Kettlebell Sport or Girevoy Sport (GS), is a highly challenging endurance feat of cyclical nature. Lifters’ success depends on technique, flexibility, stability, proper breathing patterns, aerobic capacity and mental focus.
As opposed to Olympic or Power Lifting, traditional GS events require an athlete to lift a sub-maximal load, completing as many repetitions as possible in ten minutes.
The Russians can take credit for developing this unique form of competition, yet weights with handles have been used as early as 8th century BC, when the Greeks began creating their own versions of gymnasiums and were the first to develop organized approaches to weight training and sports.
Halteres, from the Greek allomai, means ‘leap’ or ‘spring’. These metal or stone weights with holes were used for lifting as well as for assisting athletes in the long jump. By holding one in each hand, halteres, weighing between 12 and 35kg, allowed an athlete greater jumping distance.
Let’s start with the basics of the swings:
- 1-It’s helpful to place an object on the floor about 2-3 feet in front of you. With each backswing, you'll look at the object, keeping your head in line with your spine as opposed to extending the head or looking in the mirror.
- 2-As you come into the upswing, you’re not going to brace the lats. You don’t want to create extra tension, the duration of the sets and the weight will do that, therefore you want to create as much efficiency as possible. The objective is to follow the pendulum up and then through the legs without forcing it in either direction, creating a crescent pattern. The leg drive, hip extension and trunk are all engaged to follow and redirect, but not force, the crescent pattern.
- 3-The knees will extend on the backswing then bend again as the bell comes out of the legs. Make the knees ‘buoyant’. This helps redirect the bell out of the backswing, a very important element with the swing clean and snatches.
- 4-Wait for the bell to start its descent before flexing at the hips. Beginners will sometimes flex over too early, causing the bell and arms to drop near the knees instead of connecting the wrists to the crotch. This error puts the load into the low back muscles instead of the hips. To correct the drop, wait until the armpits close before flexing over. The bell should begin its descent while you’re still upright.
- 5-With high-tension swings, it’s appropriate to exhale forcefully on the upswing. But for Kettlebell Sport, you’re going for endurance: many minutes and hundreds of reps! For these purposes, you’re going to use 2 exhales, one on the upswing as usual, and one on the backswing. The exhale at the backswing is gentle, simple expelling the air. This method will allow more oxygen into your system for the long set required for the sport.
It may seem like these points are making everything so much easier! But wait…we're not at the party yet. This is just the beginning of the fundamentals. When we get into the details of the sport lifts you'll see why each of these nuances make sense. With practice, you'll be able to perform many minutes and hundreds of reps at a time.
Examples of rep schemes for swings:
- 15 - 20 reps pairing with 15 to 20 pushups 3-5 sets
- If you have 3 or more bells, set up a ladder of reps starting with the light bell, such as 25,20,15,10 and then back down. Again, you can pair with pushups or another pushing movement 2-3 sets
- With a clock, swing 25 reps then rest for the remainder of the minute, about 20 seconds. 5-8 rounds
Next up will be Kettlebell Sport Snatch, Part 1
Lorna is a 5-time World Champion in Kettlebell Sport, with Absolute National records in 24kg and 20 kg Snatch.
She is an author and personal trainer, with a Bachelors in Exercise Science. Coaching certificates from IKSFA, WKC, AKA Certified Coach and personal training through NASM.
Lorna's been featured in SHAPE, Prevention, Women’s Health and twice in The New York Times, but her greatest triumph is not evident to the eye. Her journey was shaped by a relentless hunger to experience her full potential, guiding her to the highest ranks in Kettlebell Sport and to bring a personal, results-oriented approach to her personal training clients.