I've been working hard on getting prepped for the RKC coming up in October. So hard, in fact, that I took last week off (completely!!!) and decided to exercise my mind to try to gain more knowledge about kettlebell training. (I'll tell you a little more about my "back off" week and the breakthroughs that I've had in my training as of late).
Somebody once told me that the fastest way to success is to find somebody who is where you want to be, and emulate/copy/mimic what they've done to achieve success. Even better would be to have a conversation with that person.
Well, that's what I did. I went out and got one of the most well-respected experts not only in the kettlebell world, but in all of fitness and strength & conditioning and had a conversation with him, recorded it, and then tried to digest, absorb and inhale everything he had to say.
And so this is our inaugural interview for my Kettlebell Workouts interview series.
To start things off I interviewed Geoff Neupert, Master RKC who's been in the industry for over 17 years.
He’s performed well over 20,000 hours of one on one personal training. In his hometown of Durham, North Carolina he’s opened two firsts. One is the first free standing personal training studio and then the other first in Durham, North Carolina is the first kettlebell only group fitness studio.
Geoff currently trains his clients in his own referral only studio as well. He’s a former Division One strength and conditioning coach at Rutgers University. He’s the creator of the ultimate kettlebell fat loss program called Kettlebell Burn, which we’ll be going into a little bit in this call. He’s also the author of a newly published book called Kettlebell Muscle.
He’s traveled all over the world teaching hundreds of people how to use kettlebells safely and effectively for both themselves and their clients.
Chris: Most of my readers and my subscribers are beginners and even though I’ve heard of you in the strength and conditioning and in the RKC and kettlebell world some of my readers and subscribers haven’t, so I gave you a brief intro. But, why don’t we get a little personal to start out. Why don’t you tell me the good story you’ve got about how you got into kettlebell training?
Geoff: That’s a great question. I bought Pavel’s Russian Kettlebell Challenge book, DVD, and three kettlebell starter set, which is a 16, a 24, and a 32. I think I bought it for myself for Christmas in 2001, which means I got it in January of 2002. Being the smart guy that I am I trained for the snatch, which is the czar of kettlebell lifts.
I was messing around with some pretty heavy dumbbells and I thought, “This is going to be easy.” So, I cracked open my 70 pound kettlebell in a rented home at the time and “snatched.” Needless to say, it didn’t turn out well. I had a goose egg about the size of Japan on the back of my wrist because I didn’t know how to snatch correctly and I almost dropped the kettlebell through the floor.
I knew I was onto something, they were a little harder than they looked. So, then I took that same kettlebell and took it out in the front yard and did 20 overhead swings and thought, “This isn’t bad.” Then immediately it felt like somebody punched me in the gut and I had just run a 400 meter sprint as fast as I could, which reminded me of wrestling practice. I instantly fell in love with them, so that was my very first experience with kettlebells.
The main reason I bought them was because my background is in wrestling and more recently Olympic style weightlifting. I recognized the kettlebells as basically a tool to introduce the general population to all the benefits of Olympic lifting without having to waste all the time on the technique and all the special equipment. Yeah, you can do it with dumbbells, but there’s just something unique about the kettlebell, and we can go into that later if you want.
Then I started using them with my clients and incorporating them into my workouts. I was building a business at the time and I was doing really stupid things with my body, like forcing it to lift really, really heavy on no sleep and I got some pretty good injuries, so much so that by January of 2006 I had injured my back and both my hips. Without sounding to crass, I couldn’t even sit on the john without holding onto the sink in front of it, so I was literally using my arms to sit down.
The next four years or so I really used my kettlebell training along with another system that I used at the time and I can honestly say if I had not been doing the kettlebell training I probably would have fallen into that proverbial pit of despair and never made it to the point where I am today, which is fully functional with no active issues from my injuries and completely pain free.
The beautiful thing about the kettlebell is because the leverage is so weird on them it makes lighter weights feel heavy and it works your muscles in a much more thorough way than the same sized dumbbell. Interestingly enough, if you use two kettlebells, two kettlebells feel heavier on the body than the same weight on a barbell just because of the leverage.
So, the kettlebell allowed me literally to keep my sanity by being able to do things that were a challenge for me and heavy, so to speak, while rehabbing my injuries using kettlebells a lot. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
Chris: Let me ask you this then. Based on all the years that you’ve been kettlebell training now, have you been injured?
Geoff: Not using kettlebells, no.
Chris: No, exactly. Okay. That’s a really big take home message for a lot of the skeptics out there who are saying that the ballistic type of training that’s involved with kettlebell training is dangerous and it can be detrimental to different joints, like your back or hips.
Now, generally for this call I really wanted to talk about fat loss, because I think that’s what lures a lot of people into specific types of training and that’s pretty much what the general population is looking for these days because we’re getting fatter and more pathetic as a society.
It’s the truth, more people are becoming more overweight and people are becoming less active and everybody is looking for a magic pill and by no means am I saying that kettlebells are the magic pill, but they are a great way to really accelerate fat loss and everything. So, I’m just curious to know what your general philosophy on fat loss is.
Geoff: Okay. I think it’s pretty simple really. I started with nutrition and for myself and I tell my clients to eat whole foods that give your energy, use the appropriate exercises at the appropriate effort levels, and manage your stress levels by getting enough recovery. That’s pretty big, huh?
Chris: Yes, a little bit. That’s as simple as it gets. I personally think, and I know you believe this as well, that fat loss the formula for it is relatively simple, it’s just incredibly difficult to implement for a lot of people.
Geoff: Yes, the execution is what confuses people. I’ll just break that little equation down that I just gave your listeners.
Whole foods that give you energy, that’s really simple. Those are foods that are found in nature. Depending on who you are and your current state of health, fitness, and wellbeing, these types of foods based on my experience will vary from person to person.
You need to lean protein sources. Protein is the macronutrient responsible for tissue regeneration and recovery and a lot of your body’s vital processes, so meat, fish, poultry, those are your protein sources. Some people want to include dairy in there, but as you well know there’s a lot of controversy about dairy as a protein source because of all the allergies that go along with that.
Some more whole foods are fruits, vegetables, herbs. Those are your vitamin and mineral sources. Your body needs vitamins and minerals to run healthfully.
Healthy fats like nuts and avocados. Those are sources of essential fats that your body needs for maintaining proper cellular function.
Here’s the tricky part. I mentioned earlier that what you eat depends on the person. Starches, like natural carbohydrates, potatoes, rice, quinoa, legumes, those sorts of things can be eaten for extra energy.
But, again the tricky part is if you are overweight or you’re losing fat you don’t really need extra energy because you’ve already got it. It’s sitting around your middle or the back of your legs or whatever, so you don’t really need large amounts of external extra energy and that’s what the carbohydrates provide.
So, that’s the whole foods thing. As far as practicality if you want to know how to shop for that just go to your grocery store and don’t go down the aisles and stay away from the freezer section on the far end just past the dairy where they put all the frozen junk. Hit the fruit and vegetables stand, hit the meat case, and get out of there.
So, that’s the food issue. Based on my experience I’d say that’s 80 percent of the fat loss game, so that’s really where you should spend most of your time and energy. And that makes sense, because you can’t work out all day long. Right?
Chris: Absolutely. In my practice I call that the rule of 165, so if you train for three hours in a week that stimulus isn’t so much as important as the other 165 hours when you’re not training.
Geoff: Yes, exactly. I think it’s because exercise seems to be the simplest and easiest thing to do that people tend to focus on that.
A business partner and I, we opened this kettlebell studio and our first round of people were in there for 12 weeks and they just loved the kettlebell training, but some of them women were complaining because they were bulking up.
I asked, “What are you eating?” “Oh, well my diet isn’t chaning.” Then they would tell us what they were eating and they’re eating all this extra food to make up for the calories that they’re expending using kettlebells.
So, exercise only goes so far. You can out eat the amount of calories you burn during exercise and people do it routinely. They just make the mistake of thinking that exercise is the magic bullet. Anyway, that’s a little bit of a tangent.
Then the other 20 percent, my philosophy is exercise and stress management. For exercise I always favor 100 percent of the time all forms of strength training over any form of cardiovascular training for fat loss and really for anything.
Chris: That’s a big one for me. Can you repeat that for everybody just so that they know?
Geoff: Yes. For me and my clients it actually doesn’t matter what their goal is, whether it’s fat loss or not, but I think it’s especially pertinent to people seeking to lose body fat and get lean, I favor all forms of strength training first and foremost over any form of cardiovascular exercise.
I’ll tell you why. My reason is twofold, but it’s very simple. The first reason is your muscles are your fat burning machinery, ultimately muscle requires energy to operate. So, the more muscle you have on the body the more energy your body requires to operate and that’s good news if you’re trying to burn body fat, because that’s what body fat is, it’s stored energy. So, the more muscle you have and the more you work the muscle the greater chance you have of getting rid of that stored energy.
On the flip side if I’m worried about your heart health I can impact your heart health through strength training and improve your cardiovascular fitness, and improve your joint function, and increase your lean body mass, and increase your hormonal profile and do so many other things. The same is not true for most forms of cardiovascular exercise. Most forms of cardiovascular exercise are long duration, repetitive, and essentially detrimental to the body.
Just look at marathon runners. Have you studied marathoners lately? I’m sure you have, but take a look if your callers just want to Google some marathon pictures. Marathoners come in two types. You’ve got your pro marathoner who is skinny as a rail and really doesn’t have any lean muscle tissue on them to speak of, so that means all of his calories are burned through the means of exercise.
Then you have your casual marathoner and they’re usually just over fat. Who do you want to look like? Or would you rather look like a sprinter? Or the example that I like to use that people don’t think about is if you look at middle weight weightlifters those guys are ripped and strong and they’re not excessively big. They’re big in the right places for their sport, so they don’t look like bloated hulked out bodybuilders.
That’s my take on the exercise. I think the biggest thing missing in America and Canada and western Europe and Austrailia is you already mentioned it, but we fall into how much exercise can we do as opposed to what’s the minimum amount of exercise I can do and still make progress and recover from.
Stay Tuned for Part 2 of the interview where we'll talk about why traditional gym programs SUCK, why we all should be training like athletes and why being able to move properly will help you burn tons more bodyfat.