What is Kettlebell Sport?
The object of kettlebell sport is to lift one or two bells as many times as possible within a certain amount of time (usually 5 or 10-minutes).
Why Try Kettlebell Sport
Many people practice kettlebell sport and never even consider competing; they follow a sport training protocol strictly for the exercise.
Why? Because kettlebell sport training is unmatched at getting strength, cardio and endurance benefits at once, it's low-impact exercise and it's easy to scale as you progress. You can:
- increase your pace
- increase the lengths of your sets
- increase total volume
- increase kettlebell weight
- increase number of kettlebells
Pretty flexible, right?
Others love a hard deadline and physical and mental challenges, and so choose to compete in kettlebell sport lifting competitions to achieve the most clean reps within the time limit (good technique is paramount. Bad reps don't count).
The Origin of Kettlebell Sport
The sport of kettlebell lifting was created in Russia, where our sources tell us the first known competition took place in 1948.
Unified rules and regulations formed over the subsequent decades and culminated with membership in their National Sports Federation.
Today, aside from the athletes around the world who practice kettlebell sport to increase power endurance performance in their own primary sport, many individuals and clubs also participate in kettlebell sport competitions.
Kettlebell Sport Competitions
There are several different kettlebell sport events, or "lifts," and (similar to Olympic weightlifting) the most common are:
- Jerk: an explosive movement where the bells travel from the rack position (your chest) to overhead
- Snatch: a swing that comes to a stop overhead
- Long Cycle: (clean and jerk) a swing between the legs that comes to a stop at the rack position before adding a jerk
- Kettlebell Biathlon: is a set of snatch (single arm) and a set of jerks (two-arms/two-bells) performed on the same day. Usually there's a few hours between sets but it can be much less during a smaller competition.
- Kettlebell Triathlon: is the same as biathlon but in addition, you add a set of long cycle.
For each of the events, the set lengths are either 5 or 10-minutes in length.
When performing a Biathlon or Triathlon, you must use the same bell weight and duration for each of the lifts.
There are also snatch and long cycle (one or two-arm) marathons of 30 or 60-minutes.
One-arm snatch and one-arm long cycle usually only allow for one hand-switch which you can make at any time (strategy comes into play here!), but for marathons you can switch hands as many times as you like.
In Olympic weightlifting (with a barbell), the lifter is trying to lift as much weight as they can at once.
Kettlebell lifting is a strength endurance sport. Many reps over a longer period of time.
A kettlebell lifter can choose which weight they're going to compete with; typically, a weight that is challenging for them, but only a fraction of their one-rep max, as their goal is going to be to repeat the lift anywhere from 20-200 times or more during their 5 or 10-minute set.
Competitions issue rankings which are determined by your:
- actual body weight or weight class
- the weight of the kettlebells you use in the competition, and
- the number of reps you complete within the time limit.
In most kettlebell competitions, snatch is performed with one bell by both men and women and lifters are allowed one hand switch during their set.
Jerk and long-cycle are performed with two kettlebells by men and either one or two bells by women, depending on the hosting organization.
Each organization has their own ranking table and rules, but the most universal rules are:
- you can't put the kettlebells down
- you must "fixate" overhead, which means stopping completely with your arms locked out straight before continuing to the next rep.
With the goal to have you physically primed and peaking on competition day, most kettlebell sport training programs for amateurs are 2-5 days per week for 4-8 weeks. You will see cycles up to 12 weeks but usually that's two 6-week cycles, or a 4 and an 8. Your schedule will be determined by your:
- current physical condition
- how heavy the weight you're going to be lifting on competition day is
- your age (effects recovery time between workouts)
- how many kettlebells and what variety of weights you have access to for your training
This is a good time to mention that competition day is the one day that you put forth absolute maximum effort. It can take you longer than you think to recover from competition day! And as healthy overall as this training is, for most people it's not recommended to be training back-to-back competitions repeatedly.
Two or three competitions per year is most common, and what we recommend.
If you’re interested in giving kettlebell sport a try, you must work with an experience kettlebell sport coach to learn the proper techniques. DO NOT WATCH A FEW RANDOM YOUTUBE VIDEOS AND CALL IT GOOD.
One-on-one in person learning is always best, but if online is your only option DEFINITELY go get yourself signed up for our Pro Kettlebell Rookies Challenge. Honestly, it's not marketed as a sport program, but it teaches you everything you an incredible amount of clean, snatch and jerk technique, and it's a 30-day program so by the end you will be practiced enough, conditioned and blazing to go all-in on a sport training cycle.
How to Get into Kettlebell Sport
On the Pro Kettlebell Workouts app, we use weight percentages so different people can follow the same program and all get fantastic results. It's a little long-winded to explain here, but trust us, it works.
No matter who's program you're doing, to get the best results it's ideal to have a variety of weights heavier and lighter than your competition weight available to train with. (We call your competition weight your "100%" weight.)
Our lifters have used these programs to achieve top places and high rankings at kettlebell competitions all over the US and Canada, and many athletes including runners, cyclists, skaters, and rowers, have reported jumps in power and endurance resulting in personal bests and records in their own sport after following a Pro Kettlebell sport training exercise program.
PRO Tip: As tempting as it may be, DO NOT skip the conditioning exercises, and DO NOT try to make up missed training sessions by cramming them together back-to-back.
The magic happens on your recovery days!