WTF is Kettlebell Sport?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 10 years, you’re probably already familiar with what a kettlebell is. They’ve continued to rise in popularity and have reached the point of near ubiquity with kettlebells of varying quality available at most gyms in America. And for good reason, few tools are as versatile and accessible as the kettlebell. Even Jillian Michael’s has gotten in on the action with her own adjustable kettlebell and one of the most infamous versions of the swing ever seen (don't ever try that please!)
Despite the kettlebell’s ascension to mainstream fitness tool, most people remain unaware of Kettlebell Sport. Though kettlebell sport has been around for decades in Russia and Europe, it has only recently begun gaining traction in the United States and is one of the fastest growing fitness sports. Here is your primer.
What is Kettlebell Sport
Kettlebell sport (aka girevoy sport) is a style of kettlebell lifting focused on strength endurance. In competition, lifters compete to finish as many counted reps as possible of a specific kettlebell lift in a specified amount of time without setting the kettlebell(s) down.
How long are the sets?
The traditional duration is 10 minutes, however, depending on the organization and competition there are events with sets of different lengths including 5 minute sprints, 10 minute sets, 30 minute half-marathons, and 60 minute marathon sets.
What are the lifts?
There are 3 traditional kettlebell lifts included in a kettlebell sport competition:
1. Jerk: Performed with 2 bells, lifters drive the bells explosively from the rack position to overhead and stand up with the bells fixated for a counted rep and repeat as many times as possible in the time allowed without setting the bells down. In single bell events, the number of times you may switch between hands varies based on event length and
2. Snatch: Typically performed with only 1 bell, lifters swing the bell between their legs to overhead in one fluid motion fixating at the top for a counted rep before starting the next rep. In 5 or 10 minute sets there is typically only one hand switch allowed, but in 30 or 60 minute sets you are allowed as many switches as you choose.
3. Long Cycle (aka Clean and Jerk): Performed with 2 bells, lifters swing the bell between their legs and clean the bell to the rack position before performing a jerk. Counted reps must include a pause in the rack position before performing the jerk.
What are the different events?
The events vary but are typically 3-4 events that receive medals, which are comprised from the results of your sets in the primary lifts.
Triathlon: Lifters perform all 3 main lifts in a single meet for a combined total score.
Biathlon: Lifters perform a 10 minute Jerk set, rest at least 1 hour and perform a 10 minute Snatch set for a combined total score.
Long cycle: 10 minutes of Clean & Jerk with two kettlebells.
Snatch: 10 minutes of Snatch with one kettlebell. Everyone who does Biathlon performs Snatch, but not everyone who competes in Snatch does a Jerk set.
How do you Win?
Athletes lifting in the same events are divided by gender, weight class, AND kettlebell weight. Winning your event requires the highest score for your division. Best overall male and female lifters are typically calculated using a formula: Kettlebell weight x Reps performed/ Bodyweight = efficiency score
So at a competition you can win your events, but not best overall lifter if another lifter from a different division had a better efficiency score.
What are “ranks” and how do you achieve one?
Similar to achieving different belts in martial arts, Ranks are the way governing organizations classify the proficiency of lifters using objective performance standards from competitions. Ranks are a combination of the kettlebell weight used, the number of repetitions performed, and the age division, gender, and weight class of the lifter. Here is the most recent WAKSC ranking table.
The ranks you can earn from highest to lowest are:
– Master of Sport International Class (MSIC)
– Master of Sport (MS)
– Candidate for Master of Sport (CMS)
– Rank 1
– Rank 2
– Rank 3
These ranks must be earned in competition, and certain governing bodies have regulations around where you can earn the top rankings (i.e. competitions where a judge from the governing body is judging the set, international competitions). Check with the governing body for specifics around their ranking table and regulations.
What are the governing organizations?
Kettlebell sport is a growing worldwide sport with strong roots in Europe, there are a number of governing organizations of various size and sophistication.
Here is a recent list:
American Kettlebell Alliance (AKA)
Canadian Kettlebell Alliance (CKA)
Girevoy Sport Union (GSU)
International Gira Sport Federation (IGSF)
International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation (IKFF)
International Kettlebell Lifting Federation (IKLF)
International Union of Kettlebell Lifting (IUKL)
Orange Kettlebell Club (OKC/IKO)
World Association of Kettlebell Sport Clubs (WAKSC)/ Ketacademy
World Kettlebell Sport Federation (WKSF)
If you're interested in a taking on this epic challenge and joining a growing community of amazing athletes, contact Coach Jordan today!