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Surviving the Challenge of the RKC: Mike Robertson

January 18, 2011 08:46 AM

Powerlifter and trainer Mike Robertson is one more survivor of the challenge of the RKC, a program that once survived improves the quality of physical conditioning of its participants by providing new tools to use Kettlebells in a whole new way. It also shows different techniques to improve performance for the participant and whoever that person chooses to take on as a client and coach.

Personal trainers and athletes, who have trained for years, have commented that the RKC is the most challenging program they have ever participated in. Mike Robertson is one of them.

When Mike Robertson started using Kettlebells, only a year ago, he had no idea how much more he had to learn. "I was only doing the swing. I had no idea what I was doing," he admitted. When he realized that, he decided what he needed was RKC. That became apparent after a seminar instructor Brett Jones did at his workplace, Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training, where he is co-owner. "He taught a lot of coaching techniques and lifts," said Robertson.

RKC: Better Burn than a Boot Camp

That seminar was three months ago. Since then, he has done the RKC for himself. His description of the program sounds synonymous to a boot camp environment.

He explained that before even starting the three-day training, he had to endure the snatch test, a task that wasn't going to be easy. "Whatever your body weight is in kilos, you need to be able to perform that many snatches with an appropriately weighted Kettlebell, all in the course of five minutes. In my case, I had to perform 90 snatches with a 24 kilo Kettlebell in five minutes. Now, if I had several months of training and conditioning under my belt, this could've been a lot easier," he said. His experience with the test alone, led him to train as much as possible before even entering the RKC.

"Over the three days, you truly learn what pain is all about. And not bad, I'm about to hurt myself pain – but just good, honest, I'm working my ass off pain. Let's just say the snatch test is literally the tip of the iceberg.

"In three days, you go through nine workouts, each one equally grueling and difficult. The strange thing is, however, that even though you would think that your technique and skill would break down, it actually improves over the course of the weekend. Your timing gets a little bit better. The snap and drive from your hips is more powerful. You learn to balance tension and relaxation. Quite simply, you become much more efficient," explained Robertson.

He emphasized that the RKC weekend is about improving mobility, understanding and controlling your body. "I feel if more coaches and trainers would take this certification, the industry as a whole would be vastly improved. Even if you never used Kettlebells again, the sense of body mastery you develop is quite astounding," he said.

In addition to the training he received, he also was wowed by the staff and fellow participants. "Right from the beginning, people you don't even know are cheering you on and the entire RKC staff is some of the most knowledgeable and skilled professionals I've been around."

"I've competed in powerlifts and done a lot of crazy things in sports and competing, but this was the most brutal 3 days I have ever experienced. It was challenging to say the least. You'd better be prepared going in", he advises.

The most essential tool he learned was subtle cues and ways to get the client to achieve proper positioning and do what the trainer needs them to do for the lift. "The most beneficial thing was understanding the nuance of the lift," he explained. "For the swing, you fire your glutes, pull your knee caps up, snap the hips, etc."

Kettlebells Bring Quick Results

Utilizing Kettlebells as part of his routine has already led to some results. "Without any change in diet, my body composition has gotten a lot better. I noticed a lot of muscles I used to have issues with now get worked really well, like the glutes and the lower traps." He also has noticed increased flexibility. In addition, his body fat has decreased and he has lost 6-7 pounds. "I am very glad I took the course. Ten to 15 people from my gym did the seminar with Brett Jones, but I was the only one that did the RKC."

Now, Robertson, who has been in the industry for ten years and powerlifting for five, is taking what he learned and bringing it home to his clients. He has added to his arsenal; now he has 10 Kettlebells at his disposal, instead of one. "I have been implementing a broad mix of training styles since we opened. Not only am I now using Kettlebells, but also a lot of the techniques I learned, such as balancing tension versus relaxation and cues to getting into the proper position. The clients are very impressed. They think they are getting more now out of their exercise. A lot of people are interested in the uniqueness of it. Kettlebells are a big complement to what I was already doing."

Robertson has found that through the Kettlebell lifts, he is able to really see any issues with the body. "I am a huge fan of the swings," he said. "But I really like the getups. They can be so complex. It helps you iron out your imbalances. It lets you know if you have an issue, such as hip mobility or shoulder stability. It works on side to side symmetry. It hits every single muscle. I mostly get clients who are athletes or former athletes. I think it would be more challenging at first for those with no athletic background. But, I think almost everyone can learn the swing and the getup. The goblet squat is also a good primer because it teaches people how to squat properly. Pulling them all together into circuits can also be a brutal conditioning tool."

Robertson has always been involved in athletics from competing in collegiate nationals to coaching the World Bench Press Team. "Growing up, I played baseball, volleyball, basketball, football and soccer. In college, I switched to powerlifting and melded my love of competition with strength training. I can squat 530 pounds, bench 330 pounds, and deadlift 535 pounds, but I haven't competed now for three years. The challenge and difficulty of Kettlebell training is definitely something I look forward to. After 15 years with weights, the newness of this is exciting."

He also looks forward to the new Kettlebell class he has now started and seeing more results from his clientele. Mike Robertson's Indianapolis Sports & Fitness is located at 9402 Uptown Drive, Suite 300 in Indianapolis, IN. For more information, visit or his personal website at