American Kettlebellers Show How Kettlebell Training for Competitions Can Help Build Endurance, Strength and Weight Loss

For those not experienced with Kettlebells, they may not understand how effective they can be in developing your strength as well as your muscular tone and/or bulk.

Not as highly covered as other fitness events the American Kettlebell Alliance Nationals are held annually in New York City.  Noted by the Fairfax County Times online Marty Farrell, a 35-year-old Springfield resident whose average size, a modest 5 feet 11 inches and 156 pounds, would not reveal his status as the country’s strongest kettlebell lifter.

Kettlebell Competitions

Originated in Russia in the 1960’s, this kettlebell sport dubbed “girevoy sport” as the Russians refer to it, involves lifting a fixed weight continuously for the highest number of repetitions in a given time period. One can use either a snatch, which entails a single kettlebell, or a jerk, which entails two kettlebells.

Last month at the American Kettlebell Alliance Nationals in New York City, Farrell solidified his highly regarded reputation in the little-known sport by completing 88 reps in 10 minutes in the jerk set competition. It broke Farrell’s previous record of 86 set last November and went unbeaten by lifters in all weight classes in the competition.


Farrell competes mainly in the jerk category, a brutal test of endurance that challenges him to hoist two 70-pound kettlebells over his head as many times as he can without stopping during a 10 minute period:

“It has to do with technique, body type, and mind you, it is an endurance sport at the end of the day,” said Farrell, a former competitive swimmer. “No matter how strong you are….. you have to really focus on that endurance piece.”

Farrell didn’t become familiar with the kettlebell until well into adulthood. Just over 10 years ago, he and a small group of friends were interested in getting strong without adding a lot of bulk. A new found obsession with the kettlebell spurred them into entering competitions in Northern Virginia in 2004.

In 2005 they joined a group of Americans at an international competition in Moscow that featured 150 professional competitors from 15 countries.

Asked if his proclivity for the sport shined right away, Farrell let out a laugh and admitted he was dead last among his friends, who were mostly in Moscow just to watch and learn from the pros. Physical limitations seemed to put up a wall between he and the rippled lifters wowing crowds in Russia, but Farrell saw untapped potential within his unimposing frame. He devoted himself to incremental progress, starting out with 30-pound weights and building to 100 reps, then moving up to 50 reps with 50-pound weights before eventually honing skills with the 70-pounders.

Farrell soaked up advice wherever he could find it. He continued to seek the guidance of Sergey Rudnev, a pro kettlebell lifter he met in Moscow, whose mentorship helped Farrell perfect his technique, proving to him that kettlebell was more about discipline than sheer athleticism.

Kettlebells Can Help Everyone

“That’s kind of why I’m so interested in getting people aware of this sport because everybody can get to a very good level if they have proper instruction,” Farrell said

Even with his day job as a systems engineer, Farrell immersed himself fully in the world of kettlebell, eventually becoming the first American male to achieve the rank of Master of Sport, the second highest rank possible behind Master of Sport International.

Having competed in numerous kettlebell competitions around the country, he’s come across more and more people interested in taking up the sport, which has led to his current pursuit of students he can guide on a regular basis. So far he’s got 12 students, about six of whom he mostly instructs online.”

Kettlebells for Weight Loss

One of his local students, Lei Zhang, was morbidly obese for much of his life before he lost 160 pounds through diet and exercise. Looking for something to do with his newly slender build, Zhang grew interested in kettlebell and quickly became one of Farrell’s top students.

“It’s about mental endurance, mental toughness,” said Zhang, who now holds Rank 1 status, two levels below Master of Sport. “Your body’s smart and doesn’t want to do extra work, so when you’re competing or practicing and you have a long set, the first minute isn’t bad, but then the second, third and fourth minute your mind is telling you, ‘Why don’t you just set it down? It would be easier than going seven more minutes.’ You have to beat those mental tricks.”

Zhang and Farrell are in the process of organizing a regional competition tentatively set for January at World Gym Fairfax. They believe the proliferation of local events mark the first step toward one day making kettlebell an Olympic sport.

“It’s empowering. You feel differently even after a few sessions and you notice that you’re changing,” Farrell said. “And it does build a lot of mental fortitude. When you take it on and perform other physical challenges in life, you can manage very well.”

For some recommended Kettlebell instruction for taking your Kettlebell routines to that next level check out these DVD’s:

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