A 'kettlebell' or girya (Russ.) is a traditional Russian cast
iron weight that looks like a cannonball with a handle. The ultimate tool
for extreme all-round fitness.
The kettlebell goes way back, it first appeared in a Russian
dictionary in 1704 (Cherkikh, 1994). So popular were kettlebells in Tsarist
Russia that any strongman or weightlifter was referred to as a girevik, or
'a kettlebell man'.
"Not a single sport develops our muscular strength and bodies
as well as kettlebell athletics," reported Russian magazine Hercules in 1913.
Because they deliver extreme all-round fitness. And no single
other tool does it better. Here is a short list of hardware the Russian
kettlebell replaces: barbells, dumbbells, belts for weighted pullups and
dips, thick bars, lever bars, medicine balls, grip devices, and cardio
equipment. Here is why the kettlebell dominates other exercise equipment
Vinogradov & Lukyanov (1986) found a very high correlation
between the results posted in a kettlebell lifting competition and a great
range of dissimilar tests: strength, measured with the three powerlifts and
grip strength; strength endurance, measured with pullups and parallel bar
dips; general endurance, determined by a 1000 meter run; work capacity and
balance, measured with special tests.
Voropayev (1983) tested two groups of subjects in pullups, a
standing broad jump, a 100m sprint, and a 1k run. He put the control group
on a program that emphasized the above tests; the experimental group lifted
kettlebells. In spite of the lack of practice on the tested exercises, the
kettlebell group scored better in every one of them! This is what we call
"the what the hell effect".
Kettlebells melt fat without the dishonor of dieting or
aerobics. If you are overweight, you will lean out. If you are skinny, you
will get built up. According to Voropayev (1997) who studied top Russian
gireviks, 21.2% increased their bodyweight since taking up kettlebelling and
21.2% (the exact same percentage, not a typo), mostly heavyweights,
decreased it. The Russian kettlebell is a powerful tool for fixing your body
comp, whichever way it needs fixing.
Kettlebells forge doers' physiques along the lines of antique
statues: broad shoulders with just a hint of pecs, back muscles standing out
in bold relief, wiry arms, rugged forearms, a cut-up midsection, and strong
legs without a hint of squatter's chafing.
Liberating and aggressive as medieval swordplay, kettlebell
training is highly addictive. What other piece of exercise equipment can
boast that its owners name it? Paint it? Get tattoos of it? Our Russian
kettlebell is the Harley-Davidson of strength hardware.
Hard comrades of all persuasions.
Soviet weightlifting legends such as Vlasov,
Zhabotinskiy, and Alexeyev started their Olympic careers with
old-fashioned kettlebells. Yuri Vlasov once interrupted an
interview he was giving to a Western journalist and proceeded to
press a pair of kettlebells. "A wonderful exercise," commented
the world champion. "…It is hard to find an exercise better
suited for developing strength and flexibility simultaneously."
The Russian Special Forces personnel owe much of
their wiry strength, explosive agility, and never-quitting
stamina to kettlebells. Soldier, Be Strong!, the official
Soviet armed forces strength training manual pronounced
kettlebell drills to be "one of the most effective means of
strength development" representing "a new era in the development
of human strength-potential".
The elite of the US military and law enforcement
instantly recognized the power of the Russian kettlebell,
ruggedly simple and deadly effective as an AK-47. You can find
Pavel's certified RKC instructors among Force Recon Marines,
Department of Energy nuclear security teams, the FBI's Hostage
Rescue Team, the Secret Service Counter Assault Team, etc.
Once the Russian kettlebell became a hit among
those whose life depends on their strength and conditioning, it
took off among hard people from all walks of life: martial
artists, athletes, regular hard comrades.
Kettlebell training is extreme but not elitist.
At the 1995 Russian Championship the youngest contestant was 16,
the oldest 53! And we are talking elite competition here; the
range is even wider if you are training for yourself rather than
for the gold. Dr. Krayevskiy, the father of the kettlebell
sport, took up training at the age of forty-one and twenty years
later he was said to look fresher and healthier than at forty.
Only 8.8% of top Russian gireviks, members of the
Russian National Team and regional teams, reported injuries in
training or competition (Voropayev, 1997). A remarkably low
number, especially if you consider that these are elite athletes
who push their bodies over the edge. Many hard men with high
mileage have overcome debilitating injuries with kettlebell
training (get your doctor's approval). Acrobat Valentin Dikul
fell and broke his back at seventeen. Today, in his mid-sixties,
he juggles 180-pound balls and breaks powerlifting records!
From Pavel's books and videos: The Russian Kettlebell Challenge or Easy Strength for comrades ladies.
From a kettlebell instructor, Scott White and his trainers can help you with your kettlebell training. Kettlebell technique
can be learned in one or two sessions and one can start intense
training during the second and even first week (Dvorkin, 2001).
Kettlebells come in 'poods'. A pood is an old
Russian measure of weight, which equals 16kg, or roughly 35 lbs.
An average man should start with a 35-pounder. It does not sound
like a lot but believe it; it feels a lot heavier than it
should! Most men will eventually progress to a 53-pounder, the
standard issue size in the Russian military. Although available
in most units, 70-pounders are used only by a few advanced guys
and in elite competitions. 88-pounders are for mutants.
An average woman should start with an 18-pounder.
A strong woman can go for a 26-pounder. Some women will advance
to a 35-pounder. A few hard women will go beyond.
"Kettlebells are like weightlifting times ten,"
stated Olympic Silver Medalist in Greco-Roman Wrestling Dennis
Koslowski, D.C., RKC. "…If I could've met Pavel in the early
'80s, I might've won two gold medals. I'm serious."