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.