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The History of Kettlebells
By Adrian Burton



So you want to know more about kettlebells? Then the history of the kettlebell is a good place to start.


Kettlebells are believed to have originated over 2000 years ago. Some think they were created in ancient Greece. Some think the Romans created them. Some think they may have originated in  Scotland and were brought to Ancient Greece when the Romans invaded.


There are two popular theories the first is that the original kettlebells were thought to be a type of campfire cooking pot with a handle attached. They were called kettles. Its believed somebody filled one of these buckets with stones and started tossing it around. The kettlebell evolved from there. Kettlebells may have been used in the early Olympic games.


The Second is that the modern day use of kettlebells can be traced back to Russia. A dictionary from 1704 is the first publication known to mention a kettlebell. Under the word “girya,” the Russian word for kettlebell, was a description of a weight with a handle. It appears that Russian kettlebells were first used as counterweights in Russian marketplaces. They were used to measure amounts of produce and other goods.


Back then the Russians measured items in “poods.” A pood is 16.38 kg, or 36.11 pounds. The pood can be traced back to the 12th century. The pood is significant because kettlebells are still weighed in poods.


It wasn’t long before villagers began tossing kettlebells around and using them in competitions of athletics, strength, and endurance. They probably used kettlebells because they were compact yet easy to handle compared to other objects they could use as weights.


It didn’t take long before organized kettlebell competitions started taking place. Men would gather to see who could throw a kettlebell the farthest, lift the heaviest weight, or lift a particular weight the most times.


Strongmen in training began using kettlebells to increase their strength and athleticism as the kettlebell trend caught on. Russian strongmen used kettlebells religiously once they saw the results others were getting from them. Many Russian weightlifting magazines from the early 1900’s show big men using kettlebells.


Strangely enough, although kettlebells were so popular in Russia, there were no official competition rules until the Committee of Kettlebell Sport was organized in 1985.


Kettlebell training has been an important part of Russian athletics clear up to the current day.


Observational evidence would suggest that kettlebells are a fantastic way to train. How many weightlifting competitions were the Russians dominant in during the Cold War era? How many competitions are they still dominant in today? These athletes used kettlebells as a core part of their training regimens.


The Russians used kettlebells for more than fun, games, and competition. The Russian military saw the advantages kettlebells had over conventional military conditioning. Soon, the Russian military was trained and conditioned with kettlebells. They too must have experienced superior physical conditioning. Soon after the Soviet Union broke up, Russian and US special forces had competitions with each other.


As one exhausted US agent put it, “We'd be totally exhausted and the Russians wouldn't even be catching their breath," said the Secret Service agent. “It turned out they were all working with kettlebells.”


The kettlebell works its way west

The western world didn’t start using kettlebells until recently. Kettlebells began getting the attention of fitness enthusiasts in the nineties .In fact as far as I am aware I was the first person to introduce them into mainstream media on ITV s Fat famillies in  2004 closely followed by Angie Dowds on the Biggest Loser in 2005 on Sky.  Since that time the kettlebell’s popularity has soared. Not just with athletes, but with regular people who want to get into better shape.


Since kettlebells work the entire body, unlike weight machines that work a single muscle, they provide enormous benefits. They’ve helped people shed pounds and tone up. Many mixed martial arts fighters swear by them. It’s a little surprising it took so long for people outside of eastern Europe to start using them.


Kettlebells have a long history of helping people achieve their fitness and athletic goals. They’ll be able to help you achieve your goals, too.
Until next time Adrian
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