Kettlebell Series Part 1: A Brief History of the Kettlebell

Kettlebell Series Part 1: A Brief History of the Kettlebell

If the sight of others swinging around a kettlebell has made you want to wield your own, then look no further. Kettlebell training has many benefits, and although it is becoming more and more common, it has really been around for far longer than most people realise. This article is the first in a three part series exploring Kettlebells, Kettlebell training and the benefits of this simple but potent piece of training equipment.

Where did Kettlebells originate?

It is difficult to say who invented the kettlebell but the basic concept of the kettlebell can go as far back as ancient Greece where the Greeks swung a weight back and forth to launch themselves into the air, in order to jump further. The use of handheld weights, similar to that of the kettlebell, can be dated back to the Shaolin Monks who used padlock-shaped Chinese stone locks as tools for martial art training. Fast forward a couple of hundred years to the Highland games where competitors tossed a handled weight, with one hand, over a horizontal bar. 

The kettlebell as we know it today most likely originated in 1704 Russia, when the word ‘Giyra’ (the Russian word for kettlebell) first appeared in the Russian dialect. It is believed that Russian farmers used kettlebells as counterweights to measure out grain at the market and later began tossing and heaving these weights at farming festivals as a show of strength and endurance. 

Kettlebells became popular in the nineteenth century when a Russian doctor, a personal physician of the Russian Tzar, created a place for kettlebells in sports medicine. These weights were used to train the Russian army. Kettlebells became so popular that it was raised to be a national sport. Throughout the Soviet Union, in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, it became known as the ‘working man’s sport’ because it required little space and inexpensive equipment. 

Kettlebells as fitness equipment became popular in the west because of a man named Pavel Tsatsouline. He moved to America in the 90s after having trained Soviet Special Forces in the Soviet Union. He brought kettlebell training to the masses when he eventually became a kettlebell instructor in 1998. After much success, he formed Strongfirst Inc, a worldwide company pushing the popularity of kettlebells even further. 

It’s clear that kettlebells have become a staple training tool for the entire fitness industry. These unique weights mean a never-ending number of exercises that provide endless perquisites to using them.

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