Many that are reading this post may not have a clue what the RKC or a kettlebells are, and many may not have ever heard of Pavel, the Iron Tamer, or Dan John. I will say that this past weekend was an a great experience as a professional trainer. I have been a trainer for over a decade and I have attended numerous summits, seminars, and workshops. Most that I attend always leave me underwhelmed at best. I would sit and listen to a professor discuss the statistical r=Value of an experiment that involves the muscle fibers of a rat on a spin wheel or about a study of of novice lifters and muscle growth using EMG (electrodes that tell if the muscle is working) while working on a leg extension machine. Not to discredit the research of modern science, but in my opinion much of what is researched and presented today is based on securing research grants and doesn’t have tons of carryover into the real world. Much of what we know about strength training and what has worked with lifters and exercise enthusiasts over the years is based on lots of the research by Prof. Yuri Verkhoshansky. If you want to read a research based book just buy Supertraining by Mel Siff and Verkhoshansky. Not that there aren’t other sources of research, but go to any NSCA(National Strength and Conditioning Association) Symposium and every single over weight and de-conditioned professor will stand up and site either Super Training or Verkhoshansky and Siff. So now to the purpose of this article.
Throughout my Journey as a trainer this was my source of continuing education. Seminar after seminar with sitting down listening to research or a hands on approach to effective BOSU ball training as a 45minute workshop at a convention. It is no wonder I thought about changing careers about 6 years ago. I stumbled upon a kettlebell in 2007-2008 when Chris Falkner, then a student of mine brought a kettlebell to class and showed it to me. I rolled my eyes and figured it was a weird looking dumbbell. I started messing with it and really started to see that my workouts were becoming fun and challenging again and I was seeing results. The funny thing is I was only using a 16kg(35lb) Kettlebell.
About a year later I registered for the Russian Kettlebell Challenge, which was started by Pavel Tsatsouline who brought kettlebell training to the U.S. This was a life changing and career saving experience. Granted I had trained for months for the certification, I really had no clue what I was in store for. We learned the kettbell swing, squat, clean, press, snatch, and Turkish Get up in 3 days. Yes it took 3 days to learn 6 moves and you still don’t walk away as a master. We learned not only how to do it but also all of the different cues and techniques to teach others. The attention to detail in teaching impressed me but more than that it was the guiding philosophy that really got me sucked in. Many people I know joke about kettlebells as not being a serious tool, though the kettlebell is a great and dynamic tool,it is more about the philosophy that got me hooked. Pavel and his team talked about the quality of movement over the quantity of movement. I needed to hear this because I had just got done destroying myself after a year of Crossfit Wods following the Philosophy of allowing 20% slop. We learned about managing tension and relaxation for increased strength, not training to failure to increase strength, and training with purpose. They talked about viewing training as practice with purpose, rather than random acts of exercise. We also worked our asses off for 3 days strait.
Fast Forward to RKC Level 2
I am grateful that I did the CK-FMS certification first. A year prior to RKC 2 I was a mess. So many imbalances and asymmetries I couldn’t go more than 2 months without some sort of injury that had me out for a couple of weeks or more. It was the nastiest viscous cycle I have ever been a part of. I would set a Personal Record and then crumble miserably. After nearly a year of preparation, focusing on shoulder and t-spine mobility, I registered for RKC2 and remained injury free. The standards they lay out to pass level 2 are challenging, but not unfathomable either. I had to Pistol (one leg squat), Single arm press half my body weight above head, and do a pullup(chest to bar) with a 53lb kettlebell hanging off of my foot, as well as pass 100 snatches with the 53lb kettlebell in 5 minutes. I prepared for many months by practicing for this event, and when the time came I felt like I kicked some ass. It was great being able to train specifically for an event and have the outcome be exactly what I wanted. It was a challenging weekend, but once again Pavel and his team really went all out to bring training philosophy to the forefront. Whether I am training with body weight, barbells, or kettlebells, the the tools I learned this past weekend will transfer over. We were on a pullup bar learning about hollowing out the body for a stronger pull and practicing a one legged squat in which you have to try and master a unilateral movement and manage tension as well as have the requisite flexibility to perform it. The bottom line is that strength is a skill and I know I have to practice it. With all of the modern day talk of Muscle confusion and random exercise, so much of practicing a skill has been lost and I am glad the RKC stands for it. We didn’t just sit there and talk shop, we worked our asses off for 3 days, 8-10 hours a day of practicing the techniques that we are going to teach. We were then critiqued on our form and technique by a Sr. or Master Instructor.
Throughout the past weekend there were a few other things that really stood out to me. First, the women of the RKC are amazing. I was seeing dozens of women doing strict pullups for reps(not ridiculous kipping), weighted pistols, and pressing an unreal amount of weight. I witnessed a female do a 32kg Bent Press and Nikki Schlosser who assisted at the certification did a 40kg Bent Press. Those of you that don’t know what a bent press is, youtube it and if you don’t know how to convert pounds to Kg I will help you. 40kg is 88pounds and a bent press is a one arm movement. I will be honest, I didn’t even attempt an 88lb bent press. And I want to add. These women were not bulky. They are strong and feminine.
Second: Coach Dan John makes the complicated simple and makes the simple challenging. With the days of random acts of exercise and Exercise ADD, he preached making the goal the goal. If you have a desired outcome practice it. Period. The hardest part of this actually sticking to the goal without feeling like you need to change things up constantly.
Third: David Whitely AKA, the Iron Tamer , is not as intimidating as he seems and he makes heavy weight look light and he moves better than men half his size. The Thoracic Spine Mobility Section he lead was a game changer for me. I have never felt so mobile in my life than after his presentation.
Fourth. The RKC community is great. I met friends from all over the world. UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada were all represented. It was like many of us had been friends for years. The other cool thing is that I didn’t see a bunch of egos showing off or trying to compete with one another. It really is an inside job at an RKC. It really is about doing your own personal best, and everyone in my group reached out and was very helpful to one another. Every time I leave an RKC event it is hard to get into the swing of things for a few days because of all of the excitement over the weekend.
Fifth, Pavel really doesn’t like Chicken. He has been known to say, chicken is for sissies and chicken makes you weak. The instructions at the end of every night when he dismisses you is: Don’t Drink tonight, Read your manuals, and don’t eat chicken. We usually laugh it off as a funny Pavelism. Well RKC2 Dale Armstrong decided that it would be funny to order Pavel a chicken appetizer at dinner one night. Well, Pavel had freestyle workout planned the next day and Dale was his Victim. To say the least at the end of the workout he put Dale through there is no question left as to the fact that Pavel Doesn’t like Chicken. It think Dale is still recovering from that workout. I have seen Pavel eat eggs but I don’t dare ask…..
I know I definitely waive the RKC flag and many people may have different views than myself, but at the end of the day the system makes sense to me and it works with myself and my clients. In todays world of fitness and exercise it is great to have a philosophy and system that is based in movement and strength, and they continually strive to improve the system. So that is the recap. I am probably leaving out tons of other great aspects of the weekend but I am sure I could write a small book.