The Guide to Male Lifestyle in Las Vegas

How Kettlebell Workouts Are Becoming Competitions

July 15, 2015

Four people are lined up at the front of one of the studios inside TruFusion on South Eastern Avenue in Las Vegas, gripping one kettlebell or two, standing at the ready. The rest of the crowd gathered around cheer as competition coordinator Cristina Osorio shouts at them to begin. All four people begin lifting their kettlebells over their heads, a motion known as a “clean,” before dropping them. For the next ten minutes, they will rack up as many reps as they can while judges seated at a table determine whether each rep is performed well enough to count toward their goal of winning. The competition is not as much one of speed as it is strength and endurance. This is the 2nd Annual Kettlebell Competition. And based on the attendance and enthusiasm of the large group gathered at TruFusion, it’s only the second of many.

“I started this one last year in June and this is our second one,” Cristina tells me as we sit down for a short interview. “It’s about twice the size from last year.”

What’s your history as a kettlebell competition coordinator? “I didn’t start doing kettlebells until maybe about 4 years ago. I just started taking them in a class, and then I took training and I became an instructor. I spent about a year and a half instructing bells, not really caring about competitive kettlebell sport. Then all of a sudden I got roped into doing the OKC Comp in Costa Mesa in February and that changed everything for me. I realized how the sport wasn’t about you competing against other people, it was about you competing against yourself and your time.”

Why do you prefer kettlebells instead of a dumbbell or regular weight? “I do kettlebells mainly because the body mechanics involved were really geared toward, in my opinion, a feminine body. I’m really strong in my lower legs and glutes. My upper body is weak, so powerlifting never appealed to me. But because the kettlebell swing drives from your legs, I learned that even overhead positions—the presses and the snatches and the jerks—all originated from my legs and so I was just hooked because all of a sudden, I’m strong.”

How do people compete with kettlebells? “We have a 10 minute set, there’s different events you can do; some of them are 5 minutes, some of them are 10. You’re going for reps and time. Everybody’s doing the same amount of time. Everybody gets broken down into a weight category and then a bell category. You’re just trying to do as many as you can in the amount of time.”

What are the judges looking for? “The judges are looking for what we call ‘fixation.’ They’re the ones that are counting each rep. At the top position sometimes you may not lock out your arm, or you may go really quickly and just kinda stab it in the air. What they’re trying to find is a solid overhead position where you can prove that you’ve got it, and then you can move on to your next rep. They’re there for quality control.”

Is there a national competition? “There’s national levels, international levels, and we’ve been trying really hard to get into the Olympic level. Right now I think the highest level is a military international class. There are several different competition organizations: IKFF, RKC, AKA, there’s lots of them that have been pushing. They do huge events like at Mr. Olympia here in Las Vegas in September. There’s big ones in Ohio. Ours is really small compared, but there are higher class ones where you can go international status. Basically what you’re aiming for is a ranking. There’s 3, 2, 1, Candidate Master of Sport, Master of Sport, and then International Class Master of Sport and that’s the highest ranking so far. From my knowledge and what I’m told, I’m currently CMS ranking with the OKC. We’re always trying to get a higher ranking, that’s the whole point of this. You’re just going against yourself from last year.”

What criteria do you pick your judges? “I need to make sure they have experience with kettlebell sport. So all of my judges are my fellow teammates from previous years of going to kettlebell competitions. They know exactly what to look for: they know what a jerk is, they know what a snatch is, they know what fixation is at the top, and they can look at it and (decide) “that’s not a rep,” or “that is a rep.” They have the experience. They’re also fellow instructors.”

What does the winner here today get to look forward to? “We’ve got gold medals, silver and bronze. First place gets a free 30 minute massage, a 30 day free membership to our studio that they can gift or keep. Second place gets a two week membership, third place gets one week. We’ve got a free bottle of champagne for them, and all competitors get free liquor the whole time. But we encourage them to drink only after they do their set.”

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