Why We Grunt

by Felix Sempf on February 25, 2015

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RKC Instructor Felix Sempf

When entering a room where RKC kettlebell training is in progress, one quickly notices the characteristic way people breathe while performing the exercises. Although this “grunting” may sound unfamiliar and disconcerting at first, breathing in sharply through the nose and breathing out slowly while gritting the teeth should become a part of everyone’s training routine.

In order to understand why we use the “biomechanical breathing” method for improved performance and safety, we first need to talk about the anatomy of the trunk and core. Today, most researchers agree that the lumbar region is an area that relies heavily on stability and where excessive range of motion should be avoided (Battie et al, 1990; Biering-Sorenson, 1984; Cuoto, 1995; Saal & Saal, 1989; McGill, 2010). In the original sense, the widely-used term “core stability” describes “the ability of the lumbopelvic hip complex to prevent buckling and to return to equilibrium after perturbation” (Wilson et al., 2005). In other words, core stability is the ability to produce and maintain a neutral lumbar spine (Gottlob, 2001). According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, keeping a neutral spine is recommended when lifting something heavy off the ground or being under load…

Several muscles, such as the latissimus dorsi, erector spinae, quadratus lumborum, multifidii, and obliques—but also the glutes and adductors contribute to the stability of the core (Filey, 2007). More importantly, most of these muscles are connected via the thoracolumbar fascia, thereby forming a natural weightlifting belt around the lumbar spine. In conjunction with the diaphragm and the muscles of the pelvic floor, they help to maintain or build core stability by forming a shell around the lumbar region. Contracting the core and hip muscles leads to muscular stiffness and therefore the flexibility of the shell decreases and becomes more rigid. Filling the rigid shell with air by sharply inhaling through the nose will increase the so-called intra-abdominal pressure, leading to greater compression of the spine and consequently higher intervertebral stiffness (increased lumbar spine stability).

diagram of human breathing

A sharp inhalation has the advantage of automatically contracting the core muscles, which does not happen during slow breathing. The same effect is observed when exhaling while gritting one’s teeth—sufficient intra-abdominal pressure is maintained because more air will remain in the respiratory pathways while air flow is constricted. Continuous breathing allows continuous spine stability and is therefore preferable to the “valsalva maneuver”, when performing a task for more than one repetition. In support of this theory, Stuart McGill (2007) reported that using this breathing technique—known as “kime” in martial arts—when performing swings lead to a significantly greater contraction of the obliques. Thus, safety and performance can be enhanced by just breathing the right way.


Felix Sempf M.A. Sportscience, RKC, FMS, PM trains and instructs at the FIZ in Göttingen, Germany. He can be contacted by email at: felix.sempf@sport.uni-goettingen.de and his website: http://www.kettlebellperformance.de


Work Together And Thrive

by Nick Lynch and Lori Crock on February 18, 2015

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Nick Lynch Lori Crock and Class

Regardless of how isolated, individual and introverted you are, humans are altruistic as confirmed in a famous study called “The Dictator Game.” If we wish to thrive we need to work together.

As a business owner and participant in the fitness industry, I’ve regrettably made the mistake of puffing out my chest with failed bravado. The “grinder” mentality of “I’m right and everyone else is wrong” leaves that individual isolated and angry. The fact is, the fitness industry changes all the time, although some tried and true forms of training remain effective. Kettlebells, calisthenics, martial arts, climbing, carrying, running, swimming and anything else that follows our primal instincts tend to work well.

The point I’m looking to get across, with my friend Lori Crock here, is if you want to grow your business and promote yourself within the fitness industry, it’s best to work together. Larger corporations practice this tactfully all the time!

16% of Americans have a gym membership. 67% of those 16% don’t use it, leaving just 6% of Americans who actually use their gym memberships. Now let’s be honest, how many of that 6% are using kettlebells and calisthenics at the gym? Considering that 6% is primarily made up of giant corporate chain memberships, I would have to guess we’re now looking about .005% of the 6% of Americans utilizing their gym membership for kettlebells and/or calisthenics. Now we have an honest view of what we’re up against, does it make sense to fight with one another?

Clearly if we have such a niche market, it only makes sense for RKC instructors to work together within or community. If you have an RKC within a couple hours distance from you, set up workshops together. Schedule RKC workshops, HKC workshops, and help each other promote them. When working together, you have automatically doubled the growth potential by 100%. Remember, we’re a niche market. Most people have never heard the letters RKC put together in a sentence before.

If a fellow RKC reaches out to work with you, be open to the opportunity to grow your business. If you get a call or email, call or email back, this is the first step towards establishing a trustworthy relationship; it also confirms a certain level of professionalism! We make up an extremely insignificant number within the fitness industry. To make that number more significant, we MUST work together and not against each other.

Team Leader Lori Crock and TL Nick Lynch working together teaching a class in Milwaukee.

RKC Team Leader Lori Crock and RKC Team Leader Nick Lynch working together teaching a class in Milwaukee.

One more time: we make up an extremely small number within the fitness industry. To make that number more significant, we MUST work together.

“None of us is as smart as all of us.” ~Ken Blanchard.

Lori: working together isn’t hard to do. Nick and I are in different states, but our businesses are connected in many different ways.

One of Nick’s students, Andrew Keller, a true inspiration, with an 80 lb. + weight loss, earned his HKC at the October, 2014 certification event I was privileged to host as the owner of MoveStrong Kettlebells in Columbus, Ohio with Master RKC Andrea Du Cane.

Nick sent Andrew our way, and Andrew, now an HKC, worked hard to achieve his goal. Andrew is now a Superb Health Milwaukee instructor and continues to inspire me and many others.

Andrew Keller teaching photo

Andrew Keller, HKC at the Columbus HKC training along side a MoveStrong HKC, Terry Butterworth.

So when I was traveled to the great city of Milwaukee recently for the Progressive Calisthenics Certification (PCC) Workshop, Nick and I met in person and I had the opportunity to co-teach a kettlebell class at Nick’s gym.

Nick and I had ‘met’ online as new RKC Team Leaders, but there is nothing like meeting in person. I believe that it is a worthy goal to try to meet in person the people we are connected with online, so that we are friends in the true sense of the word.

Three RKC instrutors Earn PCC Together

RKC Team Leaders Nick and Lori with Senior RKC Rob Miller at the Milwaukee PCC

While our fitness niche may be small compared to the industry at large, we have a strong brand community and working together delivers many benefits, including:

  1. Increased learning – sharing business practices, marketing, programming and clients.
  2. Deepened loyalty – the more we have connections to individuals within our community, the more we have a sense of belonging and pride in what we do.
  3. Attracting others with results – a strong team delivers results that attract others to the community.
  4. Encouraging accountability – we keep each other on track per RKC standards.
  5. Driving new directions – we challenge each other to think, assess, expand, create and take risks.
  6. Sharing what’s great – why recreate if something is already great? We share content, promote each other and collaborate online and at events.

This business excites us and our students inspire us. The RKC methodology is sound and many of us have built our businesses around it. So we already have a lot in common.

With more than 50 percent of small businesses failing within three years, and gyms second only to restaurants in this regard, it makes sense to work together to share knowledge, business and marketing practices, programming, hard lessons and successes, and even clients, to succeed in this business and to raise the standards in the fitness industry at large.

Are you in?


RKC Team Leader Nick Lynch is a Strength and Conditioning Coach at Milwaukee School of Engineering University (MSOE). He owns Superb Health Milwaukee, a kettlebell studio in Milwaukee, WI. Most recently, he became an RKC Team Leader. He has 13 years of full-time training and coaching experience and a lifetime of wellness education. Nick lives in Milwaukee, WI with his wife Natalie and son Weston.

Lori Crock, RKC Team Leader, FMS II and MovNat MCT II, owns MoveStrong Kettlebells in Dublin, Ohio where she teaches small group kettlebell classes to all ages and fitness levels and continues to be amazed, inspired and educated by her students. Her email address is lori@movestrongkbs.com


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