The Role of the Kettlebell at StrongFirst

When our Masters, Seniors, and Team Leaders checked into their hotel rooms before our recent meeting, each was greeted by a bottle of vodka, a jar of pickles, and a note welcoming them to the Phase II of the Russian kettlebell invasion.

It all started in 1998 when MILO: Journal for Serious Strength Athletes published my article entitled Vodka, Pickle Juice, Kettlebell Lifting, and Other Russian Pastimes. Up until that point, it had been easier to find honest arm measurements than a kettlebell, as Dr. Randall Strossen put it. Fast-forward fifteen years. Today you would be hard pressed to find a gym in the United States that does not have kettlebells.

The role of the kettlebell

Next to the vodka and pickles, the StrongFirst leaders found a note welcoming them to Phase II of the Russian kettlebell invasion. Now that kettlebells are everywhere, the next step is to put an end to the YouTube amateur atrocities that pass for kettlebell training and teach every aspiring girevik to do it right. It is the mission of SFG (“G” for “girya” or kettlebell), StrongFirst’s flagship program.

The Role of the Kettlebell at StrongFirst

While strength is the focus of our organization at large, SFG pursues broader “extreme fitness” with strength at its foundation. Some of you believe I have taken a hard right towards 1RM strength and abandoned all the great benefits the kettlebell brings us—conditioning, fat loss, health, and so on. I have a Russian joke for you.

Two women run into each other in the city and have a conversation:

—I heard through the grapevine that you are mad at me. Why?

—Remember the last party at my house? After you left, a very expensive silver spoon disappeared.

—I did not take your spoon!

—I know, I eventually found it. But a bad aftertaste remained.

I did not take your spoon. The kettlebell is here to stay. We own it.

Yes, there is a strength bias at StrongFirst. Because there is no other way to achieve the “extreme fitness for hard living comrades” ideal. Strongman Earle Liederman observed back in 1925: “…what is endurance except continued strength?” We build endurance, mobility, and other qualities on an only solid foundation—strength. Hence our name—StrongFirst.

Note: A while ago a kid posted a passive-aggressive thread on our forum, “just saying” that without endurance you are nothing. Rob Lawrence responded, “Yes, that was the reason the name ‘StrongOnly’ was rejected.”

Regardless of your goals, your entry point into strength ought to be the kettlebell. Not only because of the additional conditioning, flexibility, and health benefits, but because the kettlebell, when professionally used, teaches priceless movement lessons that prepare you for safe and effective barbell and bodyweight strength training. Even if you have paid your dues on the barbell or the pull-up bar, enter the kettlebell and you will become a much better barbell lifter or bodyweight strength athlete than before. I guarantee it.

The StrongFirst system is centered around principles, not around tools. We are on the same page with the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program: “One mind, any weapon.”

One Mind Any Weapon

That said, a Marine will choose his M-16 over his fist or K-Bar whenever he can. The kettlebell has the same preferred status at StrongFirst. This is our roots and our weapon of choice.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Phase II of the Russian kettlebell invasion!

“Resistance is futile.  You will be assimilated.”

The role of the kettlebell

Old-time kettlebell master Ivan Lebedev observed, “If the mankind knew how easily strength is to develop, there would not be weak people at all.” Follow our StrongFirst Kettlebell Fundamentals online course and see for yourself. Russian kettlebell power to you!

Pavel Tsatsouline
Pavel Tsatsouline is the CEO of StrongFirst, Inc.

27 thoughts on “The Role of the Kettlebell at StrongFirst

  • I have trained with Kettlebells for nine yearsl I believe that this “tool” is the foundation of Strong First. Pavel, thanks for your vision and leadership!

  • I have been training with kettlebells for 9 years. The Kettlebell IS the tool of choice for strength and conditioning and the appropriate keystone for Strong First.
    Pavel, thank you for your vision and leadership!

  • An unrelated question:
    I wonder what your [Pavel] opinion is on the principles of Yin Yoga?
    I don’t know how familiar you are with the Yin Yoga practice, but the idea is basically that
    instead of trying to stretch the muscles, one focuses on relaxing the muscles to
    instead address and stretch the connective tissue. This means holding a pose (passively)
    for up to 5 minutes. Is stretching the connective tissue a good idea, according to you?
    Also,is this type of stretching similar to the principle of “Relax into stretch” or are
    the intentions different?
    Thank You!

    Ps. My apology if this is not the place to ask these kind of questions…

    • Lucas, I am not familiar with “Yin Yoga” but you describe a great way to improve flexibility. I use it (although not exclusively).

  • Just like Ivan Lebedev, I also have come to see how easy it is to build strength with the kettlebells. After spending a year building the core strength exercises. (Cleans and presses, swings, snatches, windmills, and turkish get ups. ) Treating every workout like a practice. Focusing on perfecting technique. I am convinced that the kettlebell is the most perfect exercise piece of equipment on earth. Thank you Pavel.

  • Never doubted you for a moment . The kettle ell has always been your mainstay

  • The time has come to set the foundation of strength. Thank you Pavel for teaching me how.

  • We do strength, we use kettlebells to get there…then we strength many times and it becomes endurance…when coupled with eating healthy foods we become strong, fit, lean and healthy…just the way the titans are on Mt. Olympus

  • Apparently Pavel has the same disdain for the phrase “Just sayin'” that I do.

  • Thank you sir for posting this. I think many have looked at the site and wondered if just 1RM strength was the way the thinking had started to lean.

    Clarifying this really helps.

  • (sorrry if I double-posted)

    Wow. Great blog post. What Pavel & the team are doing excites me beyond how it’s helped my own personal fitness. Finally there is a resource I trust and endorse. It’s a subtle and deep clarification. We are not “doing kettlebells.” Tools are for tools. Global Domination for StrongFirst!

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