SFG Level I Certification: 3 + 6 = Excellence

Three days, six exercises. Simple. That is what the StrongFirst SFG Level I Certification is. Sure, there are tests, both physical and written. There is downtime for practicing with other attendees. There are lectures. But it all boils down to six exercises:

  1. Swing
  2. Squat
  3. Clean
  4. Press
  5. Snatch
  6. Get-up

The beauty of StrongFirst is it doesn’t try to cram twenty exercises into a one- or two-day seminar. Rather than touch on the basics and move on to the next exercise, the instructors at a StrongFirst Certification dig deep into the movements to help you refine techniques that would be left substandard with less work.

SFG Level I Certification6 Exercises? How About 6 Hours on 1 Exercise

Is your clean not up-to snuff? All the better, as attendees learn many different cues and methods of correction. Trouble with the snatch? Rest assured, you are not alone, and you will learn ways to fix your clients who might be having the same problems.

When training for the StongFirst Level I Certification, you will, of course, strive to be as perfect as possible. You will put in countless hours swinging, preparing for a snatch test, working on your pull-up strength, and training your cardiovascular system to handle the stress of the weekend. But eventually it all comes down to six exercises.

One of the first things you will learn at a StrongFirst Certification is the importance of the basics. The first six hours are spent teaching and reverse-engineering the kettlebell swing. Six hours on the most basic exercise.

To an amateur it sounds like overkill. To the professional, it sounds smart.

SFG Level I CertificationStrength as a Skill

If you cannot swing a kettlebell properly, you cannot clean a kettlebell properly. And you most assuredly cannot snatch a kettlebell properly. So it makes no sense to move on to more advanced movements until the foundation of all movements is dialed in.

And again.
And again.

Even after the swing instruction is “complete,” attendees will continue to swing throughout the weekend. Because in truth, instruction is never complete. Candidates will swing to prep for cleans, swing to get blood moving after get-ups, and swing to test their new-found strength techniques.

Everything builds from the basics, and until those basics are solid, you will not be as effective a practitioner (or instructor) as you can be. And even after the certification, newly-minted instructors will spend hours upon hours refining their skills with further practice. It can be lonely, tiring, frustrating, and very challenging. But it is also exhilarating, especially when your practice leads to improvements in yourself and your clients.

SFG Level I CertificationSimilar to a musician who practices scales or a baseball player who revisits the batting tee, SFGs practice lifting as a skill until they get it right. And then they practice it some more. Notice how the word “practitioner” is based off the word “practice.” Doctors, nurses, and lawyers practice. Why not strength coaches and fitness instructors?

The Value of the SFG Level I Certification

The SFG is not for everyone. Sure it is a great way to test your physical mettle. But it also will challenge you to step back and look at yourself, your skills, your strengths, and most importantly, your weaknesses.

Be patient. Be disciplined. And understand that learning how to do six exercises safely and properly might initially seem boring, but in the long run it is better for you, and your clients.

SFG Level I Certification

David Clancy
David Clancy, SFG II, CSCS*D, is a strength and conditioning coach who has been training since 1999. He is the owner of Buckeye Kettlebells in Columbus, Ohio, where he has trained more than a dozen individuals who have gone on to become SFG certified.

7 thoughts on “SFG Level I Certification: 3 + 6 = Excellence

  • Dave, I gave this article to my wife to read and, halfway through, she asked me if I had written it. I take that as a compliment to us both and I hope you do, too.

    Very well done, sir, brief but exactly on point, and will be a go-to resource for me when people ask me what a cert weekend is like or whether or not I think they’re ready.

    Thank you for posting this.


  • Great post! One thing I have always wondered is at what point does one know they are at the level that they should consider going for a cert? Can do x squats with y weight? Do z number of snatches in u minutes? I know that one has to be able to do 5 pull ups which is what is my prime goal to work on, but what else should I check off prior to making the commitment/investment?

    • it’s more about being able to handle a LOT of volume and still maintain form integrity throughout the movements – even after fatigue. (rather than a metric of x number of x, at x weight etc) we already knwo the required numbers of reps and weights for the testing standards, etc.. but what do you look like after 3 hrs of hard work. how are your swings, cleans and TGU’s, etc.. looking at that point? the only way to really be ready is to have built a really solid strength base with the the resting weights, and precision movement skills over time (4-6 months at least in my opinion, and as much as a full year depending on where you are when you start) and a program that focuses on bringing up any weaknesses, maintaining your strengths, and has some consecutive days of training at high volume) if you are able to get coaching from an SFG – there really is no substitute for training under the guidance of someone who has ‘been there and done it”! getting the cert means passing in ALL areas – so if you are looking to walk away with the paper in hand, you have to have all bases covered. a good place to start is the SFG prep program by brett jones. but if there are known weaknesses – adjust the program to bring them up (like if your press is weak for instance, or you know you don’t have 5 solid pullups) no one gets a pass on effort alone – your skills and strength need to be ‘cert ready’ when you walk in the door – you will refine a lot and have a lot of ‘ah-ha’ moments – but the base needs to be there in all categories. good luck!

    • For me it was when I could hit my testing standards on most days with the least amount of effort possible. Basically, once it was “easy” I knew I was ready.

      That was also my cue to make sure that I went back to each skill and really really tried to sharpen it as much as possible.

      Bout as simple as I can make it.

      If you are looking to get in on a certification, get with a coach to help you sharpen the tools soon! It pays itself back very quickly!

  • ‘Good’ is a station. It needs practice to get there and maintain it.
    ‘Better’ is a process. It needs practice, too.
    ‘Perfect’ is a goal. You need practice to stay within visual distance. The more you do, the clearer you see it.
    Nice post, albeit without the incredible punning, Dave Clancy!

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