When Were Women Allowed in Kettlebell Sport? And History of the Kettlebell

There is kettlebell training, which is for the everyday gym goer, the athletes, and those who are serious about their training. And there is kettlebell sport, which is kettlebells on a whole new level, and not known to everyone who trains with kettlebells.

Kettlebell sport athletes have amazing endurance combined with mental toughness. They do high reps, using heavy weights, without putting the kettlebells down for 5, 10, 30, or 60 minutes.

Kettlebell sport is getting more and more popular due to the many advocates of kettlebells, and it’s accessible for anyone, anyone who has the drive to learn the technique and follow the proper progression. But it hasn’t always been this way, there used to be a time that women were not allowed to compete.

It was only in 1999 that the first kettlebell sport competition allowed women in the 16kg snatch event, which was held in Kalugo Russia. 2001 was the first time women competed in championships, and it was only in 2007 that women started competing with 24kg.

“I follow in the footsteps of the very first women who accomplish outstanding results. I highly admire and respect the pathway they paved and consider if they could, so can I. To motivate others I support everyone’s desire to begin this sport and recommend this as an exceptional training method which complements all other sports. We see all type sizes and ages of women coming to the platform and should anyone relate to my age or philosophy of ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’ all women can succeed in GS. I believe the former barriers some may have thought of which initially existed for women performing limited lifts in relation to the men’s are slowly becoming a thing of the past as we have women driving the cause by lifting double in long cycle. There’s progress and much more to come as evolution is inevitable, I believe we will see barriers continuously broken as more women embrace this sport.”

Valerie Pawlowski
World Champion Kettlebell Lifting

The History of the Kettlebell

Discoveries have been made that show kettlebell presence in Ancient Greece, and it’s said they made their way to Russia in the 1700s.

The kettlebell (girya), as we know it today, was nothing like in the olden days, in fact, the kettlebell was not invented for exercise by the Russians, but rather as a weight for weighing crops, grains, and other goods in the 1700s. The kettlebell has evolved drastically and is now only used as an exercise tool.


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.

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.

1962 Kettlebell Sport rules and weight classes are established and athletes compete in the Triathlon.

1966 Girevoy Sport was officially included in the military.

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 was 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 Valery Federenko establishes the World Kettlebell Club.

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).

Kettlebells, as they are today, have many more advocates to thank, people like Steve Cotter, Jeff Martone, Valerie Pawlowski, Taco Fleur, Michael Lisichkin, Brittany van Schravendijk, and many others…

The History of the Kettlebell is continuously updated with new facts and information, if you have any facts, please submit them to info@cavemantraining.com.

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