Kettlebells weren't "invented", they're Lindy.


A crazy coincidence: I’m writing this post while watching the spelling bee and the word is ergodic which was spelled wrong and the kid was eliminated.

The spelling bee is the ultimate black swan event. There will always be a word that takes you out and you’re finished. The only way to win at the bee is survival. Don’t try to excel, simply survive. It is clearly a non-ergodic event!

How ironic to be eliminated in the spelling bee by misspelling ergodic!

What does that have to do with kettlebells (other than my annoying application of antifragilty to everything that I see?

I was talking to a member a few days ago about his visit to the doctor. Most of what he relayed to me I agreed with (and was actually told him before he spent the money to see the doc…). But after I started to like this particular doc, he told me that she said something to the effect of “I hate kettlebells, why would you ever do them? I wish they were never invented!”

Kettlebells weren’t “invented” they were discovered, and survived. The fact that they survived tells us that they are likely better than anything else. It’s the Lindy effect! I quote here from Wikipedia:

The Lindy effect is a theory that the future life expectancy of some non-perishable things like a technology or an idea is proportional to their current age, so that every additional period of survival implies a longer remaining life expectancy.[1] Where the Lindy effect applies, mortality rate decreases with time. In contrast, living creatures and mechanical things follow a bathtub curve where, after "childhood", the mortality rate increases with time. Because life expectancy is probabilistically derived, a thing may become extinct before its "expected" survival. In other words, one needs to gauge both the age and "health" of the thing to determine continued survival.

Simply stated, that means that the longer and idea survives, the longer it will likely last. If you have to decide between two ideas or methods to implement and know nothing else, the best place to start is to choose the one that has been around the longest. If it were a bad idea, it would get filtered out over time.

I’m not an expert on the history of Kettlebells, but I do have many old-man stories from Randy, and here’s what I remember him telling me. (Maybe he’ll write some more blog posts on the history of kettlebells and their use.) In the grain markets of ancient Russia, you had to measure out 1 pood (16 kg) or 2 poods (32 kg) of grain for sale. So there were big chunks of metal with circular loops on them so you could hang them on the scales. These loops worked really well as handles and young men with nothing better to do started to test (and show off) their strength by doing silly things with the weights.

Over time, the good movements - the ones that were effective - stuck around and a whole training system and sport grew up organically around them. And once they proved that they were good for fitness in the military, it became a core part of the fitness culture.

So the kettlebell - and the smart training we do with them - is the product of a century or more of refinement and survival of the best ideas. They weren’t invented. Things that are invented have no time-tested proven success, no matter what the marketers want you to believe.

The Thigh Master was invented.

The Shake Weight was invented.

The Ab Circle Pro was invented.

Orange Theory was invented.

F45 was invented.

Crossfit…well, this is an interesting example of Lindy. The original Crossfit of the early 2000’s was pretty effective. Then the popularity exploded and they focused on games athletes and it got all silly - you guys know how much I make fun of it. But in the last few years, the popularity has sort of waned and the affiliates that are still around are starting to look more like good smart strength training, sort of (can you believe I said that?) Seriously though, Glassman does not hold an iron fist on how an affiliate works, they just buy the name with no quality control at all. This means you can get some silly places that get very bro-y and program all kinds of silly stuff. But then people get hurt and don’t come back. The better places will stick around. Give it another 20 years and whats left will look a lot like what we do.

The newest shiniest thing isn’t the best. You should look at what’s survived over a long time. And that goes for you tech-bros too! Don’t get distracted with the latest buzzword, that will change next week, but the fundamental computer science is always true.

Michael Deskevich