What is a Kettlebell?

A History of Kettlebells

Kettlebells USA® Kettlebells

A kettlebell is a type of dumbbell or free weight that is round with a flat base and an arced handle. It looks like a cannonball with a handle, or a teapot without the spout, hence the name “kettlebell” in English. In Russia it is called a “girya” (Russian: гиря.) Authentic kettlebells are made of either cast iron or steel.

Unlike a dumbbell, a kettlebell’s center of mass extends beyond the hand. Kettlebells can be swung, thrown, juggled, pressed, held, moved and manipulated in hundreds of ways. They are small and portable and can be incorporated into all aspects of athletic and fitness training. Kettlebells are a highly efficient way to lose weight, tone your body, increase your cardio-vascular fitness and strength and maintain joint health, mobility and flexibility.

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.

Kettlebells were originally used as counterweight in markets. Kettlebells USA®

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 Russia and countries of the former Soviet union.

Old kettlebell market weights from 1927. Kettlebells USA®

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,”although ring weights could be any square weight with a ring attached to the top so it could be held and lifted. "Block Weights" were the American equivalent of the original Russian scale weights; they looked similiar to todays "ppwer blocks".

The forefather of the modern fitness gym, Dr. Vladislav Krayevsky, founded the St.

Petersburg Amateur Weightlifting Society on August 10,1885, considered the birth of weightlifting in Russia. A proponent of what he called “heavy athletics”, in 1900 Krayevsky wrote "The Development of Physical Strength with Kettlebells and without Kettlebells”. He was one of the most influential pioneers in fitness of his day. His students included the legendary strongman George Hackenscmidt, “The Russian Lion”, who credited him with teaching him everything he knew and Eugene Sandow, “The Father of Modern Day Body Building”.

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.

Kettlebell Lifting is the National Sport of Russia

Kettlebell Sport lifting (Girevoy Sport) is the National Sport of Russia. Today exercising with kettlebells is undergoing a major resurgence and kettlebell training has now become one of the most popular and best ways to lose weight, maintain a high level of cardio-vascular fitness, get stronger and get that sculpted, toned, healthy & beautiful body you've always wanted. Proper kettlebell training can help you to live a longer, healthier life. Joint health, mobility and flexibility can all be maintained, and even improved, with the correct application of kettlebell movements. Kettlebell lifting is technical just like Olympic lifting, and requires the lifter to use the correct form to avoid injury and to derive the maximum benefit from any of the hundreds of kettlebell exercises and variations.

Old Bulagrian Kettlebell Sport Instructional Poster - Kettlebell Snatch - Bulgarian Split Jerk - Kettlebells USA®

Today kettlebells are made from two different types of materials, cast iron and steel. Steel is used in the manufacture of "competition" or "sport" kettlebells. Click Here to find out about The Differences Between Competition and Cast Iron Kettlebells.