In my experience, one grows into kettlebell sport, it’s highly unlikely that your decision to pick up a kettlebell for the first time will be driven by a desire to compete with them. Once there is an actual awareness that such a sport exists, some will naturally gravitate towards it as they become proficient in their own training and look for that next step.
So, lets look at some of the options:
My own route into kettlebell sport came about by a chance encounter with a lad y called Mandy, who at the time was running 4 Pentathlon competitions each year in the U.K.
Pentathlons are a different variation of traditional GS but a very worthy discipline and an easier route into the competitive arena.
See my Pentathlon article here
I had little knowledge of how to prepare for a competition but nonetheless went for it in a big way. I won the first the first event I entered and was thrilled to bits. I have subsequently gone on the compete in 8 more pentathlons and won 4 more and a couple of seconds and a third.
Briefly, pentathlons consist of 5 different disciplines each done for 6 minutes with a 5 minute break between each. These are all done with single bell movements and multiple hand changes are allowed.
The 5 disciplines are
Long cycle press (clean and press)
There is a points value associated with each bell and any weight from 8 to 40 plus can be used. There is a max rep count for each lift.
People may enjoy competing in pentathlons for several reasons. The single bell element may well suit your mobility levels better and the the 6 minutes sets may seem more attainable than a 10 minute set. Pacing yourself is key to a successful outcome in pentathlon. If you go all out on the first couple of disciplines, you’ll potentially burn out before the end. It’s all about knowing how hard you can push and how soon.
There is a greater overall volume of lifting in comparison to GS but the single bell and multi switch elements certainly make it more accessible.
This is the traditional form of kettlebell sport. Contestants can compete in a number of disciplines. For men, it is either double long cycle (clean and jerk) or biathlon which is jerks and then snatch
For women it can be long cycle with single or double bells and snatch. Women may also choose to compete in snatch only. All of these sets are performed for 10 minutes. In the case of the single bell elements, there is only a single hand change allowed. For biathlon, there is usually a break of a couple of hours between the jerk set and the snatches.
There are numerous entry points into this sport with many countries holding regional events at many times of the year. It’s a very fast growing sport, particularly in the United States and here in the U.K.
Regional events usually have a bigger choice of bell weights that can be used, typically for men, 16 20 24 28 and 32 kg bells. For ladies, 8 12 16 20 and 24 kg bells.
Once up on the platform, nerves will dissipate to a degree. Once you get a couple of reps under your belt, you will feel reassured that the judge sees your reps a passable. I had this fear at my first international competition which was the IUKL World Championships. I literally thought I’d be getting a succession of no counts. Didn’t happen of course and I scored 81 reps in veterans class of 24 kg Long cycle and won a World Championship Gold medal in the process. If you perform well, the feeling afterwards is fantastic. It’s all over and you’ve done good! This is when you forget about all of the pain of training and the nerves you’d had just moments before. I always like to say that most of the enjoyment for me, seems to be retrospective!
Conversely, perform badly or below your expectations and you may well feel quite miserable. But it’s important to always take away a positive from every event.
The community spirit
One of the greatest aspects of our sport is the tremendous community sprit that exists around it. The support is always there from the other lifters and the supporting audience. When I go to a competition, I always enjoy catching up with friends as well as meeting new people. We also support and encourage each other vis social media. Its like a big kettlebell family and it’s a great thing to be a part off. Of course, once you’re up on the platform, you want to beat the guy next to you but I have found that win or lose, congratulating the other contestant will always be the first thing you do once you’ve managed to pick yourself up off the floor.
Coaching in kettlebell sport
I was self coached since my first attempt at kettlebell sport in 2013 right through to the OKSE English Championships in 2015. I have since had the wisdom and experience of 3 different Coaches and have recently started on my third.
So, what are the benefits, how does it work, how much does it cost and how will it benefit you?
One to one or online coaching.
This will largely be dictated by circumstance. Costs and availability are the factors here. Kettlebell sport coaching is quite a specialist area and you’re not going to pick up this kind of expertise at your local gym. If you do happen to train at a facility which offers this then the next step is cost. It’s going to get pretty expensive to have one to one coaching on a regular basis. The best scenario here in my opinion is to have a one to one quite sporadically, perhaps once a month and have the rest as online. This would be my ideal scenario as it would suit me from a financial perspective whilst also benefiting me massively from the close scrutiny of my form and all the feedback that comes as a result of this.
It’s most likely you’ll be looking at online so let’s t
ake a look at the benefits.
But, First of all;
Many kettlebell sport athletes are self coached and have p
retty good success as well. I’d like to include myself in
this group as I won 5 Pentathlon competitions and a couple o
f Long cycle events whilst being self coached.
There are two things to consider here.
Do you have enough knowledge?
Do you have enough discipline?
Because guess what? You need both of these in abundance
to bring about solid progress and repeatable results.
Most people with some knowledge of progressive overload and t
raining periodisation, could probably knock up
a training program but it takes some specialist knowledge
to write a program specifically for kettlebell sport.
If you have the relevant knowledge which you will have mos
t likely have been gained from GS seminars, then
the next thing to consider is discipline
Writing out a program for yourself is tricky.
Most coaches will write up a weekly workload and send it t
o you via Google docs or some other form of
Doing this yourself requires you to to be neither too ambi
tious or too conservative. Once written, you are only
ever accountable to yourself. It’s all a bit easy to mo
dify the program as you go along to make things a bit easier
for yourself. It takes super discipline to see it though.
Providing the coach you have assigned to help you has th
e depth of knowledge and the people skills required, it
could well be the best thing you ever do with regards to your
Now you get the benefit of your coaches expertise.
You’ll get a weekly program, advice on your form and how to i
mprove it and encouragement but above all else,
You will gain a ton of knowledge on how to structure a perio
dised training program and be super motivated to
getting it done.
You will want to do your best to hit all your numbers eac
h week. You will have to fill out the speed sheet so
won’t want to be making excuses as to why you didn’t hit your
numbers or missed a session entirely.
So how’s it work
Finding a coach needn’t be that tricky. This may happen by wa
y of a recommendation or you may already have
somebody in mind.
Contact them and ask if they have any more vacancies
for students. You may also want to ask how many
students they currently have. It’s something I always like
to know as I like to feel reassured that they have the
time available to give me proper attention.
Costs will need to be discussed at this point but don’t make
it your first question. Typically you’ll be looking at
about £50 per month or $80-100
For this you should get a program, some support and advice on y
our technique and plenty of good quality
My present coach has done several videos for me, mainly c
entred around mobility and has also analysed my
form and given me critique via HUDL (app that allows slo m
The desire to use a coach is often borne out of a desire
to do well in a competition. You may have had a
disappointing result and want to do better. But generally mo
st coaching is done as a training cycle leading up to
a kettlebell competition. In order to fit in the various
mesocycles, you will need at least an 8-10 week block of
time to do this.
Once you have established a good working relationship with
your coach, be sure to discuss with them any
Problems you’re having with your training. If you’re bein
g pushed too hard or it’s all a bit easy then flag it up
and let them know. There will be a space on the spreads
heet for you to record your thoughts on that particular
So, hopefully you now know some of the benefits of good coachi
ng. Providing you have a good coach I don’t
believe there are any real negatives to discuss
It’s not for everyone that’s for sure, but providing yo
u can follow instructions and are able to cope with any
critique, then be prepared to see your numbers go up whenev
er you hit that platform.