Kettlebells and RKC

I worked as an assistant instructor at the Level 1 RKC in San Diego at the end of August and renewed my certification that way. I had to pass the new snatch test (100 snatches in five minutes with a 16-kg kettlebell for women over 123.5 pounds), as well as pass technique tests in the swing, clean, press, get-up, and squat. I learned that my technique on the get-up needs updating now that they are using a high bridge method and requiring more specific hand and foot placement than they used to; and that I need to brush up on the power breathing that they advocate. This involves inhaling, hard, into the groin through the nostrils to get “set” (for instance, right before changing direction out of the bottom of the swing or snatch), and exhaling with a sort of pinched hiss in order to pressurize the diaphragm as much as possible. For me the basic Valsalva has worked pretty well, but on the other hand my squat and DL are stalled at heavy but not really exceptional levels, so maybe a change in breathing technique (or just strengthening the diaphragm through practicing it) can help me.

I went to a training session with RKC team leader Franz Snideman after the workshop was over and I was on vacation. He coached me on the technique points I need. I designed some workouts for myself based on these, and on the lifts required in the Level 2 RKC, which I’d like to do in 2011.

I was pleased with myself because I kept my eating very close to Paleo style and close to 100 percent whole foods high in protein and fat during the three-day event, even though the days were so long and we had little choice where to eat. I could have saved money but I chose to eat the way I knew would be best instead of cheapest. I continued that for the most part during the vacation and came home down slightly in body weight.

Today’s workout: warm up with the usual mobility plus 10 x 10 push-ups and squats. Practiced a method of teaching pistols by starting from the bottom up per Franz (see video below). Then I did the reverse ladder goblet squat/swings workout that team leader Joana Snideman led during the RKC, which I did not have to do as a staffer, but wanted to: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 reps of goblet squat at 16 kg alt. with swings, same weight. For sets 3-2-1 I switched to 24 kg. The 16 kg had felt heavy on my upper back to hold the “goblet” in front of me in the bottom of the squat, but not at all heavy as a squat lift.
Then I stretched my shoulders and quads for about 15 minutes.

Kettlebell class

Several people in the kettlebell class have decided to work together on a goal to be able to do one or more pull-ups by the time this class is over. I’m excited for them and so glad when people are interested in what else there is to do in the gym. I showed them how to practice kip swings and how to work on pulling strength by putting their feet in the big rubberbands that hang down from the bar and pulling up with its assistance. I’ve been working on this with my 4 PM CrossFit classes as well. I hope that by practicing both kip swings and sheer pulling, that the pulling strength will develop and the kip will be ready to use.

New kettlebell class starts November 6

The next kettlebell class starts Thursday, November 6. (I didn’t want to start it on election night.) It will continue to be great for beginners. The workouts can easily be tailored on the fly for people who are experienced and fit.

More than one person has told me they’ve lost weight during this class by also eating a healthy diet. And just about everybody has had fun and pushed themselves. In each class, we warm up, learn a few skills and do a group workout. Get in touch with me and join in–you’ll be glad you did.

Class schedule:
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7:00-8:00 PM
Start date: Thursday, November 6
End date: Thursday, Dec. 18 (12 sessions; no class on Thanksgiving)
Price: $145
Location: CrossFit Seattle in Fremont
Easy parking!
To sign up or ask questions, email me: fran (at) fitnotes (dot) net

Kettlebell class starts next week

Past sessions of the kettlebell class have been lots of fun, with even skeptical beginners getting enthusiastic about working out. No gym membership is needed. Come and join us.

Class schedule:

12 sessions
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7:00-8:00 PM
Start date: Tuesday, Sept. 16
End date: Tuesday, Oct. 28 (no class on Tuesday Sept. 30)
Price: $145
Location: CrossFit Seattle in Fremont (with easy parking!)

The class is designed for people who are new (or “new-ish”) to kettlebells. You don’t need to own any kettlebells. In each class we’ll learn or review three or more exercises and then do a group workout.

Goals of the class:
-Build strength, stamina and physical confidence using CrossFit methods with kettlebells
-Learn movements requiring various amounts of skill
-Give you the information you need to work out on your own with kettlebells

To sign up or ask questions, email fran at fitnotes dot net.

Kettlebell class

The kettlebell class just had their 9th class and they’re working so hard. A lot of people in the class know each other, so maybe they’re a little bit competitive, or who knows what the explanation is, but no matter what I throw at them they seem to get it immediately and to attack a workout like a pack of wolves. It makes me tired just watching them!

In the past few sessions I’ve used some workouts involving the basic, “staple” kettlebell exercises that are used often in CrossFit workouts: the deadlift, swing, one-hand swing, clean, highpull, and snatch, plus push-ups and sit-ups. Trainees who had never seen a kettlebell before a month ago have learned these so well that I wish I had them on video as an example of what beginners can be capable of.

Two recent workouts:

As many rounds as possible in 15 minutes of:
5 1-hand swings per side
5 cleans with 2 KBs
5 snatches per side

and last night’s:

12 KB deadlift (2 KBs or 1 heavy one; challenge yourself)
12 Push-ups
12 Sit-ups
5 rounds

Kettlebell class

Tonight was the second night of the new session. We did an extensive weightlifting style warm-up using PVC: shoulder pass-throughs (shrug and pull the bar ends apart the whole time); the Burgener warm-up several times through; more pass-throughs; additional overhead squats; and several run-throughs of the press, pushpress, jerk progression. This was before we picked up the kettlebells. Everyone was sore so the more lightweight warm-up, the better.

We reviewed last week’s exercises, the deadlift, two-hand swing, and goblet squat. We learned the one-hand swing, press, and push-press. The workout:

1-hand swing, 10 per side
Push-press, 6 per side
15 air squats, touch the medicine ball (as a depth gauge)
5 rounds or 15 minutes whichever comes first.

People pushed themselves but stayed safe. I was watching back position, hip extension, and shoulder stability in the push-press. Afterward we played around with pull-ups, using ring-rows, rubberbands, jumping, and kipping.

Kettlebell class series 2 wrap-up

Tonight was our last class meeting. It was beautiful and cool out, so we grabbed a light and a medium kettlebell each and walked 3 blocks to the park. On the big cement apron between the basketball court and the restrooms they did kettlebell drills, in between which they would run to various parts of the park to do other exercises: push-ups on the bleachers (elevating the hands), jumping pull-ups on the monkey bars, step-ups on this weird round concrete thing that was just the right height, and back and forth.

I was so pleased to see in these last few sessions of the class that people are doing just fine at all the moves we’ve learned, even the harder ones like the clean and the snatch, which require more technique practice than the basic swing and deadlift. The clean and the snatch, when I introduce it, I almost hate to make people practice it because when you’re new to it, it kinda hits you in the forearm or shoulder in a relentless and uncomfortable way. But they have to practice to get through that, so we do a little in several sessions and that seems to be what it takes. There are lots of partial and unweighted moves that lead into it so that helps at first.

I hope to start a new six-week class around June 2 and am firming that up.


I read an old article in the CrossFit Journal called “The Dumbbell Bear.” It describes a complex (combining several exercises to make one rep or set) done with dumbbells, and that’s always a good tool in a group because we have a lot of them. In last week’s Team Survivor women’s fitness class I decided to use this:

4 2-dumbbell deadlift
4 2-dumbbell cleans
4 2-dumbbell thrusters
Do the above complex each minute on the minute for 20 minutes. (As prescribed, it would be five of each instead of four.)

Most people used dumbbells of 10 or 12 pounds. A few used a 6-pound medicine ball or no weight at all, doing the drills as if holding weights but not. (We had also worked early in the class on perfecting their medicine-ball cleans.)

When I was about to start the workout, people found it a little daunting, so I cut it down to 15 minutes instead of 20. The idea is that the complex takes less that 40 seconds so that you get at least 20 seconds of rest each minute before starting again.

As it turned out, the class could have gone for 20 minutes. At the start, the complex took them 25 seconds. By round 15 they had only slowed by four seconds. Most of the women in the class, although they are cancer survivors and middle aged, are very active and are not beginners to this slightly-scaled-down CrossFit class. So, I was pleased at their work capacity but not too surprised. What I need to do is not negotiate the work downward just because people think it SOUNDS hard!

So I thought I was pretty smart when I used this same complex Thursday night on my kettlebell class (a Kettlebell Bear), doing jerks instead of thrusters. Wow–was it hard! Class that night consisted of three guys (not sure where the other 11 people in the class were that night; was it something I said?). What I had not taken into account was that the kettlebells, even the 8 kg ones, were heavier than the dumbbells the women had used, and that these guys actually ARE beginners.

They liked the workout, gluttons for punishment that they are, even though they said it was the hardest one we’ve done. It’s true; kettlebell jerks are hard and especially after you’ve done deadlifts and cleans with them. I had them do only 10 minutes of this workout and it was taking them about 45 seconds per complex. Very different from Tuesday’s experience!

One person, who is a friend that I’d let come in as a drop-in to that class, said, “I’ve never sweated so much in a workout in my life.” This drives home the belief that mainstream gym workouts with machines are a waste of time. We spent 10 minutes. Why would anyone pay to belong to a place where they “exercise” for an hour and hardly sweat?

I had also started the kettlebell class that night by having them do “Fran” using only PVC, as their warm-up. That’s killer for beginners even though it’s nothing like the real “Fran”!