Strength Despite Limitations… by Corey Howard, RKC, CK-FMS

by Corey Howard on December 14, 2012

The RKC is about Strength.  Many times we’ve referred to it as a “School of Strength.”  After all, what’s better than lifting heavy stuff?   In fact many instructors have said the secret to a happy life is lifting heavy stuff overhead!  As RKC’s we sometimes base our abilities on a heavy deadlift, pull-up and overhead press.  But what do you do if you can’t physically deadlift?  What if some anatomical limitation prevents you from pressing heavy stuff overhead?  Are you left to a life of spinning classes and pretty little selectorized machines?  No!

I am one of these people.  I physically can’t deadlift, or squat heavy anymore.  I can’t press heavy things overhead on a consistent basis.  Don’t get me wrong… I’m a former competitive powerlifter, I love lifting heavy stuff!  Due to a nice case of scoliosis I physically can’t put weight on my back, or vertically load my spine, and heavy deadlifting is just not smart anymore.  Take a look at a recent X-ray of my spine:

So now what?  What do you do for a client like me?  Heck, what do I do?  I use the tools the RKC and DragonDoor has provided… CK-FMS, Swing variations, Get-ups, and Paul Wade’s Convict Conditioning book.  Let’s take a look at these-

CK-FMS – As we all learned from Brett Jones and Gray Cook, we’re only as strong as our weakest link will allow.  If we have an active straight leg raise issue, or a stability issue, it adversely affects our performance because we aren’t moving efficiently.  Brett once said that for some people the correctives become part of our daily routine, and for me that’s true.  I’m always going to have a t-spine mobility issue, and as a result I’ll always have a stability issue.   If I don’t make those correctives part of my practice sessions my low back is in pain the next day.

Swing variations – Swings are the foundation of what we do, and there are so many variations.  Typically I have two days devoted to only swings.  The first is a one arm swing interval variation day, and the other is a heavy swing day.  For example I may do 30-40 minutes of one arm swings with a 24k, then later in the week I might perform 2 hand swings with a 48k for 30-40 minutes.  One arm swings help with conditioning as well as stability issues due to the asymmetrical loading.  The heavy two hand swings are as close to heavy deadlifting as my body will allow, yet work great for building strength in a safe yet ballistic manner.

Get ups – David Whitley says get-ups are essentially the human gate pattern, and he’s right!  Get ups allow us to move safely under a load while our body fires in a X-type of pattern.  Look at the initial post to elbow move for example, we drive through our bell side glute while posting on the opposite elbow by firing that lat.  Everything moves diagonally, just like when we walk.  Get ups teach me to move under a load while still providing the much needed overhead stimulation.  Ten minutes of get ups do the trick!

Convict Conditioning – When I was powerlifting, I used to have a high and low intensity day.  Some powerlifters call it Dynamic and Max effort days.  Basically this is a day of lower weight with higher reps to essentially practice the movement, shore up weak links and build efficiency, followed with a max effort day 72 hours later with fewer reps and heavier weight, very similar to the swing methodology discussed above.  I have chosen to focus on three bodyweight strength movements; pistol, pull-up and handstand push-ups.  Since I can’t back or front squat, the pistol is a safe alternative that still allows me to safely apply a load on heavy days yet still get high rep squat variation practice in on my light days.  The pull-up is also a movement that allows me to hang a kettlebell from my foot or a belt to add a load, while practicing a horizontal version on my light days.  Finally handstand push-ups are really the only way I can press anything overhead without being crippled the next day!  All three movements are easy to modify using the different levels provided in Paul Wade’s Convict Conditioning.

So how does this look in a program?

Day 1: 10-min of light get ups followed by light easy bodyweight strength practice

Day 2: 30-40 min of One Arm Swings

Day 3: 10 min of heavier get up practice followed by heavier low rep bodyweight strength movements

Day 4: 30-40 min of heavy swings

Being strong is an important part of life.  It’s how we survive.  No matter what physical limitation you have there are resources available and ways to work around almost anything.  The last thing anyone should ever do is sit down on a machine, choose a weight, and push out some mindless reps.  Grab a kettlebell do some get ups and swings or some bodyweight strength work.

An excuse only exists if you allow it to.


About Corey:

As the owner and founder of Results PT, Corey started the company in 2004 out of his house, with the goal of creating an energizing atmosphere that’s geared toward the client’s success.  Since 2004 his vision has grown along with the list of clients, and in 2008 he opened Sioux Falls’s first private personal training studio.  Corey has trained and helped many people lose a lot of weight, including a few people that have lost over 100lbs.  He also has experience training fitness figure competitors and pagent girls.  His clients have been featured in local and national magazine articles, appeared on television, and competed nationally.  He originally became a certified personal trainer while living in Minneapolis in 2002 and over the years has created a successful strategy and program that reaps success.  He also has experience in competitive powerlifting and loves total body kettlebell workouts that promote athleticism.  He can be reached at or 

  • 1999 Sioux Falls Augustana College graduate.  BS in Bs Admin, Soc, Psych.
  • I’ve been in a gym lifting, training, and learning about fitness since 1992.
  • After living in Mineapolis, Mn for 5 years my wife (Tricia) and I moved home to Sioux Falls, SD where I started Results Personal Training out of a spare bedroom in our house.  Over the course of time it slowly evolved into Sioux Falls’s first private training studio with 2000 sq. ft, of kettlebells, power racks, free weights, a slosh pipe, and many other fun implements.
  • Former competitive powerlifter
  • After tearing my left tricep and being forced into early retirement from powerlifting, I discovered kettlebells with some encouragement from Brad Nelson, RKC.  And in 2009 I earned my HKC.
  • In 2010 I went on and earned my RKC.
  • In 2011 I earned my CK-FMS and became the first kettlebell functional movement specialist in South Dakota.
  • In 2012 I was an assistant instructor at the RKC certification course.  South Dakota’s most Senior ranked kettlebell instructor.
  • I’ve had clients range in age from 10 to 75, who’s goal range from weight loss, pageantry, increasing a vertical leap, and just fitting into smaller jeans.
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