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Training for Strength AND Health, The Luke Atchley Interview

Luke Atchley, RKC
Dragon Door: Dan John told me that you were in the Marines before beginning a fitness career. What inspired you to pursue fitness?

Luke Atchley: I spent five years on active duty, and was in the Marine Infantry for a couple of years. Before that, I was in security forces. I joined the Marine Corps because it was a more physically challenging branch than all the other services—this was a big part of my decision to join in the first place. Then, when I got out of the Marine Corps, I realized that seeking out fitness was a big part of my life. It also played a big part in helping me transition back to civilian life after the military.

I kept working out, and eventually decided to go to school for exercise science. I fell in love with the training aspect of strength, conditioning and performance. And, I had a voracious appetite for reading anything and everything related to training.

Dragon Door: Were you a high school athlete?

Luke Atchley: I was a three-sport athlete in high school and played football, soccer, and ran track and field. Now, I was never a great football player, but I loved the weight room, and that was actually what started to give me the idea that I could pursue a passion there. I got to know some of the strength and conditioning coaches helping the football teams. That was my first exposure to the idea I could make fitness a career.

Dragon Door: How did you find out about kettlebells?

Luke Atchley: I first found out about kettlebells through CrossFit when I was in the Marine Corps. CrossFit is really popular within that culture. It was a good learning experience and good exposure to Olympic weightlifting, kettlebells, powerlifting, and gymnastics. My curiosity was peaked, so I began to explore each modality on its own.

When I began to explore kettlebells, I fell in love with the training and with using them with my clients. I've been a personal trainer since 2013, and started working while I was still in college. I fell in love with the kettlebell because of its versatility—it's a very adaptable tool for pretty much any environment. I could also easily scale the training to each individual client.

Dragon Door: That's awesome! Do you focus on any particular client demographic?

Luke Atchley: Not really. My heart is in focusing on general population, everyday people. My average client is between 35-65 years old, and wants to move well and be pain free. I’m passionate about making a difference in the lives of the people I teach, and helping increase their quality of life. I’ve focused on helping them move a little bit more crisply and cleanly while getting them out of pain. Dan John calls this demographic "everybody else", and that's where I've specialized.

Dragon Door: There are a whole lot of people in the "everybody else" demographic, and they need our help!

Luke Atchley: Exactly.

Dragon Door: What's your favorite kettlebell exercise to teach?

Luke Atchley: I really do enjoy the get-up. I think it’s fantastic. The get-up gets people on the floor, and it gets shoulders healthy. It’s a real super bang-for-your-buck exercise. I like that one a lot.

Dragon Door: And what's your favorite kettlebell exercise to practice?

Luke Atchley: I'd have to say the swing—I like the ballistic nature of it, the explosive hip hinge and all that, it's definitely one of my favorites.
Luke Atchley at RKC

Dragon Door: What inspired you to go for your RKC certification?

Luke Atchley: I've been using kettlebells on and off for a long time. I really have a deep appreciation for everyone in the kettlebell community and I've read all of Dan John's books, many of Pavel’s books, and I'm really thankful John Du Cane brought all this stuff out to the west and made it more popular. So, I really wanted to get certified to make sure that I was giving the training justice. Also, I wanted to meet some new people and hopefully give back to the community.

Dragon Door: Was there a particular standout moment or cue for you at the RKC?

Luke Atchley: There were a lot of gems as far as cues go. But, one of my favorites was the trigger cue for the press. I hadn't been familiar with it, but it really impacted the quality of my kettlebell press. Being able to generate full body tension up through the floor, then finally hitting that last explosive squeeze with my other hand allowed the kettlebell to shoot up like a rocket. It really impacted my max press attempts.

Dragon Door: What’s next, now that you've earned your RKC? Are you working towards any particular goals in your training or your business?

Luke Atchley: I'm looking to grow my business here pretty quickly and have a lot of interesting changes coming up within the next couple of months. Right now, my training is mostly focused on Beast Tamer challenge and preparing for the RKC-II. I’m hoping to attend it in April.

Dragon Door: Do you have your own studio or are you working in a gym now?

Luke Atchley: I'm working in a gym and I have an online business. I'm Precision Nutrition certified and do nutrition coaching on the side. It’s something that I'm growing, along with other ideas in the works.

Dragon Door: That's awesome! How did you decide to also offer nutrition services?

Luke Atchley: It just seemed logical. I live in Southern Louisiana where food is a way of life. And, since 3/4 of the American population is now considered overweight or obese I knew that while working with general populations, I would have a 75% chance that that a client’s goal would be weight loss, so we would need to address some form of nutrition. Precision Nutrition resonated because it is a balancing act instead of a specific diet. Nutrition is like a new religion, so it was nice to find an approach that works well across any nutrition practice someone would want to implement in their life.

Dragon Door: What do you find are some of the biggest challenges your clients are facing?

Luke Atchley: When I first meet them, I tell my clients that the most important thing is consistency—just showing up. I think many people have been kind of sold a fast-fix mentality. And we don’t just see this in fitness, it’s the same thing as a get-rich-quick scheme in finance. It’s easy for people to get sold on the idea that this is just something they’ll go at hard for a couple of weeks, then have the body they want. But, anyone who's been around fitness for a while knows that "little and often" over the long haul is usually the fastest way to get results.

Dragon Door: What’s your strategy for encouraging your clients to be consistent?

Luke Atchley: I make sure they don’t have a traumatic experience the first time I work with them. Everyone's got a bad trainer story, where the trainer completely destroys them on their first day. I think those situations happen because of a fundamental lack of understanding of where a client is coming from. Many times, the people I work with haven't touched a weight or exercised in months or years—if ever!

It’s so important to understand where people are at—and meet them there. We might do something as simple as one or two sets of goblet squats, a get up, and maybe a kettlebell deadlift or something else really general. I don’t want to say easy, because for that person, it might not be easy. Learning to have a fundamental understanding of where a client is in their fitness—and meeting them where they’re at is what makes a good coach great. This is true whether you’re training an NFL prospect, or as Dan likes to say in all his books, "Edna" , who just wants to be a little bit leaner, move a little better and be out of pain. You've got to be able to meet your clients where they’re at. If you give them too much and they have trouble walking for the next three days, they're probably not going to come back and train with you. I want to make sure people have a good first experience and want to come back.
Luke Atchley and Dan John

Dragon Door: That's so important.

Luke Atchley: I stress to my clients that fitness is something that should add to your life, not something that takes away from it. So, when your training impacts your ability to do something else that’s important to you, then that might be a problem!

Dragon Door: Overall quality of life is a really big part of the goal...

Luke Atchley: Absolutely. That's one of the reasons I chose RKC over Strong First. That message was very apparent at Dragon Door because of the emphasis not only on strength but also the health aspect, which really resonates with me.

Few people care how much I can deadlift or how much my clients deadlift. Most care more about how we can help them live a better, more meaningful, unrestricted or pain free (physically or emotionally) life. Getting someone stronger can and does help. Whether the client is a professional athlete trying to improve his game and provide for his family, or a grandparent who wants to dance at their grandchild’s wedding, a whole person approach to health and fitness is what I want for myself and what I want to be known for as a coach.

I am just thankful to be part of the RKC community. The instructor staff in Denver was out of this world. Shari Wagner was very gracious by opening her gym for the certification. She was very giving of her time and one of the reasons why I'm considering opening my own studio by the end of the year. The assistant instructors, Sabra Epp, Kendra Spanjer, and Angela Clark were all super professional, super nice and super giving. It was a great opportunity and I’m happy to be part of this community.

LukeAtchleythumbnailLuke Atchley, RKC, trains clients and groups in Baton Rouge Louisiana and remotely. Contact him through his website at Follow him on Instagram @virtuestrength and Luke Atchley on Facebook.