Many people across the world are still wondering what the difference is between kettlebell training and kettlebell sport, not many experts are able to explain the difference in such a way that it makes sense, and more importantly, not many experts explain it without being biased.
Update 27 October 2016, I’ve updated this post covering more info for trolls, see the bottom of page.
RESISTANCE TRAINING AKA STRENGTH TRAINING
First let’s talk about resistance training which is used to induce muscular contraction to promote strength, anaerobic endurance, and muscle growth. The process of strength training is to keep increasing the resistance as you grow stronger. When it comes to resistance training, the more resistance you get from the weight the better it is.
For example; you don’t want to bounce the barbell in a deadlift because it would produce less resistance; you don’t want to use momentum with a dumbbell bicep curl because it would produce less resistance; you don’t want to kip with a pull-up because it would produce less resistance.
If by now my point has not come across, let me be clear, you want resistance not fluidity nor going with the flow if your goal is to train in the area of resistance training.
HARDSTYLE VS KETTLEBELL SPORT
Some people would like to think that there is only Hardstyle and Softstyle in the world of kettlebells, i.e. Hardstyle and Kettlebell Sport, but to me Hardstyle (HS) falls under Kettlebell Training, there is Kettlebell Training and Girevoy Sport (GS). Hardstyle is a kettlebell training style in which you work high intensity and few repetitions, aiming for maximum acceleration on each rep of a ballistic movement, does that mean if I don’t implement this technique I’m now doing Kettlebell Sport? No!
KETTLEBELL SPORT AKA GIREVOY SPORT
Kettlebell sport is all about removing resistance, going with the flow of the weight, it’s about moving the weight as efficient as possible for as many times as possible and as quick as possible.
This is not to say that you do not get stronger when you train in the area of kettlebell sport, for sure you’ll get stronger, but in a different way and through a different process.
Of course it’s never possible to eliminate the resistance completely because simple physics dictate that the weight has to be moved by a foreign created force.
I sometimes compare GS to CrossFit, as CrossFit also focusses a lot on technique that is about getting out reps with as less resistance as possible, it then becomes about flow, fluidity and using momentum which in my opinion is very similar to GS. Of course not all of CrossFit is like this as there is EMOM, and good trainers that program proper resistance exercises.
WHICH ONE IS BETTER?
There are quite a few people who say one is better over the other and go into long drawn out public back and forth arguments about it, trying to prove a point. But neither is better than the other, it all depends on what works for you, does it help you reach your goals? If yes, then it’s the right way for you. Are you wanting to become extremely good at 3 exercises and want to get competitive with your training? Go and do GS. Are you wanting to become good at TGU’s, Strict Press, OH Squat, do you want to create your own goal? Go and do kettlebell training. Want to really top it off? Do both.
I don’t bother getting into these online debates which sometimes go on for days, it’s pointless really. Those that do, still have a lot to learn about life. Chill.
DIFFERENCE IN SUMMARY
In kettlebell training in general the best style is the one that provides the most resistance and challenges the most muscle groups while being safe. In kettlebell training you might want to lift heavy for low reps, you might want to go light and go for high reps, anything safe pretty much goes. Main focus points: all aspects of training or just select aspects like fun, flexibility, cardio etc., all kettlebell exercises can come into play or just a select few that work towards the goals. Weights can be of any size, light, medium or heavy. Workout duration is anytime that works.
In kettlebell sport the best style is the one that provides the least resistance (opposite of resistance training), allowing you to get the most reps out and challenging the least amount of muscle groups while being safe. In kettlebell sport the objective is always to lift as many times as possible, increase weight over time and set a record with a set of never changing exercises (clean, jerk and snatch). Main focus points: grip, endurance, breathing, mental toughness and a defined set of exercises. Weights are sub-max. Workout duration is usually 6 or 10 minutes.
Don’t take the above as a black or white, it’s mainly to demonstrate that GS is always about reps, never about creating resistance and that kettlebell training can be versatile.
Which one to chose?
Ok, so we covered the fact that not one style is better over the other, but which one should you chose? In my opinion all, but it doesn’t always work out that way, so let’s help you make a choice.
Start looking at why you’re training with kettlebells? If you’re driven and want to compete, chose kettlebell sport, if you want more freedom and have other goals than getting a trophy/medal, chose kettlebell training.
If you want to be good at turkish get-ups, windmills, front-squats, strict press, or if you want to be able to play with the kettlebell, chose kettlebell training. If you want to be able to get really good at only a small number of set exercises and if you want to focus on just that set of exercises, then chose kettlebell sport. And yes I’m generalising, there are those GS people who also do TGU’s and windmills in their training, but the majority does not, the top end of competitors only focus on the exercises included in competition, it’s a fact.
To be clear, if you’re a kettlebell sport competitor you’re good at snatches, cleans, jerks and single arm swings. If you’re a kettlebell enthusiast you can be good at any set of kettlebell exercises, you can change things up, you might be tired of doing TGU’s, Windmills, Strict presses and Front-squats, you then go to THE list of kettlebell exercises and create a new set for yourself.
If you want to learn a different method of performing lifts, if you want to stick to a certain style, and want belong to a group of people who focus primarily on strength, then chose Hardstyle / StrongFirst.
If you want to learn different ways of doing things, being more open to all styles and belong to a group of people, chose IKFF.
Your thoughts below or on facebook. Feel free to share, especially to those who argue all the time.
Internet trolls, you’ll come across them everywhere, even in the Kettlebell world, they suck the life out of you, they make you angry, they get you to a point where you want to squeeze their neck… relax, this is their goal, this is what they want, this is the objective they set out to reach, you can see this from their post immediately. Don’t get angry, feel for them, as they are probably sad lonely people who have no other interaction with anyone normal, the only interaction they can get is you being angry at them and other trolls going along with their ridiculous point of view. The more facts you throw at them, the stupider they get.
If you come across anyone saying one style is better over the other, they’re just insecure and don’t know how the world works. If you’re enjoying yourself, if you’re training safe, if you’re reaching your goals, if you’re staying active, well, you’ve chosen the right style, whether that is kettlebell sport, hardstyle, fluid style, kettlebell juggling, kettlebell training or some other form of kettlebell lifting, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, don’t even argue with them. They won’t come to your side and they certainly won’t convince you to come to their side.
Remember, if you stop feeding a troll, it dies.
If you’re kettlebell training you can even swing your kettlebell like this.
If you’re looking for some motivation to get back into the swing of things, check out the video below. And remember, one should always be learning, there is no such thing as knowing it all.
Written by Taco Fleur a kettlebell coach and crossfit trainer located in the province of Malaga Spain (Costa del Sol), available for fully organised fitness breaks, customised adventures in the outdoors involving kettlebells and much more. Check out www.fitnessbreakbootcamp.com and www.cavemantraining.com or his Youtube channel here www.youtube.com/user/executiveresults/
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