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Hystory of Kettlebell Sport

Kettlebell sport as a type of weightlifting appeared in Russia at the XIX century. It can be said with a high degree of certainty that Russian weightlifting was born and formed because of kettlebell sport. The Russian people have always respected strong men who are able to lift a heavy weight (stone, log, iron block, etc.) with one hand. Then a kettlebell appeared, which became an indispensable tool for developing the strength. In pre-revolutionary Russia, such outstanding athletes as Ivan Poddubny, Ivan Zaikin, Georg Gakkenshmidt, Nikandr Vakhturov, Vladimir Krylov and many others trained with the kettlebell.

The development of kettlebell sport in Russia is connected with the name of Vladislav Kraevsky ‘Father of Russian Athletics’. At the age of 60, squeezed “twins” (32 kg) 10 times in a row, which he was very proud of. On 10 August 1885, he founded ‘the circle of athletic lovers’, popularising a healthy lifestyle.

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This day became the birthday of Russian athleticism. His followers have organised clubs for fans of athleticism in the majority of cities of Russia. In 1900, he published his manuscript ‘The development of physical strength with kettlebells and without kettlebells'. In 1916, Ivan Lebedev published one of the first training manuals in kettlebell sport in Russia, ‘The guidance for the development of strength by exercising with heavy kettlebells’. In 1939, his student Alexander Bukharov published his manual ‘Kettlebell sport’.


In 1948, the All-Russia Competition of athletes was held, where athletes competed in four weight categories. The program included two exercises with kettlebells and two with a barbell. Although there were no official rules yet, such competitions began to be held on a regular basis. However, modern history of kettlebell sport only dates back to 1962, when competition rules and sports classifications began to be established. In the 1960s and 1970s, thanks to a group of enthusiasts and the support of the Russian and Soviet sports committees, kettlebell sport gained a second life in all the republics of the USSR. In 1984, kettlebell lifting was promoted in almost all Union republics. In 1978, the first official Championship of Russia was held. With the liquidation of the USSR in October 1992, was created the International Union of Kettlebell Lifting, and the Russian Kettlebell Sport Federation became its representatives.


Since 1948, the program of kettlebell sport competitions has been constantly improved. So, this year the program included snatching a kettlebell weighing 32 kg with the left hand and clean two kettlebells to the chest, followed by a jerk on straight arms. The winner was the one who did both exercises the greatest number of times. Records at weightlifting competitions reached 700-800 repetitions, and sometimes, especially among talented strongmen, more than 1000 repetitions. In 1989, a 10-minute time limit was prescribed for the performance of classical exercises. In 1978, another kind of kettlebell sport appeared - kettlebell juggling. But only since 2021, this discipline was officially included in kettlebell sport with relevant sport classifications, standards for sports titles and sports categories.

For a long time, only men competed in kettlebell sport. Women were allowed to take part in kettlebell sport only in November 2001 within the Kettlebell Sport competition in the city of Babaevo, Vologda Region, Russia, where they could compete for the first time. Competitions were held in only one exercise: snatch in which they competed until 2018. Since 2018, the kettlebell long cycle discipline, in which only men previously competed, has been officially recognised for women. Nevertheless, since 2015, an athlete from St. Petersburg Svetlana Daniliuk has started to compete in this discipline outside of the official results, popularising the kettlebell long cycle among women. To improve the entertainment aspect of the competitions, many leading kettlebell athletes, including the Honoured Master of Sports of Russia Sergei

Rachinskii, suggested including the relay discipline with the kettlebell jerk and long cycle into the competition programs. Originally, the relay discipline was held at the end of the competition. Since 2002, the relay discipline has been included in the programs of the championships, cups and championships of Russia, but only since 2021, it has become an officially recognised discipline of kettlebell sport with applicable sport classifications.

Currently, kettlebell sport is one of the most actively developing sports. The number of competitions in Russia, Europe and the world has been growing every year. Russia is the leader in kettlebell sport in the world: for the most part, athletes showing top results are originally from Russia and many world athletes, performing at the international level, are being trained by Russian coaches. The promotion of kettlebell sport is facilitated by the emergence of many sports organizations such as World Association of Kettlebell Sport Clubs (WAKSC), which has been the leader in the international arena since foundation in 2013 in terms of the number of people who have taken part in competitions.

Sergei Rachinskii

​"Kettlebell is not a chess; you have to think here"
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