Kettlebels: History & Foundation

The biography of the kettlebell is an intriguing mix of fact and folklore. Unlike what some people may choose to believe, Kettlebells are nothing new to the world of fitness. History places the origins of the KB in Eastern Europe where it was traditionally measured in unites called “poods”, with one pood equating to 16 kg, and approximately 35 lbs. Originally, there were only three sizes available: 1 pood, 1.5 poods and 2 poods. It is unclear when exactly KBs were born. According to Voropayev (1984), they have been around since “time immortal”. Since they were used in the US as early as the 1920s (even in our local YMCA on 23rd St. and 7th Avenue, New York city! see photo below), it’s safe to assume that they were indeed created much earlier.

According to folklore, KBs were used as counterweights at Russian farmers’ markets; at the end of a typical workday, the farmers would swing, toss and juggle these weights for fun and exercise. The tradition was passed through the generations, to become embedded in the local culture as “the people’s” way to stay fit and healthy. In Russia and other Eastern Block countries, KBs were recognized (alongside classic Olympic weightlifting) as an important method for strength-athletic development; a commission was formed under the auspices of the USSR Weightlifting Federation to organize citizens for group workouts, recognizing that having healthy and fit citizens will result in better productivity and minimize healthcare costs. In addition, these training methods resulted in significantly better achievements for competitive athletes.

Power, speed, balance, agility and conditioning are the key factors in the development and maintenance for martial arts, sports and activities of daily living. (ADL’s). Kettlebells are training tools that provide a unique avenue to achieve these key factors. Within the disciplines of martial arts and sports performance these key factors are necessary for maintaining and/or improving performance. One common denominator is the “dynamic factor”. Within the dynamic factor is the term so loosely used in the personal training industry as “function”.

So what is function? 1. ROM (range of motion) 2. Muscle Recruitment 3. Strength 4. Coordination 5. Joint Stability 6. Endurance (muscular and cardiovascular) 7. Proprioception 8. Balance and Core stability. Functional “dynamic factors” are the responses to a given stimulus. Explosive power, strength, balance, agility, the type of speed necessary for the type of activity we are engaged in, acceleration, deceleration, and overcoming inertial changes that affect our center of gravity (COG) are functional, and dynamic factors. Our COG is ever changing where gravity (as we know it) is a universal constant. It’s these dynamic factors that relate to the “chaos theory”. Whether on the sports field, the boxing ring or in a real life and death situation, the one common constant is change; chaos and circumstances that change in an instance. Performance outcomes are determined by the adaptation and reaction to these demands.

The S A I D Principal: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. The SAID principal = Developmental integration systemically from our training stimulus and the adaptation to that stimulus. This is where Kettlebells and Kettlebell Concepts (KBC) Education enter into our training regime. Kettlebells address the functional factors, the dynamic factors, changes in center of gravity, acceleration, deceleration, inertia, and the ability to challenge all of these simultaneously preparing us for the “chaos”. Mind, Movement, Muscle or KBC’s 3 M’s. “Whether your focus is neural, physiological, hormonal, or other developmental factors, changes at any of these levels begin by stimulating the nervous system. (KBC Instructor Manual p54)”. Simplistically training is a focus on the Central Nervous System (CNS).


References 1. Cronin, Khai, Ganulin (2007) Kettlebells Level 1 Instructor Training Manual 2. Bluman, D (2002) Post Rehabilitation Programming


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