[Review] The Strength Matters Kettlebell Certification

 In Kettlebell Training, Reviews

Can one weekend really change who you are and how you see things? After the inaugural Strength Matters Kettlebell Level 1 Instructor Certificate, I would have to say, emphatically, yes.

I have been fortunate to attend the Dan John Art of Coaching workshop as well as the SMK weekend and both have dramatically opened my eyes to what is possible, what I am capable of, and what I want out of life.

I started my path into the world of professional fitness relatively recently. I knew I wanted to train people, to make them stronger, and to help them reach their goals. I didn’t know, however, how much I would be inspired by the community and my peers, how much their knowledge and experience would drive me forward to increase my own, and how much their dreams matched mine.

[bctt tweet=”As I walked into the hall on day one of the certification, I was terrified… @digitalsteak”]

As I walked into the hall on day one of the certificate, I was terrified. I had the obvious fear of ‘am I strong enough to pass the strength tests?’but also the fact that I was surrounded by so many people who are so much more experienced than me ­ did I deserve to stand up next to these people?

The First Of It’s Kind

As the first SMK Level 1 certificate, I knew this would be a unique event. Though the team behind the weekend have decades of experience in designing and delivering kettlebell certificates, the underlying goal for the weekend wasn’t just to show off how strong each of us were but to produce confident, competent, and driven instructors.

Being the inaugural event, the level of experience in the room was immense. The community had come together to certify themselves under the new Strength Matters banner meaning this was no normal level 1 kettlebell certificate. There were dozens of kettlebell instructors with a significant number of experienced one’s as well, add to this highly experienced GS athletes, and we had some of the strongest kettlebell instructors in the UK and Ireland in one room. And then there was me.

[bctt tweet=”This melting pot of talent, experience, and motivation created the perfect atmosphere to learn. @digitalsteak”]

Besides these highly experienced instructors was also a very strong and driven group of newbies. People who are taking their first steps into this wonderful and welcoming world. In my group alone was myself, a Krav Maga instructor venturing into personal training, and a very driven individual who just wanted to further her knowledge and experience with kettlebells.

This melting pot of talent, experience, and motivation created the perfect atmosphere to learn, experiment, and grow as athletes and trainers.

SMKCert_Day.2_MG_8600_LowResThe Instructors

The aim of the weekend was to develop and teach the attendees to become the highest quality hardstyle kettlebell instructors. As with anything, an important step in achieving this is by leading from the front and the instructors on the course most certainly did.

Mark ‘Rif’ Reifkind is the Chief Instructor for the SMK certificate and, though I hadn’t had the chance to meet him beforehand, I had done a little research.

Having journeyed through elite gymnastics to competitive bodybuilding and powerlifting finally to specialising in kettlebells with RKC, GS, StrongFirst, and now Strength Matters, his credentials were impeccable. Humble, open, and friendly from the first moment I met him, it was an honour to learn from someone who has dedicated so much time to his art.

Key lessons were taught to the whole room with practice and finer points worked on in four smaller groups. My team leader was Mark Toomey, much like Rif, a very experienced and committed trainer whose experience was apparent in everything he talked about. As a team Toomey, and teaching assistant Sam Griffiths, coached and worked with us to not just truly understand the movements but problem solve poor client technique, progress movements, and programme clients on a macro level.


Heading up the other groups were equally impressive an dedicated instructors. Jason Kane with Seb Morgan led a group with humour and patience that was apparent in guaranteeing their team moved along with them the whole time. Aleksander Miketa and Tracy Reifkind approach of breaking down drills, continual assessment, and repetition, repetition, repetition produced instructors who were clearly confident in all aspects of their teaching. And finally Rif with Phil McDougall setting phenomenal examples in both strength and teaching from the front, made sure that everyone attending was getting the best instruction possible.

The Course

Focusing on the 6 fundamental kettlebell movements; the swing, clean, press, front squat, snatch, and Turkish get up; the course aimed to drill us in how to teach these basic movements to perfection. I say basic, but what became apparent was that, simple as these movements may be, what you do with them can lead to incredible results removing unnecessary complication and keeping your eye on the true goal.

Every movement was broken down into foundation steps, putting the movement together, and progressing the movement though complexes and programming. This comprehensive and structured approach left me with a newfound respect for keeping things simple and avoiding over­complicating workouts with the aim of increasing intensity or results. Throughout the course each of the instructors took us through some of their own workouts too, all of which I have saved to include in not just my clients’ training but my own too ­ Tracy Reifkind’s Sinisterworkout was one such pleasure. Starting so easy, by the third set I was almost crying inside but going onto a fourth will give a remarkable workout of 200 swings in just 10 minutes

[bctt tweet=”This comprehensive and structured approach left me with a newfound respect for keeping things simple @digitalsteak”]

The combination of learning, practicing, and applying produced a well­rounded course providing me with the confidence and knowledge to apply the SMK principles safely and accurately.

What is next?

Besides the temptation to work towards the level 2 next year, which I would never have dreamed to be within my reach but now, with the knowledge I have gained, know is entirely possible; next, for me, is mastering all that I have learned. Mastery will only come from practice; from swinging, from teaching, and from engaging with this incredible community.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have made such knowledgeable and generous friends and know that I will be able to reach out to the community at large if I have any questions, need assistance, or just want to share my ideas. Joining this community, I believe, is the true beauty of this weekend and something I am looking forward to being an active part of.

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Strength Matters Level 1 Certification
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