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Kettlebell Wonder Woman—The Kristy Agan Story

Kristy Agan Kettlebell Get-Up

Dragon Door: How did you first get involved with kettlebell training?

Kristy Agan: I've been a personal trainer for quite a long time. When I first started training, the gym I was working for wanted to start offering kettlebell classes. Unfortunately at first, I had to figure it out on my own. So, I did what most people do and went online where I discovered Pavel and the RKC. At the time I had recently had a baby and didn’t have the money for the RKC certification, so I started trying to teach myself while saving up for the workshop.

I taught myself some of the basics like swings, but stayed away from the advanced stuff because I didn’t want to get hurt. Then I had another baby in 2009 which put a lot of things on hold since she was born prematurely. For the next two and a half years we were in and out of the hospital because she had many health issues. Even though I was still training others, my goals needed to be on the backburner so I could take care of my little girl.

During this time, I met a friend of Beth Andrews, who recommended that I contact her about kettlebell training and getting certified. So, I went to one of her small group classes back in 2011 and loved it. I also realized just how much I didn't know—and how much I could improve. She had just scheduled an HKC at her gym, so I registered for it and set up a private session with her to help prepare for it. I learned so much at the HKC and it made me want to pursue the RKC even more. We still had a lot of medical bills from my daughter, but I started trying to save up the $2,000 plus the travel expenses so when a workshop was scheduled somewhat nearby I could do it.

About a year later (2013), Beth messaged me that she was hosting an RKC at her gym. This was perfect since I only lived about 30 minutes away. I registered and then worked with Beth at least two or three more times to get ready. Beth really helped me polish up my technique on a few of the movements. It definitely set me up for success at the RKC where Max Shank was the Master Trainer.

About 8-9 months later I registered for the RKC-II at Max's gym in Encinitas, California. I was so proud when I passed that weekend, but was even more proud when he recommended me to assist at workshops! I stayed in contact with Max after the RKC-II and we've talked a lot about my business and how to expand it. He was my business coach for a while and gave me some pointers about online training, too. I’ve since been able to assist Beth Andrews and Michael Krivka at a few HKC workshops. It’s been cool to come full circle from learning the basics as a student to helping teach and pass knowledge to other trainers.
Kristy Agan Assisting Michael Krivka

Dragon Door: Have you always been athletic?

Kristy Agan: I spent most of my childhood living aboard a sailboat named Moon Dragon traveling abroad outside the United States. As a young child and throughout high school I mainly played softball and tennis, but traveling made team sports difficult. So windsurfing and scuba diving became favorite hobbies. I moved back to the United States when I was in high school, and I picked back up with team sports. During college, my love for fitness as a profession grew. After my first child was born when I was 27, I realized that I wanted to pursue fitness as a full time career and not just a part time job.

Dragon Door: How have kettlebells impacted your training?

Kristy Agan: First, I saw just how strong I could actually get. I saw women do things that I’d never seen before. Even though I've always been fairly strong for my size, training with kettlebells builds a different kind of strength. While most gyms have little tiny kettlebells, when you walk into an RKC gym, women are throwing around 80, 90, 100lb kettlebells. It’s impressive! It gave me hope that even though I'm 5'2" and 120lbs, I could do this stuff too! It was inspiring to see so many strong women.

One of the biggest things I learned about was mobility. Learning how to work on hip, shoulder, thoracic and ankle mobility—and taking care of those joints has really benefitted me. While I could deadlift and squat a lot, I wasn't able to do a pistol. And pull-ups were hard because my shoulder mobility was holding me back. Learning about the RKC arm bars, bridges, and Cossack squats were huge for me with all my upper pulling and lower push movements. Once I added mobility to my own program, I started get even stronger and was able to pass it on to my clients.

Dragon Door: What's your favorite kettlebell exercise?

Kristy Agan: I know it's a cliché to say "all of them", but I do actually like everything. But if I have to narrow it down, I would choose squat variations and get-ups. I love how get-ups make me slow down. I tend to have "workout ADD" and can be all over the place, but get-ups make me slow down and focus on what I’m doing. My upper body strength goes through the roof when I consistently train with kettlebells—my presses and snatches even get stronger from the get-up. I think it’s just a beautiful movement, almost a marriage of yoga and strength all into one. I also love squatting—goblet squats and front squats. They just work the body differently than traditional barbell back squats (which I still do) but there is just something about holding the weight in front while squatting. The front load of the goblet and double kettlebell front squat variations add a different element and I love the challenge.

I also like pistols, which are now fairly easy for me now, only after I put in some work on my ankle mobility. Even though I was already pretty strong, I couldn’t get down and back up until I worked on the mobility in my ankles and hips. Now, I love to do pistols.

Dragon Door: Earlier, you mentioned working with Max on your training business. Do you have your own gym?

Kristy Agan: I don't own a gym but I work at another gym with two other trainers in Rome, Georgia. We have a 5,000 sqft facility for kettlebell training, bodyweight exercises, and weightlifting with our clients. Along with the kettlebells, we have 90 feet of turf for prowlers and sleds, pull-up bars, tires, and all the fun stuff—it’s a big playground. I have a very large client base there and mainly lead small groups. My 5:15AM class has gotten so large that I’ve had to cap it off.
Kristy Agan Kettlebell Press

I still do a lot of personal training, but once someone has learned and mastered the basics, I try to put them in a small group. It makes more sense for them financially, and I’ve found that people tend to respond well to the accountability of a group. My classes run Monday through Friday, three times a day, and I schedule personal training around it. Some people have trained with me for 7-8 years, they’re very faithful! It's a good group of people.

Dragon Door: Bringing new people up to speed with personal training then encouraging them to join a small group is a really smart idea.

Kristy Agan: People always ask me why my training is more expensive than my local competitors. I explain what I do and what my certifications mean. I also require at least one personal training session, so I can be sure someone moves well before joining a group where everyone is squatting, deadlifting, and doing snatches, etc. I’ll also learn if they will need any special accommodations due to past injuries, etc. The one-on-on sessions help me understand a new client’s strengths, and what needs improvement. I believe in my knowledge and experience working with a wide range of people in terms of age and fitness levels. And I am confident that my clients receive a lot of value from their training.

Within the small groups, we also modify the workout. So, while we have a set workout of the day, I add regressions and progressions. For example, one client may be able to do a pull-up, but another may need to do rows on the rings instead. It works really well.

Dragon Door: Is there a particular demographic who you usually train?

Kristy Agan: I have a wide range of clients. The youngest is eleven, and her parents hired me to help her prepare for volleyball and tennis. So, we're working on agility, footwork, overall strength and upper body strength. I don’t like to use weights with the really young kids, and if we use kettlebells, it’s only on a very limited basis. I want to make sure they have mastered their bodyweight first. My oldest client is 72—she is awesome! We don't do a ton of overhead work with her, because we have to take care of her shoulders, but she can deadlift, swing kettlebells, do push ups and rows on the rings.

All of my older clients deadlift, squat, and swing, along with modified upper body movements. They do a great job and definitely inspire the younger crowd. On average however, my clients are usually working adults between the ages of 30-40.

Dragon Door: You mentioned online training, how is that working for you?

Kristy Agan: It’s going well, even though I have not promoted it much yet. One of my goals this year is to actually start focusing on it. I have five online clients—and that’s good for now. One of them is in his 40s and currently serving overseas in the middle east, so our communication is strictly via email until he returns to the States. It’s awesome to be able to work with him, and he is planning on joining my small groups when he returns. Another online client’s mom trains with me in person. She bought kettlebells for her daughter—a young mother—who trains with me online at home to help lose her baby weight. Online training is great for working adults who do not have time to go to a gym, or who don’t live near a kettlebell instructor.

Dragon Door: What other goals are you working towards now?

Kristy Agan: In my own training, my goal is always to get stronger. I go through cycles where I will focus a lot on more kettlebells, or leaning up. But even though most people like to work on leaning up during the summer time, I'm currently enjoying working on strength. I am working on deadlifts, squats, and pull-ups even more, simply because I want to be able to lift more weight. Since I have a small build, I find that I really have to work harder on it than others, but again, I like a challenge. I'm not a cardio junkie, and I don’t care what I weigh, but I do care about being strong. I would weigh less if I quit working out, but I don’t want to do that! I'd rather be able to make the boys envious of my strength!
Kristy Agan Hanging Leg Raise

I really enjoy working out with other women who are more interested in being strong than seeing a small number on the scale. We’re seeing a lot more of that with women in the RKC, CrossFit, powerlifting, etc. I think it’s finally catching on that it’s ok to be a girl and have some muscles!

Another goal is to do the PCC. I'm saving up for it because it looks like it’d be fun and I'd learn a lot.

Dragon Door: I think the curriculum from the PCC would work well with your small group format, too. You recently assisted Andrea Du Cane at the Atlanta RKC-II, what were some of the highlights from that experience?

Kristy Agan: First of all, Andrea was great. She has a lot of knowledge and I felt like I was soaking up a lot. It was great working with her as an assistant. One thing I noticed at the RKC-II was the variety of people at the workshop. There was a female powerlifter, men who were super strong in kettlebells and bodyweight training, former military, and people who were overall very athletic—runners, former runners, and an Ironman—along with someone who was fairly new to kettlebells. It was fun to see everyone’s different strengths.

A few super strong people struggled with the pistol, but that's my wheelhouse! I had fun teaching someone who could deadlift five times my weight how to do a pistol. At the RKC-II everyone who was there was a trainer and each one of them added value to the group in their own unique way. They already had a good working knowledge of body mechanics and how to train others—there was so much knowledge in the room.

It’s been really cool to see how much I have grown as a trainer since my first HKC. I’ve looked back at all the things I've learned over the years and realized that it was a great decision to attend the HKC, RKC, and RKC-II certifications. What I’ve learned has made me better on so many levels—and is now making my clients better. In 2016, the local community voted me the best personal trainer in the area. I know that would not have happened if I had hadn’t worked with Beth and Max—and attended all the certifications offered by Dragon Door.

I definitely feel like Dragon Door has given me the cutting edge, and that I'm offering something others aren’t. My business is pretty steady and most people stay with me once they start training with me. I am so super grateful that I've been introduced to this organization. It’s like a family and everyone is always willing to share their knowledge.

KristyAganKettlebellGetUp thumbnailKristy Agan, RKC-II is an American Council of Exercise (ACE) and TRX qualified personal trainer at Pro Performance in Rome, Georgia. Kristy also maintains an online training business and clothing line Follow Kristy on Instagram @kristyagan & Twitter @kristyagan or on Facebook at