An Overview of the Russian Kettlebell Certification

Jay, Brett Jones and moi.
Here is a summary of a few awesome things I learned, the amount/type of exercises I had to do, and other assorted awesomeness that I learned. There are some very interesting high tension techniques I learned that I am looking forward to using on myself and my clients to get them setting new PR’s.

Day One:

We learned the swing, clean, and overhead press. The deadlift was a huge component what we learned. If you can deadlift with a bell, then your swing will improve. The amount of coaching cues and little tips and tricks were very informative and helpful. They were also a little difficult to remember! One common theme of the weekend was that the drills layer over each other. For instance, if you want to improve your swing, improve your deadlift. It works incredibly well.

My head instructor, Brett Jones has some funny quotes. He said he’s been working on the swing for 11 years and it still isn’t any good. This goes to show you how much time and effort you need to truly make your lifts proficient. Another great quote was along the lines of “the difference between the exceptional and non-exceptional are that the exceptional are better at the basics.” I love that quote and it rings true to me. I’ve been benching, squatting, and deadlifting for 8 years and I still learn something new on a regular basis. I don’t need to do a million assistance exercises to get better, I work on getting better at those three lifts!

This goes hand in hand with the current OCD some fitness people have. As I’ve learned over the years, movement quality is more important than movement quantity. Many people feel that if they aren’t running the whole gamut of exercises, they won’t progress. Absolute horse manure I say! You pound the basic lifts, and do a few other exercises to help the basic lifts. Depending on your goals, these main or basic lifts might be different. However, getting really good at a few things should always be a goal in your fitness life. Strength can be practiced. In order to get better you must practice often. Back to more RKC stuff.

I thought I was doing the clean correctly before I got to the RKC and learned that I was doing so much wrong. It was a little bit disappointing, to have to re-learn a bunch of information. However, it has made my lifts better across the board. When you learn the lifts properly, you learn how to do them as efficient as possible, and make the bell move with the shortest path as possible. Ergo, you conserve energy and are able to do more work.

The overhead press was fun. We tied in power breathing, which is a method of breathing to create tension in your core which immediately increases your strength. The RKC plank was also tied in to create tension in the lower body to further increase strength. Lastly, we squeezed the crap of our non-working hand to create even more tension. I was able to press the beast, a 48 kilogram bell over my head with these techniques.

I had already been using the full body tension techniques for my standing military presses. Power breathing should help me on all 3 of the power lifts.

Day Two:

We spend half the day learning the Turkish get-up (TGU). This was another exercise I thought I was decent at. I now know I have a ridiculous amount of work to do. The lift was broken down in the following easy steps: elbow, hand, sweep, windshield wiper, upright, stand. Then you reverse the order. I came in thinking my get-up was half decent. I left humbly.

After that we began working on the goblet squat. The goblet squat is the brainchild of Dan John, one of the most renowned and experienced coaches around. This exercise is in my opinion the best exercise that can be used to teach someone to squat properly. Although I had been using it before the RKC, I definitely picked up some more great cues to make the goblet squat even better. The beauty of the goblet squat is that the weight acts as a counter weight and allows you to sit back. They also pounded the words “pointy part to soft part.” This refers to digging your elbow into your large inner thigh musculature (VMO). When your elbows are in the correct position, your chest will be up, and you can pry open your hips. It makes for an excellent stretch and warm-up drill for any kind of squat.

We did some more trouble-shooting on the goblet squat then moved to the front squat. The front squat with a kettlbell is a serious bitch. I realize that front squatting a 24kg bell sounds easy, and it is, if you go up and down. The instructor liked to be extra evil and keep us in the bottom position for an extended period of time which is hard, not only on the hips, but keeping the bell in the racked position turned out to be just as hard.

Finally, we covered the kettlbell snatch. The kettlbell snatch is the exercise that we would be tested on, on day 3. I had been practicing it fairly frequently beforehand, but yet again, picked up a whole bunch of new cues to make the lift as efficient and explosive as possible. Keeping the bell close to the body is important in the snatch (as well as the clean). This cue allows you to do less work, as the bell doesn’t need to travel so far away from you. To be honest, I definitely heaved the kettlbell too far in front of me, and now I’ve learned better.

Day Three:

Test day… Most of the students were pretty nervous leading up to this day. My team leader had assured us the previous day, that we would all do perfectly fine. The reason for all the uneasiness was the vaunted snatch test. In order to become certified, you must do 5 full ROM chin-ups, 100 snatches in 5 minutes with a snatch-sized bell, perform all the lifts we learned with good form, as well as know how to coach appropriately. The instructors told us that the coaching part accounted for the majority of the testing and that the physical test was merely a small part. That didn’t really compute in people’s heads, including myself because the snatch test is plain hard.

Halfway through the snatch you’re panting and fighting the the voice in your head telling you to stop. At 90, I was having an even tougher time, but with your teammates, instructor, and assistant instructors cheering you on, giving up isn’t an option. I got through it though. I was elated after to finish that test but knew there was still more work to be done.

In the afternoon we got our ‘victims’ or volunteers who would be helping us pass the certification by being our clients for an hour. I coached my client on a few of the key kettlebell movements. After putting him through a 10 minute workout to wrap the hour up he was pretty beat, but admitted he enjoyed using the bell.

To wrap everything up, we did our grad workout. This was a mixture of swings, cleans, squats, and overhead presses. I found it hard, but it felt incredibly good to finally finish up the weekend. I left the certification a proud man. This certification was so much fun, and I learned so much. What was really cool was that in order to pass the certification, you had to meet physical requirements, show that you can perform the exercises properly, and show that you can effectively coach what you learned. These characteristics combined, are exclusive to the RKC (as far as I know). If you are looking to learn about kettlebells; how to get stronger; or want to be a better coach, I highly recommend this certification.

There were a ton of other little important things we learned this weekend, but I kept some of it out in order to keep this article brief. Even though this was a kettlbell certification, the RKC is a school of strength. So many of the techniques we used can be used to barbell lifts, martial arts, and other areas of strength. I can’t wait to apply what I’ve learned to my powerlifting. I feel that I will be able to instantly add weight to a few of my lifts and increase my total even more.

Enjoy Training Everyday…? Then Do It

Here is a short post for you. I’ve posted up a couple excellent video clips by some incredibly strong and knowledgable coaches.

First off is Layne Norton’s new video blog on overtraining. Layne Norton is jacked as hell and natural. Here are a couple of the highlights:
– Cortisol in the short term, is not catabolic, it’s indicative of an effective workout
– Overtraining in the short term will give you gains, as long as you provide yourself with enough rest

Here is an excellent video with John Broz. For those of you who don’t know who John Broz is, he’s an olympic weightlifting coach in Nevada. His athletes are ridiculously strong and train up 13x per week. They max out on squats everyday, as well as olympic lifts.

There is also a great thread on a terrible site where he had a Q&A section until some moron mucked that up. For those of you who don’t want to sift through a bunch of information to get to the meat an bones, well, too bad! I will give a summary of what he suggest for powerlifting. This is straight from the link above:

‘day 1,2,3,4,5,6: squat to max (best weight at perfect competiotion technique) + back off sets of minimum 3×2, upto max of 50 reps. going back upto max or beyond if the weights start to feel light enough

day 1,3,5 bench press to max (2 wide,1 close grip)+ back off sets (quantity will need some experiment because I have not tried with bench in over 10 yrs)

day 2,4,6 deadlift 2-3 x 10 sets all from floor. vary % based on positions and back health

If you are gonna train 4x/wk then day 5&6 will be in the next week.

any assistance rehab/bodybuilding such as pullups, dumbell flyes etc should follow at the end as well as grip work based on how you feel. These are optional and should be done at discresion

Most importantly- speed is ALWAYS the priority! When squatting and pulling getting up fast is soooo important, as well as the bench. Doing the press quickly to generate power is key too. going slow with light weights is a big NO NO!!’

The squat method I was using, the bench and deadlifts that I personally like are different than his because I wanted to have overhead press in there. He’s had a few athletes copmete in powerlifting this year and they lifted some decent weights. He’s not a Powerlifting coach though so take what you want from it.

Personally, I’ve taken from Broz: squatting to a training max daily; deadlifting 2-3x per week, with a heavy session and 1-2 lighter sessions (speed work); benching 2x/week. I also overhead press 2x/week because it vastly improves my bench press strength.

I’ve been using higher frequency on squats with many of my clients and it’s been working well. Most of my clientele don’t care about squatting big numbers, they care more about looking good and feeling healthy. Well since the squats build the lower body incredibly well and have the capacity (if you use a higher rep range) to tax your energy systems, I see no reason for regular clientele to squat multiple times per week.