I’m a big fan of the classic events in kettlebell sport, to me long cycle with two kettlebells exemplifies fantastic work capacity and strength endurance, likewise, biathlon seems to be the pinnacle of kettlebell sport – as It challenges all aspects of your body and physical qualities.
However, given that It challenges things like your flexibility, strength, local muscular endurance and cardiovascular endurance – it can put people off. For example, at the recent 2022 Australian national, there were 70-80 competitors. However, only four males competed in either the biathlon or long cycle. Personally, I quite like having a range of different durations and exercise events. I think this is important for many people to keep things fresh and offer different unique challenges. Despite this, it would be fantastic to see more people compete in the classic events at bigger competitions.
With this in mind, I’ve done a thought experiment to develop an alternative for beginners, which could also be used in friendly competition. Hopefully, this might be a good first step into classic biathlon.
Biathlon 2.0 format
Rest 40 minutes (flight 15 minutes, jerk flight 1 (5/15 minutes), snatch flight 3)
How biathlon 2.0 would fit into a competition schedule
Flight 1: 0-15:00 (jerk 0-5:00)
Flight 2: 15:01-30:00 (rest)
Flight 3: 30:01-45:00 (rest)
Flight 4: 45:01-60:00 (snatch 45:01-55:00)
One Jerk = 3 point
One snatch = 1 point
Reducing the duration of the jerk will reduce the barrier to entry, as flexibility can be a big issue for holding the rack position for 10 minutes.
Further, during a 5-minute set people have a greater capacity to sprint – which may make it more exciting and allow for more dynamic pacing.
Making the snatch multiswitch allows for faster pacing and is less fatiguing on the local muscular endurance compared to a single switch.
This makes the snatch component more accessible, and places greater emphasis on cardiovascular fitness than local muscular endurance (in most cases), which may be desirable for cross-training.
Expert opinion and peer review
Initially, I published this without commentary, moving forward, I will endeavour to get experts to comment on posts.
Ste from Tu-Nova in England
GS athlete, strength & conditioning and kettlebell coach with a sports science background
Please check out Tu-Nova at:
Thanks to Ste for offering some of his views on biathlon 2.0. Firstly, I mentioned that fewer people were doing the traditional lifts in Australia to see if the UK was similar and was interested in how they got people into the sport.
Here is Ste’s comments:
So, in the UK we had a thing called the grassroots league which aimed to get beginner athletes involved. They could use any weight they wanted and do any variation of jerk and longcycle (1 bell or 2bell) then single switch snatch. All 5min sets with the score being calculated on a points system based on the kettlebell weight.
These competitions were fun and did get some beginner athletes lifting which was great.
I think for me, there are many issues with kettlebell sport which have contributed to less people doing traditional lifts.
First off, the sport hasn’t really grown in terms of attracting new blood which has meant that lifters who used to do GS, have gone to marathon and other lifts for novelty and a new challenge which is understandable.
People going to these lifts has a lot less physical barriers and the bandwidth of technique gets wider as you don’t need to be as technically proficient as you do with 2 bells.
The kettlebell community seems to want to grow the sport by have kettlebell lifters watching kettlebell lifters which baffles me really.
I stand and watch some competitions today and don’t actually see them as competitions but merely lifting exhibitions. The reason? Because you have 6 people on a flight, everyone is lifting a different weight, in a different weight category and sometimes doing a completely different lift!
If I’m struggling to follow who ‘wins’ then what chance do the general public have!
And that’s one of the issues we face in the sport. We try to diversify it so much its actually ended up so diluted that it pretty much makes it unfollowable (don’t even know if that’s a word!) to any spectator.
We have seen on numerous cases that for a sport to be successful it needs:
To be simple to understand where a 5 to an 80 year old can watch it and get it.
There needs to be a story that people can follow and engage with.
It needs to be fast, exciting and allow for people to buy into an athlete/team whilst it’s playing out.
The Biathlon 2.0 is a good format and addresses the physical issues around the sport but unless we make it easier to follow in terms of weights etc, then the sport will continue to be this uber niche sport that is only impressive to people who understand it.
Biathlon 2.0, removes some of the most common barriers to the classic biathlon set.
Firstly, rack position and flexibility requirements are reduced by reducing the jerk duration.
Secondly, the local muscular endurance requirements of the snatch are reduced by making a multiswitch.
In my experience, these are the two most common barriers for someone competing in biathlon.
Long cycle = clean and jerk with two bells
Biathlon = Jerk with two bells, snatch with one bell