Thursday, June 28, 2007

Misapplications or Misinformation?

Recently a short article appeared on the AKC blog, "The Five Recent Misapplications of Kettlebell Lifting" written by Scott Sonnon, founder of Circular Strength Training.

I have never trained with, met, emailed or spoken with Mr. Sonnon. My comments are in no way an attack on him.

I would however, like to counter some of the points he makes in his post.

My comments appear in red, his appear normally.

"..some are still resisting the urge to improve their technique."
I can only assume he refers to those of us invloved in the RKC Hardstyle approach to kettlebell training. From other comments in his post, he claims that GS is the only "proper" way to ift kettlebells. By definition that means that non-GS kettlebll lifting is improper.

Since I have achieved CMS in the sport and teach the RKC principals, I feel qualified to speak on this. And rest assured, I lift my KBs properly.

1. These newer methods can be used for bodybuilding. Now, I’m not speaking of competitive bodybuilding, but rather the approach to building XYZ muscle: Z exercise will build X muscle.

There are inherent problems with the bodybuilding “parts” model of the human body, since the whole synergy of our human movement is greater than the sum of the parts (muscles.)

The RKC teaches maximization of tension in slow lifts and maximum acceleration in quick lifts. We neither teach nor practice body-part training. Full body tension and spreading the load across the body are prescribed in "muscle building". In fact, there is quite a lot of emphasis on being as strong as possible while being as light as possible. Hardly typical of bodybuilding.

2. These newer methods can be used for sports-specific training. Some trainers feel that they can take a kettlebell and load a specific sport skill to increase its resistance.

At the Danish certification, Sr RKC Kenneth Jay did a 45 minute presentation on how sport-specific conditioning is different from overall conditioning that improves a sport. We leave technique to sport coaches and teach kettlebells as a means of conditioning. Performance improves as conditioning and strength levels increase, as well as when the athlete improves the abitlity to rapidly move from tense to relaxed. This is how kettlebells are applied to specific sports.

3.These newer methods can be used for powerlifting.

Absolutely. When a guy like Donnie Thompson goes from 766 to 832 on his deadlift and adds 100lbs to an already elite level bench press in nine months, I'd call that validation of the method and principal.

4. These newer methods are being used for physical therapy: corrective exercise.

This works as a by-product of smart technique. There are many RKCs who were physical therapists long before touching a kettlbell, and in my own experience I have had many, many clients report improved range of motion and elimination of pain when training RKC style, often after one session. The reasons understanding of body alignment and tension principals, which are universal, not some special "corrective exercise".

5.These newer methods can be used for the novelty of having fun. This is probably the only logical reason for not lifting kettlebells properly, because if it gets someone off the couch, then it’s a good thing.

There is NO reason to advocate lifting kettlebells improperly. The problem with this tatement lies in understanding that "proper" defined as safe and specific to the goal.

Unfortunately, anything works for the first two months in getting you fit. What happens after those two months is the true test of your methods. If you don’t have long decades of experience you may be setting up those people for injury, burnout or worse.

Decades? Really? It takes Decades to become a qualified coach? What coaching program in the world requires that you spend 20+ years training before being an effective teacher? Medical school doesn't last decades.

Not competing does not mean it’s not a sport. If you run, but don’t race in marathons, running is still a sport.

So, the kids on the playground that are chasing each other around the tree for no reason are doing a sport? Have they been coached to do this properly? Does their coach have decades of experience training children in the "proper" way to run around a tree?

If you do martial arts, but don’t fight competitively, fighting is still a sport.

If a woman defends herself successfully fighting off a rapist is that a sport too? What about our soldiers in Iraq?

Saying that the only way to "properly" lift a kettlebell is with GS is tantamount to saying that the only proper way to lift a barbell is Olympic lifting. It simply isn't true. Ask Louie Simmons or Ronnie Coleman.

Is there a "proper" way to train for GS? Absolutely, and Valery Fedorenko is tha man to seek in the states for that.

Is there a "proper" way to lift kettlebells in a NON GS fashion. Absolutely. RKC.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Occam's Razor

"It is vain to do with more what can be done with less."- William of Occam

In other words: Whatever the endeavor, don't make it more complicated than it has to be.

Let's examine this in context of training.

The RKC Program Minimum:
Get-ups and swings.

Variety doe not mean complexity.

There are TONS of ways to put this together, aside from the "do each exercise 2 days per week" as outlined in the Enter the Kettlebell book.

For example:
16kg Get-ups
Swings :30 on, 1:00 off for 5 rounds.

40kg Get-ups
swings :30 on, :30 off for 10:00

If you don't think there is a HUGE amount of difference between those two workouts, you haven't tried them.

What if you don't have a kettlebell?

How about a bodyweight version of the Program Minimum?

Burpee (Squat thrust) and pullup.

I like these two exercises because they hit every angle.

Here is a starting point:
Pullup: 3x3
Burpee :30 on, 1:00 off for 6 rounds.

Try it. Simple and brutal.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Twisted steel

Back in November I got an email from Bud Jeffries ( He was going to be passing thru Nashville and wanted to get together. When we met up he had been in Kentucky doing some filming with Mike Bruce. Bud, Mike, Mandy and I all met up for some dinner, then Bud came to my house and stayed there rather than a hotel, since he flew out in the morning.

Bud had several pieces of steel with him, the kind he bends in his strongman shows. He taught me how to do some very basic scrollwork:

Start the bend:

Don't crush your own head:

Continue bending in the same direction to form a loop:

The finshed product.

650lbs of twisted steel and sex appeal...WOOOOO!!
Sorry, I went a little Ric Flair there for a minute.

If you wanna have some fun, try some scroll work. If you wanna know more about Bud, stop by his site

Friday, June 15, 2007

One sided training

Check out Jesse Marunde doing some 1 arm push-presses with a 120lb Dumbell.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

What's in a name?

It seems that I have multiple identities.

Am I a jazz singer?

A professional artist?

A scientist?

And all this time I thought I was a guy who teaches people to pick up chunks of iron.

Well, that guy (the one called Iron Tamer) finally broke through 200 in the Secret Service Snatch test again. I am almost myself again, despite what google says......

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


“Honor and glory are boons which cannot be granted by the pen, but must be earned by the spear”- Aristodemos, Gates of Fire

One of my favorite quotes ever came in the middle of an especially delightful section of training at the April 2007 RKC. RKC Team Leader Will Williams said, “So you wanna be an RKC?? I hope you see now that it’s more than just a snatch test for reps!”

So true. The right to be called RKC must be earned.

Those of us who teach at that course take it very seriously. It is more than a snatch test, definately more than paying some money and showing up.

It is also much more than a piece of paper.

A few days ago this appeared on ebay:

Notice it says "Russian Kettlebell ASSOCIATION".

Not RKC. Not Dragondoor or Pavel.

So, for $39.99, you too can have an Instructor Certificate from the Russian Kettlebell Association, whatever that is.

I googled it and there ain't such a thing.

Just for the record, a legitimate RKC Instructor Certificate looks nothing like that, despite the almost-copyright-infringment -but-not-quite picture of the double headed eagle.

From the same seller you can also get a Martial Arts Weapon Master - Ninja- Black Belt certificate. I am not making this up. I wish I was.

The RKC is a School of Strength and a School of Thought. It is a Brotherhood (and Sisterhood) of Iron. We strive to be the gold standard of instruction, integrity and professionalism.

You can't buy that on eBay.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Pound for Pound the Stongest

This month's audio interview at is with Dennis Rogers. It seems like every few weeks there is somebody claiming to be the "Strongest man in the World". Watch this and decide for yourself if Dennis really is.

In the interview, Dennis talks about his training, the various feats of strength he is famous for and how an ordinary guy (or girl) can develop super-human strength.
Want to hear it? Go get it at

A few minutes of snatching (apologies to Rif)

Sorry Rif, I know you hate the term, but it really was short and sweet.

Short because it was under 15:00.

Sweet because it is SWEEEEET to feel my strength returning.

40kg snatches
4 reps per hand, per set
11 sets
6 reps per hand for the final set.

100 reps total (50/50).

Each set of 4 took about 20 seconds and I rested untila the top of the minute which of course is about 40 seconds.

I got 10 sets in 10 minutes, but had to rest a bit before and between the final 2 sets.

Total time was 13:40.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Thoughts on Value

I want to talk about value. Specifically, I want to counter some of the things I have heard and read from people who think they are being wise with their money as it applies to fitness and specifically kettlebell training.

1. “You can find all that stuff on the internet for free.”


So it is smarter to spend 20 hours searching all over the internet to find free info so that you don’t get “ripped off”. Suppose you are doing this to avoid spending $30 for a book. How much does that make your time worth?

If you divide $30 by 20 hours = $1.50 per hour. On top of that, most of the people who do this are probably doing it on the job, when they are supposed to be working. No wonder they don’t have any money.

Here is a radical idea: Instead of spending a hours and hours combing the web for free information in order to save $30, Invest the money in the book, and use the remaining time to apply what you learned.

2. “You can learn how to do that from a video, you don’t need to pay somebody to teach you.”

OK. I can go to youtube and find video of heart surgery, listed as number 2, right after a clip from Saw 3. Would you want me to do your bypass?

Maybe that’s pushing it a little. How about this: Scour the web for a pirated version of “Construction Basics DVD” (or just cough up the $30.60 to buy it if you learned lesson #1) and then spend the next 5 months building a deck for your house in your spare time. If you manage not to cut off your thumb with the power saw, or smash it with a hammer, come back and tell me that you got a better deal than if you spent the couple thousand to have some PROFESSIONAL do it in one afternoon.

3. “The RKC is a ripoff, you don’t need to spend $2000 for a 3-day course to be able to use kettlebells.”

I love this one. First of all, at the RKC, you DO NOT to spend $2000 to learn to use kettlebells. You learn to TEACH kettlebells. It is an instructor course, not a user’s course.

Second, if you spend $2000 and earn $2001 dollars from what you learned, you are in the black financially.

If you take on 8 clients per month (that is 2 per week) at $50 per session (which is WAY to little) in a year you will have made $4800. This is working less than part time. Of course, you’d have to tear yourself away from that internet forum discussion about how much fitness professionals are ripping people off for about 2 hours a week, so it may be too much of a sacrifice.

BTW, if you ever hear of anyone talking about a ripoff that is making a car payment, they are clueless.

The RKC is a ripoff, but spending $24,000 on something that is going to worth $3000 in 5 years is smart?


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Naina’s Memorial Day Massacre

Naina “the Machine” Bhasin Deadlifting the Beast

Naina (rhymes with banana) Bhasin (rhymes with “machine’) came down from Iowa to pay a visit to a lucky few of us here in Music City over the Memorial Day weekend as a part of her spring tour 2007. She was still reeling from the RKC experience and, as always, full of enthusiasm.

Last year she was living here, about to move to the cornfields to cut the hearts out of rodents for a living (she is a research scientist who is doing some extensive work with heart arrhythmia, but what I said sounds way cooler).

Her last workout with me before moving off was on Memorial Day 2006 and it was hard. Really hard. She asked for more this year, saying something about making it an annual tradition.

It was a busy day and a half for her and by the time she got to my house to do the workout, she had about 20 minutes to get to the airport. I went into "300" mode here is what she did:

Beast Sumo Deadlift. (This is within a couple of pounds of BODYWEIGHT for her.)
25 reps

25 reps

18lb Clean and press
25 per side

18lb Snatch
100 total, switching every 10 reps

Thruster18lb KB
25 per side

16 kg Swings 50 reps

Try it. If you are a guy 200lbs or more double the weight. I dare ya.

Danish Bird Flu

Thanks to everyone who has sent me words of encouragement and gratitude about the blog.

I want to back up a little in time and talk about some of the events of the past few months. Specifically the Spring RKC in MN and the RKC in Denmark.

Over the course of 12 days, I spent 6 full days on the field with RKC instructor candidates, SrRKCs, Team Leaders, Assistant insructors, Dragondoor staff and Pavel. It was incredible.

I also spent a lot of time NOT sleeping, blundering around Copenhagen trying to beat jet lag, talking to people with a lot more knowledge than me and somewhere in the neighborhood of 28 hours on airplanes. And of course one night with Will Williams and Kenneth Jay trying to kill me with Guiness and vodka.

Returning home after running non-stop on caffiene and enthusiasm, I had a sudden crash and burn that ended up in a bronchitis so severe that I would go into a coughing fit and nearly pass out just from answering the phone. I insist on calling it the Danish Bird Flu.

After a week of antibiotics, decongestants and cough syrup that contained hydrocodone, I was beginning to resemble my old self. This was two weeks ago.

I picked up a 24kg kettlebell and it seemed ponderously heavy. I decided to snatch it anway and in 10:00 had knocked out a mighty 140 reps, SSST style. By "mighty" I mean "mighty embarrassing".

So....what to do? For me it was back to Program Minimum. Last week Monday, Tuesday and Thursday it was 24kg get-ups for 5:00, rest for 2:00 and then 24kg swings. Monday sucked in that special way that comes only from lungs still holding phlegm. I did a total of 150 swings with a little jogging/walking between sets of 25. Tuesday was better and Thursday better still, 6 sets of 50 swings with about a 200 yard jog between each set.

Friday, I decided to SSST again. I got 180 in 10:00, which is better, but normally I can get 200 on any given day and my PR is 230. I continued until I reached 300 total, with a time of 27:28.

I am feeling MUCH better. Monday I did 140 snatches total with 32kg, not pushing hard, lots of rest between sets. Total time was about 40:00.

This week: more program minimum, playing with 32 and 40kg.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Happy Birthday Mandy

Today is my wife Mandy's birthday. She took the morning off work and we went on a hot air ballon ride over Nashville. This was the first time we have ever done this, and it was a really great time.

What does this have to do with training?

Nothing. It's my wife's birthday.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Taming the Iron

After much deliberation and many, many emails of encouragement from my friends, clients and colleagues, I have decided to venture into the land of the blog. Now, I already have a blog for my local Nashville kettlebell bootcamp classes at .

This is diferent. The final bit that put me over the edge was a comment from my friend Sr. RKC Mark Reifkind (know to most as "Rif").He put it very simply: "You NEED to start a blog of your own. I want to read it."

So here it is. The Iron Tamer Blog.To start things off, I want to share a video clip put together from the 2007 Danish RKC. This is NOT the same clip featured on Thomas Andersen of put this together after spending all weekend asking me "So Dave.......what ELSE can you do?"

I think he did an outstanding job on both this clip and the other clips from the Danish RKC.