Kettlebell History and Fun Facts

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Kettlebell Facts:

    1. Remnants of kettlebells goes as far bar as 1800 – 1700 B.C.
    2. A Kettlebell is basically a canon shaped ball with a handle
    3. Kettlebells were originally called Kettleballs and were hollow on the inside
    4. At the museum Olympia in Greece, it is possible to see a stone kettlebell weighing 143 kg, with the following words carved in it “Bibon heaved up me above the head by one hand”.
    5. Though Kettlebells have evolved over the centuries, you can find evidence of weight training with a handle, which can be closely related to the kettlebell. You can find traces of kettlebells in ancient civilizations like China, Japan, Scotland, Turkey, & Iran.
      1. In ancient Greece, the greeks had a square rock with a handle chiseled out which strongly resembles a kettlebell. They would use these for exercise and strength training.
      2. Shaolin Monks used large padlocks with handles for training that resemble modern day kettlebell exercises
      3. Cannon balls were used in Roman times to train athletes for competitions
      4. There is a heated and prolonged debate occurring around where and when the kettlebell first originated, Russia or Scotland
      5. Both Russia and the highlands of Scotland claim to have originated kettlebells. In Scotland, a popular game consisted of pushing rocks across a frozen lake with brooms. By casting the rocks in iron, they were easier to handle and the first middle ages kettlebell was born!
      6. In ancient Persia, they closely resemble today’s kettlebells.
  1. The first recorded history of kettlebells begins in Russia at the start of the 18th century, where in 1704, the word ‘Girya’ (meaning kettlebell), was first appeared in the Russian Dictionary.
  2. In Russia, Kettlebells were originally used by farmers as a counter weight to grains and other produce when selling at the market
  3. Originally, in Russia, Kettlebells were used as counter weights against produce. 1 = 1 kettlebell of 36 pounds. Measurements were counted in 1 , 1.5 , and 2
  4. Though kettlebells were originally hollow cast iron balls, they were later filled to increase the weight from the center
The early scientific principles of Kettlebell training were laid down by Dr. Vladislav Kraevsky who introduced the use of kettlebells to the wider Russian public

Dr. Vladislav Kraevsky

  1. Since the late 19th century, strong men and circus performers such as Arthur Saxon, Edgar Mueller and Eugene Sandow, traveled around the world performing great feats of strength. Often, the strongman would train with kettlebells as well as add kettlebells into their strongman show. This would be the first introduction of kettlebells in the U.S. on a larger scale.

Petr (Pyotr) Krylov                                                                   Arthur Saxton

Eugen Sandow

    1. Arthur Saxton who lived from 1878 to 1921, liked to open his shows with a feat of strength that included a move called the bent press which included a “bell” (kettlebell) and would brag that he was the only man able to do this feat of strength. Saxton would often throughout a challenge to Eugen Sandow, another famous strongman of the time period to perform it.  On one occasion, not knowing Sandow was in the crowd, Saxton threw out the challenge to Sandow, & Sandow heard and met the his challenge up on stage.  Though Sandow was able to lift the weight, it was not with the form of Saxton. Regardless, Sandow took Saxton to court and won the decision. The court’s decision ended Saxton’s public boosting rights that he was stronger than Sandow.
    2. Strongman Arthur Saxton performed with a 113 lb kettlebell while lifting a barbell that weighted 370 lbs with the other hand.
    3. The man who was nicknames “the king to kettlebells” was Petr (Pyotr) Krylov who lived from 1871 to 1933. He was a self-taught muscle man.
  1. Kettlebell lifting also developed into an official sport with its first competition taking part in 1948. There were 55 competitors, separated into four weight classes. Movements to be tested were the snatch and Jerk with a 32kg kettlebell, barbell press, & barbell jerk. The competition was not based on a single lift, but rather how many reps could be performed and the exercise. The results:


-60kg, Konavolov, 28 snatches, 7 jerks; 70kg, Salomaha, 23 snatches, 15 jerks; 80kg, Lavrentev, 30 snatches, 13 jerks; Over 80kg, Bolshakov, 33 snatches, 19 jerks
  1. In 1974 Kettlebell Competition was declared the Ethnic sport of Russia.
  2. In 1981, the Soviet government realized the benefit of its working class training with kettlebells. It was at this time; Russia formed the Official Kettlebell Commission, strongly recommending, publicly, kettlebell training.The Soviet Union believed it would make healthcare costs go down and work productivity increase due to a fitter population.
  3. In 1985, the Kettlebell Sport was officialized as were the rules across the entire Soviet Union, unifying weights, dimensions, and training styles into what we see today.
  4. In 1989 a 10 minute time limit was introduced into the sport
  5. In 1992, under the initiative of the Baltic countries, the European Union of Weightball Lifting (This organization would later on lead to a split and creation of the International Union of Kettlebell Lifting in the late 2007) was created, and with it the first European Championship took place that year.
  6. In 1993 the 1st World Kettlebell Championship was in Lipetzk Russia; 96 competitors from 5 different countries competed.
  7. The first kettlebell long cycle championships were held in St Petersburg in 1998.
  8. In the late 90’s, Kettlebell juggling was used to further the progress of cultural heritage and get the public interested in Kettlebells.
  9. In 1999, Women were first allowed to compete in snatch, in Kaluga, Russia. It was the same year that Sergey Rachinskiy introduced team relay events.
  10. The kettlebell’s popularity in the US really started to take off in 1998, when Pavel Tsatsouline published an article about kettlebells. 2001 Pavel Tsatouline started teaching kettlebell training and formed the RKC which stands for Russian Kettlebell Challenge
  1. In 2002 Kettlebells were called—”Hot Weight of the Year” by Rolling Stone. More and more people finding out about kettlebells and are impressed with the results they get. There is a Kettlebell boom in America.
  2. In 2011, Jadranka Marinovic was the First Australian Women to compete in a kettlebell Marathon Championship representing Australia. Marinovic made history becoming Australia’s 1st kettlebell Sport marathon Champion at the IGSF 1 hour Kettlebell Marathon championship in Milan June 2011, setting a new world record and qualified for the highest rank MSIK.
  3. Training with kettlebells is not only anaerobic, but aerobic too.
  4. Kettlebell training will improve your hearts health as well as increase fat burning over traditional workouts like an elliptical or weightlifting like a curl.
  5. With a single kettlebell, you can get a full body workout.
  6. The most common kettlebell weights are the 1 pood, 36 lb, 16 kg, 1.5 pood, 54 lb, 24 kg, & 2 pood, 72 lb, 32 kg
  7. Kettlebell training will increase your Vo2 Max, overall jumping power, cardio condition, increase strength, and increase lean muscle mass.
  8. The primary focus of this kettlebell training cycle is strength and power, so rest is up to you but generally 1-2 min between exercises and 2-3 min between sets. If you want to increase conditioning and intensity, simply shorten rests to 30 sec.
  9. 15 minutes on an elliptical machine burns between 50-125 calories while 15 minutes using kettlebells will burn around 300 calories!! This makes kettlebells a fantastic component to your fitness and weight loss regimen!
  10. Continue burning calories after your workout is done. Kettlebells provide a prolonged anaerobic burn
  11. Kettlebells improve motion and range of movement.
  12. Light kettlebell training is an excellent way for children, around adolescence and older; before their bodies are finished growing, to help increase physical conditioning.
  13. If you work at a desk all day, you probably have found a decrease in lower body strength. Kettlebell training is perfect to help increase not only lower body strength, but increase lower back strength and flexibility as well as reduce lower back pain and how often it goes out.
  14. Kettlebells Training has proven to increase metabolism
  15. Burn more calories with Kettlebells than other piece of cardio plus you get the added benefit of strength training.In a recent study conducted by the American Council on Exercise, participants burned approximately 20 calories per minute–that’s 1,200 calories per hour. In terms of calorie burning, this is the equivalent to running at a six-minute mile pace, or cross-country skiing uphill at a fast pace.
  16. Kettlebell Training is a great way to mix up your workout and add something new into the mix
  17. When initially starting to workout with kettlebells, it is recommended that you limit your repetitions to 5-10 reps per exercise. This is so that you can build proper form and range of motion, thus reducing the chance of injury. This will also ensure that you can continue to go farther on the heavier kettlebells.
  18. Kettlebell swings are meant to be done one handed.
  19. Some of the best, if not the highest quality kettlebells can be found here!
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Also published on Medium.