KettleBell: Swinging & Snatching

    Back in September of last year, I wrote a blog explaining the KettleBell Seminar I participated in at EliteFTS. Before going into the seminar, I assumed I would be forgoing more Russian and RKC type movements. You know, things I knew a little bit about. When I realized I couldn’t be more wrong about what I expected, I was intrigued and ended up loving the Competition style of Kettle Bells. Also, when I went to bed at 6:30pm on a Saturday night, and woke up the next day feeling like I got ran over, I knew Ken and Sheri Whethem (North American Outlaw KettleBell Club) were on to something. If I could feel every single muscle in my body after a few hours, how could one feel after training this way for 12 weeks?!


    I began to look a little more closely into the sport. Started practicing a little more on what they had taught me. Studied videos of technique breakdown to stay fresh. Brought some of the movements to Life Endurance classes. We had a 25 Days of Christmas Challenge-which some loved more than others. 

    We ran a powerlifting group this past winter through a 12 week meet prep, and the clients competed in the USAPL No Frills Blizzard and crushed it. Training them with Coach Kirk and Nic was a blast, and seeing them kill it on the platform was indescribable. JL got to thinking, we should do more of this-encourage clients to compete and push them out of their comfort zone. He then came up with the idea to host a KettleBell competition here at The Spot and start a training group for that as well. 

    The competition will be held here at The Spot Athletics training facility May 28th. We will have the founders of the North American Outlaw Kettlebell Club come down from Canada to help judge and run the competition. You can find out more about them here.

    What in the world is a KettleBell Sport?

    Kettlebell Training is an endurance-strength sport made up of a special technique to promote efficiency during moves such as the swing, clean, jerk, and snatch. Unlike Olympic or Powerlifting, Kettlebell sport is performed sub-maximally, completing as many repetitions as possible in either 5 or 10 minutes. Lifters’ success involves technique, mobility, strength and power, proper breathing patterns, aerobic capacity, stability, and mental focus. For the purpose of the rest of this blog, we will correlate everything to 5 min sets only-since thats how we are running our competition.

    Another important thing to note, is that the fitness kettle bells are NOT competition bells. While they can be used during training and accessories, they are not used in the sport. Competition Kettlebells are all equal size, but vary in weight-typically in kilograms. This allows better dispersion of mass and allows you to get in better, more efficient positions. 

    …And how do you compete in it?

    You are on a platform for either a 10 minute set (or 5 minutes for the upcoming event we are hosting) and you are performing a certain move for that entire duration without setting the bells down. Moves include, Biathlon, Snatch only, Long-Cycle, and Chair Presses. Depending on the federation, these may vary. 

    Think of Biathlon similar to a Triathlon. Two events. The first of these events is the Jerk. Similar to a barbell jerk, this move requires two knee dips to push the weight overhead. Guys always use double bells for this-which makes this even more brutal. Without re-swinging the bell, you must jerk for the entire 5 minutes-without putting the bell down. You have judges right next to you-counting your reps and making sure you complete each rep. 

    The snatch is next. You have a small window to rest between these events. You must now perform as many snatches as you can in 5 minutes with only one arm change. Guys do not use double bells for snatch. 

    You can either compete in the Biathlon or the Snatch only. For our competition here at The Spot, we are only opening the Snatch only to women. 

    Next is the Long Cycle. This is as many reps of a full clean and jerk in 5 minutes with only one arm change (ladies). Guys do double here as well. 

    For our competition, we are not doing chair presses, but they are definitely worth recognition because they are pretty grueling. You sit on a chair or bench on your platform and complete as many strict overhead presses as you can in 5 minutes. Guys are doubles. Women only do one arm change. 

    How do you train for it?

    We highly recommend that for any competition, you find a coach who can help you program, and make sure you are doing these moves correctly. It’s hard to catch every thing by yourself, so having an extra eye really helps. Also, you need someone to push you physically and mentally, as you get up in time in your sets. 

    Like anything, there are progressions. If you are preparing for a 5 minute set, for example, your sport sets (clean and jerk, or snatches) should start at 1 minute, then slowly progress up each week. You can manipulate your rest also. Cut the sets down using heavier bells and increase rest, or bring the sets up using a lighter bell and cutting the rest down. Either way, you need to get under the bell at least 5 times a week. For our training group we started this past week, we are going 3x/week with 1 hour training times. This is a long time for KB work, but I encourage them to come in and practice their technique and endurance on other days we well. 

    Needless to say, endurance has to be there. You need to get sweating and uncomfortable. Again, Kettlebells are performed sub-maximally, meaning you have to find a weight you can finish your 5 minute set with. With that being said, do not ignore your upper body accessories such as shoulders, triceps, and upper back. Your legs are your power house here, so don’t forget- you still need to squat and deadlift.


    Grip work is also important. You will be holding onto that kettle bell for a long time- the last thing you want is your forearms to get tired first and grip go out. 

Take away points:

-The Kettle Bell Sport is different than your Russian or RKC technique.

-The Kettlebell Sport is sub-maximal endurance based. 

-Competition movements are the clean, jerk, and snatch.

-Cast Iron and fitness kettle bells are NOT competition kettle bells

  • Find a coach who knows the technique and can help you properly prepare for a competition. 
  • Endurance, upper body strength, lower body strength, and grip work are all important factors in the sport. 
  • I am NOT an expert, I just have recently discovered the sport,really like the technique, and love to teach it, and get better myself. I am competing in May as well. All credit for helping me goes to Ken and Sheri Whetham from the North American Outlaw KettleBell Club.

Check out their EliteFTS log here to see some Kettlebells in action!

 Still don’t find the urge to compete but interested in the sport technique? 

    Kettle bells carry over to everything. Kettle bells can be used for aerobic and anaerobic conditioning-depending on your athletic goals. Are you a strength sport athlete looking to stay lean during prep? Add a few complexes at the end of your training to reap the benefits. Kettle bells can be fit into any program. 

    So you want to compete?

    Great! Contact to join our training group Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays at 6:00am. If you currently don’t belong to The Spot Athletics, we are still opening it up to ANYONE who wants to train. Don’t hesitate! We have a little over 11 weeks to prepare. 

Get your Kettlebell on ya’ll!