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Monday, August 15, 2011

What is this GS (Kettlebell Sport) anyway?

GS stands for Girevoy Sport, but most folks just calling it Kettlebell Sport, due to greater name recognition.
Girya is the Russian word for the kettlebell itself. The lifter is a giryavik. To safely lift girya overhead is quite an accomplishment, recognized mainly by other weight lifters and folks who have experience carrying buckets of water/chicken food, etc.
Now imagine lifting a bowling ball with handle (kettlebell) overhead for 10 minutes.
That's Girevoy Sport.+
So how does one compete in Kettlebell Sport?
First, learn the "classic lifts" correctly. These are Jerk, Snatch and Long Cycle (Clean and Jerk). It is vital to learn these lifts correctly, meaning that all the stopping places are well trained, because form also counts.
Second, get "pro grade" kettlebells. These are kettlebells of a standard diameter, with standard handle size and dimension. Each weight is the same size (dimension-wise) so that lifters can practice with different weights without being required to adjust to different angles of pull. To easily spot a specific amount of kilograms, the weights are color coded. Pink is 8kg, blue is 12kg, yellow is 16kg, etc.
Third, practice the classic lifts for time rather than rep count. Start with Snatching for 1 minute each hand just to see where you stand. If you find that this is your type of sport, clean for 2 or 3 minutes per side, or clean double weighted for time. If you don't already have training in the Jerk, find a weightlifting or kettlebell trainer to help with this move. It is the most technical lift, and is required in 2 of the 3 GS events. If you can Snatch a certain weight 75 times within 5 minutes, switch hands and repeat this exercise without a break, you might consider training to compete with the next higher weight (advice swiped from Catherine Imes, first woman from the US to rank in GS).
Fourth, rest and recover. In between sets, do mobility and recovery. Exercise antagonistic muscle groups with windmills, squats, rows, pull-ups, scorpions, pistols, etc. Rest in between workouts. Do cardio work on your day off, stretch or play a sport for fun. Just don't get hurt because that could interfere with your GS training! Remember, Kettlebell Sport is a strength endurance sport. Many giryaviks, myself included, train for two or three years before their first competitive event. Part of the "endurance" is patience, practice and just plain growth. Every GS athlete rips skin off his/her hands by refusing to stop soon enough and practicing with incorrect Snatch form. "Patience, young Jedi."
Fifth, find a coach, register for an event and get ready! There are a few KB teacher certification groups. Look for IKFF, IKSFA, WKC (to name a few) certified trainers. The first two have YouTube channels to teach you basics, advanced technique and amaze you with actual footage of Kettlebell Competitions!

+That's Girevoy Sport in a nutshell. On the competitive level, lifters are organized into weight categories, much like wrestling or judo players. Within each weight category are the kettlebell loads (16kg, 20kg, 24kg, etc.) and the specific event with that load. Each weight category has a men's and women's division. Within the divisions are youth, open, professional, and masters divisions, varying among the hosting entities.
The events, roughly outlined, are: for men: Biathlon (Jerk with two kettlebells and Snatch as two separate 10 minute events), Long Cycle (using two kettlebells), and Snatch; for women: Biathlon (Jerk with one kettlebell and Snatch as two separate 10 minute events), Long Cycle (using one kettlebell for a 10 minute event), and Snatch. The Snatch is only performed with one kettlebell by both men and women. In all events with one kettlebell, only one hand switch is allowed for the entire 10 minute event.
Specific rules: "No counts" are given for incorrect attempts (see First piece of advice above, re. learn the lifts correctly), warnings are issued for extra swings during hand switches or in the set (Snatch and Long Cycle), using two hands on the kettlebell in a single kettlebell event or resting with improper form. Three warnings is a disqualification. If the kettlebell is dropped or set down before 10 minutes runs out, the set is over.
Each weight class, weight load and event will have a winner at a competition. To mark progress and proficiency, there is a ranking structure for each division, weight class, weight load and event.

**A few of the many benefits of lifting the girya are: tremendous core conditioning, cardiovascular endurance, flexible strength and mental toughness. Rumor has it that the giryavik in old Russia also lived hearty, long lives. This certainly follows common medical logic. Correctly executed kettlebell exercise flex and extend every muscle group in the body and coordinate these movements with breathing. In simple terms, lymphatic flush and total body mobility in each workout. Any kettlebell lifter would mention the use of complete mental focus, balance and peripheral awareness, which are functions mentioned in connection with the words "aging."**

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