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Mr descendants/ do follow my lead!

-A. V. Suvorov, legendary Russian military leader

The Red Army, too pragmatic to waste their troopers'time on pushups and situps, quickly caught on. Every Russian military unit, even outposts remote as the planet Mars, has a gym. For some strange reason, maybe because it makes your sweaty basement dungeon look like a yuppie health spa, it is called a 'courage corner' (I wish it was a joke). Every courage corner, including the permafrost-crusted cave in one of the units I served in, is equipped with K-bells. Ditto for the men-of-war. Kettlebell snatches are an integral part of the Russian Navy's tough pentathlon.

The nationally ranked weightlifter, Igor Sukhotsky, is a crazy who took up full contact karate at the age of forty-five and proceeded to dramatically kick butt. As a prominent sports scientist, Sukhotsky also did extensive research on physical conditioning for military personnel. His master's thesis was on optimal strength training for young men getting ready for service. He concluded that a soldier "must have an iron back and legs that never quit—so he can carry his gear and, if necessary, a wounded comrade, up the side of a mountain. I emphasize—not the biceps which look so good on the beach, but the back and legs." The official lifts of girevoy sport perfectly fit this bill.

The Weightlifting Yearbook states, "The Girevoy sport turns boys into men, physically strong and full of stamina. Strength and endurance are the basis of kettlebell lifting. A blend of these attributes gives birth to a new one—strength-endurance. Gireviks [kettlebell lifters] are known for their ability to change "I can't" into "I'll take it to the limit". All these qualities are necessary in different life situations, but especially in military service."

And after military service. I cannot help smiling at the recollection of a Russian movie about a retired army colonel. The old soldier is pressing his dvukhpudovik on the balcony, a typical exercise spot for many space-cramped Russians. A car pulls over next to the colonel's parked beater. The driver stays in the car; the passenger climbs out and proceeds to remove the colonel's vehicle's wheels. The old warrior yells from above ordering him to knock it off. The thief makes a smart alec comment that the colonel would be better off walking than driving at his age, and carries on. The colonel throws the 32kg kettlebell at the bad guys' car. It goes straight through the hood, blows out the glass, and knocks out the driver. One criminal runs off, the other is out for the count, their vehicle is trashed, colonel's has been defended.

Girevoy sport delivers unparalleled cardio benefits. That is one reason kettlebells are very popular with the Russian Navy; there is nowhere to run aboard a man-of-war but who needs to if there is a kettlebell around? The load is so evenly distributed between all your muscles that not one of them gives out first—although you pray that some would and put you out of your misery.

Spetznaz, Soviet Special Operations, personnel owe much of their wiry strength, explosive agility, and never-quitting stamina to kettlebells. High rep C&Js and snatches with K-bells kick the fighting man's system into warp drive in the best traditions of twenty rep squats -minus the chafing thighs which would be a nuisance to a combat diver or a paratrooper.

Soldier, Be Strong!, the official Soviet armed forces manual on strength training approved by the Ministry of Defense (Burkov & Nikityuk, 1985), states that bodybuilders' workloads are "significantly inferior" to that of gireviks\ The manual declares kettlebell exercises to be "one of the most effective means of strength development" , representing "a new era in the development of human strength-potential". Enough said.


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