Pyotr Kryloff - The King of Kettlebells

Pyotr Kryloff – The King of Kettlebells

As you know the goal of Rough Strength is to help people reach their health and fitness goals rough. The problem here is that people nowadays don’t believe that they need very little in their training. People are so obsessed with gym memberships, latest supplements, fancy machines and brand new clothes that they forget what training is all about. Training is about gaining primal rough strength at first place not about pumping up or toning the rear delt or outer thigh or endless crunches and curls. So I decided that people need to know who were the strongest people of the past, what were their stats and how did they train. And the first post I decided to dedicate to one of my all-time favorite old school strongmen Pyotr Kryloff. Read on and discover how was built one of the most impressive bodies of the beginning of XX century.

Pyotr Kryloff (you can find Pierre Kryloff but it is the same person) [1871 – 1933] was a famous old-time strongman, athlete and wrestler. He took part in circus performances under the name “The King of Kettlebells” in the beginning of the XX century. And he actually was the king of kettlebells. I will reveal his lifting records later.

Early Years

Pyotr was born in the family of the military man in 1871 in Moscow. His father was a big fan of sports and physical culture. He had a set of rings and performed different difficult exercises on them. Little Pyotr tried to mimic his father in everything. So love to sports was inculcated to Pyotr from early childhood. As any child he liked playing games, climbing trees, wrestling. In his school years Pyotr spent all the evenings in circus watching amazing performances of strongmen and wrestlers.

His idol was Emil Foss. Emil entered the arena in his silk tights and leopard fur. He began his performances with kettlebell biceps curls and 2-pood and 3-pood kettlebell juggling (it’s 32 kg and 48 kg). After that he usually took a chain and gave it to the audience. They proved that the chain wasn’t fake and he tore it with his bare hands. After that he took another chain and with help of the audience wrapped it on his chest. Next thing he flexed his chest and back muscles very hard and broke that chain down. His next feat of strength was clean and press of the 6-pood barbell (96 kg) with such fat handles that no one from the audience could lift it off the floor. To end his performance Emil took 4.5-pood barbell (72 kg) and carried several people on it.

Emil Foss was a legendary athlete. Here’s one of the legends about him. It was in Riga (Latvia). Omnibus steamship, on which Foss’ friends were travelling from Chinizelli circus, was departing from pier. Emil was talking with them and entered the deck. Suddenly steamship began to sail. The athlete grabbed the pole that was sticking out of the ground leaning over the side and pulled the ship to shore. Then he came off the ship. He was that strong.

Inspired by Emil Foss Pyotr Kryloff began to train at home. His first training tool was a broomstick with couple of smoothing-irons on the sides. Then he came to butchers and tried real kettlebells there (not in the gym).

The Choice of Profession

Pyotr arrived to St.Petersburg where he graduated nautical school and then as a navigator made a journey to India, China, Japan, England. All this time he trained consistently with kettlebells, which he took with him. In every port he went to athletic clubs where he wrestled the natives. It wasn’t rare for him to perform feats of strength with kettlebells at that time. He performed presses, crucifix, juggling with a pair of 32 kg kettlebells. Also he performed a feat of strength that is almost forgotten nowadays. It’s crossing with a 32 kg kettlebell. After 3 years of traveling he went to Moscow and there he decided to become a professional circus athlete.

First time Pyotr Kryloff trained in the athletic club of Sergey Dmitriev-Morro. Then he made his own gym in his basement. He bought a barbell, kettlebells and coached himself.Pyotr KryloffIn 1895 Pyotr began working in circus. He already had 41 cm biceps and was working all day long lifting barbells, kettlebells, wrestling etc (as he said he was performing his feats almost every hour). The audience always liked to touch kettlebells or chains to ensure that they were real.

The Fame

In no time Kryloff’s name became recognizable and he received lots of offers to perform from different circuses. In 2 years he learned a lot of feats of strength. For example: chain tearing, bending iron, lifting a platform with horse and a man standing on it, lifting a barbell with a man on each side, breaking horseshoes, bending coins etc.

Especially he was good in kettlebells. No athlete of that time could match him in feats of strength with kettlebells. In next few years he traveled through Siberia with his athletic feats. Pyotr Kryloff was always persuasive. He said: “If you don’t believe that this stone that I’ve just broken was real let me break another one on your head”. True rough strength!

It was fancy back in Kryloff’s days to dare anyone from the audience to repeat the feat of strength. One day there was a famous polish strongman Stanislav Z. Tsyganevich on Kryloff’s performance and he took the challenge. He was a possessor of colossal strength. His height was 175 cm (5’9”), weight – 112 kg (247 lbs), chest – 130 cm (51 in), biceps – 50 cm (19.7 in), thighs – 72 cm (28.3 in). The first the competition entered Kryloff. He pressed two 40 kg kettlebells and then made crucifix with them (bottoms down), held them for a couple of seconds, then took them back up. Then he made the same with one arm and 52 kg kettlebell. Next he clean and presses 120 kg barbell for 5 reps and clean and jerked 137,6 kg barbell. The final feat was two-hands anyhow with two 40 kg kettlebells in one hand (!) and 48 kg kettlebell in another. Kryloff’s opponent repeated just feats with barbell (clean & press and clean & jerk).

Also Pyotr competed and won in french wrestling as well as in athletic figure competitions (pre-bodybuilding contests). He was a big proponent of athletics and helped youth to find the right way.

Kryloff’s Training

Pyotr Kryloff was following his own training routine. Here’s the excerpt from his article for 1914 Hercules magazine: “Here’s the description of my training day, – this could be helpful to my younger brothers in kettlebell sport in making their own individual training regimen. After waking up, I breathe deep fresh air for 10 minutes, then I practice with rubber bands, I pull them in front of me, overhead, from the back, with each arm etc. Then I do push-ups on palms or on fingers for no more than 100 reps. I run for 15-18 minutes. Jump like a frog: short jumps on toes with deep squat. I take a hot or a cold shower. In half an hour I have breakfast: eggs, 2 cups of milk, and 1 cup of very sweet tea. Go for a walk. I have dinner at 5 p.m. After 2 hours I train with heavy kettlebells: clean & press or clean & jerk (on alternating days) a 5-pood barbell (80 kg), standing and lying for 50 times (5 sets of 10 reps). Then I press two 32 kg kettlebells for 50 times (5 sets of 10 reps). I squat with 5-pood barbell for 100 reps. Then I take stairs with a heavy man on my back. To finish my training I exercise with 20 lbs (8 kg) dumbbells, take them both in one-hand when training biceps. After training I take a shower and go for a walk. When I was training for records I was always taking lighter weight for reps: 4,5-pood (72 kg) with two hands, 3-pood (48 kg) with one. I lifted heavy only once a week. What about nutrition? I ate a lot of meat earlier but now I eat more vegetables and fruits and I think it’s more useful. I absolutely don’t smoke”.Pyotr Kryloff Here are the stats of Pyotr Kryloff:

Height – 170 cm (5’7″);

Weight – 88 kg (193 lbs);

Chest – 121 cm (47.6 in);

Neck – 47 cm (18.5 in);

Biceps – 46 cm (18.1 in);

Thighs – 67 cm (26.4 in);

Forearm – 35 cm (13.8 in);

Waist – 72 cm (28.3 in);

Calf – 41 cm (16.1 in).

Personal Records of Pyotr Kryloff

Left Arm Overhead Press – 114.6 kg (252.6 lbs);

Left  Arm Kettlebell Military Press – 32 kg (70 lbs) x 86 reps;

Neck Bridge Press – 8-pood barbell (128 kg (282 lbs));

Kettlebell Crucifix with two 41 kg (90 lbs) kettlbells.

His last performances were at the age of 60. This man was a total machine. He was strong, lean and muscular. He didn’t use any supplements nor fancy gym machines. His training routines were simple and effective. He was one of the most impressive athletes on Earth while he didn’t live in luxury. He lived in circuses, he went through Siberia (in case you don’t know there were only prisons in Siberia at that time as well as devastatingly cold forests. Only the strongest men survived there). He made it.

So what’s your excuse?

Stay tuned for more rough training.

Play Rough!

Alex Zinchenko

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9 thoughts on “Pyotr Kryloff – The King of Kettlebells

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