The History of the Kettlebell by Steve Cotter and Taco Fleur

A couple of years ago I did research on the history of the kettlebell and in 2016 I met up with Steve Cotter in Spain and added more details to the research. The above video is the result, behold the History of the kettlebell part II by Steve Cotter and Taco Fleur.

The kettlebell (girya), as we know it today, is nothing like it was in the olden days, in fact, the kettlebell was not invented for exercise, but rather as a weight for weighing crops, grains plus other goods. It was called a Pood / пуд.

A kettlebell Pood is approximately 16.38 kilograms or 36.11 pounds. The Pood was first mentioned in a number of 12th-century documents.

Over the many years, the Kettlebell has evolved drastically and is now only used as an exercise tool.

What about ancient Greece?

Yes, there has been mention of other implements that resembled an exercise tool with a handle, in ancient Greece and other places, I even mentioned it in my first research published on the history of the kettlebell. The fact of the matter is, it resembled an exercise tool with a handle but did not evolve into the kettlebell.

  • 12th-century The Pood was first mentioned in a number of documents.
  • 1704 The word ‘Girya’ literally meaning Handle Bell (kettlebell) is first published in the Russian Dictionary. (ги́ря)
  • 1867 Eugen Sandow is born in Königsberg Prussia, known as the “father of modern bodybuilding” and a famous Victorian Strongmen.
  • 1875 Alan Calvert is born in West Philadelphia USA.
  • 1880 Russian Dr. Vladislav Kraevsky introduces Kettlebell exercises to the Russian athletic community.
  • 1885 Under the leadership of Dr. Kraevsky a weight training hall is opened that uses Kettlebells.
  • Early 20th Century Kettlebells were introduced to a wider audience outside of Russia by strong men, wrestlers, and circus performers.
  • 1902 Alan Calvert founds The Milo Bar-Bell company, which was the first barbell company in North America.
  • 1903 (approx) Alan Calvert adds a handle to the cylinder weights.
  • 1913 Ludvig Chaplinskiy writes in the Russian magazine Hercules “Not a single sport develops our muscular strength and bodies as well as kettlebell athletics”
  • 1940’s Kettlebell Sport is developed in rural areas and Soviet military groups in the former USSR.
  • 1948 The ‘first’ official All-Union kettlebell competition takes place in Moscow.
  • 1948 20,000 athletes came to take part in the First Nationwide Festival of Strongmen. The winner, Black Sea Fleet sailor Alexei Protopopov managed to snatch a 32-kilo girya 1,002 times with short breaks. Another record-breaker of that time was Aleksandr Bolshakov, who clean-and-jerked a pair of 32-kilo giri 19 times in one go.
  • 1950s The “best girya man” was Ivan Nemtsev; the peasant from Altai clinched the USSR championship title eleven times. He was called the “king of the snatch”. His record – the lifting of the 32 kilo-girya 370 times without a break, still remains unbeaten.
  • 1962 Kettlebell Sport rules and weight classes are established and athletes compete in the Triathlon.
  • 1969 Pavel Tsatsouline is born in Minsk (USSR).
  • 1973 Valery Fedorenko is born in Kyrgyzstan (USSR).
  • 1974 Kettlebell Sport is officially declared the ethnic sport of Russia.
  • 1981 The Russian government recognized the various benefits that kettlebells could provide its working citizens; and an official commission enforced mandatory kettlebell training for the masses, relying on the kettlebell to increase productivity and to decrease the healthcare costs of the country.
  • 1985 The Committee of Kettlebell Sport was established, along with official rules and the First National Championship of the USSR is held in Lipetsk, Russia.
  • 1993 The First World Championship is held in Lipetzk Russia in which Valery Fedorenko wins the World Championship Gold Medal.
  • 1998 Pavel Tsatouline former Soviet Special Forces physical training instructor becomes a kettlebell instructor in the United States and writes an article discussing Kettlebells in a popular American magazine for strength athletes.
  • 1999 Valery Federenko, one of the first World Champion kettlebell athletes from the former USSR, moved to the United States from Kyrgyzstan to help teach and develop kettlebell exercises.
  • 2001 Pavel Tsatouline starts RKC which stands for Russian Kettlebell Challenge.
  • 2001 Pavel Tsatouline releases the book and DVD “The Russian Kettlebell Challenge”.
  • 2001 The first time women compete in Kettlebell Sport championships.
  • 2002 The kettlebell makes it onto the Rolling Stone Magazine Hot List as ‘the Hot Weight of the Year’.
  • 2006 Pavel Tsatouline releases the book and DVD “Enter the Kettlebell!”.
  • 2006 Valery Federenko establishes the World Kettlebell Club.
  • 2008 Steve Cotter founds the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation.
  • 2009 Pavel Tsatouline publishes the book and DVD “Return of the Kettlebell”.
  • 2009 Taco Fleur and Anna Junghans create Cavemantraining which to this day remains the largest online kettlebell education website
  • 2011 Jadranka Marinovic is the first Australian Woman to compete in a kettlebell Marathon Championship representing Australia.
  • 2012 Pavel Tsatouline leaves RKC and forms the company StrongFirst.
  • 2014 the IUKL World Championship of Girevoy Sport is held in Hamburg (Germany).

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