Monday, April 12, 2010

Andrea DuCane Interview: Discussing the HKC and Resilliance-Based Kettlebell Training for All Populations

Andrea DuCane is bringing the first ever-in-the-UK HKC one day kettlebell certification to the UK, June 6 at the University of Southampton. In preparation for that, i thought it might be nice for folks to hear a little more from Andrea about who she is, her approach to kettlebells, and why the opportunity to work with her to tune one's kettlebell practice is to be ceased with gusto.

By way of background, Andrea is one of the only Master Trainers in the RKC kettlebell training system. That's not nothing - especially as currently the only woman in this group, too. She wrote and produced and starred in "The Kettlebell Goddess Workout DVD. Her latest DVD, “Working with Special Populations," was filmed at the RKC Level II. She is featured in the "From Russia With Tough Love" video and book. She published an article on Russian Kettlebells for Best Body Magazine. She was interviewed and photographed for an article introducing kettlebells for Oxygen Magazine. She is also a Pilates instructor. She currently teaches classes in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She has twenty years of aerobics, weight training and fitness experience, with an additional background in classical ballet, jazz dance and Argentinean tango. She has trained in a number of Eastern health and martial arts disciplines including kung fu, yoga, tai chi and qigong.

Andrea trains many different types of clients. She has trained a professional baseball player, High School coaches and students for Track and Field. She works with people coming back from injury, older clients starting a fitness program. Housewives and young athletes. Chiropractors, Acupuncturists, Osteopaths and Medical Doctors, Pilates Instructors, Dancers and other Personal Trainers she counts as her clients. She is experienced working with large groups or on a one to one basis.

So with that list of credentials ringing in our ears, we begin this interview with Andrea. We cover why kettlebells as an approach to training; her fave moves; Andrea's own impact on the North American kettlebell scene, openning it up to women; her path getting involved in KB work and becoming only one of a half-dozen RKC Master Trainers; being a woman in the RKC and some thoughts about the upcoming HKC - who should take it, why, and how to prep for it.

o Why Kettlebells

What's with kettlebells, andrea? why is this your main tool?
First, Kettlebell training is the most efficient and effective training out there. It easily addresses and accomplishes most health, fitness and athletic goals.
In your June 2009 Kettlebell Secretes interview with Geoff Nuepert, you suggested that everyone - all ages, gender, ability - should should deadlift and snatch with a kettlebell. Why?
The dead lift is already in the course as a prep drill. The kettlebell deadlift is relatively easy to do, requires very little space and equipment. The deadlift is a basic, essential movement pattern everyone performs each and every day of their life, from the time they learn to stand upright to end of their life.  Problem is people aren't moving as efficiently and safely as they should.

We, as a society have "forgotten" how to move from our hips and use our glutes and legs to lift, squat, sit, run, jump etc. We are “sitters”. We spend nearly every waking hour sitting, from driving to work to sitting at a desk at work to sitting in front of the TV at the end of the day. The physical toll it is taking on our bodies is evident in the epidemic health problems facing all industrialized countries today.

Why focus on the deadlift? Well it strengthens all the lower and back core muscles we need to move properly. It teaches us how to move safely and not use our backs. It strengthens the butt (and who doesn’t want a nice shapely derriere!), which is the “engine” and power source of our bodies.

I have a saying, “Big butt – healthy back”, ok, I’m talking about muscle here not the other soft tissue☺ Seriously, I come from a family of “no-butt’s” and I work very hard to get and keep a butt!

By the way, there are many ways to do deadlifts. You can make them easier for a de-conditioned person by having them place the KB on a box or platform, thereby limiting the depth and range of motion. You can challenge their core and stability strength by doing suitcase dl’s (one kb on one side). Or have them stand on a box if they’re strong and flexible and perform the dl lower than the floor.
Ok, makes sense on the DL, and it's in the HKC, the certification course you're doing in the UK June 6 at the University of Southampton. The snatch, however, is not in the course - that's the RKC. The main moves in the HKC are the swing, the turkish get up, and the goblet squat...
The Swing is the natural progression of the deadlift. Plus, of course, it has the added advantage of adding the cardio/fat-burning element (that takes care of the “soft-tissue” butt). So for those looking for fat loss the swing should be your go-to exercise. It should be the foundation of your training.

The swing is also for every athlete of every sport. For Hardstyle RKC, our idea of sports specific training is: SWINGS.

The snatch is the next progression of the swing. It incorporates more upper body and because the arc of the moving kettlebell is greater than the swing, there is more load and intensity per every rep which leads to even greater benefits.

Why kettlebell snatches? Again, it requires little equipment, little space,  and is fairly easy to learn once the basics are down. Kettlebells are simple, efficient and effective at power generation and cardio endurance, and fat loss. The Snatch is the Czar of all kettlebell lifts.

There are many fun and glamorous kettlebell exercises out there, but working the deadlifts, swings and Turkish Getups should be your bread and butter. The snatch should be part of everyone’s conditioning program, once you have the form down perfectly.
o Revolutionary

Ok, so the snatch is only after spending some quality personal time with the swing, TGU, deadlifts and squats. Not that that's a small program in itself. We’ll come back to the particulars of the HKC lifts shortly, but can we pull back for a sec to your role in North American Kettlebell development.

No one will deny that Pavel Tsatsouline is the person who brought kettlebells to north america in 2002. But what most folks may not realize, and that kinda blows me away, is that you Andrea du Cane are more or less responsible for Pavel Tsatsouline thinking about directing kettlebell training to women - his KB work prior to this being directed at least implicitly at guys. - the result being one of his best fitness texts, from Russia with Tough Love (one more folks of either gender would enjoy).

How did you get working with KB's such that you had confidence in pushing for this development? or was this idea prior to your own work with kb's? How'd it happen? Why the initial resistance do you think? What changed to make it happen? And how/when/what let you know that you'd been so right?

When John [du Cane, Dragon Door Publisher] and I first began working with Pavel, the products were aimed towards a fairly hardcore, extreme group of men. The first five books were not about kettlebells. It took some time for Pavel to write a book on Kettlebells training.

While shooting of the RKC book and DVD, I was completely blown away by kettlebells.  I immediately saw the draw for women. It’s advanced pilates,…… yoga with weights…. fat burning… you could do it at home while the kids napped or did homework. You could do it at the office.  You could get a full-body complete workout down in 10-20 minutes! It was like a working mothers dream come true! The hard part was convincing John and Pavel that there was a market out there and then how to market it to women (and de-conditioned populations).

It’s taken a few years, but with every RKC there are more and more women attending, more personal trainers who have the foresight of wanting to find the best system for their clients. Yes, you could say we have moved into the mainstream. You can even find cheap knock-offs at Target Stores. In my opinion, this is a good thing;  kettlebell awareness is reaching many more people. In my world everyone will be swinging kettlebells, starting in grade school.
Save 30 Percent on Kettlebells

o Evolving Path: Master Trainer

Background. Your path to fitness training seems really intriguing: you studied psychology as an undergrad, and did a lot of work in make up for film/tv/video productions as it seems your main gig.

A constant theme seems to be movement: taking dance classes through school and uni; getting involved in martial arts - what happened that the fitness path seems to have overtaken the other paths? Where do you see those previous incarnations playing into what you do today?
I think I define the term “late bloomer”. I was not athletic as a child. I was small, skinny, weak. I couldn’t run fast or throw a ball. I remember distinctly being in 3 grade and not only being the last one chosen for kickball, but the team captains would say “ No, you can have Andrea, the other replied, No you take her I don’t want her”. Seriously! The only thing I could do was hang from the bar. I got the school record for the flex-arm hang; I think I made it close to a minute.

I discovered dancing as a senior in high school and never looked back. I became obsessed with it. It was my refuge from the pressures of being a teenager who had lost her mother 2 years before.  From classical ballet I discovered jazz dancing, aerobics (yes, I’m embarrassed to say), weight training and finally martial arts.  With each new movement I learned, the stronger and more athletic I became. In fact, I discovered I have a gift for learning movement fast. I realized I was pretty coordinated. But I still needed to develop my strength. I’ve loose and weak joints and connective tissue genetically, so finding kettlebell training has saved my health and life.

I credit my hardcore martial arts training for developing the mental toughness needed to truly succeed. It also gave me a wiry strength. It taught me about power generation and that it’s all about technique. Good technique will always trump brute strength.

My favorite part of my martial art practice was weapons practice and the circular forms. I liked becoming “one” with the weapon. And I liked the flowing, yet powerful energy that comes from the softer circular styles of martial arts.

My years in the film/video world has given me a problem-solving way of thinking and operating. I think I use that with my clients and instructing. I feel I have been able to contribute to the high production values of all our Dragon Door products.
Beyond master trainer in the RKC - what other formal or informal fitness training have you undertaken, and why those choices?
I have completed the 4 levels of Z-health. Taken the CK-FMS, I have done a TRX course and plan on taking the upcoming Indian Clubs workshop. I just completed an on-line Functional Medicine course last year.  I am also trained in Pilates.  I use something from every workshop or certification I’ve taken. I will continue to take course and learn. These are not including all the martial arts workshops I have taken.
You are one of only a few Master Trainers on the planet in the RKC. Not only are you (a) the only woman at that rank, you're also (b) perhaps the most different in terms of profile from the rest of the Master Trainers's, who have some kind of Lift Heavy Stuff A Lot backgrounds…
I do have a different background from some of the other Masters. First, I am a women and not into performing “feats of super human strength”.  My background is dance and pilates with marial arts. I’m in it for the long haul, I believe in being healthy, fit and agile well into old age. I have seen and met so many messed up broken people and yes KB's can rehab and help fix so many physical problems, but I’m trying to stay healthy by training SMART.
I think I represent a healthy, sensible balanced way of life and training… or at least I am striving for that. I think there are a lot of men and women who can relate to that goal. I’m not trying to break any records, I’m not trying to lift the most weight, I want to be able to move like a teenager, I want to be a strong and graceful dancer and athlete.
So, what is Master Trainer, what does it mean, when were you appointed a Master Trainer, and what do you think that recognizes about your approach to practice in the RKC - the similarities and the differences among the rest?
Master Instructor?  (This is very difficult to answer… not sure I can get to in-depth)
I think it was going on 3 years when Pavel created the Master Instructor titles.  Honestly, I’m not very good with dates [approx 2005/6].  I think Pavel is trying to create a system whereby those that teach the teachers have the experience, talent and beliefs of what makes an RKC.

 In my mind what makes a Master RKC is the ability to put yourself second to good of the RKC, your RKC candidates and students. It’s in promoting and encouraging the growth of the system through example and highly developed teaching skills.  It’s by leading by example. I truly believe in the “quiet professional”, of being grateful and humble for everything I have learned and continue to learn. I cannot express the gratitude I feel and the knowledge of how lucky I am to be able to call Pavel a friend and mentor.
o Identity
How do you refer to yourself, Andraa, when folks ask what you do? Fitness trainer? Coach? kettlebell instructor? what? how has that identity in this training space evolved?
Oh boy, that’s are hard one! I’m a bit ADD as anyone who knows me will agree. I will generally refer to myself as a Master Kettlebell Instructor. But there are still so many people who have no idea what that is, sometimes I’ll just say trainer.
Special Pops. You are perhaps increasingly known within the RKC community as the go-to gal for kettlebell work with Special Populations. First, what does "special populations" mean, and how did this focus evolve, and what excites you about developing work in this space?
Special Populations can be anyone who is seriously overweight, coming back from injury, elderly or severely de-conditioned. Which really is about 75-85% of the population roughly.  So talk about potential market!  Seriously, with the aging baby boomer generation and the TV/computer addicted youth we have unlimited supply of potential clients.

I think I started out interested in this population because of my pilates training. I finished the advanced reformer and mat training just before or around the same time I was beginning my kettlebell training.  I guess I saw the potential and in the beginning of the kettelbell movement. NO one, I mean no one was interested in that group of people. It was all about pressing the largest amount of weight, bending thick nails, working with the military and special ops, you know all the cool guy stuff. Back then the Get up was just that “ get up any way you can safely holding a KB over your head”.
As the saying goes: We’ve come a long way baby!

I also seemed to attract a lot of clients with “issues”. I saw the need and saw how kettlebells could really help these people. In fact, I believe everyone CAN and SHOULD use kettlebells in some version to stay healthy or get back on track.
Being a Gal in the RKC. Ok, let's get it out there: Andrea, you are a petit gal. You're an adult, not a kid, and to be explicit, as we've said before , a Woman. What's your experience like when dealing with the let's say more macho side of an RKC course.  Talking with Rannoch Donald about this upcoming cert, he said that you were his team lead in 2007, thought you were great, and started referring to you as Andrea du Pain. (visions of Mr. Miagi come to mind)?
I have often thought my job in this life is to break the ceilings and boundaries set up for women. I was the first-born girl and had to break a few rules and give some gray hairs to my poor old dad. I did the hard work so those following in my footsteps (including my sister) would have it easier.

The kettlebell world is a man’s world, sorry but it’s true. I’ve done a lot to open the doors for women. It’s not always been easy. I know many of the gals who have assisted at RKC’s can agree it’s hard sometimes to get the respect we deserve.  I have been called a lot of names (not printable here). I’ve had to exaggerate the tough part, because I thought that was the only way to get the guys to respect me.

Let’s face it when a women is tough she is considered a b_t__h. when a guy’s tough he’s a “man”. If I’m caring and soft … I’m too weak. So I straddle a fine line between letting the compassion come out and being tough. And let’s face it; in many ways women are way tougher than men!

It was in Denmark, I had Rannoch Donald on my team and he coined the name Team Du Pain, which I still use today. I tell you that was one heck of a great group of men! I loved every minute of training them.  I have to say I do feel a little like a mother hen at every RKC.

I take it very seriously and personally to help every candidate achieve their goal to become an RKC.
Andrea you will be leading the UK's first HKC June 6 at the University of Southampton. Besides this, however, you have real ties with the UK and travel here regularly.
My in-laws live in Buckinghamshire. I come to visit once or twice a year. I love the UK and I love the people. I really would like to see the RKC grow in the UK. I think the time is now, I think by holding an HKC we are on the road to develop a large community of RKC trainers. First the Denmark, Hungary, Italy, now the UK and then the rest of the world!
o HKC Redux
HKC Prep Plan Indeed. So let’s talk a bit more about the HKC. This is the first official dragondoor/hardstyle cert in the UK.  Interestingly, a few folks i've spoken with about the HKC have been a wee bit shocked to find that people actually can and do fail the HKC. What would you recommend folks do to be prepared for this course?
The HKC like the RKC is a serious certification. This is NOT a typical fitness workshop: walk in the park, show up and receive your certificate. You had better come prepared.  The HKC’s have a 10-30 fail rate. The RKC’s have I believe an average 30% fail rate.  You should be already swinging those kb’s and working on your Turkish getups.  If possible find a RKC near you and take a few privates or classes [UK RKC list here]. Have your form checked. It’s great to get a couple dvd’s but you should still visit a local RKC to get checked out. Also, make sure you work on the pull-up, flexed arm hang test. If you fail, you fail the course.  Lastly, practice teaching friends and family ANY kind of movement so you’re used to demonstrating and talking people through something.

By the way, if you do fail the course it’s not the end of the world you have 3 months to send me a video or private You Tube of your retest.
Why Take the HKC in the UK? In the UK right now there are a number of certs available that teach a dozen or more KB moves. Why would someone take a one day cert that does effectively three moves, and that's it?  Why will these individuals who want to learn kb's or trainers who want to add kb's to work with their clients be better served by what seems like such a limited program?
Earlier in this conversation I said that if all people learned to do was a good swing they’d be on their way to their goals. Believe me, it is not easy to learn a proper swing; you can spend an entire day on it if you had the time. The Swing, the TGU and goblet squat. Those 3 drills embody all the principles of our Hard Style system. With just these 3 drills (plus the dl) you are learning the basis for the RKC. Only after mastering those exercises should you consider moving on to any of the other lifts.
You will not only learn how to do them correctly, you will get the TOOLS you need to teach them to others. As you will discover it is not so easy to teach the correct form, you will need and use every tool in your box at some time or other.
Can we take a wee jag at this point just to go over what HardStyle actually means in the context of the RKC system being a School of Strength etc - i've heard that Hard Style as a term comes from karate?
RKC is a "hard style" of kettlebell training that originated from the spec ops of the Soviet Union. As in martial arts, the kettlebell hard style chooses "power production over power conservation." (Randy Hauer, RKC TL). It uses the ability to use total body compression to produce strength and power. To sum up, RKC hardstyle, is "maximual acceleration in quick lifts and maximal tension in slow lifts. Power over efficiency.
Can you unpack this a bit more, as there is a considerable Girovy Sport community in the UK and this is possibly their only experience of KB training, where they would find discussion of max tension for all swings, say, kinda weird. Or max tension for their Long Cycle not very helpful and rather fatiguing. Same tool, different context. Those differences can get lost...
Maxium tension during slow [heavy] lifts, helps you press heavier - SAFER. The use of compression and tension protects the back and shoulder while using your entire body to press. The advantage to using your whole body and using max tension is to generate more power and force, which translates into more total body conditioning as well as getting just plain stronger.

When using lighter weights, such as a 12kg, you do not need to use max tension. In fact, you shouldn't, too much high tension when not necessary can lead to getting slow and tight. But, in order to press heavy - SAFELY you need to use max tension and compression techniques.

As I mentioned the other side of the coin of Hard Style is max acceleration for quick lifts. If all you do is high compression/ max tension work, you will get slower. Hard Style's use of fast... is not weak and/or "efficient", it's explosive and powerful which only comes from being able to utilize max tension on slow lifts.

I am not an expert on GS and do not practice it myself, but from my understanding the goal is EFFICIENCY, in order to put up as much /Volume/ within a specific amount of time. It is apples and oranges. Different goals that require different technique. But, take a look at your average client. What are their goals? Fat loss, muscle gain, better mobility/flexibility, faster, better over all energy, strong cardiovascular system. Those goals will ALL be met by Hard Style training.
Audience for HKC? For some folks the HKC will be perfect as a stand-alone certification, either as an individual cert or as the first steps to feel solid about adding KB’s into their training program. Could you say a bit about why/how the HKC works for the individual who mayn't be interested in formal teaching?
The HKC is geared toward teaching. But I would have to say I have about 20% of the people take the HKC for personal reasons only. The first priority of the workshop is to make sure every participant can perform all the drills correctly – or better yet perfectly.
From there we go deeper to learn the tools and skills to teach it. 
In my experience, having the ability to teach something makes you better at it too. You develop a deeper understanding of the movement and system that you can immediately internalize into your own practice. It is in many cases a “life-changing” day, a deeply personal experience you’ll take with you for years to come.
Prep for RKC For folks who may be thinking about the RKC, going onto the three day, intensive course,  would you recommend they do this course before doing an RKC? if so, why? and if so how much in advance of doing an RKC?
I would HIGHLY recommend people do the HKC course before the RKC. First of all it is our entry-level course, it will help prepare you for the RKC. Second, if you sign up for any RKC within a year of taking and passing the HKC (you just have to sign up and pay for the RKC you don’t have to take a course), Dragon Door will deduct the cost of the HKC out of the RKC. Which means you get the HKC for free. It’s like getting two courses for the price of one.
Is there anything else you'd like to say about the HKC and prep for the HKC?
I would just like to add the HKC is a taste of the RKC. Yet, it is a stand-alone certification.  It is an eye opening, mind blowing experience and it will leave you wanting more…. Wanting the full RKC experience and certification!
Thank you,  Andrea! Getting even more jazzed about the UK HKC now.

If you'd like more information on the June 6 UK HKC - and special HKC rates to hook up with an RKC II, CK-FMS, Z-Health level IV trainer to check your form once registered -either in person or via webcam - check the local HKC page here for information and direct access to early bird discount registration.

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