Introducing The Brand New Strength Matters Educational Pathway

 In The Everyday Athlete

Close your eyes, take a few deep, diaphragmatic breaths and think about who and/or what have been your biggest influences. What has shaped who you are today? What are the most useful courses you have taken? The most memorable moments? Who turned on light bulbs in your brain and connected the dots to help you see the bigger picture? Who did you learn the most from? This is great pub talk for fitness geeks like me.

On a professional level, my mind floods with light bulb moments, golden nuggets of information, best courses, great books and pioneering people I’ve been lucky enough to learn from. Just naming a handful doesn’t do justice to my influencers, but here are some of the first experiences and people that come to mind.

  • Physical training in the beloved Corps (Royal Marines Commandos) taught me about mental resilience, best practices for rapid cardiovascular improvements and Indian Clubs.
  • Steve Maxwell taught me that all training goals should be answerable to one question: “Will this goal make me better when I’m 80?”
  • Gray Cook first introduced me to the all-governing concept of moving well and slowly a priority. Only then does one earn the right add speed and/or load.
  • Practicing as a remedial sports massage therapist deepened my knowledge of functional anatomy and gave me the opportunity to get my hands on hundreds of bodies and treat all kinds of injuries.
  • Thousands of hours of personal training everyday people was a great creative outlet and offered a platform for experimentation. I learned what works and what doesn’t.
  • Dan John’s books and courses are full of practical wisdom. The man’s a humble genius and is fun a drinking buddy at that.
  • The Original Strength training system is, in my opinion, the most applicable, practical and effective of all the different movement practices or training systems available. Applying their principles and methods has offered greater success with clients than anything else.
  • Dave “Iron Tamer” Whitley is a walking encyclopedia of strength. If you ever meet him, hug him. It’s awesome.

Another interesting topic over a beer (or coconut matcha latte) is a subject I call golden movements or golden exercises. Which exercises or movements have the biggest bang for your buck? If you asked 20 experienced and educated trainers the same question, the same exercises would inevitably keep cropping up.

Which are the best movements for people who’ve been sitting in chairs for the past 20 years?Click To Tweet

This leads to further questions: Which of the golden movements has a higher value than another? Which are the best movements for people who’ve been sitting in chairs for the past 20 years? In terms of accessibility for everyday people, what is the order of golden movements within each movement family? Which movements will hands down make you better at everything else, if such a thing exists? Which movement should be a staple part of everyone’s day for general health and longevity? (I’ll cover this separately in another blog.)

Soon after having this conversation with some fitness friends here in San Diego, I was appointed the task of giving the Strength Matters education system a makeover. The directive was to design a complete pathway that produces Certified Strength Matters Professionals.

This is an amazing opportunity for which I am grateful and humbled to be tasked with. I get to teach all the best bang-for-buck practices, movements, lifts, training theories, programming principles, coaching techniques and training methods that I’ve picked up over the years. The material also has to be teachable by other instructors, so keeping it not too Phil-centric and producing comprehensive, easy-to-understand manuals are also key. But why did the education system need a makeover in the first place?

We used to teach the SMK: Strength Matters Kettlebell Instructor Certification. Thanks to former Chief Instructor, Mark Reifkind, the three-day SMK was a world-class Hardstyle kettlebell certification. We never set out to rival any other Hardstyle kettlebell school. We were all cut from the same cloth having learned the techniques from the same source, and for that, we are very thankful. We just had a slightly softer approach and different presentation and testing style.

As the years of teaching the Hardstyle kettlebell system passed, the course syllabus evolved. We didn’t just want to teach the six main lifts, we wanted to go into more depth about other important material that surfaced during the teaching process. Thanks to the influence of Franz Snideman we wanted to add the locomotion movement family to the existing squat and hinge. Because of Jerry Trubman’s influence, we wanted a greater emphasis on joint mobility and breathing. The certification became more about improving overall athleticism.

We take our hats off to other Hardstyle kettlebell schools for staying true to their cause. For people seeking to learn solid Hardstyle kettlebell technique, we advise they attend a StrongFirst or RKC certification. They are the best Hardstyle kettlebell schools that our little planet has to offer and the quality of instructors remains the gold standard.

It’s a 5 step process that empowers students to identify and train weak links and improve overall athleticism.Click To Tweet

Here at Strength Matters, we love the kettlebell as a tool for strength-endurance, versatility, and conditioning. The new material shows students how to use them for prehab, stability and improving movement patterns. We don’t teach our students how to use a kettlebell, we teach them how to move and how to coach movement, sometimes using a kettlebell. We teach them how to train and program. We don’t focus on elite athletes; instead, we care about helping everyday people improve their everyday athleticism. We don’t care for short-term goals, better quality of life as we age is our top priority.

So, what is the new Strength Matters education pathway? In a nutshell, it’s a five-step process that empowers students to identify and train weak links and continuously improve overall athleticism. It’s a movement and training certification. It’s a full breakdown of the movement patterns, how to train them and all the components that make up complete athleticism.

Level 1 consists of all of the lessons that I teach brand new personal training clients over the course of the first few sessions, irrelevant of their goal. These are the fundamentals of exercise taught to a high standard, the bits that most industry pros tend to miss or not know about. The two-day course is jam-packed with practical lessons, many of which are not taught in personal trainer school, but things that every exerciser should know.

Levels 2 and 3 cover everything else that an everyday exerciser needs to know to be able to design and perform their own program for long-term success and injury-free longevity.

Levels 4 and 5 are for fitness professionals. This is because a higher base level of knowledge and athleticism is required. We will cover the best tools, methods, ideas, and techniques for coaching everyday people.

All of the material in the new pathway is a culmination of all of the best practices I’ve learned throughout my life as an avid exerciser, competitive athlete, Royal Marines Commando, professional therapist, and trainer. In some cases, I’ve taken tidbits from other courses I’ve attended, books I’ve read or conversations I’ve had. In other cases, I’ve stolen outright ideas and methods, because they’re brilliant. In all instances, sources are named and students are encouraged to take their courses and read their books for a deeper understanding.

The question sometimes comes up from experienced trainers, “Phil, can I skip Level 1?” I’ve had the honor of teaching at many Hardstyle kettlebell certifications, often full of highly experienced industry professionals. On every course, a significant proportion of students think they can perform simple movements such as planks, push-ups, squats or hinges but actually lack the ability due to weaknesses, lack of proprioception or gaps in their training that they didn’t know existed. Attending the lower levels in order is compulsory.

For more information about the new course material, syllabus, testing requirements, dates and locations, please click here.

Thanks for reading!

Phil McDougall

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  • Ryan Steenrod
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    Love it guys! Thanks for the update Phil, can’t wait to deepen my understanding and support such a great company!

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