Fitness Tips

Kettlebell Training; A Short History

By May 8, 2009 October 20th, 2011 No Comments

In recent times there has been a renewed interest in some of the more tradititional training tools such as free weights and kettlebells. Kettlebells have their roots in the Russian Federation and their introduction to the west is a relatively recent phenomenon.
Kettlebells are believed to have originated from ancient Greece. They were used in the early Olympic games and possibly also by the famed Spartan Warriors. Written records show that as far back as 1704 Russians used kettlebells. The kettlebell or “Girya” is a cast weight that looks like a cannonball with a handle. Originally they were used as a measuring tool in farmers markets and measured weight in poods. 1 pood is equal to 16kg and weights would be 1, 1 and a 1/2 or 2 (16, 24 or 32kg). Country folk started throwing these weights around and soon a training system started to emerge.

Since ancient times in Russia, Russian people have valued physical strength. Historically it was an honour to be known as the local strong man. This fed into local competition with contests being held throughout rural villages and towns with the term “ Grirevik” (kettlebell lifter) used to describe these strongmen. The strongest men were referred to as “Bogitar” which means extremely strong and honourable man. In a short period of time kettlebell training migrated from rural areas into the major cities and became known as the unofficial national sport of Russia.

After the Communists came to power they began to develop kettlebell training on a more scientific basis. Shortly after World War II in 1948 organized kettlebell lifting was born. Several kettle bell exercises were officially sanctioned for kettle bell meets. These were the one arm power snatch, the one arm military press and the two handed kettlebell clean+jerk. In the 1980’s “girevoy” or kettlebells followed the suit of Olympic weight lifting and the press was eliminated from competition.

 Kettle bells were originally popularized in the west a century ago by American and European strongmen who learned the sport from their Russian counterparts. Such iron legends as Arthur Saxon and Eugene Sandow favoured kettlebells just as much as their Russian colleagues. Indeed the Milo Barbell Company manufactured their first kettlebell in 1902. However as the West gained prosperity the emphasis moved from strength based training into muscle cultivation for size and aesthetic; this first popularized body building which is still evident in many of our gyms today.
In Russia however kettlebells maintained their popularity: the brutal efficiency of this simple training tool was and is utilised to its full potential by athletes, military and special forces. Here was a tool which was easily transported and could be used by troops on the front line to keep them in shape. Spetsnaz, or special forces personnel owe much of their wiry strength, explosive agility and highg levels of stamina to kettlebells. Without the obvious disadvantage of bulking up this was the ultimate tool. Today screening fitness tests in the snatch and the clean and jerk are utilised by the law enforcement services in the former Soviet States and are becoming popular with elite American forces.

This resurgence in popularity in the west is largely down to Pavel Tsatsouline who worked with and trained Soviet military personnel prior to the iron curtain coming down. After this he moved to the U.S and started training special forces state side with profound effect. Now not just the tool of choice for the military kettlebell training has been utilised by elite athletes such as the UFC’s BJ Penn, Randy Coutre, Jens Pulver and Tim Sylvia. Due to its amazing fat burning capabilities it is also used in Holywood by J-Lo, Penelope Cruz and Sylvester Stallone amongst others. Within our own shores Geri Halliwell is also a fan as is Amir Kahn, along with Liverpool and Chealsa Football Clubs. Kettlebells are also great for home personal training as they are easily transportable, promote both strength and flexibility, and are very versatile. They are also perfect for female personal training clients as they promote muscle tone, burn lots of fat, improve flexibility but without bulking up.
Many of our Diets Don’t Work personal trainers in London and Windsor and qualified in kettlebell training, so if you would like to see all the benefits yourself book a free consultation and we can do it together!

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