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Is Specialising in Kettlebell Sport a Bad Thing?

I was just asked a very interesting question.

One of my members just won a silver medal in the Irish Nationals for Kettlebell sport.

Three medal winning Kettleheads taking events oh so seriously

Three medal winning Kettleheads taking events oh so seriously

Today we were discussing future training goals now that this event is over.

She listed out a few things, including further participation in Kettlebell Sport, but then went on to try to justify her unwillingless to specialise in the sport, as that may not be a healthy way to progress.

And she’d be right in a way.

Training for sport and training for health and longevity are two very different things.

But that doesn’t mean they must be mutually exclusive.

Of the 3 major strength sports:

  1. Power lifting

  2. Olympic Lifting

  3. Kettlebell Sport

I’d rank them in that order as the least to most healthy.

This is purely based on my observations of the movement and injury reports in higher level competitors.

And the kettlebell sports guys always seem to have the most well rounded athleticism and mobility as opposed to power lifters who if we’re honest, move really poorly.

“And even though I’d recently squatted 1000 pounds, I really wasn’t strong. I couldn’t move, and I couldn’t use this strength for anything other than waddling up to a monolift and squatting.” – Jim Wendler

Yet you look at Ivan Denisov, Denis Vasilev or any of the other top kettlebell sports athletes and you see athletes. In shape, mobile, flexible, strong and enduring.

Champion Kettlebell Sport athlete Tajda Sobocan showing off...

Champion Kettlebell Sport athlete Tajda Sobocan showing off…

It’s guys like these that the “studies” referenced in the Pavels original kettlebell books were looking at.

So while the kettlebell sports lifts (Jerk, Clean and Snatch) may not be as holistic as some kettlebell coaches would lead you to believe, the training methods and philosophies of good kettlebell sports coaches and athletes is.

The three biggest factors that make Kettlebell Sport training healthy are the endurance, the mobility and focus on breathing.

Three things that have been the central to my own training ever since I started training as a young teenager.

Of course the three competition lifts are not enough. Which is why cardio vascular training, usually running, is included. Stretching exercises are included. Outside of a competition specialisation period, the athletes work on other movement patterns outside of the sport lifts to prevent the development of muscular imbalances.

In other words, specialising in kettlebell sport should become a very holistic training experience.

Steve and I in Wild Geese

Steve and I in Wild Geese

This point was really driven home to me by working with Steve Cotter who has travelled and studied under most of the main names in the sport.

Steve, like myself, has a long history of martial arts training which lead him into the strength and fitness world. His reasons for starting kettlebell training are/were almost identical to my own, and his overall philosophy on training mirrors my own very closely. Which is probably why he was insistent that i take the roll of Master Trainer for his IKFF organisation. An organisation that is producing some excellent lifters in the US and many other countries.

I’ll be teaching the IKFF Certified Kettlebell Teacher level 1 course this year.


On the course, you will be expected to already have the basics of kettlebell lifting dialled in before attending, so we will can delve deeper into them and give you the teaching skills to train others.

And by train others, I mean in a holistic manner that gives clients strength, mobility and endurance in equal measures to build well rounded fitness with minimal risk of injury.

More on the CKT level 1 course here:

Our kettlebell sports team is also building it’s own web page where we’ll post information on this rapidly growing sport. Keep an eye out for that, I’ll post more detail when I have it.

Till then

Keep training


Dave Hedges

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