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Dragon Door Interviews Corey Howard, RKC, CK-FMS, and PCC Instructor

Dragon Door:  How did you get started in fitness?

Corey Howard:  I graduated high school at 135 pounds. Like a lot of people, I grabbed a "Muscle & Fiction" and just started lifting. Chest on Monday, back on Tuesday, legs whenever I got to them, and it morphed from there. In college, I worked my way up to weighing about 215 pounds—my heaviest—then started powerlifting. After some injuries, powerlifting led to kettlebells.

Dragon Door:  You mentioned on one of your posts on the RKC Blog that you have scoliosis?

Corey Howard:  Yes, I have a nice crooked S-shaped spine. Powerlifting and scoliosis don't go very well together, but picking up heavy things is really awesome, and I loved it. Squatting was great, my deadlift was awesome. But, loading 400+ pounds across the top of an S-shaped spine is just not a good idea—even though it was a lot of fun. That's how I got injured in powerlifting, and found kettlebells. I went to the RKC in 2010 and was on Team Brett Jones, and started a great friendship with him.

Externally loading my spine over the last umpteen years was probably not a good idea, but it was a lot of fun. Now that I'm almost 40, I am more concerned with quality of life. Calisthenics were naturally the answer, because I'm not about to quit working out. I absolutely love it. So, I need to find ways to keep getting stronger at age 39, with an element of rehab and safety. More importantly, I need to function and be a father, husband and business owner.

Corey Howard Performs a Get Up with his Son

Dragon Door: Which bodyweight exercises have been the most helpful for you?

Corey Howard: I've been using a little bit of everything. Primal Move has been a godsend for me. I'm adding strength through handstand push-up positions and working on my levers. All of them have helped me link myself together, and shore up the weak links.

The RKC, CK-FMS, Primal Move, and now the PCC work so well together. For example, starting at the RKC plank and learning to work on tension. If a client can't plank—because many people struggle with sustaining ab and glute tension—I go to my PCC knowledge and teach them bridging and lying leg raises. Put those two skills together, and they're going to get the plank. Really, there's no excuse with bodyweight stuff. Which one works the best? All of them—it's a complete system.

Dragon Door: How did you decide that you wanted to go to the PCC?

Corey Howard: Well, there's these crazy tattooed guys and you all over the Internet—high energy, awesome instructors. Who wouldn't want to go to a workshop like that? Honestly, I'm like 90 percent of fitness instructors—we go to workshops because it's something we want to do for ourselves, and will improve our own training.

Of course the knowledge leaks over when we're helping clients, too—it's huge. My desire to go stemmed from the need to figure out what I can do since I can't externally load my frame. I see bodyweight strength training the way I see kettlebells—there's so much information out there, and I need to learn a lot. So, why not go and learn from the best? That's why I went. It's helped me and my clients a ton.

Dragon Door: How has your bodyweight only approach helped you?

Corey Howard: If you were to ask my wife, she'd say the combination of Progressive Calisthenics and Primal Move has given her a relatively pain-free husband with good movement, which is huge. If you were to ask me—my background's powerlifting—I'm going to say I'm still getting stronger. Those are the two biggest things.

Corey Howard Father Son Bar Calisthenics Workout

Dragon Door: Were there any particular standouts for you at the PCC?

Corey Howard: Surprisingly, I hit a one-arm push up with ease, which had never happened before. I had been playing around with negatives, and hovering in the bottom position in the strength portion of my Primal Move practice. Before the PCC, I'd never just set up, dropped down and hit it. That was cool. It might also be due to my FMS background, but after the PCC, I know exactly where my weak links lie. It's great to set PRs, and know what you're really capable of, but it's extremely important to know where the weak links are. If you can fix them, you’re going to keep getting stronger. The one-arm push-up happened for me because I just set-up and did it without overthinking it too much.

Corey Howard Performs a One Arm Push Up

Dragon Door: What's your next goal with calisthenics?

Corey Howard: I want to hit the one arm, one leg push-up. I want to hit handstand push-ups off of cement blocks, so I'm getting the full range of motion. I want to figure how to make pistol squats harder. It may sound weird, but they're not that challenging or daunting to me any more, so I want to figure out how to make them more difficult without external loading. I want to do a weighted pull-up with half my body weight hanging off me. I think that'd be awesome. And of course a one-arm pull-up.

Dragon Door: What did you bring back from the PCC for your clients?

Corey Howard: Push-up progressions, bridging. The leg raises, which you start from the floor and you work your way into a hanging position. Push-ups, the same way. You start with a wall and you work your way down. Everything is scalable to anybody. So, those have been huge.

Dragon Door: What type of clients do you typically train?

Corey Howard: Most of my clients are the same age as me. Married with kids, and run a business. I just picked up a client who is deployed overseas. So, everything I program for him is straight out of Convict Conditioning. It's been great because he's sitting overseas in a hostile zone, but he's still working out and getting stronger.

Dragon Door: Are you mainly training groups or one-on-one clients?

Corey Howard: The nature of my business is primarily one-on-one. We don't train groups larger than four. I've found with groups larger than four people, two people are nailing it, two people will be average, and two people will be confused. Those last two are at risk to get injured, and you don't want them sitting down at dinner with their friends, wearing a cast and saying, "I got this at Results Personal Training." So, we cap groups at four.

We're implementing Progressive Calisthenics in small groups as well as one-on-one training. I use it with brand new clients to help them build a good strength-based foundation. I've been using it with clients who have been training with me for the last four years. Three of my really strong clients who bench press and squat have been doing push-up variations for the last two months. When we tested their five rep bench press, it was up 30 pounds. We hadn't touched the bar, it was the result of about two to three months of bodyweight training. The groove created with push-ups—hands low, lats tight—carried over to their bench press. Anyone who says it doesn't work clearly hasn't tried it.

Corey Howard Performs his first ever Clutch Flag at the PCC Progressive Calisthenics Certification Workshop

This has been fun for me, coming from that hardcore powerlifting background where if it hurts, keep going. Primal Move and bodyweight strength have just been game-changers for me and my clients. At the end of the day, you want to see strength gains.

I haven’t done kettlebell swings in six months, but yesterday, went over—Brett Jones would be upset with me—grabbed a 36kg and did 5 sets of 5 with each arm. Ironically, one of our gym members was using the 32's, so I grabbed a 36kg because why go down when you could just go up? It felt good, and felt like the lightest one-armed swings I've done in a while—and I haven't swung a 36kg kettlebell in over a year. So, this bodyweight stuff works.

This morning I told my wife we would be doing this interview and said, "Honestly, if somebody told me a year ago that I would only workout with bodyweight and get stronger, I would have told them they were an idiot!" Most people think bodyweight exercise is just doing push-ups, but there's more to it. Whether you are using a dumbbell or working with how you position your body, all you're doing is creating tension on a certain area, and it works.

Dragon Door: How would you explain this insight to one of your powerlifting friends?

Corey Howard: There's so many routes, but I would probably say, "I'll meet you in the park, let's fire it up and you tell me if it's a bunch of hogwash." Or, I could explain that creating tension with bodyweight or by adding more pounds to a barbell ultimately doesn't matter to a muscle. Muscle isn't intelligent, it knows to contract, and that's it. Whether you do that with positioning your body on a push-up or with adding more plates to the bar—either way, you’re increasing the tension. If they can understand that argument, then you’re good.

Corey Howard Scoliosis Spine
But there's always going to be someone who's too hard-headed. So I would say, Call me when you're injured. Here's the thing, I've got a messed-up spine. I can't powerlift any more because of it. Many people look at my X-ray and say, "Wow!" But here's the deal, at the end of the day, as trainers we have an obligation to help our clients get results. That means moving better, feeling better, and helping them get stronger and just doing better in general.

How does my spine fit into the story? Yes, it's annoying and creates pain—but it's really a gift because I wouldn't have gone through the RKC without having experienced my pain. I wouldn't have tried Primal Move, and I wouldn't have gone through the PCC without it. I wouldn't have the tools in my toolbox to help my clients the way I do without the spine that I have. So, it's not a negative. It's honestly a gift, and it's helped me help a lot of other people.

Dragon Door: Of the exercises we did at the PCC, what did you feel was most helpful for your spine?

Corey Howard: I'll most likely never hit a full bridge. To me it's like a 400-pound squat. But the first two bridge progressions have been awesome for me. But, I'm really excited about all of it. Yes, I have limitations, but honestly they've been a gift. My crooked spine has been a gift from God. Without it, I would not be where I am. I wouldn’t have had the same opportunities, and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to help the people I’ve helped. That's the truth.

CoreyHowardPistolOneLegSquatCorey Howard owns Results Personal Training in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He can be reached by phone at 605-310-6591, email at His personal training website is: