Girevoy Sport

C. Knight / krider

Girevoy Sport is the name given to competition kettlebells. I thought I’d do a post on it since I call myself a Girevik, and that’s not really a term in the everyday English vocabulary (yet!). A girevik is a kettlebell athlete. I think technically (Russian is not a strong point of mine 😉 ) that this actually refers to a male athlete. But it is now widely used in the west across genders. So I’m sticking with it 🙂

The Russians have been using kettlebells for many many years for strength and conditioning. In the 1940s they thought it would be a good idea to create a sport from it. And who are we to argue 🙂

Generally lifters compete in one or several of Snatch, Clean, and Jerk. These three lifts are the core of standard Girevoy Sport. Biathlon is a Jerk set, followed later by a Snatch set. Long Cycle is a Clean and Jerk set. Usually lifters can only compete in either Biathlon or Long Cycle. However sometimes there is a Snatch only competition, particularly for women. Unfortunately (as it is my favourite lift), Long Cycle is the newest kid on the block and is not always included at elite level, or European/World championships. Hopefully that will change as the sport gains popularity.

It is also interesting to note that different organisations allow different weights to be used in competitions. Some only allow bells of 4kg increments, starting at 8kg, Others also include those bells at 2kg increments. It also then changes between amateur and professional at World Championships where only specific bells can be used. All of these are then used in the context of weight categories for the lifters.

The lift names are probably familiar to those who participate in or follow Olympic lifting or powerlifting. However in those events the goal is a maximum weight lift. In Girevoy Sport (GS for short), the aim is both a time goal and a repetition goal, leading more to volume lifting. This means the endurance requirements for GS are a lot higher. It also means a lifter needs to use a weight that allows that sort of volume. The time limit is 10 minutes for a set, and a good lifter will train to be able to reach that limit to maximise the reps they can get. An added difference between the sexes is that women always compete with a single kettlebell, with one hand change allowed. Men have to use two kettlebells for all lifts apart from the Snatch.

Training needs to involve not only strength work, but also endurance. Cardiovascular fitness is important, as well as stamina. There is also a degree of mental attitude. Often the mind wants to put the bell down and needs a good talking to from the muscles 🙂 Certainly the mental aspect needs work as does the physical. Building up sets conditions the mind that it is possible as much as the muscles.

Scoring is often based around total weight lifted. To get a coefficient score for overall comparison between lifters, that total weight lifted is than divided by the competitors weight. This means that of two lifters who obtain the same reps, the lighter one of them will win.

Kettlebells is a recognised sport in Russia, as you would expect. That is not the case elsewhere though. The recently formed Organisation of Kettlebell Sport England has a goal to get the sport recognised by Sport England. GSU do a sterling job of running UK competitions, but it seems politics gets in the way as usual. For Sport England to recognised the sport it needs to represented by an English group… *sigh*

Now go out and find a local group and have a go! It’s an awesome way to exercise. And it is not all swings. Promise!


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