Time to BOLT for your Kettlebell!

Photographer: Sweat RX
Kettle bell Sport

What is Kettlebell Sport?

So you’ve decided you want to start learning the kettlebell, and with a simple google search, it is obvious there are different schools of thought.  We have Hardstyle (HS), Girevoy Sport (GS), and a mixture of both (BOLT) methods available to us.  How do you know where to spend most of your time?

Kettlebell Sport
First, let’s start out with the most obvious of advice.  Don’t be the guy that sits at a computer trying to teach himself kettlebell training through articles like this, or on YouTube.  You wouldn’t do that if you wanted to become proficient in track and field.  Kettlebell training is about skill development, just like any sport or new activity.  Spend the money and take the time to learn from a great coach; preferably one who still continues to practice that skill regularly, and who has clear education and credentialing under his belt.  The fitness world is full of people practicing skills poorly, with no understanding of anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics.  Those people need to find another job.  But equally dangerous is the “book smart” coach.  The one who can spout off fancy words to impress you about his understanding of the Krebs cycle and the sliding filament theory of muscle contraction, but clearly has barely moved a kettlebell in the last few years because he was “too busy studying.”  These guys should just enroll in medical school to join their unhealthy brothers in a life of theory and no practice.
So you’ve picked a few options of coaches to work with face to face, but still aren’t sure which school of kettlebell training is right for you.  Here is what you need to know:
Hardstyle Training (HS)
      This is your main system for fitness training.  If you want to look good naked, this should be the meat of your training.  If you want strength and power, this should be your base.  This is a perfect supplement to CrossFitters and Weightlifters, which is how I use it, simply because it addresses the imbalances created from constant bilateral training tools.  This type of kettlebell training is a great foundation for the other two options.
Girevoy Sport (GS):
      This is a sport; period.  It has rules like any other sport, so what it mainly offers a person is competition.  For those who like the kettlebell, and are motivated by training for a sport, this would be one of your options.  Unfortunately, the rules of this sport are painful and grueling.  This is an endurance sport, similar to a marathon.  Events are long, and you are expected to suffer.  Because it involves suffering, it requires a lot of sport specific practice and preparation.  And unlike the other two forms of kettlebell training, overuse injuries can be high in this variation, simply due to the specificity of training needs.  And I almost forgot. If you want to look good naked, this is not the training method you should be using most of the time.
BOLT Training and Sport:
    A few years back, a man named Nico Rithner created this variation on kettlebell sport, forming the International Kettlebell Lifting Federation (IKLF) in Denver, CO.  It combines the best of both worlds.  It simultaneously develops your hardstyle techniques and your GS skills, while allowing the option to compete in BOLT sport if the participant so desires.  When I heard about this league a few years back, I became the Maryland State Director for the IKLF.  The sport side of this league rewards a balance between strength and endurance, which was one of my biggest hang ups of Girevoy Sport, which simply is an endurance game.  Anyone who knows about fitness knows you need both, so this is a perfect alternative for CrossFitters looking for something different to try, which in turn, will directly improve their CrossFit performance as well.
Being an avid CrossFitter and Weightlifter, most of my kettlebell training is used to correct imbalances or prevent them, often focusing on scapular and core stability.  That means about 70% of the year, I am primarily training Hardstyle.  However, as the Maryland State Director of the IKLF, I host four BOLT competitions a year at my training facility, Terrapin Strength and Conditioning.  I often compete in these events, which means as the dates approach, my kettlebell training starts to become more sport specific, incorporating the competition style of the lifts.  During these times, my goal is to improve my muscular endurance so that I can get more work done in less time.
This year, the IKLF has grown internationally, which allows us to host our first Nationals competition on September 24, 2016 at my facility.  In order to compete at Nationals, individuals must participate in a state level competition, which will occur in the summer of 2016 in Maryland.  In fact, that is the only requirement for participation in IKLF Nationals.
If you want to try a fast growing sport, that is both fun and exciting, start picking up your kettlebell now.  Find an experienced coach near you, start preparing with intelligent programming, and jump in your local state IKLF competition.  Make the trip to IKLF Nationals on September 24, 2016, and support the kettlebell community as a whole.  CrossFit has helped open people’s eyes to the world of Weightlifting, and now, people are drifting into the world of BOLT and Hardstyle as well.
For more information on the author, go to www.terrapinstrength.com.  For more information about the IKLF and the Nationals competition, go to http://www.iklf.co/
Written by: Jason Schreiber, CSCS, HKC, USAW, CF-L1
Owner of Maryland Kettlebells
About the Author:
Kettlebell training has been a staple of my strength and conditioning since my MMA days 15 years ago.  At that time, they served as a awesome tool for developing an athletic base of power and relaxation techniques.  Despite me leaving the MMA world a decade ago, they continue to be a weekly tool in my CrossFit and Weightlifting competition training, especially at the age of 37. Learning to manipulate these cumbersome, awkward objects through largely unilateral exercises is one of the most overlooked areas of strength and conditioning.  There is a level of resiliency and injury prevention that your body creates that is hard to match with any other tool.

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