Safe and Effective Kettlebell Training (#1 secret)

I returned home late on Sunday night from my weekend San Jose RKC assistant duties, and I was right back at it Monday morning, teaching a kettlebell boot camp at my Sacramento, CA training studio.

After about 30 hours of learning and teaching kettlebells over the weekend – with some incredibly great and smart folks – I noticed that my boot campers were actually pretty darn dailed in with their swing form. Nice! Good job Forest! 🙂

So, on my drive home from work last night, I started thinking a bit about WHY this is so.  I mean, go into some workout rooms full of people swinging kettlebells, and instead of impressive, things look ugly.  Real ugly.

One reason that our campers look good in the kettlebell form department is simple – we care. We want people to do things RIGHT, and we coach them up until they get it. We don’t tollerate sloppy form.

However, I believe the single most important factor contributing to good kettlebell training form is effective cuing.

This is actually a somewhat complex topic, and can be broken down into all different specific components (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc.) … but at its core, is all about matching your teaching style to a student’s learning style.  It is part science and part art.

What I wanted to do in today’s post was simply break down a few of my favorite cues I have learned over the years. These will help you immensely if 1) you are a trainer yourself, or 2) you are training on your own and are having a hard time mastering the technique of a specific KB exercise.

I have also tried to include WHERE I got these cues … because I want to give credit where it is due!


5 Cues for Safe and Effective Kettlebell Training


1 – Punch your butt through a piece of glass behind you

This one comes from the book Kettlebells for Dummies by Sarah Lurie.

It’s a great one if you are having a hard time getting down the hip hinging movement that is the foundation of the kettlebell swing.

As you decend into the deadlift, punch your hips back like you are pushing them through a piece of glass behind you.

I go through a little breakdown of this in a recent video – check it out here:

=> HardStyle Kettlebell Swing Progression (part 1)


2 – Don’t be the guy at the beach

Got this one from David Whitley (the Iron Tamer).

This applies when you are doing a Turkish Get Up – to your bottom shoulder.

A lot of folks make the mistake of letting themselves slouch to the ground with their bottom (closest to the ground) shoulder during the movement.  Hence, you look like the “guy at the beach”.  Do NOT do this.

Instead, push yourself away from your shoulder, and create as much space from your shoulder to your ear as you can. This is a good cue to get you to do that.


3 – Just the right amount of power on the clean

This one comes from the Dragon Door forum, I think … honestly can’t remember.  Sorry to whoever I learned it from 🙂

If you are doing a KB clean, and you give it too much hip snap, the kettlebell will fly up and whack you in the wrist.

If you don’t give it enough power, the move essentially turns into a cheat curl.  Not what we are going for either.

Get it just right, and the movement is a thing of beauty.

Check out this video for a more detailed explanation:

=> How to Fix Your Kettlebell Clean


4 – Throw the kettlebell through your stomach

I am not sure where I got this one to be honest … it was from an RKC though, and maybe on a YouTube video somewhere … thanks again 😉 …

Anyway, it is great to get the proper path of the kettlebell going from the top of the snatch, down to the finish.  Just imagine your are throwing the ‘bell back through your stomach, as it comes out of the top locked out position.


5 – Rip the handles of the kettlebell apart – while keeping your arms straight

This is a great one to help you get your shoulders back in the two handed deadlift and swing movement.  Got this one from Pavel at my first RKC.

When you are at the top of a deadlift position, keep your arms straight, and imagine like you are ripping the handles of the kettlebell apart.  This will fire your lats and force your shoulders down.


Okay! There are five of my favorite coaching cues for you. Use these cues to improve your own form and that of those that you coach.  And watch your progress go through the roof!

Thanks for reading, and talk soon –

Forest Vance, MS, RKC II


PS – I got a killer new package of kettlebell boot camp workouts I’m putting together for you, and it’ll be available this weekend at a great discount.  Keep an eye on your email inbox for details …

PPS – If you want to learn more coaching cues like these, I recommend you attend an RKC event yourself. There is nothing like it. Click here for a list of all upcoming Dragon Door workshops:

=> Upcoming RKC Events

Kettlebell/Body Weight Boot Camp Buddy Workout

I just finished up day one of assisting at the San Jose RKC.  So awesome to be part of an event like this …. I am learning a ton from everyone involved, from our head instructor, to my team leader, to my fellow assistants, and even the participants … plus, just because I love KB’s and everything about them, I am having a lot of fun! 🙂

One thing that is heavily utilized in the RKC cert work format is the buddy system.  The typical flow during the day alternates between instruction and drill work/KB practice/short workout.  And almost every drill/exercise/workout/etc. is done with a partner.

This is a GREAT way to structure a group workout.  We use this format daily at my Sacramento, CA fitness/kettlebell boot camp, and it works great.  Folks typically push harder than they would on their own, they can see what the other person is doing and provide feedback, they get to know other folks in the group, etc.

So, to better illustrate how you could set up a session like this, and to give you a sample workout to try on your own, I pulled one of my favorite kettlebell and body weight – based boot camp buddy workouts out of the vault for you today. Check it out:


FVT Kettlebell/Body Weight Boot Camp Buddy Workout


1 – Start with your SMR/mobility/dynamic stretching work for 5-10 mins before the workout

(Check out this article for a simple progression:


2 – Buddy set #1 – ketttlebell squat and press + body row

*Person one does five KB squat and presses (with a – relatively for you – heavy weight!) on one side, a hand-to-hand swing switch, and five KB squat to presses on the other side.

HOWEVER LONG IT TAKES person one to do this, person two is performing body rows.

Rest briefly (10-15 secs), switch exercises and repeat.

Do this three to four times total.


3 – Buddy set #2 – burpee + kettlebell swing

*Person one does seven burpees.

HOWEVER LONG IT TAKES person one to do this, person two is performing kettlebell swings.

Rest briefly (10-15 secs), switch exercises and repeat.

Do this three to four times total.


4 – Buddy set #3 – kettlebell figure eight to hold + plank-to-push up

*Person one does ten kettlebell figure eight to holds.

HOWEVER LONG IT TAKES person one to do this, person two is performing the plank-to-push exercise (with a push up).

Rest briefly (10-15 secs), switch exercises and repeat.

Do this three to four times total.


5 – “Cool down” with SMR again, static stretching for your tight muscle groups only, etc.


Whew!  Nice. Enjoy that one 😉 That’s all I got for ‘ya for now. If you are not incorporating buddy training into your workouts, hopefully this article and sample workout has changed your mind … it’s a great way to structure your sessions, and will help you take your training to the next level.

Keep training hard, and talk soon –

Forest Vance, MS, RKC II


PS – I have a sweet program I’m putting together right now, that I will have available for you very soon … it’s a collection of kettlebell and body weight based workouts and programs for the fitness boot camp format.  If you lead boot camps of your own, ever plan to, or do workouts like this yourself, I think you will really enjoy it. Keep an eye on your email inbox for the FVT newsetter to get first news of its release …

3 Tips for Better Kettlebell Boot Camp Workouts

I love leading fitness boot camps at my Sacramento, CA kettlebell gym.  I am coming up on ten years of personal training experience, and I truly feel like  I have found my life’s purpose.  Rarely is there a day where I actually feel like I am “going to work”.

I am also dedicated to being a life-long student of my craft – and continue to learn and improve how I do things each and every day.  So, whether you are just getting into training with kettlebells, or you are a fitness boot camp instructor yourself, I thought some of the lessons I have learned along the way in the area of better kettlebell boot camp workouts might be of use to you.

Watch the video first, then read the recap below it:

Video Recap – 3 Tips for Better Kettlebell Boot Camp Workouts


1 – Make sure you select your kettlebell exercises wisely

When I first started teaching kettlebell boot camps about five years ago, I didn’t give a lot of thought to matching exercise selection to group ability level.  This was a big mistake.  Some folks would leave feeling like the workout was too easy, and some ended up in way over their heads.

Sometimes, keeping it simple is the best way to go in a fitness boot camp setting. For most, exercises like kettlebell swings, goblet squats, and rows are effective and easy to teach. With more advanced students, exercises like windmills and push presses can work well. The important thing is to be attentive to what your class is ready for.

2 – Set a new personal record for each session

Trying to do just a little better each day is an AWESOME way to keep yourself motivated, and continually progressing towards your fitness goals.  It’s also a great way to stick to your workouts for the long term – and to get your campers to stick around for a long while, too.

Pushing yourself and your students harder leads to more efficient and intense workouts. That could be using a heavier kettlebell or adding more movements like extra pushups into your set.

3 – Approach your fitness program from a holistic perspective

YES, you need to provide an amazing experience at your kettlebell boot camp.  But you ALSO need to look at all the other pieces of the “fitness pie” for optimum fitness results …

Promote a well rounded, healthy lifestyle, with proper diet and sufficient recovery in between workouts. Proper rest will give you the energy for a focused workout when the next session comes around!


In conclusion, if you are a boot camp instructor yourself … or, if you enjoy doing boot camp – style kettlebell workouts on your own … use these three tips to take your workouts to the next level!!

PS – If you liked this article, make sure to sign up for the newsletter TODAY and grab my F.REE Beginner’s Guide to Kettlebell Training.  Just drop your best email address into the box at the upper right of the page.

Super Bowl Kettlebell Workout (burn 1036 calories)

According to, Super Bowl Sunday marks the day that Americans chow the second-greatest amount of food – second only to Thanksgiving.

You could stay strong, and watch your friends and family eat all the foods you love, while you sit in the corner chewing on a stick of celery …

OR … you could do my Super Bowl Kettlebell Workout … and feel okay about enjoying some of the foods you love on the big day!!

Do the workout exactly as outlined, and (assuming an “average” body weight of 180 pounds), you’ll burn a total of 1036 kcals.

Let’s get it going –


The 1036 Calorie Super Bowl Kettlebell Workout

1 – Do a 15 minute dynamic warm up – joint mobility, self myofascial release, dynamic stretching – check out this article if you need more details (90 calories burned)

2 – Do 35 minutes of high-intensity kettlebell/body weight training – something like this, one of my all-time favs from the 10×10 Kettlebell Solution (336 calories burned):

*Warm up – Do five Turkish Get Ups on each side. Start easy – with no weight at all or a light weight – and work up to a heavier weight with each rep. Switch sides after each rep.

*Perform the first exercise in each pairing. Immediately move to the next exercise (or exercises) and complete the prescribed number of reps. Rest :30 and repeat each sequence a total of three times.

1a: 8 reverse lunges
1b: pull ups – one rep short of failure

2a: 6 kettlebell presses
2b: 20 body weight squats (explosive tempo)

3a: 25 kettlebell swings (your choice)
3b: 15 push ups

3 – Run 5k – 3.2 miles – at a medium (6 mph) pace (504 calories burned)

If you are not into running, you could also do about 35 minutes of medium-to-high intensity biking, swimming, rowing, etc.

4 – Finish with 15 minutes of yoga work – here is a great sequence for you to try (106 calories burned):

=> Yoga for Big Bastards


Carve out about 90 minutes tomorrow morning before the big game to do this workout, and you can feel a-okay about the extra kcals you consume later in the day 😉

May your favorite team win –


PS – Signed up for the FVT email newsletter yet? Get workouts like this one delivered straight to your email inbox. Just drop your best email into the box at the upper right of the page to get signed up now!