There are three fundamental categories of kettlebell lifting
1. Hard Style
2. Kettlebell Sport Style (aka Girevoy Sport or Fluid Style)
3. Juggling Style
Hardstyle kettlebell training was born in the special operations unit of the Soviet Union in the 1970’s, where select units adopted a karate-based style of hand-to-hand combat. The hard style of kettlebell training evolved in the 1980’s to support the hard style of hand to hand combat.
The essence of hardstyle is the ‘Kime’ technique, which is an all-out effort during every repetition. Each rep employs high acceleration in the quick lifts (swings,snatches) and high tension in slow lifts (presses, squats) followed by relaxation.
Hardstyle is about strength and the duality of relaxation and tension. Tension and relaxation are the two sides of the performance coin. Tension is strength and power. Relaxation is speed, endurance, and flexibility. Many sports and unexpected life situations demand both. An expert 400 sprinter is relaxed and loose at in the starting blocks, however at the moment the starting gun fires, the sprinter tenses with maximal force exploding from the blocks and his speed is backed up with power and mass. As the sprinters initial ATP and Phospho-Creatine stores diminish after about 6 to 10 seconds, he must remain calm and relaxed, utilizing his energy and power to its finest extent.
Hardstyle aims to maximize both extremes, tension/strength and relaxation/speed. Slow strength lifts (press, squat) are performed with dynamic tension as muscles generate force by tensing. Tension = force. The tenser the muscles are, the more force is produced. Hardstyle teaches how to get stronger by contracting the muscles harder. At the same time, hardstyle practices relaxation. Mastery of relaxation is a hallmark of an elite athlete. It is known that the higher the athletes level, the quicker he can relax his muscles.
The ballistic loading of the kettlebell swing creates an alternating cycle of muscular tension and relaxation ,the inability to relax the muscles creates too much tension for high speed movement. Hardstyle relies on a rapid-fire sequence of high tensions and relaxation. “Tense-loose-tense”.
In summary, the mark of the hardstyle is “power production over power conservation”. Do not hold back, make each rep count. In turn, each workout produces more output is less time.
KETTLEBELL SPORT or GIRVOY STYLE (GS)
Today, kettlebell sport, also known as Girevoy Sport (GS), is a power/strength-endurance sport that requires athletes to work under a submaximal load, completing as many kettlebell lift repetitions as possible in a set time frame of ten minutes. The sport is now contested worldwide, with organizations such as the International Union of Kettlebell Lifting (IUKL), the World Kettlebell Club (WKC), the American Kettlebell Club (AKC), the International Kettlebell & Fitness Federation (IKFF), & the Canadian Kettlebell Sport Federation (CKSF) among others.
There are 3 main events/disciplines in kettlebell sport; (i) the jerk, (ii) the long cycle clean & jerk, and (iii) the snatch. The jerk requires the athlete to clean two kettlebells to the chest once, and then jerk them overhead as many times as possible. The long cycle clean & jerk requires the athlete to clean both kettlebells prior to each jerk. The snatch, which is the only event that uses one kettlebell, is performed by swinging the kettlebell between the legs and brought up to the overhead position in one uninterrupted motion. The athlete is only allowed to switch hands once during the time frame. Professionals compete in weight categories using 32 kg kettlebell(s) for men, and women using 24 kg kettlebell(s). Each event is tested for maximal repetitions in the ten minute time frame without setting the kettlebells down. A judge is assigned to each athlete to ensure that only proper repetitions are counted. Because the athlete cannot set the kettlebell(s) down, efficient technique must be used to last the entire ten minutes, which makes the mechanics of the movements much different than hardstyle.
Ksenya Dedyukhina - Sport Style Snatch
Ksenya is the 2011 Kettlebell World Champion in the 60 kg category at 19 years of age. Here she snatched a 24 kg kettlebell 141 times in ten minutes. Notice the efficiency and fluidness of the movement.
Hard Style Snatch
Below is a tutorial of the Hardstyle Snatch by Pat Flynn, notice the all out tension and intent of each repetition followed by relaxation at the top of the movement.
Steve Cotter Fluid Style vs Hard Style Video Analysis
Notice the graphs. The top graph represents the energy conserved while using the fluid style, while the bottom graph represents the higher force applied while using the Hard Syle.