Official Website of Sarah E. Rippel, BS, CPT, FMS

-“Outside the Box” Soapbox!-

Know what’s really great about my blog?  The fact that I get to interact with you guys.  I love it!  I love the comments and questions I get from y’all!  Thank you, and keep ’em coming!

I wanted to use a recent comment from one of my loyal subscribers as a post, because I feel she posed a great question and it evoked a looooooooooong response from me.

Another great thing about my blog is the fact that it’s MINE.  I get to speak my mind.  I get to share my slant on things with whoever chooses to listen.  I don’t expect everyone to agree with me.  I expect the majority to not “get” a lot of what I say.  This is fine, because I have never been happy being “mainstream.”  I have always sought out the “how’s and why’s” while many people were content to sit back and accept things.  I will forever question everything, and it is for this reason that I will forever be an individual, through and through.  I am brainwash-proof.  I am determined, strong, and at times, opinionated.  I am not afraid to speak my mind, and it makes me happy to say that because for a LONG time I was afraid to do so.

So, without further ado…

Q: “What do you think of going “outside the box” when it comes to kettlebells? As you know, they’re the next big thing and we’re seeing group instructors putting out DVDs that rankle the “purists” to say the least. I completely agree that a tool is just a tool and the bottom line is to get off your bottom and move, but with kettlebells, some folks go to extremes to be different…I think you know what I mean! Where should the line be drawn? I gotta admit, some of the dances with kettlebells look fun, but I don’t know how to separate genuine safety concerns from the, ya know, us-vs.-them drama.”

Wow…great question! :)

I feel that kettlebells are another tool, and because of this, there are endless possibilities for exercise variations. I give kudos to those who are innovative BUT I do not agree with SOME of the new stuff i’ve been seeing (such as Kettlenetics, KettleWorx, etc). Not saying ALL of it isn’t my cup of tea, because I haven’t sat down and gone through the “new” stuff in depth. I honestly don’t have time to. There could possibly be a good exercise variation here and there that piques my interest.  For the most part, however, I have gotten glimpses of it and it’s been enough for me to disregard it and continue what i’m doing.

Let me preface this by saying that i’m with you – I am all for people getting off their butts and MOVING! Movement is what it’s all about, and if a certain program or DVD gets a person excited about exercise, then that’s awesome!

With that being said, I am not one of the kettlebell purists who just does kettlebells at the exclusion of any other forms of training. Y’all know this already! I feel no one training tool is supreme. There are many out there who put the kettlebell up on a pedestal and worship Pavel, etc. I’m not one of those types. I LOVE kettlebells but I have found a way to work them into my clients’ programs as well as my own, without excluding everything else. I think the purists do scoff at these “new” kettlebell workouts because they feel THEIR way is the ONLY way. This, my friends, is a cult-like mentality that does nothing but create separatism within the fitness industry. I don’t like it one bit.

Why do I have a problem with the “new” stuff? I feel it’s just another way people are taking advantage of the kettlebell’s almost-overnight blowup in popularity, and they are just trying to cash in on it. I am all about being “different” and finding new and innovative ways of training, but kettlebells can be dangerous, and in uneducated hands, someone could really screw themselves up.

Now, with a 3-4 lb kettlebell like those used in the these “new” programs, I don’t feel it would be easy to injure oneself, but…you never know. I also think some of the dancey moves using the mini-kettlebell look fun, and hey, again…if it works for someone, then that’s a good thing. What happens when semi-out-of-shape grandma thinks “hmmmm, I wonder if I can do these exercises with an 8kilo kettlebell?” Then she is performing crazy jumping lunges while swinging the thing overhead and ends up messing up her rotator cuff. That’s where I have a problem.

The woman who created the Kettlenetics program has a dance background and she’s found a way to fuse that with kettlebell training. Kudos to her for “thinking outside the box” this way. Kudos to any fitness professional, for that matter, who takes risks and is able to get their “message” out there. I have been trying in vain to do this for most of my career, and will most likely never attain “celebrity” status (nor do I wish to) like some of these people. I just want to get my “message” out and if i’m able to help a handful of people, then i’ve done my job. I am not a sellout, nor would I ever feel good about creating and selling a book or DVD of my own that didn’t 110% reflect MY philosophy and standards.

I have come across snippets of video from various “up and coming” DVD stars, and find it interesting that the basic techniques are badly demonstrated. For example, I have come to learn that a kettlebell overhead press is not performed like a standard “shoulder press.” In fact, and you are probably already aware of this, the overhead press isn’t really a shoulder movement, per se. There is a tremendous amount of work being done by the lat, especially on the eccentric phase of the lift. So, how come i’m seeing this movement done with the kettlebell held like a dumbbell, out to the side of the shoulder, versus starting the in rack position? I see this and immediately think “they have no clue what they are doing.” I’m not an RKC, but I do know technique and have become quite proficient at kettlebell training through my own practice and research.

When I see sloppy technique period, I tend to write-off whoever is presenting it…it doesn’t matter if it’s dumbbells, bodyweight, stability balls, you name it. If I see a “fitness professional” going through exercises (with the goal of instructing others) with poor form, I am appalled, first, and then get a bit mad at the fact that they are even putting that kinda stuff out there. The trainer side of my brain goes “how dare they?” The business side of my brain goes “how dare they make money off that crap?”

Yes, I do realize what i’ve said could ruffle a few feathers, but these are MY opinions and hey, i’m not perfect…nobody is.  I’m just little ol’ me with a BS in Exercise Science and what many consider to be a “lame” personal training certification through ACE.  My education and certifications do not define me.  I define myself.  Certifications and formal education can’t make up for a lack of know-how, personality, the ability to connect with people, and a belief in oneself.  All the hours I spend learning new things, watching fitness DVDs, networking with like-minded trainers, and striving to never “settle,” combined with the precious hands-on training experience made possible by my clients…THESE define me as a fitness professional.  Sure, I could shell out thousands of dollars on certification after certification, but will it better me as a professional?  This is the question, and this is why I don’t acquire a gazillion certifications.  I LEARN what I need to learn, and most of the time this means I don’t need another certification to back it up.  Regarding “schools of thought” and kettlebell dogma, there are so many egos in this industry that it’s pretty ridiculous. I’ll continue to take a back seat and let the gurus, experts, and know-it-alls duke it out, while the rest of us are entertained.

Yours in Health,
Sarah E. Rippel

PS – I wanted to add this…I posted this over at the S-T Forums sometime last week in response to another trainer there who seems to want to butt heads with me.  I feel it’s appropriate for what i’ve said here regarding experts and gurus.

“Walk A Mile In My Shoes”
(As recorded by Joe South)

If I could be you and you could be me for just one hour
If we could find a way to get inside each other’s mind
If you could see me through your eyes instead of your ego
I believe you’d be surprised to see that you’d been blind.

Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes
And before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes.

Now your whole world you see around you is just a reflection
And the law of common says you reap just what you sow
So unless you’ve lived a life of total perfection
You’d better be careful of every stone that you throw.

Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes
And before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes.

And yet we spend the day throwing stones at one another
‘Cause I don’t think or wear my hair the same way you do
Well I may be common people but I’m your brother
And when you strike out and try to hurt me its a-hurtin’ you.

Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes
And before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes.

There are people on reservations and out in the ghettos
And brother there but for the grace of God go you and I
If I only had the wings of a little angel
Don’t you know I’d fly to the top of the mountain, and then I’d cry.

Walk a mile in my shoes, walk a mile in my shoes
And before you abuse, criticize and accuse
Walk a mile in my shoes, shoes.

(c) Copyright 1969 by Lowery Music Co., Inc.

– SONG HITS, Summer 1974.


6 responses

  1. Paul

    “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

    That about sums up my feeling about sticking to one style of exercise. I am not sure of the technical, beneficial aspects of variety, but I do enjoy it thoroughly. It is nice after a few weeks of only calisthenics to pick up some weights/kettlebell/sandbag and workout. A lot of people I believe feel that the only way to exercise is by using a nautilus, freeweights, or a treadmill and this can lead to them falling short of their fitness goals. Goals are great as they keep me motivated in both the short and long term. But I always try and remember that fitness is a state of being and a journey: not a destination.
    Bruce Lee parented Jeet Kune Do as styleless style. He stripped away the useless pieces of different styles and merged together the beneficial ones. I suppose my long response is me trying to say that variety is key and isolation leads to dispute and less than optimal results.

    February 26, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    • Excellent points, Paul! Thank you for your $0.02! I know there are some out there who train exclusively with kettlebells, and to me that just seems wrong. I don’t feel kettlebells are for everybody. I don’t use them with all of my clients, nor do I want to. The idea of a single tool being the “be all, end all” to training just seems ridiculous! I appreciate the fact that you are merging together different forms of training and have figured out what works best for you!

      February 27, 2009 at 10:51 am

  2. DDRdiva

    Thanks for your thorough reply, Sarah! I hope there isn’t a wave of injuries from these “new” kettlebell workouts. Some moves seem just plain weird, like swings while doing 180-degree jumps. Paul, I totally agree about fitness being a journey. We’ll all end up in the same place, so might as well make getting there 100% of the fun 🙂

    February 27, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    • You’re very welcome! 🙂 Thanks for posing a great question! I’m just being ridiculous here, but what if one day, because of a sudden dramatic increase in crazy kettlebell injuries, hospitals across the country have to update their intake forms so they include “crazy kettlebell swing injury” as a “place a check mark in the box next to your symptoms” problem! LOL! In the ER waiting rooms, you’ll see a chick with a dislocated shoulder, a guy with a dent in his head (from a poorly-executed kettlebell throw), and a grandma with no teeth (a flying kettlebell knocked ’em out)!!!! 😀

      Now I want to order those freakin’ DVDs just so I can shoot video of myself doing the wacky exercises…spoofing things, of course…I would look like a complete idiot doing the stuff they show on the commercial for Kettlenetics. Could make for some good comic relief! I’ll even throw in a few pirouettes and tour jetes (I took ballet when I was a kid)! Better yet, i’ll make my own workout fusing gymnastics and kettlebells…15 swings supersetted with a flip-flop…talk about a completely ridiculous workout…very few people could do it, and i’d be sued left and right for all the injuries!

      February 28, 2009 at 11:42 am

  3. Debbie

    I stumbled upon the Art of Strength web site when I was first looking for kettlebell info. After you see how the pros do it (Anthony), I don’t know how you can even compare some of the others. I love dance, even ballet, but not with my kettlebells! I have much to learn but always want to keep it safe.

    February 28, 2009 at 5:33 am

    • Anthony DiLuglio has an awesome way of breaking down kettlebell movements into easy-to-grasp drills and concepts. He may not be the most exciting guy to listen to (he’s nowhere near as enthusiastic and dynamic a speaker as JC Santana, for example), but I feel a lot of people are able to “get it” thanks to his unique teaching style. It is for this reason that I endorse the AOS DVDs and products, and incorporate a lot of his drills into my own workouts and those of my clients. I pay no attention to most of the others, but I do also highly respect Steve Cotter. Steve Maxwell is also another guy who seems very humble and has some great ideas. Both of these guys have martial arts backgrounds and have found a way to fuse this into their training styles. I love Steve Maxwell’s focus on joint mobility. Another “non guru” guru (haha, I just made that up) i’ve really come to appreciate is Scott Sonnon (of FlowFit fame and creator of the CST system, which I am really intrigued by at the moment). Adam Steer, one of the authors of the latest issue of Trainer Nation, is a CST coach, and i’m looking forward to talking to him in the next week or so regarding the possibility of getting certified as a CST coach. For me to even consider putting up the money (it’s not cheap) for a certification, it’s gotta be something that really “moves” me (I think I made that point pretty clear in my soapbox post, lol). Keep your eyes open for more info on this, as I learn more. 🙂 Y’all are all awesome! Keep training SMARTER, not harder!

      February 28, 2009 at 11:55 am

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