Girevoy Sport (GS) style kettlebell competition events: Biathlon, Long Cycle, and Snatch. Depending on the organization running the event, women may be allowed to lift two kettlebells for Biathlon and Long Cycle. Both men and women lift one kettlebell for Snatch.
Kettlebell Sport Bolt style competition events: Single Kettlebell Jerk, Single Kettlebell Snatch, Single Kettlebell Clean & Jerk, Double Kettlebell Jerk, Double Kettlebell Snatch, Double Kettlebell Clean & Jerk. Both men and women can compete in any and all events.
GS competitions involve lifting either one kettlebell for 10 minutes with a single switch, or two kettlebells for 10 minutes without setting the kettlebells down.
Bolt competitions allow the lifter to set the bell down between repetitions and switch as many times as they want within the 10 minute time limit.
GS lifting is an endurance event, and requires a ton of technical skill because the lifter must be as efficient as possible to reach their full potential.
Bolt lifting is a speed and power event, and doesn’t require as much technical skill and efficiency – although it certainly helps – since the lifter can rest or switch hands at any time.
GS athletes typically compete in one event, although some lifters opt to train for several events at the same competition.
Bolt athletes usually compete in multiple events. An athlete that does all six competition lifts is called the Ironman or Ironwoman category,
At a GS event, lifters are only directly competing with others doing the same event in the same weight class and using the same kettlebell weight (i.e. two women in 58kg weight class doing Snatch with a 16kg kettlebell).
At a Bolt event, lifters are competing against everyone within a weight category and a specific lift, no matter what weight kettlebell they are using (i.e. all women in the heavyweight Single Kettlebell Jerk event are competitors, even if one is using an 8kg kettlebell and another is using a 24kg kettlebell).
GS competitions have a set number of weight categories, which may be the same for men and women (IKFF) or have more weight categories for men (OKC, AKA).
Bolt competitions have the same weight categories for men and women, although the weight ranges in each category differ between genders: Lightweight, Middleweight, Heavyweight, and Unlimited.
GS scoring is typically one point per repetition for men’s Jerk and Long Cycle, and all women’s events. The Snatch portion of men’s Biathlon garners half a point per repetition, since they are using one bell versus the two they use in Jerk. The winner is the lifter that earns the most points (in Biathlon, total score = Jerk score + Snatch score). In the case of a tie, the lifter with the lighter bodyweight wins.
Bolt scoring is calculated using a formula for the total volume lifted. The IKLF Volume Scoring System (IVSS) gives each lifter a “head start” number (Base Volume) based on the weight they choose to compete with. The purpose of this system is to level the field and to encourage athletes to progressively increase the weights they compete with. The lifter’s Base Volume = 40 x (total weight of the kettlebell(s)). The lifter’s Final Score = Base Volume + Raw Volume (repetitions multiplied by the weight lifted per repetition). The lifter with the highest Final Score wins. In the case of a tie, the lifter using the heavier kettlebell wins. If both lifters are using the same weight kettlebell, the lifter with the lighter bodyweight wins.
GS competitors may achieve a rank in competition, which means they hit a certain number of repetitions with the designated kettlebell weight, determined by the ranking table used by the governing organization. From low to high, the ranks that can be achieved are Rank 3, Rank 2, Rank 1, Candidate for Master of Sport, Master of Sport, and Master of Sport International Class.
Bolt competitors may achieve a rank in competition as well, which is based on their volume score. Competitors can achieve Rank, Semi Pro, Pro, Pro Plus, and Elite rankings.
Judging at both types of competitions is based on whether the athlete achieves “fixation” in the overhead position, meaning both the bell and the lifter freeze for a moment in time with all the joints locked out and in proper alignment. Additionally, the lifter must demonstrate knee lockout when the bells are in the rack position. A lifter may receive a “no count” if fixation or rack lockout are not achieved, or if any other technical fouls occur. The lifter will be told to stop their set after a certain number of no counts.
American organizations that put on GS events include the American Kettlebell Alliance (AKA), the Orange Kettlebell Club (OKC), and the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation (IKFF).
The American organization that puts on Bolt events is USA Kettlebell Lifting (USAKL), a part of the International Kettlebell Lifting Federation (IKLF).
Do you have anything else to add to this list? What do you like or not like about the two types of competition?