Welcome to the BKB blog and to the very first post. Thanks for checking us out! For this first post I wanted to keep it pretty simple and focus on what I consider to be one of most important aspects of kettlebell training. Ready for it? Here it is: Kettlebells are dangerous. I hope I didn't scare anybody off right there but that's the honest truth. Kettlebell traning is weightlifting and weightlifting when done without proper technique is dangerous. Most people know what a push-up is and someone with terrible push-up form is probably not going to be able to cause too much damage to themselves. But, if you try a get-up with a heavy weight and you're not executing every step with proper form the results could be catastrophic. However, do that same move with proper technique and the results become amazing! So, maybe saying kettlebells are dangerous isn't the whole truth. Let's try again: Kettlebells can be dangerous. But, what is really dangerous? A (fitness) fad.
Why is a fad so dangerous? Well, on the one hand it's great that something that's currently trending can be introduced to a lot more people. On the other hand, and weighing in much heavier, is the fact that fads inspire and reinforce a lack of experience. People see the fad, they want to be part of the fad, and they google a few videos and purchase the latest, coolest, piece of equipment and then they become the new "experts." Kettlebells have been around for a very, very long time. They, themselves, are not a fad. But here, recently in the United States, they have certainly become one. To a degree that's great. Kettlebells really do live up to the hype, they are amazing tools for training your body. However, what we also get is an explosion of new "experts" who think they are qualified to teach and that's when the fad becomes dangerous. I'll be honest with you, I am not an expert. But I made damn sure to learn from the experts. When I look back now on the videos I remember watching years ago when I got my first set of bells I cringe. How could I have ever believed these people knew what they were doing? I was swept up in a fad tidal wave.
These days I know better. Before I signed up to take my RKC certification I went to see an RKC and Master Trainer to ensure that I actually knew what I was doing. Thankfully years of paring away the "experts" advice and seeking out qualified instructors and their information had put me in a pretty good place. My instructor told me that I had what it took to pass and after a few more sessions to 'fine tune' I signed up for my RKC certification class. And that brings us to the RKC, what it is, and why I signed up for it (which is going to bring us right back to safety).
The RKC, also known as the Russian Kettlebell Ceritfication, or Russian Kettlebell Challenge, was the first instructor certification given in the United States. It was run by Pavel Tsatsouline, the very same man who brought the kettlebell to the United States. Let me tell you what's different about this certification versus so many others (not only specific to kettlebells). In addition to being an RKC instructor, I'm also a NESTA certified personal instructor. The difference between these two certs is roughly that between the Earth and the Moon. There really is no comparison. Although I feel like I learned a lot of useful information through the NESTA program, I don't really feel like I earned anything. It was an online course, I studied, I took a written test at a testing center and I passed. That was it. No instructors, no real accountability.
The RKC was effectively the opposite of that. You do not just show up, spend three days with an instructor, and get your certificate. You earn it. And it is hard earned through sweat, pain, and blood. (If that sounds dramatic I assure you it is in fact completely accurate.) But you also can't just go there bleed and sweat all over the place and get your certficate. You still have to earn it. They test you three times. First, a technique test where you must flawlessly demonstrate the Swing, Squat, Clean, Press, Get-Up, and Snatch. Miss one, you're not getting that certificate. Then there's a snatch test, 100 snatches in under 5 minutes with an appropriately sized bell (24kg for yours truly). This test is to ensure you really have put in the time to train and prepare physically for this certification. If you can't complete it, you don't pass. Last, is a teaching test to observe your ability to teach the kettlebell basics. As my coach, Phill Ross said, "If I wouldn't let you teach in my gym, then you won't pass." My RKC was one of the smallest groups ever taught by Phil, only five people. Two of them did not pass. That's the difference, you earn the RKC by demonstrating that you know what you're doing, how to teach it, and that you've worked for it. If you can't do any one of those three things you will not be an RKC instructor. I should point out here that there are a few other true teaching certifications like the StrongFirst organization (Pavel's new company) and the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation (IKFF). Just like the RKC, these groups have strict requirements to pass and earn your certificate.
I'm not throwing out all this information about RKC to sounds like a bada**. I'm doing it because I think it's important to understand that RKC's, SFG's, IKFF's and other instructors have not only earned those certificates, but have also been assessed by serious professionals that have ensured they know how to safely and effectively teach kettlebell training. Safety is the most important aspect of kettlebell training and it is the central tenet of these organizations.
This post, the first of what I hope to be many, was meant to really drive home one point. One which I've probably overdone, but a point that couldn't hurt from some over emphasis. Kettlebell training needs to be done safely for there to be any positive results from it. When you dial in your technique and you are confident in your skill, your ability and strength will amaze you. When I first started using bells a 16kg get-up executed with improper technique ended up damaging my shoulder. Now years later, using proper form, I can confidently do a 32kg get-up and know my shoulder is safe. Don't get caught up in the fad. Before you think about practicing kettlebells (or really any new exercise program) make sure to practice safety first.