Kettlebell Sport v. Kettlebell Hardstyle – Which is BETTER

“You’re more likely to hurt your back doing hardstyle kettlebell swings.” 

“Kettlebell Sport is the lazy way to lift kettlebells.” 

There are many communities within the world of kettlebell lifting. Even within each style there are multiple governing organizations that lead certifications and teach varying lifting techniques. The people that compete in Kettlebell Sport have a completely different method of training with kettlebells than those who do Kettlebell Hardstyle lifting – and these two groups are often at odds with each other.

So which group is right? Which style of kettlebell lifting is better, more efficient, and leads to more fitness gains?

Here’s where you’re expecting me to say “it depends.” 

It depends is part of my answer. Yes, the style of kettlebell lifting a person chooses to train depends on their goals.

Which style of kettlebell lifting is better?

Do you want speed and power, glutes and hamstrings that fire properly, and an efficient workout? Go for Kettlebell Hardstyle training. Lifting kettlebells for fitness is absolutely a great workout with numerous benefits. But Kettlebell Hardstyle workouts are just that… workouts. The end goal is to get fitter and stronger, or possibly just to increase weight lifted with good technique.

Or do you want strength, power, endurance, mental tenacity, and goals that provide motivation beyond just being fit? Do you want to be an athlete with the potential to travel the world to compete? Do you want to join a fast-growing community of supportive, motivated, like-minded competitors that is open to all ages and fitness levels? Kettlebell Sport training offers something beyond the realm of general fitness.

There is definitely a time and place for Kettlebell Hardstyle lifting. I use hardstyle kettlebell swings myself to improve glute activation for my deadlift. I enjoy teaching and participating in hardstyle workouts, and believe they are fun and provide enormous benefit.

HOWEVER… what you’re getting from Kettlebell Hardstyle lifting is a workout. What you get from Kettlebell Sport lifting is a passion, a hobby, a sport, a skill, a goal, and often – a lifestyle. I’ve seen Kettlebell Sport turn so many people’s lives around because they began to see themselves as an athlete, and because the community around the sport supported them in that goal.

Obviously I’m biased towards Kettlebell Sport because I’m not an active member of the Kettlebell Hardstyle world (where I’m sure there are similar success stories), but this article is an explanation of why I am passionate about coaching Kettlebell Sport and why I travel the globe to spread the Kettlebell Sport gospel.

What are your thoughts on the benefits of either Kettlebell Hardstyle or Kettlebell Sport lifting? 

If you are not familiar with the differences between Kettlebell Sport and Kettlebell Hardstyle, here is a brief explanation.

Want to learn more about Kettlebell Hardstyle? Check out Dragon Door and StrongFirst.

Want to learn more about the Kettlebell Sport? Check out this articleAmerican Kettlebell AllianceInternational Kettlebell and Fitness Federation, and Orange Kettlebell Club

Brittany is a San Diego based personal trainer who teaches Kettlebell Hardstyle group fitness classes and coaches Kettlebell Sport athletes. To schedule a personal training session, email

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3 thoughts on “Kettlebell Sport v. Kettlebell Hardstyle – Which is BETTER”

  1. Erm… tempted to sit back and watch this one, as you are wading into a traditional battle here, but it seems that even on the forums the arguments are fading a bit. Hard stylers like hard style, Girevoy practictioners are, as you say, Girevoy for life.

    On the other hand… I do think there is a time and place for everything. Thierry Sanchez posted a Simple and Sinister vid that showed (I believe) an RKC practitioner killing it with monster Turkish getups the other day. You have to have respect for that. And the blast out of the box that you get from hard style is going to be a huge asset for martial artists, boxers, football players, etc. That said, those are really not lifetime sports (martial arts can be, but I mean MMA, actual sparring on a daily basis, etc.). The younger set may not believe me–I too thought I was immortal–but you hit your forties and a cold morning sends a very different message. This is where I think girevoy has a huge upside. As you get older–well, you’d better be nice and warmed up before hardstyle. The risk of pulling a muscle is there just like it will be in b-ball or any other ‘burst’ sport.

    Another issue (as is common in “burst” athletics) is the emphasis of fast progress. I do not think this can really be denied with hardstyle. That in itself is not a bad thing–but it is a risky thing. And definitely there is more emphasis early on in hardstyle re presses and pressing to press more weight. Again, that in itself is not some horrible fault. The vid Thierry posted showing a cat doing Turkish getups with something like a 46 kg bell (and the guy was not that big) is quite simply an achievement to be ended. But I see young guys drawn to hardstyle–and among guys I know there are lot of shoulders out there that anyone can see are naturally impinged from benching, boxing, pushups, etc. What can I say? It’s a guy thing. But I see much more emphasis on mobility in the Girevoy crowd–maybe because the long sets just cannot be managed with tight shoulders.

    As far as the “lazy” aspect of girevoy… Anyone claiming that aspect should just grab a couple of 24s and do a five minute long cycle set. I was involved in boxing, martial arts, running, swimming, b-ball, etc. I was ranked in swimming growing up and played b-ball for a 5A school. I also regularly boxed/worked out with Golden Gloves boxers and pros for years–and nothing strikes me as being half as hard as an LC set. It’s something akin to climbing a mountain at a sprint with a yak on your head. Which is why it is so addicting. On the other hand, the smooth aspect of it is why someone approaching 50 can still tackle it and potentially even compete. At a meet I attended in the summer I saw a 50-plus outdo a number of 20-something men in jerk competition with 24s. I think he hit around 60 reps in 10 minutes. I don’t care how fit you are, this is not a pain-free feat.

    Anyhow, to each his own. But once you go Girevoy, I’m not sure you ever go back.

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