who can lift more due to having more body mass to move the weight.
Each lifter will compete with others who lift the same kettlebell weight as they are and who are competing in the same lift they are.
So for example, if Bob weighs in at 68kg for his bodyweight, is going to perform 16kg Jerk, he will compete in the 68kg weight class with other men in that weight class who are also lifting 16kg Jerk. Whoever does the most reps in 10 minutes will win.
TRAINING – NOT COMPETING
Some people don’t care whether they compete with someone or not. That’s perfectly okay too! In this case, train and compete against yourself to see what you can do and each time you compete your goal is only to out-perform what you’ve done prior. No matter if you decide to compete against others or just yourself, Kettlebell Sport organizations have put together ranking tables, determined by your age, weight class, kettlebell weight, set time (5 min or 10 min), and on the table it shows how many reps you should be doing within that time limit. This will give great achievement benchmarks to work towards over a training cycle (12-16 weeks) and this means you will always have very clear goals of what to train for based on your exact strength and conditioning level.
There are several Kettlebell Sport organizations and the 3 main Kettlebell Sport organizations where we regularly compete at here in the United States are Ketacadamy, American Kettlebell Alliance (AKA), and International Kettlebell Fitness Federation (IKFF). Some other are: WAKSC, IUKL, WKC, RGSI, IKLF, BOLT, Grassroots Kettlebells. Each organization also has their own ranking table that they use alongside their own competition rules. Always be familiar with the ranks and rules of whatever organization’s event you will be competing. Click on any of their names above to check out their websites for more info.
THE BEST part about Kettlebell Sport is being part of a team and the camaraderie of all the lifters at every event. That makes it so much fun and worth it all!