movement simplicity

The Need for Simplicity

“Things that matter most should never be at the mercy of things that matter least.” -Goethe. Simplicity is freedom from complexity, intricacy, or division into parts: an organism of great simplicity.

In an era where everyone has Technology A.D.D – Attention Deficit Disorder(always texting, checking your e-mails every two seconds, switching from your cell phone to your kindle, to your IPAD, from app to app, angry birds to paper toss), it is easy to see why people have Fitness A.D.D as well.

I think more so than ever it is essential to prioritize your training and start stripping away that which is not needed and has less value. Of course this could be a blog post relating to all areas of life but let’s keep this specific to fitness and training.

Over the weekend I had the honor of teaching an HKC Hardstyle Kettlebell Certification to 12 eager and passionate students at RKC Rob Exline’s Crossfit Facility in Houston. For those of you not familiar with the HKC, it is the entry level course to the Russian Kettlebell Challenge, a very challenging course that is considered by most to be the top kettlebell certification in the world.

The beauty of this one day certification is that it only focuses on three movements. There is simplicity in focusing on less movements. Those movements are:

  • The Swing
  • The Turkish Get Up
  • The Goblet Squat

Why These Three?

movement simplicity
The Swing in the RKC community is considered the CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE! We believe this because the hardstyle swing teaches and grooves a very powerful hip extension.

Why is this important? Because all human movement takes place at the hip joints and a body that can effectively initiate movement from the hips is a more athletic body and potentially more healthy as well.

Teaching people to move well at the hips will protect and strengthen the lumbar spine (low back) as well as protect the knee joints as well as the feet and ankles. Initiating movement at the hips can greatly improve performance as the GLUTES/HAMSTRINGS (posterior chain) get great development!!! Don’t be the old guy with no glutes!

The Turkish Get Up represents a perfect marriage between mobility and stability! This movement will help the coach and the athlete identify mobility limitations and strength asymmetries.

Performed with grace and fluidity, there is a reason the Greeks call this movement Kalos Sthenos (this means Beautiful Strength in Greek). It truly is a beautiful movement that prepares the hips, thoracic spine and and shoulders to safely put weight over head.

The Goblet Squat may be the most effective way to teach a person how to squat! In our facility we always tell people that if they are healthy enough to walk in our door, they are healthy enough to squat.

Squatting is not a “good idea,” it is ESSENTIAL for human function and health!

Simplicity in your Training

movement simplicity
Simplicity in your programming does not mean making the routine easy and boring. Simplicity in training means that your focusing on less activities. It means that you will get really proficient at a couple of key movements.

In the context of the kettlebell training, this mean that you should focus on the basics: Swing, Get Up, and Goblet Squat!

All three of these movements are compound mutli-joint exercises which tie the body together in one harmonious unit! Essentially, these movements are worth getting good at. Rather than being mediocre at 50 exercises, I recommend getting really good at three or four movements!

Rather than being a jack of all trades, master of none; I recommend that you are MASTER OF ONE! Well, maybe two, there or four, but I think you get the point.

Mastering the Swing, the Get Up and even the Squat will not be done in a one day certification. It will serve as a great start to laying down the foundation for better movement and performance but real mastery takes a lifetime!!!


Obviously program design is huge! Yesterday at the HKC during my Program Design Lecture I spoke about the importance of PRACTICE over working out and the importance of competency over sets and reps. I mean WHO REALLY CARES how many reps or sets you do of “X” if your technique sucks!

If the mechanics aren’t there in the movement you won’t get the results you are looking for and if you do see some results they can quickly be taken back by injury or burnout!

So when programming your Kettlebell training, especially if you are a newbie, how about working for time instead, rather than reps or sets.

For example: you could do 20 seconds worth of swings followed by 40 seconds worth of work (popularized by Master RKC Geoff Nuepert) for 10 minutes. This way you are not worried about trying to hit a certain number which can easily turn the sets into total SLOP if you are not careful.

For Get Ups you could sets of 2 on each arm for 15 minutes. Rest as needed and use QUALITY rather than QUANTITY as the primary indicator of progress. Just because you did four more crappy reps one workout doesn’t mean your getting better.

It means you are facilitating a worse GET UP pattern and getting worse at moving your body through time and space! Not good! Slow down the reps and re-think the long term sustainability of always trying beat your numbers. I am ALL FOR PROGRESS but not at the expense of injury and Short term gain.

Anyway, I realize I am likely already preaching to the choir and that is fine! If I can encourage you it would be to internalize and act on the following principles:

1. Strip Away the Fluff in your Training

Focus on the movements that really count and will carry over to full body movement and strength. Can someone say Swings, Get Ups and Squats?

2. Get more Technically Proficient with your Deadlift, Swing, Get Up and Squat

Has anyone of us truly ARRIVED and nailed down our mechanics in these movements. Not sure about you but just when I think I have it all figured out, someone else teaches me something new about the movement and gets me to see things differently.

Keep studying and getting around people that are better than you! Hands on coaching is king. Always.

3. Same with Mobility and Flexibility, Focus on Movements that are Global

In Convict conditioning two Coach Paul Wade talks about the daily Tri-fecta for keeping your joints supple, mobile and strong. Back Bends, L-Sits and seated twists.

That’s enough for most people. RKC Aleks Salkin wrote a great blog post on this very subject. Click HERE TO READ and WATCH HIS VIDEO on the tri-fecta!

4. Work on the Postures and Positions in your Movements

Take the time to perform the learning drills to make the movements non-cognitive and more natural. A Hip Hinge drill patterned really slowly and with focus will have huge dividends in the long run!

5. Work on your Diaphragmatic Breathing and your Power Breathing

Power breathing during the ballistic Kettlebell movements is essential for safety and for performance.

Ok, enough said! Go do your Deadlifts, Squats, Get Ups and Swings!! And please keep the volume low and quality high!

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