Exactly 1 year ago in Orlando, Florida I met a guy named Franz at my RKC weekend. Now – and maybe it’s because I grew up in the ’90s watching SNL every Saturday night – I would expect a guy named “Franz” to be about 300lbs, wearing a grey sweat suit with a weight belt talking in a thick eastern-European accent talking about how he’s going to pump my skinny, girly-man frame up.
But when I introduced myself to Franz Snideman, I saw in him a lot of what I wanted from myself: a lean, almost skinny guy with who was deceptively strong and explosive.
When I got into conversation with him, I found a man who was so passionate about what he was teaching that you could just hear the enthusiasm in his voice.
Franz Snideman was instantly someone who resonated with me.
When I was in San Diego last month, we tried to get together for coffee, but the timing just didn’t work out, so I got him on the phone to talk to him about kettlebells, the role that bodyweight training plays in his kettlebell training practice and how to get the physique of a sprinter (Franz was a collegiate sprinter and still competes to this this day).
Here’s how Part 1 of this 3 Part Interview went down…
CL: Hey everyone, it’s Chris Lopez from KettebellWorkouts.com. And I am back with another kettlebell workout interview with my good friend Franz Snideman. Franz is going to talk to us about his kettlebell training style, lots of fat loss info. I’m going to ask him a little bit about athletic training because he is quite the exceptional athlete as well. He was just recently appointed a senior RKC. Congratulations on that, sir. So Franz, welcome to the call.
FS: Hey, thanks Chris.
CL: It’s good to have you on. I guess initially I’d like you to tell all the listeners a little bit about yourself. About how you got into kettlebell training, how long you’ve been in RKC, what kind of got you into it and maybe a little bit about your athletic background as well. So if you can maybe give us your little intro that would be great.
FS: Yeah, sure. I originally got into kettlebells in 2002. I had a client that I was training here in San Diego. And he was actually my twin brother, Keats Snideman. And another RKC team leader named Josh Henkin who is the guy with the sandbag, Mr. Sandbag guy. They introduced me to kettlebells. They said, “Hey, we found these things called Russian kettlebells. They’re absolutely amazing. Ironically, the guy that kind of started this movement lives in your area, he lives in L.A. You should go see him.”
So that’s exactly what a client of mine and I did. We looked up Pavel, emailed him, asked if it would be okay if we could come down and hire him. And we did. We hired him for two hours on Santa Monica Beach. And instantly liked him, instantly knew that this was a different form of fitness.
I’d always kind of prided myself on being fairly progressive, like I’ve always been attracted to pretty cool things. At that time I was doing a lot of the Paul Chek stuff, like Swiss Ball and all the functional craze that was going on back then. But when I hired Pavel for that session, I knew immediately. I said, “Okay, this is good. I suck at this. My body doesn’t work the way I want it to work. I’m going to change the direction of my business.”
And literally it was just kind of a chance meeting. And it changed the entire direction of where I was focusing my business on. He encouraged me to take the RKC certification in ’03, which was April of ’03, 2003. And it was kind of a who’s who of trainers. There was Josh Henkin, Mike Bergner, Steve Cotter, I think Anthony Diluglio was there. There was just a bunch of guys that went on to do some pretty cool stuff.
And I knew then that that was basically the direction that I wanted to take in my business. Not because I thought it was going to be a fad or it was going to make me money. Because of what it was doing to my body, and because of the changes I was seeing in my actual clients. I knew that this was here to stay. And Chris, it’s 2011 and I don’t think kettlebells are going anywhere. They’re still fairly new. Wouldn’t you agree?
CL: It’s a funny thing about that, because people say that it’s a fad or that it’s brand new. But kettlebells have really been around for a hundred years, maybe longer than that.
FS: They have them in the Russian dictionary in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. So I’m not sure if they were used exactly like we’re using them now. But kettlebells have been around for hundreds of years, at least according to the Russian dictionary. So they’re not new. But they’re new for America. If you walk down the street and ask ten people, “Have you heard of kettlebells?” Maybe one person has, or two people. It’s still a pretty wide open field and there are still a lot of people that just have never even touched a kettlebell.
But that was my story. That’s kind of how I got involved with kettlebells. My personal background as an athlete, I was a collegiate sprinter. And I was more of a specialist in the 100 meter. I did some 200 meter. So I’ve always gravitated more towards the power sports. I was a decent high jumper. I could dunk a basketball in high school at about 5’11”. I can’t do that anymore, let me be honest there.
But I still dabble in sprinting. I really never want to stop sprinting. I’m not competing at a very competitive level, but I still sprint. And I still use it as kind of a litmus test for my overall function and power and speed. Kind of secretly I try to get all my clients, whether they know it or not, to become sprinters. They don’t really know that, but that’s kind of my goal.
CL: Being in the fat loss industry, ideally it’s a sprinter’s body that most of our clients are after. That long, lean, functional type of strength where you look great and you can perform as well. So I think you’ve got a great athletic background to be able to prescribe that type of exercise. So that’s great. Dunking a basketball at 5’11” in high school, that’s pretty good too.
FS: Yeah, yeah. I wish I would have had kettlebells back then. I’ve always been light and fairly explosive, but I’m not a natural strength athlete. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Gray Cook and the Functional Movement training. I’m sure you are, but basically he classifies athletes and he puts them into certain categories. And one of the categories is the overpowered athlete but who’s not very stable and not very strong. And that was definitely me for most of my career: lots of power, not very stable, definitely not very strong in terms of absolute strength.
So the kettlebell was a natural for me because I love the application of power doing snatches and swings and jerks. But the hardest part for me has been the grinds, has been the slower strength movements like double front squats, heavy double military presses with two kettlebells, heavy getups. That kind of stuff has been a real struggle for me. And I haven’t progressed as fast in that. But it’s given me the most fruit and the most benefit because it was my weakness.
So regardless of the type of athlete you are, I always say if you’re not strong or you’re not powerful kettlebells will allow you to do both. But if you do fall into one of those categories, let’s say you’re a power lifter and you’re extremely strong. Maybe you have a lot of absolute strength, but you’re not very quick, you’re not explosive, you’re not very powerful, you can do swings, you can do snatches.
So really the kettlebell has an application for any type of athlete. It doesn’t matter which category you fall into. You will fall into one. And the kettlebell, I have found, is probably the best tool to improve those weaknesses and kind of bring out those motor qualities that we all desperately want to improve.
So anyway, that was not really answering your question. But that’s kind of my overall feeling on why kettlebells are extremely applicable to any person. It’s kind of hard to judge it unless you’re on the inside and you actually start using them. A workout or two into it you’ll figure out really quickly experientially why kettlebells are so effective.
CL: In all honesty, when we met back in October, that’s why I really came up to talk to you about that, because of that whole philosophy that you had about having absolute strength. I feel like I’m in the same boat in that when I was an athlete, when I was playing basketball and playing volleyball, I could jump and I could do all those things. But my absolute strength was not very good either.
And so I was watching you and watching you train and working with your team. And I said, “Hey, you know what. There’s another skinny guy who knows what he’s doing, is incredibly powerful, I’ve got to go talk to him.” And there’s my honest admission in terms of why I contacted you for an interview and why I choose myself I guess a year ago.
But going further into that, let’s talk a little bit about fat loss and what your general fat loss philosophy is when it comes to training with kettlebells, or even training in general. What is your philosophy in terms of how you approach that with your clients?
FS: The overriding number one principle that I’ve developed and learned over the years is that – and it really doesn’t even apply to fat loss, it just applies to life in general, and fat loss is definitely one of those things that will be a nice byproduct – but it’s learning to move well.
Again, this isn’t very sexy. It doesn’t sound very complicated. It’s not. But it’s not that easy to do either. Learning to move your body well, trying to remove some of the restrictions, trying to focus on where you’re weak I think is probably my number one priority in my program and in our system, because yes you can lose short-term body weight and body fat through pretty much anything.
The challenge for me, and one of the best interests that I’ve kind of developed over the years, is the idea of sustainability. So if you want to lose fat and you want to build muscle, you want to have that lean physique that so many people want to have, you need to be able to sustain the level of training that you’re doing.
And what I also find in a lot of programs you see on the Internet, or maybe some of these P90X such things, although there’s a lot of good stuff in there, a lot of the people aren’t really qualified to do those movements very well. And I think if you want to lose fat and not put it back on again immediately because you’re injured, you need to take the time to learn to move well.
What’s one of the things I love about the RKC, the Russian Kettlebell Challenge Certification, is that our principals are so based on really learning to move out of the hips, learning to have a long spine, learning to put the work into the larger muscle groups.
So again, it sounds like this isn’t really a fat loss philosophy. But it really is, because if you learn to move well, if biomechanically you are sound, not only will you be able to lose fat but you’ll be able to keep the fat off long-term. The reason is that you’re not going to get injured. I don’t think people should be getting injured during their training. And definitely they shouldn’t be getting injured during their kettlebell training.
So if people are getting injured and it goes from the back, and then they get the shoulders, that tells me that they have not taken the necessary time to figure out what movement wise is not going well in their body. If you move better and you can actually put your body into better positions and postures, you’ll be able to lift heavier. You’ll be able to burn more fat. Your ability to do more volume, like more swings, more snatches, which means you burn more calories and consequently you just have a better metabolism to burn fat, that’s a better long-term approach.
So again, this doesn’t sound extremely sexy or, “Wow, that’s not what I wanted to hear.” But my first part of my philosophy is I don’t care what program you do. If you don’t do it well and you don’t move well, it doesn’t matter. So all the programming to me is secondary. Is it important? Absolutely, it’s totally important.
But Chris, I think you would agree that if somebody can’t do a swing or they can’t do a squat or they can’t do basic fundamental movements and we attached a bunch of kettlebells to them long-term, that fat loss is going to come to a screeching halt because of injury or frustration. And it’s not even with a kettlebell. It could be with anything. It could be with a barbell.
So my number one prerequisite is just to get the basics. Learn to move well. Long-term you’re going to be able to sustain your training. Fat loss will come because of your ability to move well. I kind of went off on a tangent there, but that’s kind of my number one rule is move well first.
And on a secondary note, if you think of an injury or you think of something, maybe like a disk injury or like a chronic knee issue or shoulder issue, if those things become chronic from a fat loss perspective because of the physiologic stress of having pain in your body, we know that pain causes certain hormonal responses in the body. One of those is increased cortisol and stress hormones, which as you know, Chris, can increase body fat stores or basically make it hard to lose fat.
So if somebody’s under chronic physiologic stress because of pain, and especially if it’s because of their training, you probably lose fat doing nothing other than just removing that pain. Whether that be going to rehab, hopefully not operation or surgery. If that’s needed then I guess that’s needed. But I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of people listening to this call that are either currently injured or they’re kind of on the fence, like, “I kind of have this chronic issue.”
I’ll be honest. I definitely had my own injuries. And most of them had just been bonehead moves, not listening to my body. But I will say from experience, and experience in working, what is it, almost 15 years with clients, that if you get people to have less pain in their body or you can help them to have less stress in their bodies, they just kind of naturally get leaner. They don’t crave the bad foods.
Usually when you’re hurting you’ll find ways to self-medicate yourself. And very often that doesn’t really end up being like ripped abs and nice thighs or something. It usually ends up in exacerbating preexisting fat cells so they get bigger and bigger and bigger. And it happens, it’s human. It does happen. When we’re hurting it’s easy to kind of make the wrong decisions with our lifestyle. And obviously food, that’s a whole different story.
So that’s kind of a whole different end of it as well. But apart from that, then yes I think programming does come in. And I would say my second like number one rule in our system, and in my philosophy, is that people need to build a foundation of strength.
And recently senior RKC Dan John, who I think is just an absolute asset to the RKC and he’s just an amazing person and an amazing strength coach. But the guy has so much wisdom. But he recently said in several articles, and actually he has a DVD series out called “Intervention” which I highly recommend. It’s a three-DVD set. But he basically said that if you want to make somebody’s life better and you want to make somebody’s fitness better, one of the best things to do – and I’m completely stealing and robbing this from Dan because I don’t think I can say it any better – is to – he calls it the glass philosophy.
Think of a glass like you would pour water into or coffee, or just a glass. If you have a bigger glass you can put more stuff in it. Basically you can put mobility, you can put flexibility, you can put strength. If you are the glass, what dictates the size of your glass is your level of strength. If you have Popeye level strength, you’re just super strong, Andre the Giant strength, you have an advantage because your system can tolerate so much more stress, so much more training, so much more motor qualities, whether that be flexibility, whether that be speed, agility, coordination you can do more.
So I would say my second rule, and this indirectly is going to make you leaner, if you have more strength, if you have the bigger shot glass, you have the potential to burn more fat. You have a bigger potential to tolerate the training that would get you to be able to get lean.
So I would say getting people to be able to do just big basic movements, like for women deadlifting, doing pull-ups and chin-ups, if we’re talking about kettlebells double front squats, just basic classic strength training movements that get your glass to get bigger. I’ve kind of always felt that.
But when Dan said that I said, “You know what, that guy’s right.” Because the females, and even the males that I train, the ones that seem to be able to stay leaner longer and get leaner as they get older are the ones that have a decent level of strength. The ones that are weak, they tend to bounce around a little bit. They tend to gain fat a little easier. They tend to yoyo a bit more.
So my second principle would be get stronger. Of course getting stronger is completely dependent on principle one, which means that you have qualified yourself and you have the ability to move well to handle heavy weight. Actually picking up heavier weight and moving it I think is probably number two.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the interview where we talk about the RIGHT WAY for women to train and what role bodyweight training has with this whole “kettlebell thing”.