Last weekend I took part in the Onnit Academy certification to become one of their Kettlebell specialist trainers.
Leading up to the certification, I was very intrigued and curious as to what to expect. I hadn’t used a kettlebell (KB) as a training tool, until just 2 weeks ago when I picked one up, ahead of the cert, to try and familiarize myself with this versatile tool.
First off, let me say that the kettlebell has a very broad application, as it relates to all things fitness and health. You can use these sturdy little iron bells to sharpen up your skills, work on mobility, increase endurance, build speed, strength and explosive power, and even use lighter weights and movement to incorporate as a “cardio” workout, as opposed to the traditional methods of pounding the pavement, or the even more mundane, treadmill.
I had no idea were to even begin with the KB’s. I knew only what I had seen online from these Kettlebell savages out there, that were flowing like majestic beasts and making it look effortless. One thing became apparent very quickly…They made it look easy because they had put in years of foundational work and practice. Mastering the bell was anything but “easy” and nowhere near as smooth and efficient as the pros online were making it look.
However, that was a good thing. I love a challenge! I find myself to be a semi-decent athlete and can pick up things rather quickly. The challenge of the KB - the unpredictable nature of it, the movement of it, the planes and ranges that this tool could travel in, were all very new to me. I was hooked after the first foray into this world. 20 minutes in my garage and I had to figure this thing out.
Every now and then, in my sporadic play, I would “stick” a movement. The weight would travel so seamlessly, so beautifully, that it almost felt weightless…it was a magnificent merging of my passion for bodily movement and throwing heavy shit around :)
Like I said - I was hooked. However, I was also pretty lost in this new world. I had no foundation, no formal training, no idea of how to progress these movements and structure my play time with them, for sustained and programmed improvements.
Luckily for me, I didn’t have long to wait until the Onnit certification.
I had seen the certification advertised online and signed up a month prior, kind of on a whim. I have always had a love for all things movement and resistance training, so I saw this as a logical progression to further my skills and add another tool to my ever expanding tool-box.
I could tell from watching Marcus Martinez and “Primal” Eric Leija use the KB on social media in such effective and creative ways, that I would soon learn to appreciate the power and potential of such a seemingly simplistic tool. Want to check these beasts on Insta? Marcus: @kettlebellexercises and Eric: @Primal.swoldier.
Funnily enough, these were two of the guys I started to follow way before I even considered taking the KB certification. After seeing they would be the coaches for the weekend, I knew I wanted to get in on the action!
There’s one thing I try to be mindful of and live by, and I encourage my clients to embody, too - The idea that you will NEVER regret investing in yourself.
I have never spent money on self investment, and thought afterwards, “Oh shit, I should’ve saved me some money and got the new iPhone upgrade!”
Regardless of what you choose to invest in, for your personal development - be it a course, a retreat, a backpacking trip. These are invaluable, and will always result in you walking away from them with at least one mind altering lesson. In the case of the Onnit Academy specialist certification, I came away with a notebook full of light-bulb ideas and mind blowing techniques!
When I eventually did sign up for the cert I did what all logical people do when they spend some cash on something - try to figure out what I was getting myself into, and what I could expect from the course. However, there wasn’t really much information out there. No blog posts, that I could find, so alas, I thought I would write one :)
The certification was in the beautiful Miami, always a nice spot to spend the weekend - even if you spend the vast majority of the time indoors, sweating and being humbled by a 20lb ball…
Day One started with some introductions and ice breaker type activities. One thing became quickly apparent from the intros and hearing peoples “Why” regarding them coming to the certification. Everyone had a huge BELIEF in Onnit, as a company.
I like to say that your vibe attracts your tribe, and this is especially true for Onnit. They stress community, they are progressive, innovative, motivating and have some of the greatest minds in the fitness industry working for and with them, spreading the Onnit love and good vibes!
I originally learned about Onnit from listening to Aubrey Marcus, the CEO and founder of the company. Aubrey is a very cool dude. A Psychedelic explorer, a lover, an athlete, a modern day philosopher, and a man with vision. His vision with Onnit is simple;
“Our goal with Onnit is to inspire peak performance through a combination of unique products and actionable information. Combining bleeding-edge science, earth-grown nutrients, and time-tested strategies from top athletes and medical professionals, we are dedicated to providing our customers with supplements, foods, and fitness equipment aimed at helping people achieve a new level of well-being we call Total Human Optimization.”
You can see these values passed on through his ‘head-honchos’ and master trainers that travel the country teaching people the Onnit way of doing things…It is a little different, a little more new-school, more flexible, more explorational and open minded, yet still very rooted in using science and solid foundations in order to build from.
Their teaching methodology and results speak for themselves. Just head on over to their website, or follow them on social media to see the kind of coaches and athletes they produce - it is hard to argue with results!
So, back to day 1. . .The tribe had gathered. The room was full of open-minded, physical explorers from many corners of the world. England, USA, Bahrain, Mexico, Colombia, were all represented for the course. After getting pumped up by everyones stories about what led them to this point in their fitness careers, it was time to GET JUICY!
Led by the one and only “Primal Swoldier”, a social media power house, with the strength to match, we were taken through a 15 minute mobility flow to get moving, loosen up the body, joints, connective tissue, get the mind-body connection firing and of course. . .get juicy!
Let me tell you - getting juicy is pretty easy in the hot Miami sun.
‘Primal’ worked his way systematically around the body, throwing a lot of snazzy new mobility techniques at the crew, and ensuring we were all ready to get under a bell and work with load.
Sequence of Strength
From there we headed inside to start the bulk of the work. Mastering the fundamentals.
One thing that was stressed this weekend by head coach, Marcus, was that whilst flows and snazzy exercise are cool (and how you get a shit ton of followers on social media), they are of secondary importance to solid fundamentals and progressive exercises. I was happy about this, especially being in a place were I very much needed the fundamental pieces, to lay the ground work for a future career in kettle bell workouts and coaching.
We spent the morning going over fundamental principles, theory and movements. During this time we looked at integral movements such as the deadlift, the clean and the press. All of these movements first being taught in their most fundamental form, and then moving slowly up the ladder of progressions, onto the more advanced variations of the movement.
We spent long periods of time going over the intricacies of these movements and making sure we had all of the steps, coaching cues and biomechanics in place, before advancing onto the next movement/progression.
The whole weekend was incredibly hands on…There wasn’t a lot of sitting down and getting talked at. This was very refreshing to me, as there is nothing worse than spending money to sit down and be lectured to the whole weekend. Instead, we were presented the information, and then learned how to implement that through practice, play and coaching drills.
We rotated around the room on an exercise by exercise basis, to ensure that we got to meet everyone and coach different body types and movements. There’s a huge pay-off to this. In the ‘real world’ there is no ‘one size fits all’ to anything. Diet, workouts, exercises. All of these things must be taught on a client to client basis.
Two clients completing the same exercise may have a need for vastly different cues. If one is a 5ft tall, 130lbs female, your cues and coaching points are going to differ slightly than the 6ft 4 230lbs, ex-high school footballer, who is banged up and carrying injuries.
Coaching to the different ‘clients’ in our group allowed us to see a wide range of body types, movement limitations, and adjust coaching methods and cues accordingly. Of course, the same fundamental principles apply across the board, but just because the destination is the same, doesn’t mean that the road to get there will be.
In the afternoon of day one, we further focused on the flow of progression. The ‘Sequence of Strength’. Learning how to apply cross-over techniques from the basic movements and applying them to the more advanced. It was very cool to see how the same principles and cues could be used over a broad range of movements, to further ones progression, keep the building blocks coming and the ideas flowing.
After each coaching segment we would dissect and discuss what worked well, what didn’t work so well, what cues we liked, what we didn’t like, what our partners were coaching us on, ideas to progress or regress the particular movement.
These little 10 minute pow-wows, at the culmination of a movement block, were very powerful tools to expand on what we were all learning. The flow of ideas was consistent and the group started to vibe very well off of each other, which only furthered the creativeness and good vibes.
Not everyone in the room was a beginner to the kettle bell. There were people there that had been coaching in the fitness industry for over a decade, people from all different walks of life and coaching backgrounds. This ‘melting pot’ of knowledge went much further than just the physical aspects of the kettle bell. This was a reoccurring theme throughout the weekend, as to what everyone loved so much about this course, and the community we were forming.
We ended day one with a great workout led by Marcus and the Swoldier - Another thing to note about these gents. They aren’t the kind of coaches that are just going to yell at you to eek out one more rep, or scream at you that “pain is weakness leaving the body”. . .they were in the trenches with us, not afraid to get their hands dirty and practice what they preached. They led from the front, often left with the heaviest Kettle bell in the rooms, for their troubles too! Touché, friends, touché!
We wrapped up day one, tired but invigorated. We had just cracked the surface of this wonderfully diverse tool. We had laid the foundations, broken them down to the minutiae, and built them back up again. We had learnt and shared together, and now, we had sweat together. You could feel the energy in the room as everyone shook hands and went on their ways to rest up (or go out and party until 3am because, well…Miami) ahead of day two.
Day 2 - Let the games begin
Day 2 started in a similar vein to that of day one! Primal Swoldiers shorts got EVEN SHORTER for the second day, as he led us through another awesome “get juicy” flow, to get us primed to throw some KB’s around.
Day two took all of the fundamental building blocks we had worked on in day one, and started to add our creativity to them. Little interjections of personal flair, were encouraged in the exploration phase, as we started to be taught the steps towards building flows.
Flows are essentially the act of stringing together a series of movements, in as smooth as form as possible, to effectively structure a workout from. Or at the very least, an exercise set.
It may seem pretty easy to build a flow from the outside. Just take a logical progression of exercises and combine them in a linear fashion and voila - flow!
However, we were encourage to do exactly the opposite of that. Anyone can follow the most basic progression, but not everyone can move with true flow. Allowing the body to just move, allowing the mind to create new pathways, new chains, new explorations of movement.
Merging the floor movements, with the standing, with the kneeling, with the over head. The idea was to rid your mind of structure and see just where your creative mind could take you, once you could ‘switch off’ from such a simplistic/linear thinking.
It isn’t easy. We have often been taught within pretty strict parameters. If you do ‘x’ reps on the right side, then you must do ‘x’ on left side, if you press, you should pull etc. . .however, flowing, which is essentially play, an expression of your monkey mind, is limitless in its boundaries. Exactly what Marcus wanted to encourage.
Forget what you think you know, and see what you can come up with. To quote the famous Bruce Lee; “Water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
I may have done more crashing than flowing in our first trials with KB flow, however, I definitely started to get the hang of it the more time we spent experimenting and sharing ideas. We were often given a basic framework to work inside, such as flow between the floor and half kneeling position for 5 minutes, see what you can come up with.
These drills were fantastic and exposed as many potential avenues, as they did weaknesses in my personal practice. Watching Marcus and Eric flow was inspiring. They have obviously spent a lot of time honing their craft and it shows. They flow effortlessly. Switching between different planes of movement, different ranges and focuses with the most simple, yet mind blowing transitions to the ‘average’ gym goer or KB enthusiast.
What did Marcus have to credit his exceptional flow with? You guessed it - a vast understanding and mastery of the fundamentals. Everything starts with the basics - something that seems to translate to so many other areas of life and performance.
The day continued, the ideas grew, the community expanded and everyone was becoming visibly comfortable, and flowy with that bell. We teamed up for coaching exercises, we brainstormed, we laughed, sighed, succeeded and failed, all at the same time.
We were encouraged to accept these small ‘failures’ as learning and have a mindfulness as to why they failed? When we got ‘stuck’ we were cued to just keep on moving. When we pulled of a snazzy flow, we were high-fived and encouraged. However, whatever the circumstance was, the focus was on expanding the understanding. Embodying the ‘why’ and being fully conscious of the mind-body connection, between movement, the kettle bell and our form.
Of course the day couldn’t finish without a graduation workout. This one was a beast!
As always, Marcus and Eric joined in the fun and embraced the burn. Our bodies a little sore from all of the exploration, our minds a little fatigued from the long days and vast information, but our enthusiasm and spirits high.
When Marcus announced; “Alright, time for our final workout!” the energy in the room lifted. . .it didn’t wilt under the expectation of hard work. People didn’t back down because they were tired. We were all excited to work. To put in to practice what we had learned. To share this moment with the rest of us in the room, that had invested so much into these past couple of days. It was time to get really juicy…
We first completed a 15 minute AMRAP (as many reps as possible) consisting of various movements such as plank rows, kneeling cleans, over head presses, squats and rotational cleans. . .the music was cranked up, the energy was turned up to 100 and we went at it hard for the 15 minutes! Everyone conquered that like savages. . .only to be met with the real finisher!
A rep-fest of rows, cleans, squats and swings that would push everyone in the room to dig deep. This time there was no clock. Just the reps and you - complete the prescribed reps and you’re done.
The finisher was tough - pushing the body and mind. Some went faster than others, and that’s ok. If there’s one thing we learned this weekend, it was that the only thing that matters is YOUR practice.
The beasts that finished early didn’t reach for their water bottles or run around celebrating - they got right by their comrades that were still grinding it out. They cheered, encouraged and motivated until the very last person in the room had finished that last rep.
It was an unbelievably powerful way to end a really fantastic weekend, and truly emphasized the fact that the people in the room, were sharing much more than just a workout, and gaining much more than just a certificate.
After some good byes, a few selfies, some sharing of instagram handles and ‘Primal’ Picking up chicks, we were done. My soiree into Kettlebells was complete, and I couldn’t wait to put all of the new tools and ideas into my practice. Sore, humbled, inspired and proud, I left Primal Fit Miami with a big smile and an excited anticipation of sharing everything that I had learned.
Onnit is a great community. They are at the forefront of physical and mental performance. Their coaches are the cream of the crop. They are well read, passionate, knowledgeable and inspiring. To walk away from the weekend as a member of this team, is something I am very proud of. I cannot wait to share what I took away from Marcus, Eric and the Onnit curriculum, in the hope of helping others learn this awesome tool and better their lives as a result.
“Any idiot can make another idiot tired” - A coach can tell you to do 100 burpees and run a mile…you’ll be tired, but to what end? The fitness industry is the wild wild west in terms of quality coaches and regulation. There are a LOT of bad trainers out there. More concerned with their outfit of the day, than your progression and health. Onnit isn’t breeding that kind of coach. Onnit has given me the tools to be the best coach I can be. A coach that understands a clients needs, goals and how to merge a practice full of progression, movement, mobility, strength, power and all of the good stuff that YOU deserve as a client.
If you are even remotely interested in doing any course with Onnit, I couldn’t recommend it any higher. You will never regret investing in yourself. . .and you sure as hell wont regret investing in getting Onnit!
Yours in health,