FAQs and Basics

Here, you will find answers to common questions about kettlebells.

Q: What is a kettlebell and where did it come from?

A: A kettlebell is a free weight that looks like a bowling ball/canon ball with a looped handle at the top.

Although many kettlebell enthusists debate the exact origin of the kettlebell, by most accounts, the kettlebell came from Russia. They were almost exclusively used in the former Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries as a means of getting in shape. In Russian, it is called a "girya."

According to Jason C. Brown, creator of Kettlebell Athletics.com, kettlebells first appeared in the Russian dictionary in 1709. The Russians first used kettlebells as a standard weight in agricultural settings and in marketplaces where a 15-pound kettlebell would be on one side of a scale and 15 pounds or so of wheat would be on the other. Eventually, Russians started exercising with them and then lifting kettlebells became a sport among many strongmen in the early 1900s.

In 1980, the former Soviet Union created a Kettlebell Committee and chose the kettlebell as a piece of nationalized health care equipment to raise the general fitness preparation of the country's population so that it would lower health care costs.

Q: When did kettlebells first come to America, and who brought them here?

A: Pavel Tsatsouline, a former conditioning coach for the Russian special forces "Spetsnaz", is usually credited with introducing kettlebells to the U.S. in the early part of the 2000s. Pavel is a well-known fitness celebrity and his kettlebell training programs have created several spin offs.

Q: How do kettlebells differ from using other free weight pieces of equipment like dumbbells and barbells?

A: Kettlebells differ from most free weights in that in addition to traditional pushing and pulling exercises that you can do with dumbbells, kettlebells often rely on swinging movements that combine cardio with strength training.

Q: What are some of the benefits of using a kettlebell?

A: One major benefit to training with kettlebells is its versatility. In kettlebell training, it is very easy to go from one exercise into the other without having to put the bell down and adjust another piece of equipment on the other side of the gym.

Q: Where can I buy kettlebells?

A: Most sporting goods stores and even discount stores like Walmart sell them. The heavier the weight, the more expensive the kettlebell.

Q: Whenever I try the snatch or clean exercises, the bell smacks me on the wrist. What can I do to make it not smack my wrist?

A: The most important piece of information about using a kettlebell is being proactive. When you perform exercises like the snatch or the clean, you have to have your hand move around the bell, not the bell move around your hand. To do this, you want to flick your wrist right when the bottom of the kettlebell is about to become perpendicular with the floor.

For more information about kettlebells, check out the additional resources page.