History of the Kettlebell – What is a Kettlebell?

The History of the Kettlebell

Vintage Kettlebell Lifting Photo vintage-kettlebell-training-30 vintage-kettlebell-training-40 Vintage Female Kettlebell Lifter

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

Vintage Kettlebell LifterThe Kettlebell (girya) as we know it today was nothing like in the olden days, in fact, the Kettlebell was not invented for exercise, but rather as a weight to use for weighing crops, grains and other goods in the 1700s. Over the many years the Kettlebell has evolved drastically and is now only used as an exercise tool.

Kettlebell Timeline

See any errors, have additional information? Please contact me to rectify.

  • Ancient Greece Kettlebells are used by Greek Athletes and Gladiators.
  • Early 18th Century Kettlebells made their way to Russia.
  • 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 “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 wider audience outside of Rusia 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.
  • 1913 Ludvig Chaplinskiy writes in Russian magazine Hercules “Not a single sport develops our muscular strength and bodies as well as kettlebell athletics”
  • 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.
  • 1948 20,000 athletes came to take part in the First Nationwide Festival of Strongmen. The winner, Black Sea Fleet sailor Alexei Protopopov managed to snatch a 32-kilo girya 1,002 times with short breaks. Another record-breaker of that time was Aleksandr Bolshakov, who clean-and-jerked a pair of 32-kilo giri 19 times in one go.
  • 1950s the “best girya man” was Ivan Nemtsev; the peasant from Altai clinched the USSR championship title eleven times. He was called the “king of the snatch”. His record – the lifting of the 32 kilo-girya 370 times without a break, still remains unbeaten.
  • 1962 Kettlebell Sport rules and weight classes are established and athletes compete in the Triathlon.
  • 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 Pavel Tsatouline releases the book and DVD “The Russian Kettlebell Challenge”.
  • 2001 the first time women compete in Kettlebell Sport championships.
  • 2002 the kettlebell makes it on to the Rolling Stone Magazine Hot List as ‘the Hot Weight of the Year’.
  • 2006 Pavel Tsatouline releases the book and DVD “Enter the Kettlebell!”.
  • 2006 Valery Federenko establishes the World Kettlebell Club.
  • 2009 Pavel Tsatouline publishes the book and DVD “Return of the Kettlebell”.
  • 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).
  • NOW you’re joining the World Kettlebell Community and obtain serious strength, flexibility and endurance.

There is all this arguing about who did what and so on, from my perspective, the greeks had something, who knows what it was, the Russian Strongmen helped the initial push of Kettlebells, Alan Calvert put a handle on what looks more like the modern Kettlebell we see today, Pavel brought the Kettlebell to the US and Valery brought the sport, the World Kettlebell Community is here to bring everyone together, end of story, now let’s swing some bells!


Do you have any new information about the history of the Kettlebell, or feedback? Join the discussion in our forum.




We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.


©2017 World Kettlebell Community sponsored by Caveman Kettlebells and owned by Taco Fleur


Log in with your credentials


Forgot your details?