History Of The Kettlebell

History of the Kettlebell:

Originally entitled “Girya” which is the Russian word for kettlebell. Initially, kettlebells were used as counterweights for measuring grain. The standard size kettlebell or the standard measurement of grain at the time was 16kg or roughly 35lbs. The Russians began to use these kettlebells as a means of entertaining crowds at festivals or competitions during holidays to show immense strength and endurance. If kettlebells were unavailable, they would simply take cannonballs and weld a handle onto the cannonball. In Russia, kettlebells were the main means for strength and endurance training. Traveling circuses would amaze their crowds through feats of strength and complex, ballistic movement patterns. Then, in August of 1885, kettlebells were officially introduced as a sport and have continued to evolve throughout the years.


Ketlebells are unique and different from dumbells due to their design. With the positioning of the “ball”, the resistance or force is extended out beyond the hands. This allows for double arm movements, single arm movements, and it allows for motion to take place in all planes. This also requires the user to have to control for momentum during specific aspects of the movements.

Now, you may hear or read different claims in advertisements that kettlebells help you to “shred fat” and are “metabolic blasters”. In fact, I used some of that terminology within my own marketing materials. Don’t get me wrong, kettlebells are great, and we are going to dive into why, but most of these terms are for marketing purposes specifically. So, let’s get more realistic. Why should we use kettlebells for training? What are the true benefits? As always, in order to answer these questions, I will refer to the research, although limited, that has been done. The first study was conducted by Jay et al. (2011). In this study the authors were looking to examine the effects of kettlebell training on neck and shoulder pain in middle aged desk job type workers. The workers were given a kettlebell training routine for 3x/wk for 8wks. Following the training, the workers trunk extensors (the muscles that help you stand up straight) became stronger, and their reported pain levels decreased. So what’s the bottom line? Kettlebell training, when being used in untrained individuals can decrease pain levels and make you stronger.

In another study conducted by Hulsey, Soto, Koch & Mayhew (2012), the effects of treadmill running were compared to the effects of the two handed kettlebell swing exercise. In this particular study, kettlebell swings were implemented in intervals of 35 sec of swings to 25 seconds of rest for 10 minutes. On the treadmill, participants ran for 10 minutes at a similar intensity to the kettlebell swings. The researchers found that although more calories were burned on the treadmill, the rise in heart rate during the swings was similar to that of the treadmill. So, what’s the bottom line, kettlebell exercise can be used as an alternative to the treadmill to improve heart health.

What if you are the type of person who loves to lift weights? Maybe you like Crossfit style workouts (which actually include kettlebells quite often). You enjoy the big well known Olympic and/or traditional type lifts such as the barbell bench press, barbell squat, and barbell clean and jerk. Sometimes, when we train the same way all the time, we can hit what is known as a plateau. Even worse, you may get hurt from overuse! In a recent study by Manocchia, Spierer, Lufkin, Minichiello, and Castro (2013), it was found that a 10 week kettlebell training program can improve your 3 repetition maximum for the barbell clean and jerk and the barbell bench press. What’s the bottom line, kettlebells are a viable alternative to some more traditional style lifts, especially if space and resources are limited. Not to mention, switching to kettlebells for a period of time may help one to decrease the risk of injury, decrease the risk for overtraining, reduce boredom, and keep from hitting a plateau!

So, we have examined a small bit of research and found out quite a lot about kettlebells and their purpose within the general population. For this reason, we have decided to host a kettlebell workshop at BFP!

To find out more, click here!

Stay tuned as next week we will discuss the use of kettlebells in tactical training!


Coach Joe Rouse MS, KBC Master Instructor