06 Jul How To Prepare For And Pass The SFG/RKC Kettlebell Certification (10 Critical Rules For Success)

Strong FirstI get a lot of questions about how to prepare for the SFG/RKC kettlebell certifications.

With that said, I wanted to share my own experience in preparing for the rigors of the ultimate kettlebell certification weekend.

The SFG/RKC kettlebell certification weekend is like nothing else I’ve experienced.

It’s a journey of strength and self discovery.

There really isn’t a physically demanding certification (that I’m aware of) that even comes close to this experience.

And, what you learn about strength and human movement is unmatched.

You need to maximally prepare for 3 days of mental toughness and physical stamina.

For your background, the SFG kettlebell certification is led by Pavel Tsatsouline, the man who initiated the modern kettlebell movement over a decade ago in the United States.

Before Pavel formed his new organization (StrongFirst), he led the RKC kettlebell certification, which had been considered the gold standard in kettlebell training.

Pavel now leads an organization dedicated to strength with many of the top kettlebell instructors in the world at StrongFirst.

The RKC is now under a completely different regime, however it still offers a high level of training and instruction.

The SFG is “similar, but different” from the RKC certification, with Pavel’s one of a kind, exclusive leadership.

It’s also a continuous evolution of technical skill and proficiency towards improving strength.

You can select which certification will serve you the best, based on what you’re looking for.

Now that you have some background, I wanted to provide the guidelines, the rules that worked for me.

I’m not making any promises that they will work for you because you have to put in the work and everyone is different.

Using all or some of these will definitely help you, I have no doubt about that.

You should understand that this is an extremely physically demanding 3 days, but it’s also a tremendous learning experience.

Your goals are to be as well prepared as humanly possible.

You can do that by:

  • being conditioned for 3 days of peak physical performance
  • having the proper skill set and technique for the basic kettlebell exercises (see below)
  • meeting your strength and snatch test requirements 

To fail to plan is a plan for failure.

Read these rules and apply the principles to be as well prepared to pass the highly demanding weekend.

Ignore this advice at your own expense.

Here are the 10 rules for success:

RULE 1: TRAIN FOR IT LIKE AN ATHLETIC COMPETITION.

Training for the SFG/RKC is essentially an athletic event.

Take it very seriously.

I want to be blunt right now, train hard for it or don’t waste your time and money.

Treat it as if you were training for a competition.

While it is a certification, learning, and teaching experience, you need to be in top physical condition to fulfill the strength and conditioning requirements.

You want to show up in peak physical condition having the qualities of strength, strength-endurance, mental toughness, and skill with the fundamental exercises.

And, be willing to learn (more on this in Rule 7).

Don’t take this lightly.

RULE 2: PUMP UP THE VOLUME.

Leading up the date of the certification, train 5 days a week.

Increasing your training frequency and volume will help to get you in the peak state for the event.

Use the following training schedule:

  • OFF DAYS are Monday and Thursday.
  • TRAINING DAYS are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

This schedule worked extremely well for me leading up to the event.

Basically, you are hitting it hard during the weekend (Fri, Sat, Sun) and “pre-conditioning” your body for the physical demands of the weekend event.

I would do higher volume (more sets, more reps with the ballistics, and more complexes) through the weekend (as you will when you are going through the certification) and then I would do more technique and fundamental practice on the two training days during the week.

You’ll find that this works very well for preparation purposes.

Training 5 days a week is a lot of training, but you are getting ready for a “volume” event so scaling it up like this will really help to prepare your body.

RULE 3: “TRAIN” THE SNATCH TEST.

The first thing is the realize that the snatch test is just one small part of the weekend.

But, it can be somewhat of a psychological barrier for some.

Completing 100 reps of a kettlebell snatch in 5 minutes or less with an appropriate size kettlebell is a demanding task, without question.

But, if you prepare for it appropriately, you can and will do really well.

Let me say this.

The snatch test is NEVER easy.

Never.

But, you can “condition” yourself so that it’s tolerable.

Now, there are many different approaches and ways to prepare for the snatch test.

My own experience is to specifically “train” the snatch test.

So, here’s what I did.

Every Friday (remember my training schedule above), I would perform a snatch test to begin my training session.

Again, I did a snatch test every single week on Fridays for the months leading up to the certification weekend.

I believe you have to know your baseline and work to improve that as you prepare for the event.

The snatch test got more tolerable, my times improved, and I had the mindset that I needed to succeed.

Ideally, you want to have your snatch test nailed about 1 to 3 months prior to the event (in my opinion).

And, at an absolute minimum, 1 month prior.

It’s a very BAD idea to show up thinking you’ll do it at the certification when you NEVER have.

Bad idea.

Train the snatch test and condition yourself to know what it feels like when you’re “sucking wind” at 70 reps and have the confidence that you can power through that last 30 reps.

If a weekly snatch test is too much for you, you can scale back the frequency to what serves you the best.

Keep in mind, there are many different approaches to passing the snatch test.

This is what worked for me.

RULE 4: DO DOUBLES.

It’s pretty simple here.

Double kttlebell work makes you stronger, more powerful, and more bullet proof.

Not to mention, you will be tested on double kettlebell skills, such as swings, cleans, front squats, and presses.

Spend time on working on your double kettlebell skills.

  • Double swings
  • Double cleans
  • Double presses
  • Double front squats

And, do clean and front squats and clean and presses in your training preparation.

The double kettlebell work will build the strength and resiliency you need during the certification weekend.

It’s a great way to prepare and build the mental toughness you will need to endure the large volume of work you’ll be doing during the weekend sessions.

During the training sessions prior to your certification, do a significant amount of double kettlebell work.

Believe me, it will pay off.

RULE 5: FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS.

As much as we all get distracted with programs, new exercises, and other training “shiny new toys,” you MUST keep the focus as you’re preparing.

Focus on just the fundamentals: the swing, goblet squat, turkish get up, cleans, presses, and snatches.

Spend time on improving your skills and techniques with these kettlebell fundamentals, but expect things to be cleaned up and tweaked at the certification.

Diligent practice with lots of repetition is what builds mastery, so don’t get distracted and stay focused during your training prep.

What makes the elite is that they are better at the fundamentals than everyone else.”

Remember this quote and apply it.

Just stick to the basics and nothing else for your certification prep.

RULE 6: DO LOTS OF SWINGS AND GET UPS.

If you asked Master SFG kettlebell instructor, Dave Whitely how to prepare for the SFG certification, one of the things he’d probably say is “do lots of swings and get ups.”

Doing lots of kettlebell swings and get ups will not only solidify your core skills, but will build superior levels of strength and conditioning.

When in doubt about what to do on a given training day, the answer is simple.

Do a large volume of swings and get ups and call it a day.

Engrain the swing pattern and enhance your turkish get up movement skills.

Doing volume work with heavy kettlebell swings will also help your snatch test performance, so keep that in mind, as well.

Move better, move stronger, and continually work to improve your skills with these foundational exercises and it will pay off.

RULE 7: BE HUMBLE.

No matter what your background is, how much knowledge you have, or how strong your athletic background is, expect to go there and LEARN.

Check your ego and just go there with an open mind and absorb the new information and technical details.

“Experts are students first and always.”

Prepare as much as you can prior to the event, but when you get there, be prepared to learn even more and forget your what you think you already know.

Be humble, be open minded, and take in the experience to make you even better.

The instructors are top notch and you will learn a lot out of the experience.

No matter what your background, it’s important to have an open mindset and the willingness to learn during your time there.

Again, be humble and learn.

Do not ignore this advice.

RULE 8: MAXIMIZE NUTRITION.

This is VERY important.

It’s critical that you bring proper nutrition and fuel to get you through the weekend.

You will need to re-fuel, re-energize, and manage fatigue all throughout the weekend.

You’ll want to pack things like:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Beef Jerky
  • Fruit
  • Carb/electrolyte drinks (as needed)
  • Quality protein bars
  • Quality protein drinks
  • Quality carbohydrate sources
  • and Supplementation (whatever you use for health, performance, and recovery)

Maximizing nutrition during the weekend will be KEY to help you recover and maintain the energy for optimal performance.

You’ve got 3 massive days of training, so you need to really focus on quality nutrition for your main meals and break times.

Use quality protein, healthy fats, and good sources of carbohydrates to power your performance.

Put together a checklist of what you’ll need and bring your inventory (or do a little shopping when you get to the destination).

RULE 9: DO NOT GET HURT.

This is HUGE!

The last thing you want while you are training for this event is to get injured.

Train smart and train safe throughout your preparations.

Pay extra attention to how you body feels and if you need an extra day of rest here and there, take it.

Focus on your techniques, avoid painful movement, implement more restorative methods, and pay attention to how you feel.

I should also note in this rule to take care of your hands.

With the snatch test and high volume of snatch work, you’ll want to avoid blisters and the tearing of calluses on your hands.

This will come in time as your technique is refined.

Use corn husker’s lotion (you can find in almost any drug store) after training to keep your hands in good condition.

Keeping your hands in good condition will be a key for the weekend and throughout your training preparation.

If your calluses do tear and you still need to train, use a wrist band or sock tube around your hand to protect the base of your hand sufficiently so that you can continue training.

Listen to your body and train safe as you prepare.

Do you best not to get hurt.

RULE 10: FIND A QUALITY COACH.

And, finally, you should find a strong coach to help you prepare.

Get with a local certified instructor, have them check your form, and offer feedback.

This will be invaluable in you preparations.

If you don’t have a local instructor, you should be able to find a certified instructor on-line as the next best thing.

Having someone evaluate your technique and give you feedback will be extremely helpful.

Also, get feedback on your programming, as well.

Additionally, you should also get Enter the Kettlebell by Pavel.

This book still serves as a great resource in preparing for the certifications.

So, finding a coach or mentor is key, whether in-person or on-line.

(*PLEASE NOTE: I can offer help, either live or on-line if you’re interested.  Reach out to me from the contact page and I’ll get back to you with more details.)

These are my 10 rules for success.

I really hope this article serves you well and you use the information to help you prepare and pass the SFG (or RKC) kettlebell certification.

Let this serve as a framework for getting you ready.

If you know of others this will help, please share it with them.

Have questions or comments?

Let me know.

—————————

***ADDENDUM: Since I wrote this article, there was a fantastic new article written by Brett Jones posted on the StrongFirst website.

The article by Brett is a specific, tactical template for training preparation, so I highly recommend reading and understanding this, as well.

To check out the article, click here.

Also, MAKE SURE you watch the video in the article on the current “standards” of the technique used at StrongFirst.

Click here to view the video.

If you enjoyed this, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or anywhere you’d like.

Scott Iardella, MPT, CSCS, SFGII writes about strength training methods to optimize health and performance. If you enjoyed this, join a strong and growing community of passionate fitness enthusiasts and subscribe below to get a ton of cool, free stuff! Subscribe at RdellaTraining.com/join and get your FREE Report and Resource Guide.
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2 Comments
  • Moshe
    Posted at 10:40h, 07 July Reply

    Hi Scott so would you say that this is a certification or that this is an athletic event that you are training for?
    Are you going to this course to learn how tp teach people? Or is it about challenging yourself as personal thing?

    • Scott
      Posted at 12:09h, 08 July Reply

      Excellent questions.
      It is a certification, first and foremost, but what I mean about it being an “athletic event” is that you have to train hard to meet the strength and physical requirements to pass the certification.
      Many certifications, you simply “show up” and at the end, you get a certificate. This isn’t like that because whether or not you plan on teaching kettlebells or not, you need to have the skill and strength to meet the requirements. I really agree with this because I think an instructor should be a role model and maintain a certain standard for their clients.
      It is definitely an “instructor’s course” so the participate should be skilled upon completion to teach kettlebells safely and effectively, however, some people that attend do it as a personal, physical challenge knowing how physically demanding this certification is. These people simply want to take their training to a higher level and attend the cert to refine and improve their own skills.
      The certifications are skill, strength, and learning how to apply and teach the strength and movement principles for optimal performance and safety.
      Hope that helps and let me know if you have further questions.
      ~Scott

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