Kettlebell History and Origins
The kettlebell commercially and culturally has nearly always been promoted as originating out of the old USSR about 300 years ago. Since its introduction into the west over the last 20 years
But the chronological timeline of the kettlebell below, details how its origins and history stretch back many thousands of years to Ancient Greece and China.
700BC – 5th CENTURY GREECE
The use of the Greek Haltere (a pre curser to Kettlebells and Dumbells) from research, suggests that they were used as an implement to propel the athletes forward to achieve greater distances in the
Long Jump. It is quite possible they were used in the first Olympic Games in 776BC. Halteres weighed anywhere between 2 – 9kg.
There is also the only existence of some form of kettlebell in the The Archaelogical Museum of Olympia in Athens Greece and weighs 143.5kg (315lb)
CHINA 960 – 1644
Chinese Stone Padlocks a rectangular block and resembling the nearest thing to a Kettlebell, were first used by the Shaolin Monks as a conditioning tool.
They were carved out of granite and green stone, and the monks would swing, throw and catch them in exactly the same way as the modern kettlebell.
The practice of Stone Padlocks was known as ‘Shi-Suo Guong’(The Art of Stone Padlock), and the blocks weighed anywhere between 10 – 35kg.
NOTE : Shaolin Kung fu Practitioners say that it takes 2 years to properly master Chinese Stone Lock techniques. But in doing so, it enables a practitioner to lift, and manouvre weights anywhere between 50kg and up to 150kg !
RUSSIA & USA : 1704 – PRESENT DAY
The term ‘GIRYA’ (KETTLEBELL) first appears in the Russian Dictionary.
They were first used by farmers as an instrument to weigh and counter balance crops and grains in the old Soviet Union.
Each Girya had a large handle attatched because of the heavy weights involved, and was called a POOD. One Pood weighed 16.38kg, and they increased in increments of 8kg, where 1.5 poods came to 24kg, and 2 poods became 32kg etc.
Because of their incidental and unique design, it soon became apparent that kettlebells could also be adapted for physical activity and fitness in general.
It is very likely that their use as a fitness tool, came about through traders competing against each other. As to who could lift the most or for the longest during their free time.
Dr Vladislav Kraevsky introduces Kettlebells as a exercise tool primarily for the Russian Military.
But they are gradually adopted by various strength, combat and athletic sports. And integrated into Russian culture as a whole, during this time.
Competition Kettlebell Lifting or Girevoy Sport is also traced back to 1885, under the foundation ‘Circle for Amateur Athletics’.
This is also the same time that Dr Kraevsky opens the first weights gym in Russia.
Alan Calvert one of the pioneers in promoting kettlebells in the USA, forms the ‘MILO BARBELL CO (later bought by manufacturer York Barbell). And begins to produce his own kettlebells, as well as developing various other pieces of equipment for strength and fitness.
Ludvig Chaplinsky endorses kettlebells use as the best implement in developing overall strength throughout the body in Hercules Magazine.
Alan Calvert patents the ‘Milo Triplex Kettlebell‘
Kettlebell Sport is officially introduced, and evolves within Russia.
Kettlebells become recognised as an integral part of Russian health, and to assist in the productivity of the nation.
The first World Kettlebell Lifting Championships are held in November.
Pavel Tsatsouline (Master of Sport) plays a significant role in promoting kettlebells to the rest of the world.
By writing an article called ‘Vodka, Pickle Juice, Kettlebell Lifting, and Other Russian Pastimes’ in MILO magazine, a journal for Strength Athletes.
2000 – 2001
Pavel Tsatsouline produces the first practical book outside of Russia called ‘Russian Kettlebell Challenge‘ that addresses how to use kettlebells, and their health and fitness benefits.
He also starts a Certification Programme for the masses which is still regarded as the premier certification worldwide.
Rolling Stone Magazine one of the most prominent publications in the world votes Kettlebells as ‘the Hot weight of the Year’ 2002 to cement their credentials as the must have training tool for fitness.