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Dragon Door Interviews Luke Tipple, RKC-II, Asst Olympic Strength & Conditioning Coach, Ohio State University

Assistant Olympic Strength and Conditioning Coach Luke Tipple Performs a Bottoms Up Kettlebell Press

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

Luke Tipple: I first saw kettlebells back in 1998-99 as an undergraduate. During my Junior and Senior years, I interned with a chiropractic doctor who worked out with them. At the time, I only had very basic ideas about kettlebell swings. In 2005, when I became more involved in the collegiate strength and conditioning field, I started learning a lot more about kettlebells and have continued to learn more over the past 8 years.

Dragon Door: What originally drew you to strength and conditioning?

Luke Tipple: I have always personally enjoyed working out and working with athletes. I'm certainly not a naturally gifted athlete, but I have always enjoyed the strength and conditioning aspects of working out and its effect on athletic performance. I enjoy working with collegiate level athletes—especially given the diverse population we have at Ohio State. It's very rewarding to see kids begin with the program later graduate as young adults who've achieved their athletic goals and dreams.

Ohio State Mens Swimming Team Kettlebell GetUps

Dragon Door: Can you tell us more about your role as a strength and conditioning coach?

Luke Tipple: My official title is Assistant Olympic Strength and Conditioning Coach. Larger universities like Ohio State split Strength and Conditioning into two parts, football and Olympic Sports (a generic term for everything except football). My boss is Anthony Glass, the director of Strength and Conditioning for Olympic Sports. We have 4 weight rooms where we train athletes for 36 sports (including football). I help handle year round training—strength, conditioning, plyometrics, etc.—for 35 sports. At some point during the year, I will work with or assist nearly every team. I also work directly with men's and women's' swimming, men's and women's diving, men's gymnastics, the rifle and pistol teams, men's and women's cheerleading, baseball, wrestling, men's tennis, and fencing. We have a wide variety of sports and it is exciting to see and learn different things to help the athletes.

Dragon Door: How do you manage training such a wide variety of athletes? Is there a common thread with their training?

Luke Tipple: This is what's exciting—learning about different sports and the individual things which can help an athlete to be best at their sport. Overall, my job is to develop athleticism. The better an athlete is, the more success they can achieve as a diver, swimmer, baseball player, wrestler, soccer player or whatever they're playing. The main components of our workouts are similar for many of the sports. We are an Olympic lifting based facility so we do many hybrids of the power clean and power snatch. We will do full body splits, so were we are still doing legs and push pulls every day and its the still the same thing. I may have a 100 lb female diver who is power cleaning and squatting, and a wrestler who is power cleaning, squatting, then practicing a few extra components accounting for the 20-30% of the training that's more specific to the individual sport.

Ohio State Mens Swimming Athlete Double Kettlebell
Dragon Door: How are you using kettlebells with the athletes?

Luke Tipple: We've had kettlebells at Ohio State for four years. We also have enough of them to train teams with kettlebells. We use them in circuits to work just endurance, strength endurance, and power endurance. Certain teams are also working with heavier kettlebells to develop pure strength and power. During the whole year, we use a wide variety of kettlebell exercises, swings, windmills, and get ups are commonly used with all of our teams.

Dragon Door: How did you decide to go for your RKC-II Certification?

Luke Tipple: I've always been very interested in Dragon Door and their certifications, and completed the RKC this past May in Columbus. The location was so close, that I had to do it. I was very pleased with the RKC workshop and thought it was really educational. Even with my existing background in kettlebells, the information from the workshop helped me with all movements, and in strength and conditioning approaches. Since I knew I'd like it, I actually signed up for the RKC Level 2 before I had even completed the RKC Level One! I was glad I did, and felt that the Level 2 workshop was terrific—it was very hands-on, and all of the instructors did a great job of teaching. I felt like it has made me a better strength and conditioning coach.
Dragon Door: What kind of results are you seeing with your athletes and kettlebell training?

Luke Tipple: Over the years, I've been using them the most with the men's swimming team. We've used them for some very helpful prehab, and many kettlebell movements are great for building shoulder endurance. Whether just holding the kettlebell up during get-ups and windmills, or with one arm swings , many kettlebell movements are great for shoulder endurance. Over the past few years, using kettlebells to teach our athletes to compact the shoulder and engage the lat has made a big difference in lowering the number of shoulder injuries so common in swimming. Training with a variety of different swings along with front squats and working with complexes has made our team a lot stronger. They've also gotten a lot leaner, and while body fat percentages are down, they've kept their lean mass up. Though the season and as we go into our taper, kettlebells have been really great for them.

Luke Tipple Bottoms Up Kettlebell Press In Seated Straddle

Dragon Door: Since you also workout with kettlebells, what type of results have you found with your own training?

Luke Tipple: Overall, I've had a lot more flexibility in my entire spine, but especially in the thoracic spine. But really all of the movements have been terrific for me.

Dragon Door: You mentioned a few drills already, but what's your favorite kettlebell move for athletes?

Luke Tipple: My favorite would be the swing. We've been able implement it with many athletes across multiple sports. We use heavy kettlebell swings to work directly on power, and have also added swings later on in the workout to work for power and strength endurance. It's terrific for the posterior chain, general athletic development, and has been the go-to exercise for all of our teams.

Dragon Door: How are you planning to incorporate what you learned at the RKC-II?

Luke Tipple Plank Rows with Phil Ross at the RKC-II Certification WorkshopLuke Tipple: We use windmills a lot, and the RKC-II helped to clean up the technique, making it safe and more effective for the areas we're really working on. I've already noticed that the new instruction/technique was making a difference with many of the teams. Their form was a little sloppy before, but now we've been able to slow it down and get it right.

Dragon Door: Since you've earned your RKC-II certification, what are you working towards next?

Luke Tipple: With kettlebells and any of the other training implements, I'm working to grow with my overall knowledge. When training so many different teams we find certain strategies will work with a team one year and not with the same team next year, so there's a constant need for learning. And sometimes a sports coach will have a solid background with a different implement and will want to use that with a team. So, I want to continue growing in the field with my overall knowledge of different strength and conditioning disciplines.

I really enjoyed both the RKC and RKC-II workshops, they were well organized, and we learned so much by participation and by coaching others too. I'm really glad that Dragon Door is so open to sharing ideas at workshops and with the new blogs. When other instructors share what's worked for them, it helps everyone. Other RKCs who've taken courses with me have also reached out to me. I was really impressed with the way RKCs and others in the Dragon Door community want to share their knowledge and success with kettlebells and other types of lifting too.

Dragon Door: How does the RKC knowledge fit with your background in Sports Medicine?

Luke Tipple: It fits very well and really makes a lot of sense. We've been able to use kettlebells to better explain certain issues and mechanics we use with our athletes. They've been able to understand the concepts like the benefits of eccentric loading and force development better when they're using kettlebells for swings. It was harder to explain that kind of concept with other implements and movements, but with swings they immediately noticed the difference between aggressively pulling the kettlebell down vs. just letting it fall. It's been terrific to be able to explain things to them in this way because the more they understand and buy into their training program, the harder they work!

LukeTippleBottomsUpPress thumbnailLuke Tipple, MS Sports Medicine, RKC-II, and Asst. Olympic Sports Strength and Conditioning Coach at Ohio State University.