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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Girevoy Sport Information for Spectators!


As our sport grows in popularity more spectators want to know what competitive kettlebell lifting  means. As with any sport, it has taken a few decades to fine-tune the lift requirements and rules, and put a 10-minute time limit on a competitor's set. This post is dedicated to the friends, family and students of Girevoy Sport lifters. Here is some basic information to help you understand what is going on.

Girevoy Sport Terminology:

  • GS Events: Long Cycle, Biathlon, Jerk Only and Snatch Only.
  • Set: The lifter's set is the number of repetitions counted and the portion of the 10-minute time limit utilized.
  • Set Termination: A lifter may terminate his/her set by dropping or putting down the weight before 10-minutes have elapsed. In most cases all completed repetitions count toward the score for a lifter-terminated set. A judge may terminate a set if the lifter's safety becomes a concern, if the lifter makes too many errors or outright brakes the rules. Depending on the reason for a judge-terminated set, the completed repetitions may count toward a lifter's score in the competition. A time-terminated set is preferred, meaning the lifter utilized the entire 10 minutes and all counted repetitions comprise the lifter's score.
A flight of lifters, coaches seated behind the platforms.
  • Hand-switch: In any event with one kettlebell, one hand switch is allowed. This means the lifter switches the kettlebell from the start side to the other side. The hand-switch may occur at any point in the 10-minutes at the lifter's discretion.
  • Flight: A group of lifters who will all begin their 10-minute lifting duration at the same time. Flights are usually numbered, and the event announcer calls the lifters to their flight by that number. A competition may have as many as 30 or as few as 5 flights.
  • Platform: The specific area designated for a lifter to perform a set during a competition. In many cases this is a 4x4 foot area. It may be a portable stage-like piece of floor or a space marked off in tape on a gym floor. In any case, in a competition the platforms are aligned in such a way that the lifters are all facing the same direction, as pictured above.
  • Divisions: This is a general grouping of competitors by gender and age. The most common divisions in local and regional competitions are Mens Open, Womens Open, Youth/Boy, Youth/Girls, Men Masters/Veterans, and Womens Masters/Veterans. In World Championship qualifier competitions there may be a further division of Professional, Amateur or Beginner. 
  • Weight Categories: Also called weight classes, this refers to the lifter's body weight. In all divisions each competitor falls into one of several 5 to 10kg weight categories. Each hosting organization has it's own body weight categories. A lifter's weight category is determined before each competition at the weigh-in.
  • Kettlebell Load: The kettlebell weight is in kilograms. Depending on the competition, loads may range from 8 to 40 kg. At current qualifier competitions the kettlebell load for Professional Men is 32kg, for Amateur Men is 24kg, and Beginner and Veteran Men lift 16kg. For Women, the Professional load is 24kg, Amateur load is 16kg, and Beginner and Veteran Women lift 12kg. 
  • Score: In general, each lift is one point. For the Biathlon, the score is determined in a number of different ways. Each hosting organization uses a designated set of regulations made publicly known with the announcement of a competition.
  • Prizes: This varies with each competition and is made publicly known with the announcement of a competition. Prizes range from bragging rights to medals, trophies, rank certificates, qualification to higher level competition, and cash prizes. There may be additional recognition for Best Lifter, Absolute Winner or Co-efficient.
The traditional weight loads: 16kg (yellow), 24kg (green) and 32kg (red).
The Lifts:
The components of GS lifts resemble and are named after Olympic Weightlifting moves.
  • Long Cycle: This is a GS event known as Clean and Jerk (C&J) in Olympic lifting. Due to the number of lifts involved in a GS set we refer to it as the Long Cycle. The components of this lift are Clean, Rack and Jerk.
    A swing between LC Cleans.
  • Clean: The lifter moves the weight from the floor to shoulder/chest height. In GS, there is one Clean from the floor at the beginning of a competitor's set. Once the weights have left the floor for the first Clean, the kettlebell/s must stay in the lifter's hands. For all subsequent Cleans the lifter drops the load into a swing and then brings it back to the Rack position.
  • Rack: this is the shoulder/chest position mentioned above. This position is a required stopping point for the LC/C&J, but looks very different for each lifting sport. GS lifters bury their elbows deep in a lower body resting point.
    Olympic weightlifting Rack position.
    If an Olympic lifter attempted this, he/she would drop the load or cause back damage. GS lifters develop strength and flexibility to launch the weight from Rack to overhead and then return to the Rack. Olympic lifters only return the bar from overhead to the Rack position in practice sessions. In a competition the load is too massive to safely return a loaded barbell to the Rack.
Arm lockout in Olympic Jerk.
    GS Rack position.
  • Jerk: This is an element of both GS and Olympic lifting, and also a stand alone event in GS. The Jerk starts in the Rack position. To practice this, Olympic lifters either Clean the bar from the floor or begin with a loaded bar sitting on Jerk Boxes. GS lifters Clean the weights from the floor once at the beginning of a set. Otherwise the Jerk for both sports is identical in required elements. The lifter must launch the weight into a straight-arm overhead position and then straighten his/her legs to complete a Jerk. The arms must be straightened before the legs straighten for the repetition to count. This is a form point known as "lockout." For the repetition to count the lifter must hold a stable lockout position under the weight long enough for the load to stop moving. This is referred to as "fixation" of the weight. In both Olympic and GS lifting, a lifter may achieve a good lockout, but if he/she does not establish fixation after a Jerk attempt, the repetition will not count.
    Jerk fixation.
Swing between Snatch reps.
  • Snatch: This is a lift performed in both sports, and until recently the only women's event in GS. As with the LC/C&J the Snatch begins with the weight on the floor. The weight is moved continuously from this low position to overhead lockout and fixation bypassing the Rack. This lift appears very different between the two sports. Olympic lifters use two hands on the bar and drop the bar from overhead once the repetition is judged complete. GS lifters use one kettlebell for this event, and after the first repetition the kettlebell does not touch the ground until the lifter's set is complete. It is a cyclic exercise with no pauses aside from the required overhead fixation. The lifter and kettlebell are in perpetual motion with one hand-switch for the duration of a set.
  • Biathlon:  For this GS event the athlete performs one Jerk set and one Snatch set with the same kettlebell load.  Currently most local, regional and some qualifier events invite both men and women to participate with a Biathlon. Men use two kettlebells of the same weight for the Jerk set and one kettlebell for the Snatch. (ie. Mens 32kg Biathlon, the Jerk set, is shown above right, Snatch set shown lower left.) Women use one kettlebell of the same weight for both sets, shown lower right. For men and women, there is equal time to rest between the Jerk and Snatch sets for all Biathlon competitors. This amount of time varies with each competition.
The Competition:
24kg Biathlon, Jerk set.
32kg Biathlon, Snatch set.
  • In current GS competitions Men and Women compete in all events. Men lift two kettlebells for Long Cycle and Jerk, and one kettlebell for the Snatch. In traditional competitions Women lift one kettlebell in all events, though recently women are invited to compete in a 5-minute Double Jerk event.
  • Each competitor only competes directly against other lifters in the same division and weight category who are performing the same lift with the same kettlebell load. This also applies to events specific to certain competitions, such as the 5-minute Double Jerk, 5-minute Snatch and Chair Press.
  • Though GS is mainly an individual sport, the traditional team event is a Long Cycle Relay. This event is not available at every competition in the U.S. but is part of Russian Girevoy Sport Championships.

I hope this post gives new meaning to Kettlebell Sport for the friends and family of GS lifters. Thanks to all who support this intense strength endurance sport, and best wishes to beginners who are training for their first competitions!

**Photographic acknowledgement: most of these pictures came from my own camera. The pictures of Sergei Merkulin came from Nazo Okc's pictures of my LC flight in 2012. The images of Olympic weightlifters and Aleksander Khvostov were pilfered from internet and facebook posts.**

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