A Brief History of Kettlebells
The history of the kettlebell is somewhat unclear, however, it appears that the Russian Kettlebell as we know it today, originated approximately 350 years ago. The first appearance of the word in a Russian dictionary appeared in 1704. They were originally used as handled counterweights (bearing the Imperial Seal) to weigh out dry goods on market scales. People started throwing them around for entertainment and they were later put to use for weight lifting. The Russians measured items in “poods.” A pood (16.38 kg, or 36.11 pounds) can be traced back to the 12th century. Kettlebells are still weighed in poods.
In 1948, modern kettlebell lifting became the Soviet Union’s national sport. In the 1970's kettlebell lifting became part of the United All State Sport Association of the USSR, and in 1985 national rules, regulations & weight categories were finalized. In November, 1985 the first National Championship took place in Lipetsk, Russia. The Russian Military requires it recruits to train with kettlebells. The United States Secret Service & the FBI Counter Assault Team also require their operators to train high repetition, ballistic kettlebell moves.
Many cultures throughout history have used some form of weight with an attached handle for strength training. Scottish tribes hurled weighted objects with handles in Highland Games. Chinese Shaolin Monks, used stone padlocks in similar ways to kettlebells. This type of training was called Shi-SuoGuong (The Art of Stone Padlock) and predates kettlebells by thousands of years. There is speculation that kettlebell-like weights were used by the Romans & Greeks.
Kettlebells were used extensively by old time strongmen such as Arthur Saxon, Sig Klein, Clevio Massimo and The Mighty Apollo. They were once a common staple in American gyms and training academies and were often called “Ring Weights”.
Pro Grade "Competition" Kettlebells vs Cast Iron Kettlebells
Pro Grade, or "Competition" Kettlebells are made to fixed specifications. They are made of steel, rather than cast iron, and are used in international kettlebell competitions. Unlike classic cast iron kettlebells, pro grade kettlebells always have the same dimensions regardless of weight. This means that whether you are using an 8kg/18Lb bell or a 32kg/70 Lb bell, it will always rest on your forearm in the exact same place. This ensures that your technique stays consistent regardless of weight. Traditional cast iron kettlebells get larger as they get heavier, and each size rests in a slightly different place in the rack position.
Due to the fact that Pro Grade kettlebells are made from steel, and not cast iron, they are more durable. This is not to say that our cast iron kettlebells will fall apart, it just means that steel is stronger than cast iron and therefore more durable. They are virtually indestructible, and offer tremendous value.
Pro Grade handles are slightly slimmer than with traditional cast iron kettlebells. The handles are specifically designed to prevent lateral slipping and minimize fatigue with high repetition sets.
Pro Grade Competition Kettlebells look "fat" compared to cast iron bells. They have a larger mass in the ball of the bell, imparting different, and many think, better ballistic properties due to this larger center mass.
In the photo above you can see the difference between the rounded handle of the cast iron kettlebell in the back, compared to the more squarish handle of a Pro Grade Kettlebell.
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