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My Introduction to Girevoy Sport

I have been lifting kettlebells for nearly three years now. In that time I have spent most of my kettlebell practice focusing on pure strength. My goal has always been the ability to generate power and lift heavy weights. I can now press 52 kilos worth of kbs over my head and can jerk the 40s (aka the Dragon Door Bulldogs) for reps.

Until now I haven’t been particularly interested in very high volume work. The ability to generate power over and over and over again has suddenly occupied my thoughts as I have been introduced to the official kettlebell competition: girevoy sport.

People who use kettlebells are called giriveks. The kb is also referred to as a girya. Girevoy sport is what crazy people do, but it’s a lot of fun. Or at least, it’s as fun as something this challenging can be.

The events

Men and women can compete in the long cycle event, or in the snatch and jerk biathlon. Here are the qualifications for ranking in GS.

The movements themselves are not easy for me to describe in words, but I’ll do my best.

Long cycle

In ten minutes, the competitor completes as many clean and jerks as possible with two kettlebells of equal weight. The reps required for different rankings do not vary, but the weight does. It is much easier to do the requisite number of jerks with a lighter weight than a heavier one, of course, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. Far from it.

The competitor cleans the bells to roughly shoulder level. The jerk itself comprises moving the bells overhead without pressing them. This is done by dipping the legs slightly, then exploding up and locking the arms out while dropping beneath them. The movement is completed when the competitor stands up from the second dip with the bells still locked overhead.

This goes on for ten minutes. It starts to feel hard for me around 60 seconds, even with the 24 kilo kettlebells, and I’m a big strong guy. But GS is different. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. But I disagree with anyone who calls it a “soft” kettlebell sport compared to the schools which focus more on speed and power.

Snatch and jerk biathlon

This is a combination of how many snatches in 10 minutes, and how many jerks the competitor can do. The rules are simple, but the task is incredibly taxing.

I have been playing around with GS, if you can call it playing, for about two months now. My goal is to get my Long Cycle ranking with the 24s in 2011. I can currently hit sets of 25 without much trouble, but beyond that, I struggle. I am improving every day, however, and that makes me happy. Anyone without persistence cannot get far in Girevoy sport. I hope to rank for Master of Sports one day.

Do not let anyone tell you this is a breeze. It’s tough stuff, and I have nothing but admiration for the men and women who excel at this brutal sport. It’s still strength training.


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