City-based fitness trainer Sharan Kumar Rajendran, who won ‘class first’ (gold) at the Asian Kettlebell Championship

Sharan Kumar Rajendran stands amid his prized ‘kettlebells’, his tattooed, bodybuilder biceps bulging as he effortlessly hoists a couple of these curious, cannonball-shaped exercise tools by their handles, stretching them up above his head and down. For doing 121 repetitions of the same with a kettlebell weighing 20 kg, Sharan won ‘class first’ (gold) in the 100kg body weight category at the first-ever Asian Kettlebell Championship that was held at Singapore recently. The city-based fitness trainer, who runs the Muscle and Fitness Gym at Jawahar Nagar, was the only Indian to participate in the championship.

“Actually, you have to complete as many lifts as you can within 10 minutes. I was able to finish 121 lifts in six minutes, after which I got too exhausted. I was competing with sportspersons from 11 countries at the championship. I’m thrilled to have beat them all because I put a lot of hard work into it, training at least thrice a week, for the past one-and-a-half years,” says Sharan, pride evident on his swarthy face.

As he continues demonstrating the various kinds of lifts that one can do with the kettlebell such as swing, snatch, long cycle… (he won the medal in the snatch division) he talks about the exercise tool that is said to have its origin in early 18th century Russia. “The kettlebell, also known by its Russian name girya, is a high-intensity interval training tool, which works on almost the same principle as the traditional Indian club used by pehalwans. In kettlebell training strength and endurance go hand in hand. It is rather different from training with dumbbells because the weight of a kettlebell is not evenly distributed. Therefore you need to work on your balance, power, coordination and flexibility while lifting them. Thus kettlebells are used to improve core strength, especially posterior strength. It kicks up metabolism and is a great fat burning exercise,” explains Sharan.

The kettlebell comes in seven weights – 8 kg, 12 kg, 14 kg, 16 kg, 20 kg, 24 kg and 32 kg and all the international standard kettlebells are of standard girth. Interestingly, it’s an exercise that anyone can do, even women, says Sharan. “Actually, it’s a great exercise for women because it improves the flexibility of the hip and strengthens the back. They can train on the 8 kg and 12 kg. It’s also a good rehab exercise. We start training with basic swings and gradually move on with the intensity. You can even do squats, vertical jumps and even run with it. Kettlebell training is a 3D exercise,” says Sharan. He has been keen on fitness since his early teenage years. “I lived in Dubai for 12 years and was so into fitness that when I decided to come back to Kerala, I started my own gym (in 2003),” says the 40-year-old.

Turning to kettlebell training, which is gradually gaining popularity across the world as a fitness exercise and as a competitive sport, was a result of his quest to find “the ultimate” hardcore workout. “I enjoy lifting weights but it does become rather monotonous. In the kettlebell I found something that was a combination of hardcore and dynamic,” says Sharan, who trains under Russian coaches Sergey Rachinskiy, Sergey Rudnev and Sergey Merkulin. Rachinskiy, his main coach, is a nine-time world champion and a Guinness Record Holder for squatting with 100 kg – 180 repetitions in 25 minutes.

So enamoured is Sharan by the sport that he now plans to bring Rachinsky to the city for a two-day basic training session to create awareness about it. “It will most probably be held during the first week of June. The workshop will be free,” says Sharan as he finally puts down the two 16 kg kettlebells that he was ‘swinging’. Phew!