SFG Kettlebell Instructor Level I Certification

SFG: the Gold Standard

Kettlebell Instructor Certification

Join the exclusive ranks of high-end kettlebell professionals — if you have what it takes.

The world-renowned SFG curriculum was developed by Pavel Tsatsouline, who pioneered kettlebell training in the West.


SFG is known as the most prestigious kettlebell certification existing today, for four primary reasons:


1. The system

StrongFirst presents an integrated approach to overall strength and fitness at the SFG Certification.

One does not merely learn “kettlebells” at the SFG. The SFG instructor candidate learns principles of strength, and the precise ways in which kettlebells should be used for developing, maximizing, and maintaining strength.

This explains how our graduates excel in their industry — they have a deeper understanding of strength and general fitness principles far beyond mere routines or textbook definitions.

The StrongFirst system is presented through three days of hands-on instruction, as well as within an extensive manual that is accessible only to attendees of the Certification.

StrongFirst is the system, and the kettlebell is the tool.

2. The instructors

SFG Kettlebell Instructor Certifications are taught by some of the most experienced and qualified kettlebell instructors on the planet. A select group of elite coaches, each have been personally-trained and hand-selected by Pavel.

There are only 12 Master SFG Instructors in the world, and each SFG Certification is led by one or more of them.

The SFG Certification is also known for its outstanding student-instructor ratio. We spare no expense to make sure each candidate receives the personalized attention they deserve — and, frankly, require — in order to become the best kettlebell instructors in the business.

3. The standards

If you have heard about the SFG, you have heard that it is tough.

The SFG Certification cannot merely be purchased — and not everyone who attends, passes. Each instructor candidate must perform to a very high standard in strength and technical precision in order to earn the SFG credential.

These elite athletes and coaches must then also maintain their SFG credential by recertifying every two years, to ensure that their knowledge and skills remain the highest in the industry. Read more about the testing here.


4. It is a true “teaching” certification

Personal training certifications typically award a credential without any hands-on instruction on how to actually work with a client (we prefer the term “student”).

All SFG graduates are fully-prepared for each new student encountered — we make sure of it. Examples for testing, cueing, and troubleshooting will be presented and practiced all weekend long, and the instructor must then also pass an actual “teaching test” on the final day of the Certification.

SFG Instructors don’t just learn the system — they learn how to teach the system to others.

Another of our recent graduates explains the StrongFirst difference:

A community committed to raising the bar for fitness professionals and coaches. The manual is a goldmine, and the weekend taught me the literacy required to sift through to find the gold. It has given me a better set of tools to expand my offerings as a trainer, and be able to condense my schedule without sacrificing the success of my students.

It is very clear that StrongFirst is committed to teaching TEACHING. Rather than categorical expertise alone, the instructors here are quality educators, not just subject experts. The willingness to be responsive and “agile” with the certification and education process is unique and very special. Thank you for setting a high water mark in the industry .” —Mark Reinke


Learn the skills, test your spirit, and discover the camaraderie rarely found outside the military.



SFG Kettlebell Instructor Level II Certification

SFG Kettlebell Instructor Level II Certification

SFG II is an advanced Certification open to SFG Certified Instructors only and demands serious preparation. A 1/2 bodyweight single kettlebell military press is a prerequisite for men; 1/3 bodyweight for women.

The following exercises are taught:

  • Double Push Press
  • Double Jerk
  • Double Snatch
  • Windmill
  • Bent Press
  • Bottom-Up Series

Join the kettlebell instructor elite.

SFB Bodyweight Instructor Certification

SFB Bodyweight Instructor Certification

Get a powerlifting quality workout anywhere, anytime, using your bodyweight as resistance.

Learn the body language of strength—and turn your whole body into a devastating clenched fist.

Enter the SFB cert.

Strength is a skill.  There is even a term in Russian sports science: strength-skill.  StrongFirst has systematized subtle and powerful strength-skills from a wide variety of disciplines.  From breathing and stance subtleties of ancient martial arts to cutting edge neuroscience research.  From elite powerlifting techniques to latest breakthroughs in spine biomechanics.  From arm-wrestlers’ leverage tricks to physical therapy “hacks” for waking up unwilling muscles.  From Russian weightlifting experience to Eastern European gymnasts’ secrets… For the first time in history this rich and diverse body of knowledge has been organized into a logical and straightforward system for delivering instant strength gains.

We start with our unique progression for abdominal strength and mastery.  StrongFirst knows abs.  Prof. Stuart McGill has measured midsection strength of many elite strongmen, powerlifters, fighters, and other athletes.  He found that, pound for pound, the author of the SFB curriculum had the strongest abs.  Bret Contreras has compared muscle recruitment in different exercises.  The StrongFirst plank activated the abs 300% more intensely than the traditional plank.

Although most SFB students have admitted that they had never before worked their abs so hard, bullet-proof abs are not the end-all.  They serve a greater purpose—total body strength.  Enter the “bodyweight powerlifts”:

  • The Push: one-arm/one-leg pushup, wall supported handstand pushup
  • The Pull: tactical pullup, hanging leg raise, front lever
  • The Squat: pistol

We fieldstrip these fundamental exercises.  Being able to do the moves is not enough.  A professional strength coach must be able to take each exercise apart to its smallest parts, “clean” it, “oil” it, and then put it back together strong.  You will get a complete toolbox of regressions and progressions to accommodate almost any student.

Then comes the real game changer—the StrongFirst battery of tension techniques.  They are very subtle but unbelievably powerful.  Bodyweight strength expert Brad Johnson performed an iron cross on the rings under different sets of conditions and measured his strength.  The top three tension techniques identified by the author of the SFB curriculum yielded a 40-pound increase in strength!  Powerlifting coach extraordinaire Louie Simmons has summed up what Pavel Tsatsouline has done: “You have reverse-engineered what the strongest do naturally.”

Once you have internalized the body language of the strong, you will be able to apply it to most lifting and gymnastic strength skills.  Bodyweight, kettlebell, barbell—you name it.  National bench press record holder Jack Reape points out that learning how to make a bodyweight exercise harder will teach a lifter how to make a barbell lift easier.  There is a great synergy between different resistance modalities—if your training is principle based.  StrongFirst system is on the same page with the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program: “One mind, any weapon.”

Incidentally, big guys who move a lot of iron owe it to themselves to become bodyweight strong.  How can you call yourself “strong” if you cannot even handle your body?  Bud Jeffries’ 1,000-pound squat is awesome—but not shocking, given his body structure.  What makes Bud superhuman is that he can flip upside down and knock off a dozen handstand pushups—he is not built for this.  Ed Coan, the greatest powerlifter of all time, routinely did 10 strict pullups with additional 150 pounds.  Russian practically dominate the sport today.  Is it a coincidence that an average Russian powerlifter is able to do 22.5 strict pullups? (Belsky, 2000)  We do not think so.

At the SFB cert you will be drinking from a fire hose.  State-of-the-art strength and hypertrophy program design… How to seamlessly fit bodyweight exercises into a barbell or kettlebell regimen… The truth about isometrics…  And much more.

You will get stronger—much stronger—before the cert concludes.  And you will walk away a much better strength coach.

Join the elite today.

SFB: In case civilization is temporary.®



The instructor candidates must pass two tests:

  1. Teaching safely and effectively.
  2. Strength test.

The teaching test is administered at the end of the course.

Candidates have a choice of taking the strength test during the course or submitting a video up to 6 months after the end of the course.

The strength test for men is the one-arm/one leg pushup. One side is tested.

The strength test for women is a one-arm pushup with feet at shoulder width.

In rare cases a highly accomplished, national- or international-level coach or athlete may be exempt from the strength test due to a chronic injury.

SFL Barbell Instructor Certification


“Awesome! An educational experience laser-focused on improving strength and devoid of extraneous BS.”  — Noah Maxwell

“Why do we lift weights?” asks Marty Gallagher in his classic book Coan: The Man, the Myth, the Method and answers: “We lift to increase physical strength and muscle-size.  No other answer is correct.”

Ed Coan continues, “I firmly believe that everyone should train basically the same regardless of age, sex, height, weight, degree of fitness, percentage of body-fat, etc… I have a method for developing strength and muscle… Why should you train different from me? Lighter certainly, but not differently.”

Powerlifting for the people?  In this “enlightened” age of “functional” and “sport-specific training” this view seems naïve and old-fashioned but only to those who have scanned their sports science textbooks instead of reading them.  Sport specific strength training—or special strength preparation, if you prefer Russian terminology—must be built on a foundation of general strength training.

And general strength is the strength ”to perform any physical work more or less successfully.” (Ozolin) That means we are looking for exercises with maximum carryover to a great range of activities. And the powerlifts are right up there, in the kettlebell swing league.

Of course, trying to blindly copy powerlifting technique and training methods is not a good idea.  “There is a difference between lifting more and actually getting stronger.”  An extreme arch in the bench press will add a few pounds to your lift.  But did it make you stronger?  Did it make you a better sprinter or fighter?

The fact is, an athlete can learn a lot from powerlifters and weightlifters but he has no business blindly imitating them.  Prof. Verkhoshansky warned not to “simply mechanically copy the means and methods used in weightlifting or another sport.”

Which is why Pavel teamed up with Dr. Michael Hartle, Senior SFG instructor, to develop this course.  In addition to being USAPL National Powerlifting Champion and IPF Team USA Head Coach, Doc Hartle plays semi-pro football—with guys half his age.

Dr. Hartle knows powerlifting inside and out—but he also knows how to select and modify its techniques and methods for athletes and discard the rest.

And how to combine barbell strength training with kettlebell training to get the best of both worlds.

(In fact, we are teaching barbell skills on the platform of StrongFirst kettlebell skills.  A number of barbell experts such as Dan John, Master SFG, state that the kettlebell is the perfect entry point into strength training. Which is why a prerequisite for this cert is any kettlebell course or certification with the curriculum written by Pavel Tsatsouline.)


Learn the powerlifts:

  • Back squat
  • Bench press
  • Deadlift (conventional and sumo)

Plus, hand-picked accessory lifts:

  • Front squat
  • Zercher squat
  • Good morning
  • Military press
  • Several bench press variations

Get a toolbox of progressions, regressions, coaching cues, and correctives.

Receive an education in scientific strength program design.

Russian specialist Nikolay Vitkevich stressed: “[Sport specific training] is different for everybody… Basic training is roughly the same in all sports and aims to increase general strength and muscle mass.  Powerlifting was born as a competition in exercises everybody does.”

And if you don’t, you should.

“It was like drinking from a fire hydrant, in the best possible way. The amount of information and material I leave with to be mastered will challenge me for years and benefit me for the rest of my years as a trainer.”   — John “Scott” Stevens