Kettlebell History

history of kettlebells

Kettlebells are similar to dumbbells and free weights. A kettlebell has a round, flat shape with a handle that is arched. In other words, kettlebells look like cannonballs that have handles, and some even say they look like teapots that do not have spouts. The following is a guide to kettlebell history, and how the sport has progressed over the decades.

Kettlebells And Their Benefits

Genuine kettlebells are made from either steel or cast iron, and unlike dumbbells, the center of weight for kettlebells goes beyond the hand. This means that kettlebells can be swung, pressed, moved, held, juggled (although I’d love to see people’s first attempt at juggling a kettlebell) and manipulated in a variety of ways.

kettlebell history

They are also portable, so they can be easily transported, and they can be incorporated into the many various aspects of fitness and athletic training. Kettlebells are highly efficient, and can help a person:

  • Achieve their ideal weight
  • Tone muscles
  • Increase strength
  • Increase cardiovascular fitness
  • Maintain flexibility, health and mobility

An Overview Of Kettlebell History

There exact history of kettlebells is a little unclear. However, the one thing that historians can agree on is that it seems they first appeared in Russia over 300 years ago. In fact, the word ‘kettlebell’ was added to the Russian dictionary in the early 1700s. Originally, kettlebells were used to handle counterweights so dry goods could be weighed at the markets.

It was soon after that people began to throw kettlebells around for fun and entertainment, and it was after that, they found their place in fitness and exercise as people began to use them for weightlifting.

The Russian measurement for kilograms and pounds is known as ‘pood’ (yes, it sounds just like it is spelled). This form of measurement can be linked back to the early 12th century. Even today, kettlebells are still measured in poods in Russia, and many of the other countries of the former Soviet Union.

There have been other cultures that have used some type of weight with an attachment to use in strength training. Tribes in Scotland threw weighted objects that had handles in the Highland Games.

The Shaolin Monks of China also used items similar to kettlebells. They were also rumored to be big advocates of shadowboxing and the Wu-Tang sword style. But I digress…these stone padlocks were used in a type of training known as Shi-SuoGuong. In fact, this type of training is thought to predate kettlebells by several thousand years. In addition, there is some speculation that weights similar to kettlebells were even used by the Greeks and Romans.

history of kettlebells

Strongmen And Kettlebells

This type of weight was also used extensively by popular strongmen such as Sig Klein, Arthur Saxon, The Mighty Apollo and Clevio Massimo. Kettlebells were also a staple in many gyms and training centers around the United States, and were known as ‘Ring Weights’. They had this name even though ring weights are actually a range of square weights with a top attached ring.

Block weights are considered to be America’s answer to original scale weights in Russia, and they look very similar to the ‘power blocks’ known today.

The Forefather Of The Fitness Gym

Dr. Vladislav Kraevsky, known as the founder of the modern gym, started an amateur weightlifting group in St. Petersburg in 1885. This society is known as the birth of weightlifting in the region.

Dr. Kraevsky was a huge advocate for what he referred to as ‘heavy athletics’. In fact, the physician wrote ‘The Developmental of Physical Strength With Kettlebells’. He is also considered as the most influential person in what is known as the modern-day fitness. Yes, even more so than Arnold! He had many famous students including strongman George Hackenscmidt.

Nicknamed ‘The Russian Lion’, George Hackenscmidt credited Dr. Kraevsky with teaching him everything he learned about fitness and strength training.

Kettlebell As A National Sport

It was not until 1948 that Russia declared kettlebell lifting a national sport. Over 20 years later, kettlebell became a part of the United All State Sport Association of the USSR. However, it was not until 1985 that the weight categories, national rules and regulations were finalized.

In November of that year, the very first championship occurred in Lipetsk, Russia. Kettlebell training was eventually included as recruitment training for the Russian Military. Even in the United States, the FBI Counter Assault Team and the United States Secret Service also require recruits to train with kettlebells while using high repetition movements.

Unique Kettlebells - Onnit Primal

Kettlebells In Russia And The Western World Today

Kettlebell training in present-day Russia has undergone a major resurgence as people of all ages and fitness levels are using the equipment to train and lose weight. This type of training has been deemed one of the most effective ways to lose weight, get stronger and develop that lean and toned look that people want.

With proper kettlebell training, people can live longer and healthier lives, and enjoy better joint health and mobility. However, it is important that training techniques are properly applied. This type of lifting is very technical, similar to the Olympic lifting. I can’t stress enough how important it is to use proper form while lifting to prevent injury and to also get the maximum benefit from the distinct types of kettlebell variations and exercises.

Kettlebell lifting has also made its way into western countries like the United States. With the efforts of coaches and trainers from around the world, what was once an underground sport has emerged in a popular sport that both men and women participate in for its numerous benefits.

Kettlebell history has helped to shape and changed the world of fitness as we know it. What was once known as nothing more than an object to help weigh food at old Soviet Union markets has become the preferred choice for getting and staying fit.



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