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The Origin of Kettlebells

Disclaimer: The following is purely for fun fun and has no facts behind it whatsoever. The Coach who wrote the article enjoys telling this story as convincingly as possible to new members getting their hands on a kettlebell for the first time. He’s often believed.

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The kettlebell is a simple device, yet a very effective one when employed correctly.  Just about everything we can do with a barbell, we can duplicate with one or two kettlebells.

We can:

  • Deadlift them
  • Clean them
  • Snatch them
  • Squat with them
  • Pick them up and go for a walk (Farmer’s Carry)

But 9 times out of ten we swing them.

They look just like a cannonball with a handle on them, and that is exactly how the kettlebell got its start.   We go back to the Napoleonic Wars.  Napoleon had set his eyes on Russia, and marched towards the Great Bear.

Rather than wait for Napoleon, the Russians marched to meet him in the field. Of course the field was hundreds of CannonballKBkilometers away from the armory and the munitions bases, and rail logistics were not in place yet.  But the Russians had plenty of infantry.  So how do you move thousands of cannonballs hundreds of kilometers? Get each man to carry one.

As you can imagine, carrying a cannonball as it is would be as awkward as moving a couch up a flight of stairs that turns 90 degrees.  It stands to reason that the Russian Infantry quickly devised makeshift handles to carry their cannonballs. Intuition spreads quickly when discomfort is involved so it wasn’t long before the westward Russian march resembled a massive Farmer’s Carry exercise.

They say that war is 99% boredom and 1% terror.  In the downtime, the Infantry experimented with their kettlebells and discovered they were a splendid way to perform feats of strength and keep up their fitness.
The history books tell us that Napoleon was defeated not so much by the Russians but by the Russian winter.  This isn’t true.  Napoleon was defeated by superior Russian fitness.

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