The Russian girya (ги́ря, plural ги́ри giri) has been in existence since the 18th century. The use of such weights by circus strongmen is recorded for the 19th century. They began to be used for recreational and competition strength athletics in Russia and Europe in the late 19th century. The birth of competitive kettlebell lifting or girevoy sport (гиревой спорт) is dated to 1885, with the founding of the "Circle for Amateur Athletics" (Кружок любителей атлетики). Russian girya is traditionally measured in weight by pood, corresponding to 16.38 kilograms (36.1 lb). The English term kettlebell has been in use since the early 20th century.
Similar weights used in Classical Greece were the "haltere". This is the closest item to the modern kettlebell in terms of movement. Unlike traditional dumbbells, a kettlebell's center of mass is extended beyond the hand, similar to Indian clubs or ishi sashi. This facilitates ballistic and swinging movements. Variants of the kettlebell include sand, water, or steel shot bags. The kettlebell allows for swing movements and releases moves with added safety, grip, wrist, arm, and core strengthening. The weight of a kettlebell is not distributed evenly. Thus, the unique shape of a kettlebell provides an "unstable force" for handling - which is key for the effectiveness of kettlebell exercises. The modern kettlebell as we know it today has its roots in Russia. In the 18th century, kettlebells began to gain popularity as a training tool among Russian soldiers and athletes. They were used for strength and conditioning and for demonstrating power during festivals and celebrations. The history of the kettlebell is rooted in Eastern Europe. Here is a brief overview of the history of the kettlebell: The origins of the kettlebell can be traced back to ancient Greece, where the "haltere," a predecessor to the modern kettlebell, was used in athletic competitions. The haltere was a stone or metal weight with a handle.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Russian strongmen and athletes, such as Vladislav Kraevsky and Pavel Tsatsouline, further popularized the use of kettlebells in training. They developed training techniques and standardized kettlebell design, including a rounded shape with a handle. Kettlebell lifting eventually became an organized sport in Russia. In 1948, the All-Union Federation of Kettlebell Lifting was established, which created standardized weight categories and rules for kettlebell competitions. Kettlebell lifting competitions involve various lifts, such as the snatch, jerk, and long cycle, where athletes perform repetitions with kettlebells within a specified time frame.
In the late 20th century, kettlebell training started to gain popularity beyond Russia. It spread to other countries, including the United States and Europe, as fitness enthusiasts and trainers recognized the benefits of kettlebell exercises for strength, endurance, and overall fitness. Kettlebells are now widely used in fitness and strength training programs around the world. Their versatility has gained popularity, allowing for a wide range of exercises that target multiple muscle groups. Kettlebell training is known for its emphasis on full-body movements, core stability, and functional strength.
The father of the kettlebell is, without a doubt, Pavel Tstsouliine. Tsatsouline is a former Soviet Special Forces instructor and Subject Matter Expert to elite US military and law enforcement special operations units. Pavel first introduced the Russian kettlebell to the West in 1998 and started the kettlebell revolution. Dr. Randall Strossen, one of the most respected names in the strength world, stated, "Pavel Tsatsouline will always reign as the modern king of kettlebells since it was he who popularized them to the point where you could almost found a country filled with his converts." Pavel currently serves as chairman of StrongFirst, Inc. In addition to the gold standard in kettlebell, barbell, and bodyweight instructor certifications, StrongFirst offers international user courses and special events in strength training and advanced programming.
Today, kettlebells come in various weights and designs, typically made of cast iron or steel. They have become a staple in many gyms, fitness studios, and home workout routines, offering a challenging and effective means of physical conditioning.
"Kettlebell Workouts: What to Know Before You Start". WebMD.
Jonsson, Patrik (2004-05-02). "The strongman 'kettlebell' makes a comeback at the gym". The Christian Science Monitor.
Porcari et al. (2010), University of Wisconsin."Exclusive ACE research examines the fitness benefits of kettlebells"
Tsatsouline, Pavel. Enter the Kettlebell!: Strength Secret of the Soviet Supermen. (2006). Dragon Door Publications Inc. St. Paul
Tsatsouline, Pavel. Power to the People! (2009). Dragon Door Publications Inc. St. Paul
Tsatsouline, Pavel. Simple and Sinister. (2019). Dragon Door Publications Inc. St. Paul