Girevoy (kettlebell) sport
(“GS”) as practised in Russia encompasses various tests of strength endurance . Depending upon age , sex and ability
, competitors participate in various weight divisions to achieve the highest number of repetitions in a 10 minute time
limit. Furthermore , the spirit of competition is enhanced by special feats such as "odd" lifts and kettlebell "relay races"
after the main program is completed.
During the 20th century
, kettlebells were used by strength athletes e.g weightlifters and "strongmen" to compliment more traditional barbell lifts.
In 1948 Russians commenced kettlebell sport , whereby a man performed as many legal repetitions as possible
in his chosen event(s), the snatch (weight swung with one arm straight above head ) , the clean & jerk ( 2 bells swung
to chest once , and then put overhead as many times as possible) and the one armed push press.
Such was the conditioning developed
by competitive gireviks that eventaully a 10 minute time limit was imposed to allow the meeting to be completed in a
reasonable time frame!
The competition press was deleted
from the program for the same reason it was turfed from Olympic weightlifting : simply the event was too difficult to fairly
The sport evolved from military circles to the
wider population and in 1985 the first official Russian national championship was held. Since then many other nations have
entered international competitions. Finally it is becoming a world sport!
The GS novice
Whilst the individual lifts
may not seem that taxing , or indeed technically challenging for a few reps , once the lifter starts to build an element of
endurance into the session he/she will find the degree of difficulty rapidly escalates. At this point the natural tendency
is to think “this is impossibly hard - not for me!”. To succeed in competition requires the rhythm and efficiency
of a rower , the tenacity of an high altitude mountaineer (with no supplemental oxygen!) and the technical skills of
an Olympic weightlifter. Only with an iron will and dedication to mastering efficient technique will the aspiring lifter be
able to achieve a competitive score. Having said that , the sport requires tremendous patience to gradually increase both
strength and stamina over years , at the same time ensuring he/she is able to complete high volume and high intensity of
training without overtraining and burnout. So new is this sport outside Russia and the Baltic states that it will
probably be several years before Western athletes are able to significantly challenge the majority of the experienced
(and in many cases professional) athletes.
Ranking systems have been developed to
track progress of skills , manifest in improved repetition totals over months and years (see "GS rankings"
So it is clear that competitive
Girevoy Sport attracts those with the discipline to endure often repetitive training and a grim determination to
build ever increasing power endurance, tempered with the patience and commonsense to enable continued progress.
Though many who sample GS are
unable to stomach the type of training required , for those who persist the mental & physical rewards are high. The athlete
will develop truly exceptional conditioning , flexibility , strength and power. Indeed , one’s overall work capacity
may greatly exceed that of even highly trained athletes in other disciplines.
Whilst the training is largely
based on repetitive lifting , a variety of assistance exercises and modalities used to complement the competition lifts
are help prevent staleness or boredom. The challenge is to maintain progress on several fronts.
Activities such as running
, swimming , cycling , rowing, rollerblading , skiing and ball sports are encouraged to develop and maintain all round sports
skills . The solid base of GS training will ensure that at any age the athlete
will have qualities enabling him to excel at these activities. It is obvious to all that use them that kettlebells used to
their full capability build tremendous injury resistance whilst maintaining joint
flexibility and stability.
What kind of person
might be suited to Girevoy Sport?
Given the wide range of body
types exhibited at GS events , clearly no specific physical attribute is required. Clearly , tall athletes have to move
the bell farther, whilst a stocky athlete with short arms and powerful lower body might be well suited to the
jerk event. Fundamentally though, all athletes have weak points which when addressed
through mindful training , enable all to compete on a relatively even keel.
It is unlikely that complete
athletic novices will be attracted to this type of training. Otherwise anyone who enjoys a physical challenge ,
the thrill of practise & learning as well as the will to persist under duress may be attracted to this sport. Obviously
, weightlifters and those from power sports such as throwers (shotput , javelin , discus , ball sports) are at an advantage
in that they will be possess the knowledge of applying controlled power in a tightly honed groove. Endurance athletes understand
well the skill of energy efficiency. However , any sportsman with a strong will to succeed may find the sport irresistible.
Over time , many older athletes find the rigours of certain sports excessive (impact sports , throwers have a use-by date ,competitive weightlifting requires
ongoing coaching and often close to maximal loads...with attendant injury risk). GS offers the challenge of a constant load
performed in a safe fashion with the ultimate result dependent upon mental fortitude ("guts") , efficient technique and
Though to the uninitiated the
weights used seem rather heavy , and the movements rather “dangerous” , in fact the weight is primarily moved
by the large muscles of the body whilst the smaller muscles merely provide control.
Safety , longevity
The injury rate even amongst
elite gireviks is low compared to most sports.
As long as the athlete is aware
of signs of overtraining (e.g. persistent tightness/soreness , lack of energy , poor sleep , performance plateau etc) he/she
can recover quickly between training sessions. On competition day when maximal
performance is called for , the volume of preceding training will ensure the tendons , ligaments and muscles are well accustomed
to an heavy workload.
is well accepted that weight training is highly beneficial in maintaining muscle mass , promoting stability and control of
joints and reducing the risk of osteoporosis in men and women. Furthermore , the nature of kettlebell exercises emphasize power
endurance and flexibility of the back muscles as well as delivering superb conditioning of the often troublesome shoulder
rotator cuff muscles. The cardiorespiratory benefits are immense , and unlike heavy lifting sports the risk of
a "lift gone wrong" is negligible.