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How to Get Stronger and Stronger and Stronger—By Building a Safer, More Scientific Foundation for Effective Movement

December 14, 2011 05:00 PM


Harder. Heavier. Healthier.

Dragon Door:   How did you first get involved with fitness and movement?
Brett Jones:   I have a Bachelor of Science in Sports Medicine from Highpoint University, and was a graduate assistant athletic trainer (and an ATC certified athletic trainer through the NATA) at Clarion University in Pennsylvania. I completed my graduate degree in 1995 and took my first job as an athletic trainer at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Virginia. That’s Gray Cook's hometown. He had just moved home and was running a physical therapy clinic in the nearby town of Danville. Gray was also working with some of the local high schools in the Chatham area. He popped in my training room one day, introduced himself and asked how he could help. I said, "Dude, if you can tape an ankle, you’re my new hero." We worked together from 1995 to 1997 on a variety of things.
In mid-1997 I moved back to Pennsylvania to run the fitness center at Clarion Hospital for the next five years. That program involved a lot of community outreach and exercise programming for a wide variety of clients: patients with Parkinson’s, stroke, joint replacement, wheelchair bound, amputees, cardiac patients, you name it. We were located in a physical therapy clinic, and transitioned a lot of ideas from physical therapy to wellness and fitness. In 2002, I joined the management staff at the Duquesne Club Health and Fitness Center in Pittsburgh. Next, I moved out to San Diego to work with one of the first kettlebell studios in the area, Sarah Lurie's Iron Core. I worked there from late 2004 to late 2006, then moved back to Pittsburgh and the Duquesne Club. Since 2006, I’ve been in Pittsburgh or traveling and working.
Dragon Door:   When were you first RKC certified?
Brett Jones:    In February, 2002 at the second ever RKC Workshop. I became a senior instructor in April, 2003 and have been traveling and teaching with the RKC for nearly nine years. I attended the first ever FMS workshop in 1998.. After Gray and I reconnected, I stopped by his house to give him and Danielle a kettlebell lesson.
Dragon Door:    He mentioned sending you an e-mail that started with "I thought you were dead!"
Brett Jones: I vividly remember that. We had lost touch for a few years, and then all of a sudden there’s an e-mail. I ended up working with him again as a presenter and as part of the advisory board guiding the development and progression of the FMS. Gray came through the RKC and we started talking about how we could combine forces. At the 2nd ever RKC Level 2 Workshop, I did a presentation on corrective strategies and movement screening. This was the first introduction of the FMS into the RKC world. Due to a lot of interest, Gray and I developed the CK-FMS program. In a short period of time, we put out several DVDs – Secrets of Core Training: The Backside, Secrets of the Shoulder, Secrets of the Hip and Knee. Gray and Lee Burton created Secrets of Primitive Patterns. These programs formed the basis of the Advanced Corrective Strategies.
The seven screens never change, yet there’s so much progression, evolution and development within the program every year. We're not married to our corrections, and encourage attendees to keep coming back and sharing what they've been able to do. We believe that the seven tests, the FMS movement baseline, will tell us whether what you’re doing is effective or not. If someone creates new exercises, we hope they'll show us.
Dragon Door: Earlier, I was speaking with someone who's re-certifying this weekend, he says he’s actually getting more out of the workshop the second time through.
Brett Jones:    The first CK-FMS was a three-day workshop which David Whitley described as "drinking from a fire hose." Structuring the workshop over four days is a lot better. By Sunday, everyone has perspective on the information that they’ve received. One of the unique things about the CK-FMS program is that participants have to submit a case study. They're required to turn in a video of a full seven-test screen, identify the weak link and their corrective strategy, then demonstrate some improvement on the screen. One of the reasons the screen is so effective is that it should remove our bias. It should direct us towards the weak link regardless of what we think is happening. Even though Gray and I may know early on what someone's weak link is, we still run the seven tests. This confirms the weak link, and establishes the baseline. If I change the baseline with a corrective, then I know what I’m doing is working. If it doesn’t change, I have to find another drill or strategy.
Dragon Door:   I like that the screen quantifies movement in a relatively simple way. I’m sure it’ll seem simple after I’ve done a few hundred of them.
Brett Jones:    We recommend attendees go home and perform 20 screens with no obligation to fix the person involved.. It's key to just practice screening. The screen itself is important because it directs the corrective strategy. If assumptions are made during the screen, it's harder to hone the screening process. Find friends and people who are not expecting to be fixed, and run 15 to 20 screens.
Dragon Door: That makes a lot of sense. How has adding kettlebells effected the FMS system?
Brett Jones:    Even though the seven tests haven’t changed, early on, the FMS had completely different corrective algorithms and strategies. When Gray found The Naked Warrior, Pavel caught his attention with "Own a one-arm push up on each arm, own a single-leg squat on each leg." If somebody really goes through that process, they should screen well, because they've taken care of asymmetries and imbalances. Likewise, many of the single kettlebell drills should take care of asymmetries. If training is treated as practice and strength as a skill (while embracing the concepts and principles of the RKC), the results will be balanced, symmetrical strength and fitness.
We have a tendency to get obsessed in one direction or another and throw off the balance. We end up treating our strength work as a conditioning practice. We end up pushing too hard too often. The FMS should provide perspective on what someone's training is actually doing. If the program is good, the athlete should move well.
There’s a lot of resistance in some circles to the FMS. Why? Nobody questions blood pressure or eye charts…
The FMS simply establishes a movement baseline, which can remove opinion and argument from determining which exercises are best for a given situation. If the movement baseline is staying solid or improving, it’s good exercise. If the exercise is inhibiting or changing the movement baseline negatively, it might not be the best exercise for the client at that time. In our field, we need to have more conversations about the effectiveness of certain exercises, but using the baseline instead of opinions. It’s a challenging field, that’s why there's resistance and in-fighting.
Dragon Door:    I think a lot of that also has to do with belief systems, people can get very attached to their method, whatever that may be, for good or for ill. It's important to look at the bigger picture though, to go with what works.
Brett Jones:   Exactly. I’ve quipped for quite some time that I’m not after a workout; I’m after results. They are two different things. I may get a workout in the process of achieving my results, but I’m after the result. The training is a method to get there, so I don’t care what I have to do to make that happen.
We went from not having any baseline or corrective strategy to overemphasizing some of the baseline and corrective strategy. We’ve gone from being heavy and sloppy to light and perfect, and we keep visiting different ends of the spectrum. Correct use of the movement baseline and corrective strategies will end up making very strong fit, balanced people. It's a process. The corrective path is not a path towards training light and easy and fluffy; the corrective path guides you towards being strong and fit and balanced. By balancing out your movement, you should progress towards heavier training, better training, stronger training.
Gray, in his heart, is a meathead. Even though he’s one of the most brilliant therapists and corrective strategy people you’ll ever meet, he likes picking up heavy stuff. He also wants to help athletes move better, to be stronger and more powerful. He didn’t create the FMS or the corrective strategies in order to make everybody go light and fluffy. The message of the CK-FMS is not "put your heavy kettlebells away." It’s "get yourself balanced out and progress towards the heavy bells." The ultimate test of the corrective strategies is to challenge them with load. Mark Reifkind has said for a long time, "It’s all easy till it’s heavy." If someone stays with light weights—the Get Up is a great example—they won't really challenge the movement until they apply a heavier load. The ultimate message in CK-FMS is respect your movement baseline, the ultimate goal is to be strong, fit, balanced.
Light and fluffy has a place. There’s days where I take a 16kg kettlebell and get in a workout, and days when I use a 44kg kettlebell. Someone at the 2nd ever RKC gave us a saying from the Nordic skiing community: only the mediocre are at their best all the time. Everybody else is going to hit highs and lows. This happens voluntarily by cycling the training or naturally because of injuries, illness, or other problems. No one should always train heavy or always train light.
One of the brilliant things about the program in Easy Strength is that it's consistent. It’s not pushing towards failure, it leads you in a better direction. If you’re going to train consistently, your intensity and volume need to be varied. There has to be balance in the training, and we seem to have a tendency to push a little too hard.
Dragon Door:   Hate to admit it, but I don't like to push too hard very often.
Brett Jones:   I’m with you, I try to train consistently. Today is the third day of the CK-FMS and I’ve been able to work out each day over lunch. I took Wednesday off when I was traveling, but worked out on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Within this week I’ve trained on most days, but the sessions have been five sets of three reps of two or three exercises. Today started with a few get ups then 15 minutes of swings, 15 seconds on, 15 seconds off. I’m after results, not a workout, and one of the keys to getting results is consistency. I had a really good strength session on Thursday, and a good Get Up session on Friday. Tomorrow I might hit a couple of pull-ups, but it’s basically going to be a travel day.
Pavel has paid me the compliment on various occasions that I have the ability to be a fairly intuitive person in my training. I have a good feel for the load or the volume or the intensity, and I can adjust that myself on a continual basis to make progress. Some people need the routine to follow that's set in stone. It just depends on who you are.

Brett Jones is a Master RKC and co-developer of the CK-FMS program with Gray Cook. You can follow his blog at