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Jerry and Matt's Excellent Adventure - Tucson Personal Training Group Fitness Blog

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This month’s post is extra exciting for us… and not just because it’s the first one from our shiny new facility!

Earlier this year, Matt and I had the privilege of attending the first Strength Matters Kettlebell Certification offered in the United States. For those of you who don’t know Matt, he has been involved in a year-long internship at The Protocol, to attend this certification and become an instructor here. So Matt went as a candidate (attendee), and I had the honor of going as Master Instructor, Mark Reifkind’s, right-hand man. For those of you who are unfamiliar with kettlebell certifications, they are not exactly the easiest certs to obtain. They are both physically and mentally challenging. If one cannot pass the demanding tests and demonstrate the ability to perform the movements with precise technique, they walk away empty handed. A 20%-30% failure rate is common at these events. As I’ve mentioned in the past: In many large gyms, kettlebell exercises are often done very poorly. Therefore, it is our goal to create groups of fitness professionals that stand out. In this month’s post, we’d like to share with you a little bit of that weekend, and also discuss why a Strength Matters certification, or maybe just a workshop, could be right for you.

Before we get started, it’s important to note that there are several outstanding kettlebell certifications. Over the course of my career, I’ve had the honor of taking several of these courses taught by some of the world’s best instructors. As a matter of fact, much of the success of my fitness business can be attributed to the high level of instruction received from these coaches and certifications. This month’s post is in no way intended to claim superiority over any of these fine programs. With virtually zero exception, if you’re an American and you’ve held a kettlebell in your hands, you have Pavel Tsatsouline to thank for that.

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
– Isaac Newton

So, why would someone want to take a Strength Matters Kettlebell Certification and/or workshop?

1. It’s not about the kettlebell – I’ve heard some instructors say, “I barely use kettlebells in my programs. I don’t think I need a kettlebell certification.” If you’re of that opinion, it’s important to note that the classic kettlebell lifts taught at these events have little to do with the kettlebell. This is a principle-based program. Behind every kettlebell lift taught in our system, there are a series of movement patterns and principles that can be adapted to any training modality… and I do mean ANY modality! Over the years, I’ve used principles taught to me in kettlebell certs to improve barbell lifts, bodyweight training, and even traditional muscle isolation lifts and assistance work. I’ve said this many times and it bears repeating:

Once you, as an established instructor and/or trainee, have a solid set of training/programming principles established, the rest of the fitness world’s nonsense just becomes noise to you.

It’s like the teachers in the old Charlie Brown cartoons, “Whah Whah Whah Whah Whah…”

This critically important skill keeps you from chasing bunnies in your training and actually get to see some real results for yourself as well as your students.

2. It’s a hands-on teaching certification – Not only did we move around A LOT during the weekend, but when we broke up into teams, everyone was expected to have their ‘coach’s eye’ on. ‘Coach’s eye’ is a term I first heard from Rif at a prior certification that has become part of my teaching vocabulary ever since. Basically what he is saying is that in your mind you can see what the ideal technique looks like, and then be able to spot deviations away from that. Next, you learn how to say a couple magic words which helps the student to correct their particular movement. This is a career-long journey and proficiency is built with patience and practice. Rif is also passionate about being your own best student, so we had to practice a lot that weekend… thank goodness we took our preparation seriously! There were many murmurs by the second day of how sore some people were. Now this doesn’t mean we just got the snot kicked out of us for three straight days for no reason; there was a great balance of physical activity as well as instruction.

3. The manual is awesome – The training manual alone is worth the price of admission! Each and every detail of the kettlebell lifts is spelled out in great detail. The manual is so comprehensive that it would actually be impossible to go over all of it in the three days. It is highly recommended to keep it as a reference tool and re-read it later to pick up things you may have missed over the weekend. I’ve kept every old manual from every cert I’ve ever attended and refer back to them frequently. I feel like I learn something new every time I open it. Some statistics say that as little as a 10% percent retention rate is to be expected at an educational event like this. Since realizing this fact, I’ve become a diligent note-taker in workshops. But having a comprehensive manual that covers the information (plus a lot of other things!) is just great.

4. The Strength Matters community is second-to-none – I learned long ago that community amplifies results. As an owner of a small studio, sometimes I feel like I live in my own little fitness bubble. The only option I have to see what’s going on is the internet and social media. A quick peek around the web usually has me putting my periscope right back down and going back to my business…

Nothing to see here. Move along.
– Officer Barbrady

However, plugging into a group of people who are sharing in the same struggles and victories as I do is awesome. I’ve seen bits and pieces of this done very successfully in the past, but never have I seen all the cylinders of the engine firing together quite like Strength Matters. As instructors and small business owners, not only do we need great fitness instruction, but we also need great development beyond the kettlebell. Many of us are passionate fitness enthusiasts turned business owners, and are struggling to figure out the ‘business’ part of the business. I knew I needed this in my life when I stumbled across an invitation to attend a Strength Matters Summit. This was, hands down, the best fitness-related conference I’ve attended in my life. This three-day compilation of the who’s who of fitness was mind blowing. It became very obvious to me over the course of that weekend that the vision James Breese (Strength Matters CEO) had was much bigger than anything I had seen before. I knew at that point that I wanted to get involved and serve in this community in any capacity they would have me in. What does this have to do with an SMK Certification? I’m glad you asked…

5. Continuing development – Most certifications are good for two years, after which one would need to re-certify. I’m not saying that revisiting and refining kettlebell skills is not valuable… it absolutely is. What I am saying is that the fitness universe is large and multi-faceted, and to advance ourselves there is more to the equation than just swinging bells. When I found out that attending a Strength Matters Summit would re-certify me, I knew I had found the missing piece that I was looking for in my business.

6. The best is yet to come! – After numerous Skype calls with Mr. Breese, the topic is always the same: “How can we make this better?” And that question is not just posed to me as an insider, it’s asked of the entire Strength Matters community. James asks that same question at all certs and summits. Ray Croc famously said that, “None of us are as good as ALL of us.” This message is closely adhered to at Strength Matters. Even my conversations with Rif before, during, and after certifications are exactly the same. We are not a system that rests on its laurels. Although we stand behind our principles, we live by the adage that we must always be white belts in order to advance ourselves. The mindset here is simple:

Better than we were, not as good as we’re going to be.

It is my hope that regardless of your fitness affiliation, you regularly make time to advance your skill knowledge in some way. I’ve always made it a point to attend AT LEAST one big event per year. It could be something as big as a new certification, or maybe just a really good workshop put on by a great instructor. Every certification requires CEUs (Continuing Education Units) and some instructors will seek out the easiest and cheapest ways to attain these education hours. I challenge you to think “quality instruction” first, and “fulfilling requirements” second.

YOU’RE HEARING IT HERE FIRST! If you are in or around Arizona: In the spring of 2017, we will be having an SMK certification in sunny Tucson, AZ at the brand new Protocol Strength & Conditioning! If you are interested in being added to the interest list for this certification to receive special early-bird pricing, please email us at theprotocolsc@gmail.com and we will add you. If this blog doesn’t have you pumped to attend one of these events, maybe this will help…

Until next time,


Jerry Trubman

Jerry Trubman is the owner and founder of The Protocol Strength & Conditioning,
a facility and coaching program specializing in teaching people how to move better
and be stronger. With over a decade of experience in a fitness world filled with
nonsense and contradiction, Jerry has devoted himself to seeking out better answers,
and distilling those answers into practical programs that produce great results.
He writes “The Healthy Addiction” which has thousands of readers all over the world.

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