Let me first start by stating that I am not an RKC. My colleague Max Shank, who is an RKC Level II and was recently promoted to Team Leader, has been a great coach to me. I have been practicing with kettlebells for about 3 years now. Before that I was relatively unfamiliar with them. Thus, I had not been exposed to the genius that guys like Pavel Tsatsouline, Brett Jones and Kenneth Jay have to offer. Then I went to two NSCA – RKC sponsored one-day workshops. I have been learning as much as I can about the RKC system ever since. Many of these concepts I have learned are not new but have been either reinforced or relearned through my practicing the RKC system. Here are some of the things that have really stuck with me for the long haul.
1. Quality – I’ve never been a proponent of doing high reps and have also enjoyed the teaching aspect of strength training. The RKC has really taught me to focus on the quality of each rep and exercise. It’s not enough to just mindlessly go through the motions and pretend that you had a great workout. I want my clients/athletes to understand that. Focus on one quality rep at a time for a few, rest and repeat. More is not always better.
2. Tension / Irradiation – Another way to improve quality is through focusing on tension during heavy lifts. What feels like long ago, during my college days, I considered myself relatively strong. I lifted heavy weights and knew that getting tight had to happen. However, I never thought about it the way the RKC teaches. Full body tension can dramatically improve the quality of your lifts. From taking off your shoes to grip the ground while deadlifting, to squeezing the free hand during a press or crushing the bar with your grip prior to several lifts, turning each lift into a full body exercise has really improved my strength and technique in several exercises.
3. Shoulder Packing – I find tension and shoulder packing to be closely related. Before doing my first Get Up I had no idea what “packing” was. I simply lifted things over my head without thinking too much about it. Now I am constantly using the “don’t shrug” cue. Some call it “ears are shoulder poison”. Not only is this concept important for shoulder health but again, improves your ability to press and move under the weight during a Get Up or other overhead movements, a very important concept.
4. Using Antagonists – Another technique point that can dramatically help during lifts is using the opposing muscles or antagonists. There are 3 different times that I can think of that I use this concept; Using the hip flexors to pull yourself down during a squat, using your lats to pull the body toward the floor while doing a push up, and using the lats to pull the weight back down from a press, as if performing a one-arm chin up. I’m not sure I even understand why it helps so much but what I do know is it helps increase focus and tension.
5. The Swing and Get Up – In just the past couple of years much has been filmed and written regarding these two exercises. I don’t feel that I need to go into too much detail. They are both unique total body exercises that demand some skill and coordination, and can be utilized in so many different ways. Learn them. Do them frequently.
– Mike Baltren