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Exploring Different Kettlebell Training Styles and Schools

By Greg Brookes
Exploring Different Kettlebell Training Styles and Schools

When it comes to kettlebell training, various schools and styles have emerged over the years.

Each type has its unique approach, technique, and focus on specific aspects of fitness.

In this article, we will investigate the world of kettlebell training by exploring the different styles and schools so that you can choose the right one for you.

Introduction to Kettlebell Training

Kettlebell training is a unique form of exercise that utilises a cast-iron or steel weight resembling a cannonball with a handle.

With its origins in ancient Russia, kettlebell training has evolved and adapted through different schools and styles to cater to various fitness and strength goals.

The general benefits of kettlebell training include the following:

  • Functional full-body movements
  • Increased cardiovascular fitness
  • Enhanced mobility and flexibility
  • Improved core and grip strength

Let’s now explore the different styles and schools of kettlebell training, along with their unique features and core principles.

Russian Kettlebell Training

As the birthplace of kettlebell training, the traditional Russian style is known for its minimalistic and efficient approach.

Centred around basic movements and an emphasis on proper technique, the style is focused on achieving maximum results with minimal equipment.

Core principles of Russian kettlebell training include:

  • Utilising the whole body for dynamic movements
  • Incorporating functional exercises for daily life
  • Emphasizing proper breathing techniques
  • Prioritizing progress in both strength and endurance

Example Workout: Power and Endurance

This workout focuses on raw power, endurance, and core stability.

  1. One-arm kettlebell swing: This swing is similar to the two-handed swing, but you’ll only use one hand. Perform 15 reps per arm.
  2. Kettlebell snatch: Start with a kettlebell on the floor between your feet. Bend down to grab it and then explosively stand up while pulling the kettlebell up and punching it directly overhead. Lower it with control. Do 10 reps per arm.
  3. Double kettlebell front squat: Hold two kettlebells in the front rack position at chest height with elbows tucked in. Perform a deep squat and then stand back up. Do this for 15 reps.
  4. Kettlebell farmer’s walk: Holding a kettlebell in each hand by your sides, walk forwards for 60 seconds while maintaining good posture and a tight core.

Rest for 60 seconds between sets. Repeat this circuit a total of three times.

Double kettlebell front squat
Double kettlebell front squat

Hardstyle Kettlebell Training

Originating from the Russian Special Forces, Hardstyle kettlebell training focuses on strength, power, and explosiveness.

With a slightly different approach compared to the traditional Russian style, it aims to combine maximum tension and relaxation.

Core principles of Hardstyle kettlebell training include:

  • Using tension techniques to improve strength and power
  • Emphasizing explosive movements
  • Prioritizing strict form and alignment
  • Implementing plyometrics and cardiovascular elements

Example Workout: Power Protocol

Designed to maximise power generation, this workout emphasises controlled explosive movements and increased tension.

  1. Hardstyle One-Arm Swing: Perform a kettlebell swing with one hand, focusing on generating a wave of tension through your body at the top of the swing. Perform 12-15 reps per side.
  2. High Pull: From the one-handed swing position, pull the kettlebell high up and close to your chest at the apex of the swing, keeping your elbow high. Perform 8-10 reps per side.
  3. Double Kettlebell Press: Hold two kettlebells in the rack position at your shoulders. Press the kettlebells overhead, engaging your whole body to maintain tension. Lower with control. Do this for 10-12 reps.
  4. Kettlebell Snatch: Start with the kettlebell between your feet. Pull it upward and punch it directly overhead in a fluid motion. The objective is to maintain maximum body tension at the top of the snatch. Perform 8-10 reps per side.

Rest for 60 seconds between sets. Repeat this circuit a total of three times.

Kettlebell high pull
Kettlebell high pull

Girevoy Sport

Also known as Kettlebell Sport, Girevoy Sport is a competitive style of kettlebell training with standardised movements and rules.

The focus is on endurance, technique, and pacing, with athletes striving to achieve maximum repetitions within a given time frame.

Core principles of Girevoy Sport include:

  • Efficient movements for maximum repetitions
  • Technical mastery and precision
  • Endurance-based training
  • Focus on key competition lifts such as the snatch, clean, and jerk

Example Workout: Endurance Booster

This routine focuses on developing endurance through timed sets of core Girevoy Sport exercises.

  1. One-Arm Snatch: Perform as many one-arm snatches as possible within a 5-minute period. Switch arms as needed.
  2. One-Arm Jerk: Perform as many one-arm jerks as possible within a 5-minute period. Switch arms as needed.
  3. Long Cycle (clean and jerk): Perform as many clean and jerks as possible within a 5-minute period. Switch arms as needed.

Rest for 3-5 minutes between each exercise. Gradually increase training time as your endurance improves.

kettlebell snatch
Kettlebell snatch

CrossFit Kettlebell Training

As a hybrid approach, CrossFit kettlebell training combines various elements from different styles to create high-intensity workouts.

The focus is on functional movements and incorporating cardiovascular and strength components into each session.

Core principles of CrossFit kettlebell training include:

  • High-intensity, constantly varied workouts
  • Full-body functional movements
  • Incorporating other fitness modalities, such as bodyweight exercises and Olympic lifting
  • Focus on measurable progress and results

3 Example Workouts

CrossFit Workout “Helen”

  • 3 rounds for time
  • Run 400 meters
  • 21 kettlebell swings (24/16 kg)
  • 12 pull-ups

CrossFit Workout “Eva”

  • 5 rounds for time
  • Run 800 meters
  • 30 kettlebell swings (32/24 kg)
  • 30 pull-ups

CrossFit Workout “Nancy” with Kettlebell substitute

  • 5 rounds for time
  • 400-meter run
  • 15 overhead squats (replaced with kettlebell overhead squats)
Two handed kettlebell swing
Kettlebell Swing

Functional Movement System (FMS) Kettlebell Training

FMS Kettlebell Training focuses on assessing an individual’s movement patterns and addressing imbalances or restrictions.

This approach aims to improve overall movement quality for better performance and injury prevention by using kettlebells alongside the FMS principles.

Core principles of FMS kettlebell training include:

  • Assessment and correction of movement patterns
  • Functional movement exercises
  • Emphasis on stability, mobility, and durability
  • Personalized approach to kettlebell training

Example Workout: Functional Mobility and Cardio

  1. Kettlebell Halo: This movement helps improve shoulder mobility, which is crucial for reaching or grabbing tasks. Hold a kettlebell by its horns in front of your chest, and circle it around your head, alternating directions each rep. Perform 10 total reps.
  2. Kettlebell Lunge Press: Integrating a lower and upper body movement is excellent for multitasking functional activities. Reverse lunge while holding a kettlebell at your shoulder. At the bottom of your lunge, press the kettlebell overhead. Perform 6-12 reps on each side.
  3. Kettlebell Clean: This movement replicates lifting objects off the floor to a standing position, stressing functional strength and cardiovascular fitness. Start with the kettlebell between your feet, pull it up off the floor, ending in the rack position at shoulder height. Perform 5-8 reps on each side.
Kettlebell clean
Kettlebell clean

Selecting the Right Kettlebell Style for You

Now that you’re familiar with the different kettlebell training styles and schools choosing the one that best suits your needs and goals is essential.

Before starting your kettlebell journey, consider the following factors:

  • Fitness goals: Are you looking to emphasize building strength, power, endurance, or movement quality?
  • Training history: Any prior experience with weight training, sports, or kettlebells will help you determine the best starting point.
  • Personality: Choose a style that resonates with your personality and keeps you motivated.
  • Accessibility: The availability of qualified coaches and facilities may affect which style you can adopt and practice safely.

With the right kettlebell training style, you’ll be well on your way to reaping the benefits of this versatile and effective form of exercise.

So, choose your kettlebell weapon, and unleash its potential for a stronger, healthier, and more balanced you.

What’s your favourite kettlebell style? Let me know more below…

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