The Kettlebell Pentathlon

The kettlebell Pentathlon

A new and exciting form of kettlebell sport is growing rapidly within the UK. It is the kettlebell pentathlon.

Devised by Valery Fedorenko of the World Kettlebell Club, (WKC) it has from the onset, been designed to be more accessible than other forms of kettlebellsport, such as the biathlon. This does not necessarily mean that it is easier!

Pentathlons are now supported by the IKFF in the UK These take place both in England and Scotland and are generally sold out events

There are still skills to master in order to become proficient at the pentathlon but unlike many other forms of kettlebell sport, you only ever use one

kettlebell and multiple hand changes are allowed. Also, the maximum working length of any one set is 6 minutes as opposed to 10 in regular GS

Here are the basic mechanics of it

There are 5 disciplines performed in a set order. The 5 disciplines are:

1.Clean

2.Long cycle press (clean and press)

3.Jerk

4.Half snatch

5.Push press

  • Each discipline is carried out for 6 minutes.
  • Multiple hand changes are allowed
  • There is a 5 minute break after each discipline
  • There is a maximum repetition (rep) count for each discipline. These are only maximums and a sub maximum number will not be penalised

The maximum rep counts are as follows. These are deemed as realistic numbers that can be achieved within the given time constraints and with good form. No additional points are scored for reps over the preset maximum.

  • Cleans 120 reps
  • Long cycle press 60 reps
  • Jerks 120 reps
  • Half snatch 108 reps
  • Push press 120 reps

The competitors are allowed to choose a maximum of 5 different weights for their kettlebells. Those bells can then be used for whatever discipline they choose. No changing of the weight is allowed once the athlete starts that particular discipline and no setting the weight down until the 6 minutes are up. If the weight is set down whilst there is still time left on the clock, the set is ended but all reps will count up to the point when the bell was placed down. Also, if the competitor hits maximum reps whilst still having time on the clock, the kettlebell will be put down and that competitor will gain additional rest. However, by and large, with correct form and proper judging, this is unlikely to happen.

A different points value is assigned to each kettlebell as follows:

  • 8 kg = 1 point
  • 12 kg = 1.5 points
  • 16 kg = 2 points
  • 20 kg = 2.5 points
  • 24 kg = 3 points
  • 28 kg = 3.5 points
  • 32 kg = 4 points
  • 36 kg = 4.5 points
  • 40 kg = 5 points

This continues right up to 72 kg! Intermittent weights such as the 10, 14 and 18 can also be included with the additional values of .25 so a 14 would be worth 1.75

If the competitor performs 100 reps with the 24 kg bell in the half snatch then this is worth 100 (reps) x 3 (points) = 300 points

All five scores are added up in this way to create a total score.

There are currently 3 weight classes each for men and women.

These are

Men

  • up to 79 kg
  • 79 kg to 85 kg
  • 85 kg and over

Women

  • Up to 60 kg
  • 60 kg to 67 kg
  • 67 kg and over

The disciplines

This article hasn’t the space to go into the detail of all the disciplines required but here is a brief description including details of what the official will be looking for in each lift.

The Clean

The kettlebell is cleaned to the rack position.

The judge will want to see

  • There has to be a moment of fixation in the rack position.

The clean and press

The kettlebell is cleaned to the rack position and then pressed overhead

.The judge will want to see

  • A clear separation of the clean and the press. There must be a moment of stillness once the rack is achieved.
  • There must be no knee bend prior to the press. This is a strict press only.
  • The kettlebell must fixate at the top of the movement with no wobble or sway
  • There must be good alignment

Jerk

From the racked position, the knees are dipped and then straightened to drive up the kettlebell before catching the kettlebell at the top of the movement with a second dip of the knees. You then straighten the legs to complete the rep.

The judge will want to see

  • There needs to be solid fixation at the top of the movement with good alignment
  • Fixation in the racked position.
  • No push press. The bell must be caught at the top position with a straight arm

Half snatch

Unlike the full snatch movement, the half snatch is lowered from the overhead position to the rack position before lowering for a back swing into another rep.

The judge will want to see

  • There needs to be a rack position on the way back down (a stop and go)
  • There is solid fixation at the top of each rep with good alignment
  • The bell is caught at the top position with a straight arm.

Push press

From the rack position, you dip your knees and drive the bell up to the overhead position. Your heels must stay in contact with the floor.

The judge will want to see

  • Good fixation and alignment.
  • Checking your heels stay flat on the floor.
  • That you don’t bounce out of rack straight into another rep

The IKFF pride themselves on fairness within their competitions and therefore these criteria are to be adhered otherwise you will be no stranger to the No Count board!

A trial run

Once you have got your technique down reasonably well on the 5 disciplines it’s time to put in a trial run.

Start off conservatively. Remember, you are working for 6 minutes at a time and over 5 different disciplines.

The key to a good score in the pentathlon is all in the choice of weight and pacing.

Aim to pace yourself accurately. It’s a 6 minute set so take 6 minutes to complete it. It’s a false economy to set off too fast for two reasons. One, you will no doubt end up with more no counts from your judge and two, you will burn out earlier. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the extra rest gained will benefit you very much. A better strategy is to pace yourself to start with and keep your breathing under control throughout.

At the start when you are fresh, it’s very tempting to choose a weight, which in isolation may seem quite manageable but you must consider the accumulated fatigue. Once the first discipline is over, you still have 4 more to go so it’s no good burning out on the first 1 or 2 events with over zealous weight choices. Once you start to get an idea of what it’s like to flow from one event to another and how the accumulated fatigue will affect your performance in the subsequent lifts, you will be able to make some fairly accurate predictions on your own performance.

This takes a few trial runs to achieve and some number crunching on the calculator but will ultimately lead to ever increasing personal bests. You will be able to determine if going lighter and hitting closer to maximum reps is a better strategy for a high score or maybe sacrificing a few reps in order to use a higher weight will work better. Or maybe if you go lighter on the half snatch, you will be so much stronger on the push press ultimately pushing your final score up. This is one of the aspects of the pentathlon that I really enjoy. Putting pen to paper and seeing what strategy stacks up best! One of the strategies I like to use is a mini pent. This is effectively a two thirds pentathlon, working for 4 minutes and resting for 3 minutes 20 seconds. This is clearly not as exhausting as a full pent and therefore can be tried more often. I find it’s a good predictor of performance in a full pentathlon set.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you have some form of strategy before going for a full pentathlon test or competition. Plan out your hand changes and how many reps you hope to hit in each minute. These ongoing targets will help keep you focused in each discipline. Better scores will be achieved if you adhere to a preset plan rather than just mindlessly banging out random hand changes and reps.

The kettlebell pentathlon is an extremely challenging event but with the mix of 5 different lifts, it’s also a lot of fun and very satisfying to do.

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