I am going to start this article back to when I first decided to attend the RKC. Each off-season, I will always try to get to as many seminars that I possibly can so that I can continue my education and get better as a Strength and Conditioning Coach. I really think it is important for your athletes and clients to know that you are always trying to improve on the way you do things so that you can help them perform better in their sport. In this profession, it is important to always have a beginners mind.
Why the RKC? Well, I knew that I would gain some additional knowledge and techniques that I could use right away with my guys. Although I always take pride in knowing the athletes whom I work with are always performing good technique on all lifts, I guess I feel that I could always fine-tune some things on exercises like our swings and get-ups. I have always looked at the RKC as the gold standard for Kettlebells. Some of the people who I admire and respect in this industry such as Brett Jones, Gray Cook, Charlie Weingroff, and Dan John are all RKC. These are guys who I think are smart leaders (and strong) in this profession.
What intrigued me more about attending this certification was that in addition to learning more so I can coach my athletes more effectively, I did this for myself and my physical well being. Before embarking on this process, sometimes I had seen myself as just getting by in my training. I would always try to just be in good enough shape so that I could look the part and just get by. I wouldn’t say that I was either strong or weak. I also wouldn’t say I was fat or ripped. “Healthy” I guess is the word. To me, this was starting to become unacceptable. I needed to get un-comfortable.
What was also a limiting factor in deciding upon taking this challenge was my injury and surgery history. I have 3 scars on me from different circumstances. The oldest scar is on my left shoulder from a dislocated shoulder repair way back in 1994. The second is a nice little scar on my lower back from a bulging disk surgery in 1999. Numbness and tingling going all the way down to my foot combined with excruciating pain was the reason for this surgery. The last surgery was in 2005. I was given the news that there was “something” in my spinal cord at the c-4 level. This “something” was also causing severe pain in my neck as well as numbness and tingling that radiated down to my left hand. What was the “something” I would ask the 4 neurosurgeons that I saw in a painful month long time. The answer that I was given was that it was 50/50- malignant tumor or benign tumor. What I had to do was decide if I was going to have a biopsy done which would be an incision in my neck where they would cut off a few of the spinous process’ of some cervical vertebrae to get to my spinal cord so that they could take out a piece of whatever was in there. Obviously, I proceeded with the surgery and very luckily for me, it wasn’t a cancerous tumor. It was actually diagnosed as a disease called Sarcoidosis. The result was a nice scar on my neck and I was put on a very high dose of prednisone to treat the disease. It is a medication that I still have to take. I consider myself very fortunate to not have had some other kind of disease. There isn’t a day that goes by where I am unappreciative. This was definitely a wake-up call.
Ok, so what does that all have to do with deciding to go to a kettlebell certification? Since I have had all of these ailments, I have always just trained around the injuries. Since my lower back surgery, back squats are in the rear view mirror. Forget about dead lifting or any other exercises that could flare up my low back pain. As a result, I looked at the kettlebell swing as an exercise that would really hurt my back even more. For my posterior chain, glute ham raises and slideboard leg curls were good enough for me. Then one day, I just decided to try the swing with proper form and a light weight. I started with a 16k kettlebell for 2 handed swings. I just focused on doing them correctly. At that time, I also started working on my left shoulder mobility and then started to do Turkish Get Ups. I then actually realized that my back pain was not only getting better, it was actually going away. I also realized that my shoulder felt better. My back pain was non-existent and my shoulder was feeling better. So it was then when I decided to sign up for the RKC.
When I signed up for the RKC, I glanced at the physical requirements and then started to cringe. Of course, the 100 repetition 1-arm snatches in 5 minutes with a 24k kettlebell just jumps out at you. The 24k kettlebell had been sitting on my floor for a while now. I haven’t even begun performing a two-handed swing yet with it and I was supposed to snatch it 100 times in 5 minutes in months?! However, as challenging as that looked, I was equally concerned about the 5 pull up test. I was significantly weaker at the pull up when I recovered from my neck surgery. Five strict reps were going to be a challenge.
The training was actually pretty simple. Here is what I did:
1- I purchased the book Enter the Kettebell by Pavel Tsatsouline, the founder of the RKC. I followed a variation of a program called the Right of Passage that consisted of pressing and chin up ladders every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
2- For my snatch test, I simply followed the program “RKC Snatch Test” by Brett Jones.
So, on Mondays it was Presses, Chin Ups and heavy 1-arm swings. Wednesdays were presses, chin ups, and snatches with the 24k. Fridays were presses, chin ups, and snatches with the 16k. I did this every week for 3 months and got progressively stronger and in better condition. It was 3 times per week of maybe 45 minute sessions when you take foam rolling, activation, and mobility work. I followed this all summer long. When I was 2 weeks away from the RKC weekend, I was on my Wednesday workout which was now consisting of 10 snatches each arm at the top of every minute for 7 minutes. When I started my 4th minute, I realized that I had already done 80 reps. All I had to do was 20 more and then I passed the snatch test on my own. As for the chin ups, the ladders were the reason why I got my chin up strength back.
I am sure that there is another way to improve your snatch test or even get better at chin ups. However, these workouts worked for me and were actually pretty simple. Hard, but simple.
Part 2 will be up soon. Thanks for reading.