Once a curiosity like the circus strongman, kettlebell training has become popular across the U.S.
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Kettlebells arrived in the United States in the early 2000s on the muscular shoulders of 2 Soviet immigrants, Valery Fedorenko and Pavel Tsatsouline. Eventually, their two respective styles of kettlebell training became known as American Kettlebell Club (AKC) and Russian Kettlebell Challenge (RKC). Both AKC and RKC offer strength and fitness conditioning. AKC kettlebells includes competitive lifting events similar to the Soviet sport. RKC kettlebells developed a reputation for tactical (combat) training.
From Circus Strongmen to National Sport
Kettlebells have been used for strength and conditioning training in Russia since the turn of the 16th century. First popularized by circus performers and strongmen, kettlebells later became essential training tools for Russian soldiers and Olympic athletes. In 1974, kettlebell events were declared an ethnic Russian sport, and in 1985, the city of Lipetsk hosted the first national competition. With the opening of the Soviet Union after the cold war, kettlebells started to make their way across the globe.
A World Champion Comes to America
AKC founder Valery Fedorenko started competing in professional kettlebell events when he was 17 years old. By the time he turned 20, he was the 1993 men's 80 kg world champion and men's 80 kg jerk/snatch world record holder. (Reference 6) Fedorenko came to the United States and started organizing AKC kettlebell events, training camps, competition rules and instructor certifications. The 2013 World Kettlebell Lifting Championships included the 5 event categories: biathlon, strongsport biathlon, longcycle, strongsport longcycle and pentathlon.
Vodka, Pickle Juice and Kettlebells
RKC founder Pavel Tsatsouline trained Spetsnaz special forces troops before coming to the United States in 1998. He wrote an article, "Vodka, Pickle Juice, Kettlebell Lifting and Other Russian Pastimes," which introduced kettlebells to American fitness enthusiasts. Tsatsouline focuses on training U.S. military troops and law enforcement officers, publishing books and leading kettlebell workshops. In 2012, Tsatsouline ended his longtime association with Dragon Door and launched a new kettlebell organization, called StrongFirst. (Reference 4)
Fitness Any Way You Swing It
From these Soviet roots, kettlebell training has grown into a wide assortment of styles, to suit any number of fitness goals. Regardless of what style you choose, kettlebell training is a highly effective way to achieve whole-body, functional fitness. A study conducted by the American Council on Exercise found kettlebell training to be beneficial for weight management, cardiovascular endurance, dynamic balance and muscular strength.