Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

Kathleen Walthers Kettlebell With Baby

“You need to avoid any high-impact exercises, running, and lifting heavy anything heavier than about 10-15 pounds.” As an avid CrossFitter, Boston Marathon-qualifier and finisher, triathlete and fitness enthusiast, these words from my doctor were difficult to digest. But having just confirmed I was pregnant at nearly 43 years of age, and with multiple high-risk factors, including two miscarriages within the prior two years, he did not want me to take any chances. I decided not to take the advice—or spend my pregnancy—lying down. Instead, I set out to find a way to stay fit and active within these safety parameters.

I had first been introduced to kettlebells a few years earlier at my CrossFit box, but the only formal training I had was a 90-minute seminar taught by an RKC-certified instructor at another fitness certification earlier that year. The seminar showed me the power of the kettlebell and sparked my interest. But after the seminar, I went back to my regularly scheduled programming—CrossFit and running, until my doctor put the kibosh on both of these activities. I asked my doctor what he thought about kettlebells, and he admitted to not knowing much about them. He asked if they were a high-impact activity (no) and whether I could keep the weight low (yes, I could). So, with his blessing, I picked up a kettlebell and started swinging.

Eight months later, I gave birth to a gorgeous, healthy baby girl. My love for her and for kettlebells continues to grow every day. Throughout my pregnancy, I spent my free time reading, researching and following experts on kettlebells and prenatal fitness. I focused on learning the proper form of the six foundational RKC moves, while designing a balanced program that took into account the limitations associated with my pregnancy.

It is likely you have or will have a client who is pregnant, and I want to share the top six lessons I learned through my own trial-and-error. Hopefully this will help you coach them effectively and safely throughout their pregnancy while avoiding the common pitfalls even top trainers make when working with moms-to-be.

Kathleen Walthers 3 days before giving birth

Kathleen Walters, 3 days before giving birth.

1. Encourage your client to partner with her doctor about fitness and nutrition. Doctors are medical professionals; most are not fitness or nutrition professionals. As a Precision Nutrition Level 2-certified nutrition coach and lifelong athlete, early on it became clear that I was more knowledgeable about fitness and nutrition than my doctor. He also admitted it! While respecting my doctor’s advice and prioritizing my own health and safety and the health and safety of my baby, I challenged some of his fitness recommendations, providing research and data to support my position.

Because of our back-and-forth, I was able to create a pregnancy fitness program that satisfied my own needs and interests but addressed my doctor’s concerns. It is critical that your client has clearance to train from a medical professional prior to beginning a prenatal program. Partnering with the doctor can help you and your client navigate pregnancy in a way that keeps her healthy, happy and fit.

2. Keep the workouts short and simple. Pregnancy is not the time for lengthy and complicated workouts. Throughout a pregnancy, women often experience bouts of fatigue (particularly in the first and third trimesters) and nausea (most prevalent in the first trimester aka “morning sickness,” though mine hit in the late afternoon and evening). Expectant moms are also usually juggling numerous career and household responsibilities while preparing for the baby. I programmed workouts that lasted as little as 15 minutes, and supplemented these sessions with daily walks with my puppy. This allowed me to easily fit 4-5 workouts a week into my busy schedule.

3. Stay flexible with your clients’ programming and give them options for when they are not feeling 100% or are stressed. My workouts during pregnancy followed my “3S System of programming: include skill, strength, and sweat in each session. Instead of a specific number of sets to complete in a workout, each workout section was time-based (As Many Rounds As Possible or AMRAP-style). This allowed me to adjust the length of my workouts according to my schedule on any given day.

A typical workout looked something like this:

Squat-to-stand: 5
Bodyweight single-leg deadlift: 5 R/L
Light halo: 5 R/L

Skill Work:
(5-10 minute AMRAP)
Bodyweight single-leg squat-to-box (pistol practice): 2-3 R/L

Strength Work:
(5-15-minute AMRAP)
One-arm rows: 6-8 R/L
Double kettlebell suitcase deadlift: 6-8
Seated one-arm military press: 6-8 R/L

Sweat Work:
(5-10 minute EMOTM Every Minute On The Minute) complete:
Two-hand kettlebell swings: 5
Double kettlebell farmer’s carry: 20 seconds

Cool Down:
Hamstring stretch
Hip flexor stretch
Diaphragmatic breathing

Stay tuned for part 2, where I will cover the next 3 tips for trainers working with expecting mamas.

Be happy, healthy and strong,
Kathleen Walters, RKC



Written in collaboration with Master RKC Michael Krivka

Kathleen Walters, RKC is known as the “Kettlebell Mama”. She is a lifelong athlete based in Washington, DC, who specializes in coaching busy moms and moms-to-be in-person and remotely, helping them incorporate healthy fitness and nutrition habits into their chaotic “mom life.” To learn more about Kathleen and her coaching services, email her at, or visit her website and popular blog at


How Well Do You Move?

by Phil Ross on April 19, 2017

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

Master RKC Phil Ross, Kettlebell Pullover

How well do we—as humans—move? When we move are we trying to avoid or minimize pain? There seem to be three major areas of pain, have you wondered why these areas are so afflicted, even with people who are “in shape”?

The low back (lumbar region), the knees (distal femur, proximal tibia, fibula and patella) and the shoulders (glenohumeral and sterno-clavicular joints) are the pain points for many people. Why?

Two words need to be considered: stability and mobility. Certain joints of the body prefer stability and others favor mobility. Feet, knees, the low back and scapular regions favor stability. Ankles, hips, the thoracic spine (middle back) and glenohumeral joints (shoulders) flourish with mobility. The joints need to do what they are designed to do. If not, then asymmetries and injuries occur. And here’s the double whammy—not only will the misaligned joint be affected, the ones above and below it will too! For example, if a person has tight hips, their hip movement will be compromised. The movement will need to take place in other parts of the body, usually the knees and low back, both of which are stability-favoring joints above and below the hips. This creates instability in these joints, resulting in pain and anomalies.

Many people have low back pain. They might stretch their backs, get chiropractic adjustments, or take pain pills, but the issue will still not be addressed. The real issue be that the hips are tight and immobile, and/or the hamstrings are too tight. They may also have immobility issues if their thoracic spine (t-spine) is not strong enough or mobile enough to move safely. Are the erector spinea and the multifidi muscles (muscles that connect the vertebra) strong and engaged? Are the rhomboids, trapezius and other muscles of the scapula developed? Does the individual know how to keep them engaged? On many occasions, low back issues really lie in the areas above and below. Addressing the strength and flexibility of these major joints often significantly relieves back pain.

How do we address and avoid these issues? First, if you are not training, start. You’ll move better, feel better and live a longer (and often more productive) life. Next, consider that type of training, is it cardio, mobility or strength based? Are you getting the correct balance for optimal health? With your strength training or resistance training, are you using closed chain or open chain exercises? Closed chain movements involve more joints of the body and tend to be better for you. Open chain movements are more isolated and can have a shearing effect on the joint.

For example, let’s compare bodyweight squats and leg extensions. Bodyweight (or weighted for that matter) squats are a closed chain movement. The major joints and muscle groups addressed are the hips, knees and ankles, and the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and gastrocs (calves) are on the muscle side of the equation. Other muscles and stabilizers are involved at lesser degrees along with a good deal of core engagement for bracing. When performing squats, the feet are firmly planted and positive joint compression is employed. In contrast, leg extensions only address the quadriceps with concentric and eccentric contractions. The other leg muscles are virtually dormant and only the knee joint is involved. There is a shearing effect on the knee joint which may cause injury over time. In my estimation, this machine should be disassembled, melted down and repurposed as something useful, like a kettlebell! Just ask yourself, when you walk, run or jump, do you isolate a muscle or use your whole limbs and torso? In a rehabilitation situation or in bodybuilding, then muscle isolation may be appropriate, but otherwise multi-joint movements are superior.

There are many reasons why kettlebell training is my central mode of training. With kettlebells, all of the facets of fitness are addressed: strength, explosive power, flexibility, durability, muscular endurance, cardiovascular training, and mobility. Let’s consider mobility. Outsiders (I’m referring to those not acquainted with bonafide kettlebell training), only view kettlebell training as strength, explosive power and muscular endurance, but not necessarily promoting healthy mobility.

Along with the bo staff, freehand mobility and calisthenics I lead on a daily basis in my classes, there are three kettlebell based complexes we use to prepare for the rigors of the training session. We execute 10 repetitions of each movement on each side, or in each direction where applicable. The first complex is figure-8, then low, middle, and high halos. The second complex is bottoms-up crescent swings, kettlebell good mornings, and goblet squats. The third complex is the RKC armbar, lying side swings, and kettlebell pullovers.

Let’s discuss the third complex: the RKC armbar, lying side press and the kettlebell pullover. Generally, we do 10 repetitions of the armbar, 10 reps of the lying side press on both sides, and then 10 reps of the kettlebell pullover. Two sets of each.

The Armbar packs the shoulder and prepares the participant for overhead work. Lie on your side in the fetal position as if you were starting a get-up. Grasp the kettlebell by the handle, bring it to your shoulder, then roll onto your back. With two hands, press the kettlebell upward. Make sure that your wrist is straight, your elbow is locked, and your shoulder is packed. If the kettlebell is in your right hand, take your right leg and bring it to the other side of your body so that your hip is facing the floor and most of your anterior is in the prone position. Do all of this while maintaining a relaxed neck and while rotating kettlebell in space. Attempt to bring your right hip as close to the floor as possible as you keep your arm and wrist locked. Once you’ve settled into the bottom of this movement, bring your right leg across the body until you are supine with the kettlebell above. This movement needs to be performed slowly, to maximize the opening of the hips and packing of the shoulders. Relish the time under the kettlebell as your thoracic region savors the mobility!

The Lying Side Press is to be done as soon as you have completed the armbar. As you are on your side, press the kettlebell upward. It is imperative to maintain a straight wrist and vertical forearm throughout this exercise. Pull the kettlebell down so that your elbow is slightly behind your hip. Keep the kettlebell steady and feel your rhomboids working. If you feel stress in your anterior deltoid, you are doing the movement incorrectly and most likely not keeping your forearm vertical.

Phil Ross Lying Side Press Sequence

The Kettlebell Pullover is a movement that’s very easy to cheat! Don’t be “that guy” or “that girl”. The kettlebell is on the ground above your head as you lie in the supine position. Grasp the kettlebell in both hands at the horns and bring it overhead. Now, lock your arms. While you lower the kettlebell, remember the phrase “sometimes, always, never”. Sometimes your thoracic region comes off of the ground, Always have your head and cervical spine off of the ground and Never let your lumbar spine or hips come off of the ground. So, lower the bell with your head off of the mat and do not allow the kettlebell to touch the ground. As you keep the bottom of the kettlebell facing away from you, raise it so that it is perpendicular to the floor. Pause. Next, contract your abdominals as you bring the kettlebell straight upward while keeping your lumbar spine on the floor. Repeat this process for 10 repetitions.

PhilRoss Kettlebell Pullover Sequence

If you have any questions regarding this RKC blog post or any other kettlebell or fitness related matter, please feel free to contact me.

Strength and Honor!

Coach Phil 



Phil Ross Master RKC, 8th Degree Black Belt, CK-FMS, PCC and ACE Certified. Author of Ferocious Fitness and Survival Strong, producer of The Kettlebell Workout Library. He is also the Chief Instructor at American Eagle MMA & Kettlebells


The Get-Up

April 12, 2017

When in doubt, I pull John Jesse’s classic book, Wrestling Physical Conditioning Encyclopedia (printed in 1974), off my shelf. Jesse collected the history and wisdom of every strength, conditioning and wrestling coach and compiled it into a rare book that covers all the bases of strength training. The first lesson one learns when reading Jesse […]

Read the full article →

How to Run Injury Free Using Kettlebells

March 29, 2017

Let’s clear this up right now, strength training and running go together, it’s not one or the other. Most runners avoid strength training for fear of being bulky, or because they’re afraid it will decrease their run time. Runners need to understand that strength training can improve their run time and increase their work capacity. […]

Read the full article →

Warm Up and Cool Down Flow

March 22, 2017

How do you warm up for training? Is there a flow and/or pattern to it? How about the cool down afterwards? I like to consider economy of movement in my warm-ups because it tends to speed up my prep and my cool down. I want the warm-up to systematically prepare me for the session ahead—and […]

Read the full article →

Getting Strong Fast: Four Effective Overhead Kettlebell Exercises

March 15, 2017

Kettlebell exercises are much more common in fitness these days because of the RKC, CrossFit, strongman and functional training. But, only truly strong athletes will be able to lift heavy kettlebells overhead without risking injury. When I began my training a few years ago, I hated it. No matter where I looked, everybody was stronger […]

Read the full article →

Naked Swings

February 22, 2017

Two years ago I woke up one morning and fell out of bed. I could not stand up. My right leg was in extreme pain and it felt like there was high voltage electricity running through it. A nerve in my back had been pinched by my vertebrae. I spent a week in the hospital […]

Read the full article →

Take Responsibility and Achieve Your Goals

February 15, 2017

Lets face it; exercising consistently is hard work. Showing up to your local gym, box or calisthenics park on a regular basis takes a level of commitment that most people just do not have these days. Knowing that over 90% of us who set out to achieve our New Year’s resolutions are doomed to fail, […]

Read the full article →

Does the Snatch Test Really Matter?

February 1, 2017

Every RKC instructor has gone through the rigorous snatch test. This is five minutes of full effort—snatching a kettlebell for 100 repetitions. Ask anyone who has done it and they will tell you the joys of the test. Many RKC candidates are nervous and frightened when it comes to the snatch test. They end up […]

Read the full article →

Get out of Your Kettlebell Rut with These Partner and Group Exercises

January 25, 2017

I started my fitness business, Boot Camp Fitness and Training in 2005, and I started Tallahassee Kettlebells shortly after my RKC 1 in 2009. In that time, I have amassed many individual, partner, and group workouts. I still have the notebooks and binders full of workouts and exercises that I have used over the years. […]

Read the full article →