What is kettlebell sport?

Kettlebell sport, kettlebell lifting or girevoy is akettlebell training method. This is the official sport of the kettlebell, which originated in Russia. As its name suggests, it is practiced with the kettlebell, or girya, which is a round cast iron weight with a flat bottom and a handle.


Kettlebell sport: the official sport of kettlebells

Originally, the kettlebell comes from the pood, a unit of measurement mainly used in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. One pood corresponds to approximately 16kg, hence the official kettlebell weights used in competition : 16kg (1 pood), 24kg (1.5 pood) and 32kg (2 pood). Kettlebell sport practitioners are called girevik for men and guirevitchka for women.

The first kettlebell sport competition was held in 1948, but the rules were not unified until 1962. The kettlebell sport was declared a Russian ethnic sport in 1974, and underwent a major evolution in 1985 with the modification of certain rules and the creation of weight categories.  The fall of the Soviet Union in 1992 gave birth to two international kettlebell federations: the IGSF (International Girya Sport Federation) and the IUKL (International Union of Kettlebell Lifting).

History of kettlebell sport :

  • 1948 : first competition
  • 1962 : unification of rules
  • 1974 : declared a Russian ethnic sport
  • 1985 : modification of certain rules and creation of weight categories
  • 1992 : birth of IGSF and IUKL

In France, the practice of kettlebell sport is supervised by the kettlebell lifting section of the FFForce (French Federation of Strength) as well as by the FNKS (National Federation of Kettlebell Sport). Each federation seems to be independent and organizes its own competitions.

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The competition kettlebell

The kettlebell sport is practised with a so-called competition kettlebell. Competition kettlebells come in a standard size, whatever their weight, to enable practitioners to maintain their movement technique when changing category.

Standard kettlebell dimensions :

  • Height : 280mm
  • Width : 210mm
  • Handle diameter : 32-35mm

Traditional competition weights are 16kg, 24kg and 32kg, but there are competition kettlebells from 8kg up to 48kg.

Kettlebell weights are color-coded :

  • 8kg : pink
  • 12kg : blue
  • 16kg : yellow
  • 20kg : purple
  • 24kg : green
  • 28kg : orange
  • 32kg : red
  • 36kg : black
  • 40kg : white
  • 44kg : grey
  • 48kg : gold


The different events of the kettlebell sport

Official events

The three official kettlebell sport events are :

  • Two-armed clean and jerk (long cycle) : maximum number of repetitions in 10 minutes without putting the kettlebells down.

  • The two-armed jerk : maximum number of repetitions in 10 minutes without putting the kettlebells down.

  • Single-arm snatch : maximum number of repetitions in 10 minutes without putting the kettlebell down, with only one change of arm allowed during the event.

In the amateur category, women use a weight of 16kg and men use a weight of 24kg. In the pro category, women use 24kg and men 32kg.

Unofficial tests

Alongside the official events, there are also non-traditional events : variations on the official events, long-duration events and strength events.

Official event variations (non-exhaustive list) :

  • 5-minute tests : same movements as for official tests, but time is halved.
  • Relay : several athletes take turns for 3 minutes each on one or more movements.
  • Triathlon : sequence for a single athlete of 3 minutes of jeté, 3 minutes of clean and jerk and 4 minutes of snatch.
  • Military snatch : maximum snatches in 12 minutes with unlimited arm changes
  • One-armed clean and jerk : one-handed variant of the classic clean and jerk.
  • Single-arm jerk : one-handed variant of the classic jeté
  • Half-snatch : a variation of the classic snatch where, on the way down, the kettlebell is first returned to the rack position before passing back between the legs.
  • Double half-snatch : two-arm half-snatch variant

Long-duration tests :

These tests can last from 30 minutes to 60 minutes. All movements, classic or otherwise, may be involved, depending on the competition.

Strength tests :

These are events where the kettlebells used weigh over 32kg. For example : maximum one-arm throw with a 48kg kettlebell, only one arm change allowed.


Kettlebell sport technique

The girevoy is an endurance sport where the objective is to achieve the maximum number of repetitions of a movement in the allotted time. To do this, the athletes adopt a particular technique that allows them to save as much energy as possible.

A kettlebell sport competitor aims for economy of movement and the greatest possible relaxation of the body, in order to avoid muscle congestion in the shoulders, arms and forearms. The girevik or girevitchka uses the power of his or her hips to propel the kettlebell, and adopts a particular posture in rack and overhead position that allows ” rest “.

This technique, called “sport style”, is opposed to the “hard style” technique of the StrongFirst school. In hard style, the idea is on the contrary to seek the maximum muscular tension of the body during a movement. The objective is not to save energy but to develop strength and power.

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The benefits of kettlebell sport

The kettlebell lift is a sport known for its benefits on muscular and cardiovascular endurance and therefore on health in general. Kettlebell athletes enjoy a remarkable longevity, and it is not uncommon to see competitors over 50 years old. The activity is also very suitable for children, who will be able to develop their physical capacities and health throughout their youth with adapted loads.

The girevoy workouts will allow you to develop your physical condition or to get back in shape. The high number of repetitions will strengthen your cardiovascular endurance. Your abs will tone up thanks to the sheathing applied during the movements.

Also, your musculature will develop in the upper and lower body. Lifting kettlebells will help you build muscle in your glutes, thighs, calves, abdominals, lumbar region, back, trapezius, biceps, triceps and forearms. You’ll also strengthen your joints.

The kettlebell sport is also a way to burn calories and increase your metabolism, and thus lose weight. It’s a great mix of strength training and cardio !

If you’re looking for a sport that strengthens you physically and mentally, while respecting your body, kettlebell sport is for you !


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