SFG is our flagship program. Its curriculum was developed by Pavel Tsatsouline, who pioneered kettlebell training in the West and developed the gold-standard RKC program. Weekend-long SFG Level I and Level II Certifications offer renowned curricula – constantly refined. We no longer use the RKC name – but we carry on its spirit, curriculum, and standards.
SFG Kettlebell Instructor Certifications are taught by a highly-experienced cadre personally trained by Pavel, and frequently by Pavel himself.
- Learn the kettlebell training system that started it all and became the gold standard.
- Learn how to teach the system to others.
- Get certified as an SFG Kettlebell Instructor—once you pass our rigorous testing!
The exercises taught and tested are:
- Double Swing
- Double Clean
- Double Press
- Double Front Squat
Just the basics, drilled to perfection.
As MSgt Duane Stanton, USAF Pararescue, has put it, “The only thing that separates the elite from all the rest is the fact that the elite are better at the basics than everyone else.”
Learn the skills, test your spirit, and discover the camaraderie rarely found outside the military.
Please consult the SFG Kettlebell Instructor Level I Certification requirements for details on and prerequisites for attendance to this event.
KETTLEBELL POWER TO YOU!
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 theme of the SFG II Certification is old-time strongman training methodology. The following exercises are taught:
- Double Push Press
- Double Jerk
- Double Snatch
- Bent Press
- Bottom-Up Series
Join the kettlebell instructor elite.
Please consult the SFG Kettlebell Instructor Level II Certification requirements for details on and prerequisites for attendance to this event.
KETTLEBELL POWER TO YOU!
In case civilization is temporary.™
Half a century ago, a group of high-level martial artists published a semi-fictional book Secret Fighting Arts of the World under a pen name John F. Gilbey. One of the stories in it perfectly illustrates the StrongFirst ideal. This ideal is a star on the horizon. You will never reach it, but chasing it will take you higher than you have ever dreamt to go.
Here is the story. The author meets a secretive martial arts master who, after a remarkable demonstration of his deadly skills, throws an unlikely challenge:
“I will promise that any trick that you can do which involves the hands or arms, I can do also. This is the mark of a true master: not that he can do sleights that others cannot, perhaps because they have never tried, but that he can make his body do anything that someone else can do.”
This was a fine gesture, I thought. Unfortunately, he was on rocky ground here. For it had long been a hobby of mine to learn any unusual and difficult gymnastic tricks that few others could perform. Through great exertions, I have become able to do possibly the hardest three gymnastic exercises in the world. Few people can do any one of them. So far as I know I am the only one able to do all three. The exercises are:
- Extended push-up from prone position, fingertips and toes stretched as far as they will go.
- Five chin-ups on overhead bar using only one arm (I can use either arm).
- Rafter-walk for 25 feet. Using only fingers and thumbs, grab overhead studding and supporting the weight of body, go hand after hand for the required distance.
I was tempted to go graciously without complying but I thought: he has issued the challenge. Let’s see what he can do with it.
So, not attempting to disguise my pride, I showed the exercises.
When I was done, he commented that it was a fair exercise. And then he did each one with an élan that I could not muster. There was no end to the man. With mixed emotions—crestfallen that he had achieved the tests and overawed by his ability to master his body—I bade farewell to him. I came away wiser.
Our goal is to make you come away from the StrongFirst Bodyweight Instructor Certification wiser and stronger. You should be able to take a look at a great many strength feats and exercises—and quickly reverse-engineer them. You might not be able to do them yet—but you will know exactly how to train for them.
First we will teach you the Naked Warrior battle tested abdominal and tension drills—the very foundation of strength. Then we will teach you the key bodyweight strength exercises. No time will be wasted cataloguing a multitude of exercises and their variations. With the millions of degrees of freedom possible for our bodies, it is an endless and pointless process: giving you the fish and making you dependent to come back for more. Instead we will teach you how to fish. Once you have internalized the universal principles of strength, you will be able to quickly apply them to any new strength or gymnastic skills.
The knowledge of some principles easily compensates for the ignorance of some facts.
This quote by philosopher Claude Helvétius appeared in the late Professor Yuri Verkhoshansky’s last book. It perfectly describes what we do at the StrongFirst Bodyweight Instructor Certification. Naked Warrior, the book, featured only two exercises, the one-arm/one-leg pushup and the pistol. To these two fundamentals we have added a third—the tactical pull-up—because certain strength techniques are hard to learn without a pull-up type exercise. Not impossible—one US military special operator quickly worked up to a one-arm chin using the Naked Warrior one-arm pushup techniques—just hard.
The StrongFirst Bodyweight Instructor Certification features the classic strength triad—a push, a pull, a squat. The bodyweight powerlifts.
You will learn beginner to advanced progressions in the big three—radically improved since the book’s publication. More importantly, we will field strip these 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. Boxing great Jack Dempsey commented:
You see: by the time a fellow becomes a successful professional fighter, nearly all his moves are so instinctive, through long practice, that it’s difficult for him to sort out the details of each move. Accordingly, it’s nearly impossible at first for him to explain his moves to a beginner. He can say to the beginner, “You throw a straight right like this.” Then he can shoot a straight right at a punching bag. But the beginner will have no more conception of how to punch with the right than he had before. That’s the chief reason why so few good fighters developed into good instructors. They failed to go back and examine each link in each boxing move. They tried to give their pupils the chains without the links.
At the SFB Bodyweight Instructor Certification we literally reverse engineer the body language and strength of an elite gymnast. Any skill-based discipline possesses what Russian sports scientists call the “model technique.” Anyone who has competed at a high level in any sport knows how many years of practice it takes to approximate it. You must also be aware that compared to an athlete groping for the right technique in the dark, one who is expertly coached will progress at a lightning speed. Grizzled coaches have their secret toolboxes of “shortcuts.” Shortcuts in the best sense of the word—stunningly powerful cues that hit home and spare hundreds of hours of frustrating practice.
Here is a telling example: Russian boxing coaches tell young fighters to “feel the elbow in the fist.” Go ahead, try it, punch a bag visualizing that your elbow is inside your fist. You—and the bag—will be impressed by the solid power of your punches.
Strength is also a skill, there is even a term in Russian sports science: strength-skill. StrongFirst has systematized strength-skill secrets from a wide variety of disciplines. From breathing and stance subtleties of ancient martial arts to cutting edge neuroscience research. From powerlifting alignment cues to latest breakthroughs in spine biomechanics. From arm-wrestlers’ strength tricks to state-of-the art physical therapy techniques for waking up unwilling muscles. From old time strongmen’s “knacks” to Russian weightlifting research. From a firearms instructor’s skill set to yoga visualizations. From kettlebell tips 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 simple system of delivering instant strength gains. First of its kind, the SFB Bodyweight Instructor Certification will teach you how to apply this concentrated knowledge to a battery of most effective bodyweight strength exercises for a powerlifting quality workout anywhere, anytime. And build a terrific foundation for strength training with any tool—be it a kettlebell, a barbell, or a rock.
Bill Fox, an impressive athlete who can do things like pull-ups with two 70-pound kettlebells, gets it:
Kettlebells, bodyweight drills, and barbells, are just tools. The “purity” of a training program comes from the purity of one’s intent when they train, of one’s will. If instead of training for martial arts, you treated your training as a martial art, then you would be on to something. George Mattson, in his classic text on Uechi Ryu Karate, The Way of Karate, wrote, “Karate means ‘empty hand’—the hand the instrument of the body; the body the instrument of the will. The aim is to develop a synergism of the will, the nerves, and the muscles which manifests itself in the maximum possible controlled release of energy.”
Drug free national bench press record holder Jack Reape pointed 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 for an intelligent strength athlete.
Shortly after Pavel’s kettlebell demo at Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2001 expo Bill Kazmaier, powerlifting and strongman legend, stopped by and casually picked up a heavy kettlebell and held it on his pinkie with his arm out to the side and parallel to the ground. He shrugged off the amazed onlookers and casually explained, “I just know how to use my body.” Pavel watched his lift and could not disagree. Although the kettlebell appeared to hang on the pinkie, its weight still rested on the webbing of the palm. Kaz’s palm faced up which engaged his stronger front delts. He raised his rib cage, which created a lean back effect without leaning and brought his huge pecs into action. Finally, he let the arm “wedge” into the shoulder blade which in turn was leaning on the opposite shoulder blade, a sophisticated maneuver gymnasts use in the iron cross. For a biomechanics junkie it was poetry in motion.
Kazmaier was new to kettlebells and could not have known Russian gireviks’ pinkie trick. Given his bodyweight, it was also safe to conclude that he had never done an iron cross. Nevertheless, the great athlete intuitively and immediately figured both out.
Dr. William H. Calvin points out that experts have “stored up a lot of simulated scenarios” and have become “particularly effective in appraising a novel scenario and advising on a course of action.” Which is exactly what Kaz did. Such body mastery is the StrongFirst ideal.
The StrongFirst bodyweight powerlifts are what Gray Cook calls “self-limiting.” You could have poor technique and weak abs—and still improve your bench press or jerk. Good luck cheating the one-arm/one-leg pushup!
Your legs and back could be seriously dysfunctional and heading for big hurt—yet you still could up your barbell squat through sheer will power. The pistol will laugh at you if you try.
You could “clean” a heavy bell, bar or kettle, with the ugliest technique which could put you in a hospital. You could never do it with the front lever.
In summary, “bodyweight powerlifts” (not just any bodyweight exercises!) enforce the high tension and perfect motor control of a strength professional. Charles Poliquin reports how two high level gymnasts who had never touched barbells benched 350 after a couple of weeks of practice. No surprise.
In addition to the beginner to advanced progressions on the three key lifts we will teach you handstand pushups, neck bridges, and some other things. Not because you could not figure them out by yourself after learning the “troika,” but as examples of new applications of the same principles.
Back to Bill Fox:
Think of each session as a simply another day at the dojo, even if you’re in your basement or back yard, wherein you will practice and develop your skills. It makes no difference whether or not you practice a martial art (but of course you should) because your strength training is now a martial art. What you’re working on is not your triceps, so you can punch harder, but your ability to impose your will on your body: to harness your central nervous system, breath, and intent to connect your mind and body.
Each rep is a skill movement. If not performed with concentration and intent it’s meaningless. As in the martial arts, progress, in terms of weight lifted, reps done, will not always be linear, but approached in this manner, there is no reason that something of value can’t come out every session. A far more rewarding way to train in the long run.
Come and learn:
- The principles of StrongFirst Bodyweight strength
- The 3 “bodyweight powerlifts”:
- One-Arm/One-Leg Pushup
- Front Lever
- A set of tested progressions
- Abdominal drills
- A toolbox for troubleshooting the most difficult clients
- StrongFirstBodyweight strength program design
- Guidelines for seamlessly fitting bodyweight strength exercises into a barbell or kettlebell regimen
- The truth about isometrics
You will get stronger—much stronger—before the course concludes.
(SUBJECT TO CHANGE)
The instructor candidates must pass two tests:
- Teaching safely and effectively.
- 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 strength test due to a chronic injury.
SFL Barbell Certification
“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.
Please consult the SFL Barbell Certification requirements for details on and prerequisites for attendance to this event.
Play the game.