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Dragon Door Interviews Frank Williams, PCC and HKC Instructor


Dragon Door: How did you first become interested in fitness?

Frank Williams: When I was five years old my Dad bought me a little plastic barbell set. I think he did it was because my neighbors were a bunch of brothers all into football and I thought they were the coolest. At that age it was all about big muscles. I remember seeing Conan the Barbarian when I was a little bit older and thinking there was nothing cooler than Schwarzenegger and his big muscles.

Back in junior high school I got lazy and chubby. I just hated it and started working out in earnest my senior year in high school. Then in college I worked out with the football team. When I came back home from college that first year, I went to a gym in Plymouth—just outside of Minneapolis—where the Road Warriors from WWF worked out. Jesse "The Body" Ventura and all those guys were there. It was so inspiring that I spent way too much time there, often training 3 hours a day for 6 days a week just trying to get big.

I didn't work in the fitness business until after I graduated in 1996. I went to college for philosophy and ended up playing drums in a rock band. We had gigs around Chicago but I needed to have a side job to make ends meet, so I worked at the front desk at a gym in the north side of Chicago. One day a trainer showed me his paycheck. Since I was just working part time behind the desk, I was only making scraps—maybe $300/month at most. This guy was making 5 months worth of my pay in 2 weeks. I realized I was doing the wrong thing at the gym and got my first personal training certification.

Soon after, I moved to Florida and started working as a personal trainer at a golf country club in Delray Beach. I kept educating myself and getting more and more into training. I also went to massage therapy school. Soon I was earning a living as a personal trainer and licensed massage therapist—I wanted to have a healing approach along with helping people help themselves. In 1999, I started studying traditional martial arts at a kung fu school under Sifu Julian Duran and I've been practicing ever since.


Dragon Door: How did you find kettlebells?

Frank Williams: In 2003, Dragon Door introduced me to kettlebells when I received their half magazine, half catalog in the mail. It had this crazy Russian dude who was talking about kettlebells which I'd never seen before. Around this same time in Florida, fitness fads were popping up everywhere, so this guy with a big piece of iron was the exact opposite. I thought it looked pretty damn cool and had to admit it was by far the most macho and manly looking piece of fitness equipment I had ever seen. So of course I had to try it. I remember calling Dragon Door and asking what size I should start with and they recommended the 16kg to begin.

It was really perfect for me at the time because I had put away the barbells and was very into kung fu. I wanted to change from being very big and muscular—with limited mobility—to more of a Bruce Lee type of physique. I'd put away the weights all together and was practicing tai chi on the beach at 5AM in the morning. Then I'd train kung fu for a couple of hours at the kung fu school before going to work and training clients for about 10 hours. After work I'd train for another 3 hours at night.

I loved to train outside as much as possible and thought that the kettlebells would help me integrate what I’d loved about moving iron around—getting strong and powerful—without having to be indoors and without losing flexibility. I quickly found out how portable they are, I'd just throw the kettlebells in my car and could swing them at the beach, a park, or wherever. I got so much stronger without losing any flexibility and even became more mobile. So I kept studying the videos and working to improve my form—I hadn't even trained with anyone in person yet.

In kung fu, I noticed my punches were coming out faster, my kicks were harder with more snap, and I felt great. I felt like I had a really complete workout—not to say kung fu wasn't grueling enough— kettlebells satisfied the side of me that wanted to throw around some iron.

In 2007, I had planned to go to an RKC, then had a bicycle accident. While mountain biking, I jumped off of a big wet concrete slab and my tires went sideways in the air. I landed on my shoulders and ripped a ligament, so I had to cancel my early registration. After I healed up, I noticed the HKC and signed up for it. I figured it would be more than worth it to have someone look at my basics. The HKC was outstanding—it was my first experience with Dragon Door's instruction style and atmosphere and I was really impressed with the instructors.

Having been to many other seminars as a fitness professional for continuing education, and the HKC was a refreshing, eye-opening experience. The instruction was very high quality, and the instructors were down to earth, not just flashy and gimmicky. It was just about good down home instruction, and I really liked that.

Dragon Door: What drew you to the Progressive Calisthenics Certification Workshop?

Frank Williams: I found out about the PCC workshop in an email from Dragon Door. When I was 15, I came across an old friend who I hadn’t seen since we were little kids. Since the last time I saw him, he had really gotten into skateboarding and break dancing. He used to be a scrawny little guy when I first knew him. While we were outside talking, he said, "Hold on a second, I think the wind is picking up." I told him I didn't feel any wind, and the next thing I know he grabs onto a sign post and is up in a perfect human flag. It blew me away, and it never left my mind—I really wanted to do it one day, even though I thought I might never be able to do it.

All of the sudden, these guys from Dragon Door announced a workshop where they claimed to show you how to do a human flag! So, I was faced with a certification workshop where someone could show me how to do something that I've wanted to do since high school. For me, the PCC just looked like the most fun seminar to attend. We learned and practiced all kinds of cool stuff! Where else could I do this but in gymnastics, and even then that gets a little too serious for me.

The atmosphere of the PCC was similar to meeting up with a bunch of musicians, hanging out and playing some really cool music together. The workshop was so harmonious that I didn't really want it to end. I loved being there and learned so much from the instructors as well as all the different ideas the participants added. And then I was able to accomplish something I had no idea I'd be able to do—the human flag! I figured I'd be able to do my first muscle up because I could already do a lot of pull ups and was confident enough with my strength. Learning the right technique at the PCC allowed me to get my very first muscle ups, but I had no idea I'd be able to get the human flag. I figured I'd pick up what I needed to get started towards it at least. After the PCC, I have the knowledge to just use my own bodyweight and no equipment to keep myself very strong and mobile. The PCC was awesome, and I had a great time!
Dragon Door: Wow, glad I was able to watch you do a full human flag for the first time on both sides! It seemed like a very special moment for you, but what a great story.

Frank Williams: Absolutely! I was so happy, I can't really remember the last fitness goal that made me that giddy. It sounds cheesy, but I feel like I accomplished a childhood dream—it was just such a rush being able to do it.

Dragon Door: How are you using kettlebells and bodyweight exercises with your clients after the PCC?

Frank Williams: It's actually the nature of my training, because I don't work out of a big gym at all. I'm mainly freelance, and the only facility I work from here in Munich is a really cool small gym in a 5-star hotel. It only has very basic weights and a Smith machine, but it has a nice open area and a balcony on the 7th floor overlooking most of Munich. My favorite thing to do with clients is to create interesting phases for them based on only kettlebell, bodyweight, or TRX training. It's very rare for us to even use a machine. I train most of my clients at their homes, so kettlebell and bodyweight training has been my bread and butter. I have them order a few kettlebells, then I show them how to use them. It's been huge, and now the PCC information has given me even more creative new ways to get clients moving.
The future of my training is to get even more minimalist and effective. I go for what works, and what's fun for the client. And to be honest, they have so much more fun with kettlebells and bodyweight exercises where there's a sort of primal edge to it. Keeping people interested is a huge portion of the job—clients have to be interested, having fun, and actually getting the results they want. It can all be done with kettlebells, progressive calisthenics, and/or TRX. These are the best tools for what I'm doing. They support my whole training philosophy which is to keep trying to move better, eat healthy food, and always try to make yourself a little stronger and more flexible. I really have no interest in going back to big gyms again.

FrankWilliamsHeadshot thumbnailFrank Williams trains all around Munich, Germany and can be contacted by email at