How to Turbo Charge Your Big Six (Part 2)

by Phil Ross on November 25, 2015

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Master RKC Phil Ross RKC Plank

To get the full effect of these routines it’s important that you’ve read the first part of this series. If you haven’t, please consult my previous blog post: How to Turbo Charge Your Big Six (Part 1).

Now, we will continue our heavy load volume training with the next two workouts. As explained in Part 1, although the movements are relatively basic, these workouts should only be attempted by experienced kettlebell lifters. There is a great deal of volume involved and one must possess the strength, muscular endurance and technical skill to complete the workouts as designed.

Workout #3: Press Pyramid, Row Ladder and Cleans

Pick a bodyweight warm-up, then perform 2 sets of the following:

  • Armbar
  • Lying side press, 10 each side
  • Kettlebell pullover, 10 reps

Press Pyramid:
Strategically plan out which kettlebells you will be using. Again, I start with the RKC Snatch Test sized kettlebell. Do 5 reps with the first kettlebell on each side, then go up in weight and do 4 reps, increase and do 3 reps, go up again in kettlebell size and do 2 reps. When you get to your heaviest chosen weight, perform one rep on each side. Now we go back down the pyramid, but not all the way. Once you get to kettlebell # 3, perform 3 reps on each side and stay at this weight for the 4 rep and the 5 rep sets. If you are not able to increase the weight each set, then simply stay at the highest weight you can do and simply decrease the reps. If you want to make your pressing pyramid more challenging, do the “bottoms-up” version of the press.

Row Ladder:
These static kettlebell rows are a double kettlebell exercise. To understand the importance of stability in this exercise, sssume the bent over kettlebell row position, contract your lats and pack your shoulders. If the kettlebells touch the ground, your position is not stable.

Your palms are facing forward while you are in the racked position. NEVER begin this exercise from the bent over position, start by grasping the bells, standing straight up, then lowering yourself into the 10 & 4 position (head at 10 o’clock and tail at 4). Employ a 180 degree rotation as you allow one kettlebell to descend so that it is in front of your knee, while keeping the other kettlebell racked. Bring the kettlebell back, pause, then repeat this on the other side. Envision pulling your chest through the kettlebells to help counter the temptation to be standing more upright. The reps are 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, & 5, 5. Repeat this series 2 more times.

Bottom-Up Clean and Hold:
During this exercise we will alternate between the ballistic clean and the full body tension of the hold. You must use tension through your abdomen, trunk. lats, glutes, pecs and legs to maintain this position with a heavy kettlebell. We will perform 5 reps on each side for 5 sets. There will be a 3 second hold at the bottoms up racked position. Clean the bell, beginning with your thumb facing forward, especially if you are using a heavy bell. This is virtually the only exercise that I recommend performing the backswing between your legs in this fashion. It’s difficult to control a large kettlebell while twisting it into a secure bottoms-up position. It’s far better to take a straight line approach.

Cool down and you’re done. Be sure to de-load your forearms during your cool down, your grip will get very taxed during this session.


Workout #4: Snatch Pyramid, Squat Ladder and Planks

Choose from one of the aforementioned warm up routines from Part #1 and then you are good to go!

Snatch Pyramid:
Take your RKC Snatch Test sized kettlebell and begin. The idea is to move through the routine without resting between the sets. Perform these reps in succession on each hand. 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6, 6, 7, 7, 8, 8, 9, 9, 10, 10. And then back down – 9, 9, 8, 8, 7, 7, 6, 6, 5, 5, 4, 4, 3, 3, 2, 2, 1 & 1. Shake your arms loose and stretch out your forearms.

Squat Ladder:
5 reps each side, 10 sets. As with most of the other exercises, we begin with our snatch test size kettlebell and increase the weight each set, if you can. If not, stick with the heaviest possible kettlebell you can manage and complete the remainder of the sets with that particular size. We do not travel back down the ladder, we end with the highest weight that we are able to use for 5 repetitions on each side.

I call this “Just Plank Fun.” If you have a training partner, switch off and on, holding each other’s feet up in the tall plank and then release one foot. You may also pick one hand off of the ground or if you are adventurous, have one foot in the air and pull the adjacent hand off of the ground, while keeping your hips and shoulders in the same plane. If you are alone, you may use the wall to press your feet against and remove one foot and then switch. You may also remove one hand from the floor as well.

For less conditioned students, plank practice is always beneficial. RKC-style planks (on your elbows), power planks, tall planks or side planks may all be used to finish up the training session. Again, this depends on your level of expertise and fitness.


Workout #5 Fun Friday: Toss, Sprint, Push-up, Sprint, Toss, Abs & Repeat

On Fridays, I like to have some fun and mix up my workouts. Living in the Northeast, training a great deal of the time outside is not very practical. So during the warmer months, I like to get into nature and enjoy. On a recent Friday, I did the following and I really got into the zone – it was great! I felt like the Energizer Bunny, because I just kept going and going. Check out this workout and have some fun!

First, I grabbed a 20kg kettlebell from the garage and farmer carried it through the woods behind my house and to an open field. I had done a 1/2 hour of bodyweight exercise and an hour of No-Gi Jiu Jitsu a few hours before, so I didn’t need to do a complete warm-up. If your workout wasn’t preceded by what I did, I would suggest a thorough 15 minute warm-up including hip openers and hamstring stretching.

After I got to the field, I kicked off my flip flops, did a light warm up. I jogged to the 50 yard mark and set my towel down. I jogged back and did some cossacks and hamstring stretches. Then I got to work…

Here was the routine:

  • One kettlebell toss: Either straight out or overhead.
  • 50 yard sprint (to the towel)
  • 15 Push-ups
  • 50 yard sprint (back to the kettlebell)
  • One kettlebell toss
  • 50 yard sprint (to the towel)
  • 20 abdominals
  • 50 yard sprint (back to the kettlebell)

I repeated this for a total of 40 sprints which also yielded 20 kettlebell tosses, 150 push-ups and 200 abdominals. I was sweating and PUMPED! There’s not a great deal of thinking involved, so you can allow yourself to “get into the zone”.

I cooled down and farmer’s walked back home. I did have to change hands once on the way back to my house as I went through the woods.

There you have it, five workouts, four that reinforce the basic kettlebell movements and one that’s a total burner to round things out–all accomplished while providing a challenging set of sessions. Put these routines into your training cycles and enjoy improvement with all of your movements!


Coach Phil Ross



For more information on Master RKC, 8th Degree Black Belt, and Bodyweight Specialist Phil Ross’s strength and conditioning programs, videos (including The Kettlebell Workout Library), and workshops, please visit

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HardStyle Health and Wellness

by Dan Mahoney on November 18, 2015

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Dan Mahoney RKC-II Gym

Eight months ago, I began a new chapter of my coaching career. I became the Health and Wellness Manager at a Boston-based company’s trendy headquarters—complete with an in-office gym. Before now, I had never considered myself qualified for this type of role. It was a totally unique way to help people. I had constantly tried to help family members who sat long hours at their desks with their back pain, but my instructions to move around every sixty or ninety minutes often fell on deaf ears. Being an in-house Health and Wellness Manager meant the chance to help whole teams of people during their workday. Feeling confident that I could make a difference, I took the interview. It was one of the smartest decisions I have made as a trainer.

As a kettlebell instructor, “personal trainer” and “coach”, I never would have imagined that I could help a company work better, and improve how its employees work. [Disclaimer: I had never before worked a day in an office, and felt like a fish out of water.] I knew very little about business outside of what I had been exposed to at my first gym, and from running my own gym. But, I did know that I could leverage my knowledge and beliefs forged from my RKC, and most recently my RKC-II, to make an impact on this company’s fitness and overall health. And so, I began my mission to introduce kettlebells and swings to a group of tech and business wizards who were mostly unfamiliar with fitness.

Getting Started

One of the biggest perks of working in-house is the tremendous amount of artistic license and control over the program you develop, how you reach your clients, and how much of an impact you can make. I was surrounded by hard working employees ranging from 22-60 years old, all of whom were hunched, exhausted, and headed down the road of prescriptions and pain.

The company had no idea what they wanted me to do—which was liberating, but also frightening. The only restriction was the size of their pre-existing gym. It was set up with all of the latest and greatest fitness equipment: Bosu balls, dumbbells from five to fifty pounds, a smith machine, a few boxing bags, and a treadmill. I had to be creative, and decided to teach my new (and quite resistant) clients the skills they needed to live a healthier life. My tool of choice was the kettlebell. I knew that I could implement this in a large class setting or one on one and get the same great results. The plan was to run a beginner’s class for those who were looking to get back into the swing of things—no pun intended—and for those that were new to fitness. Initially, we ran another class too, but quickly needed to add a third for another level of skill and strength. This class allowed for the more advanced employees to continue refining their skills, while the others were improving their basics.

Coaching in a Different Realm

The true role of a coach is to figure out how to help the people you are coaching perform at their best. And it was also important to recognize that health and fitness were not big priorities for most of the company. Trying to connect with my new clients was difficult, it was a completely different dynamic than working with a motivated client who has personally hired you to get them into shape. At times, it was completely demoralizing!

Dan Mahoney Corporate Gym

Dan Mahoney, RKC-II trains his corporate clients in this Downtown Boston in-office gym.

Implementing a Plan and Call to Action

A call to action and buy-in process was my first priority. I met with as many people as possible for their individual movement screens, to discuss their personal goals, and to find out how they thought I could help their department and the company as a whole. When I compiled my notes, I clearly saw that my instinct was correct—kettlebells would undoubtedly benefit this group. They all needed and wanted general strength and conditioning, and to keep off the pounds. The older employees who may have had a recent injury or were dealing with chronic pain wanted to get rid of that pain. So, for the next week I moved twenty two of my personal kettlebells (which ranged from 12kg up to 48kg) to the office gym. I got more than a few confused looks while walking through the streets of downtown Boston!

As an RKC, I knew that not everyone would be ready for swings right away, and I did not expect them to just jump in and deadlift from the floor. At first, the most important thing was that they bought into the idea that proper training and improving the way they moved was more beneficial than getting put through the wringer for an hour. All of them expected that a session would leave them in a pool of sweat, and that they would wake up the next day worse than the day before. Because they thought that fitness was all about gasping for air on the floor at the end of the training session, they expected to be sweaty, sore, and buried!

The RKC system has and continues to provide the employees a new understanding of the benefits of actual training. To date, I have been able to incorporate the big six of the RKC (swing, squat, clean, press, get-up and snatch) with some of the more advanced and dedicated employees, while the new and intermediate employees are still reaping the benefits of deadlifts, swings, squats, get-ups and light single arm pressing. They have accomplished great things—pressing the 24kg to completing pistols. Our CEO—who didn’t quite understand why I was having him swing or do get-ups at first—has been on a heavy dose of get-ups, swings, arm bars and other mobility work I learned during my RKC-II.

The goal of the health and wellness program is not to simply make people as strong as possible, even though some of them are really excelling. Our goal is to create a comfortable, healthy atmosphere where people strive to improve themselves on both a personal and professional level. Equally as important, I aim to educate each employee to safely and successfully perform movements that improve their fitness and quality of life.

I urge all RKC Instructors to look for opportunities to challenge their coaching abilities outside health clubs, gyms, and studios—and to spread the RKC message to those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to experience it. I have learned more about myself as a coach in the past nine months than I ever did while working at a conventional fitness facility. I am continuing to expand my comfort zone to include situations like speaking in front of the company, working with new issues presented by different employees, and learning how to build relationships that will inevitably grow my own business.


Dan Mahoney, RKC-II instructor, can be contacted by email:


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