The History of Kettlebells--they used to be used for what?

Kettlebell History

-Amanda Wegner, Assistant Kettlebell Coach at Full Throttle Athletics

Although the kettlebell is fairly new in the United States, it is a tool with a long history. A history so long, in fact, that it’s hard to say exactly where or when it came from! However, several sources suggest that the basic kettlebell idea (a weight with a semicircular handle) was first found in ancient Greece, used by Olympic athletes. These Olympians used the kettlebell much like we do now – for physical development… and for a little bit of showing off!

The modern kettlebell shape started to emerge in the middle ages, crafted out of stones, and were used by Slavs and Turks to prepare for battle. The next development was taking this shape and changing the material – from stone to metal. The metal kettlebell – or girya – was used by Russian grain vendors as counterweights. Eventually, just as the Greeks used them to show off, the kettlebell began to be used again for demonstrations of strength and endurance. The very first official competition using kettlebell exercises was held in St Petersburg in 1885.

These demonstrations of strength and endurance became parts of national holidays and became a strong part of Russian national culture. During the Soviet period the kettlebell spread very rapidly and became a huge success in rural areas, among young people, and in the military. How successful was it? Well, in 1948 the first Soviet Strength Competition drew in over 200,000 people! The winner of this competition – which had NO time limit - pressed a 32kg kettlebell 1002 times!

The final stage of development began in 1962 when official rules and limits were introduced and three exercises were defined – one-kettlebell press, 2 kettlebell jerk, and snatch. However, the first world championship wasn’t held until 1993. So, although the kettlebell is an ancient tool, the sport is relatively new! In the modern competition, there is a 10 minute time limit and athletes face off in long cycle, biathlon (jerk and snatch, 10 minutes each) or snatch-only. The sport continues to evolve and spread throughout the world, faster and faster than you might think!


TO RESERVE your spot at one of the Full Throttle Athletics Kettlebell Workshops! $29 Admission Fee (Free for V.I.P. Clients)

  • Saturday, August 3rd 10:00am - 11:30am: Intro to Kettlebells for Fitness

Whether you are completely new to kettlebells, or you are fairly familiar and would like to clean up your technique, the Into to Kettlbells for Fitness Workshop is perfect for you! Think you know bells? Time to dive in a little deeper…

  • Saturday, August 10th 10:00am -11:30am: Intro to Kettlebells for Sport

If you truly enjoy the challenge of learning the technical aspects of a brand new sport, or if you have competitive tendencies and would like to see if kettlebell sport will fulfill your competitive desires, don’t miss this workshop! Current FTA Kettlebell Club athletes will also be present to coach and provide personal testimonies regarding kettlebell sport training, competitions, and results they have experienced from complete dedication to the sport.

Email to reserve your spot!