Read Your Manual

(By Shaun Cairns SFG Master)

…and go to bed early were Pavel’s parting words at the Meet and Greet prior to the start of my RKC in 2004. And I have heard those words repeated on more than one occasion since then.

I did half of what was ordered – the going to bed early part. I only wish I had done the other half although I doubt it would have helped much.

What would have helped was to have been better prepared, but back in 2004 there was only 1 certified instructor in South Africa 1500 kilometres away. Pavel’s “From Russia with Tough Love” video had to do as a distant second to hands on coaching.

Fast forward 9 years. So much has changed yet the kettlebell remains my favourite training tool. Pavel’s RKC has been transformed into the SFG Level 1. For the first time the Southern hemisphere will have Pavel leading the SFG invasion in November (South African and Australian SFG Level 1). A void of qualified instructors has been filled (and is continually being added to), and great preparation programs are available from the likes of Brett Jones ( and Jon Engum (How to beat the deep six – to name just 2 of the Master Instructors who have posted recently. In addition there are so many resources out there to learn from and perfect one’s technique that a lack of preparation for your SFG due to lack of resources is just no longer a valid excuse.

But even with all these resources available I see people coming into the cert weekend unprepared. Common errors seen are:

  • Unconditioned hands – you may have callouses on your hands from all the training but a little bit of humidity, some chalk, and 8 straight hours of kettlebell work and these callouses tear right off
  • Not knowing what the pass requirements are and therefore not being prepared – Brett raised this in his article, but it is worth mentioning again (check out the requirements at
  • Wearing inappropriate clothing – from trainers on your feet to rough seamed pants that aggressively exfoliate your inner forearms on every ballistic move until they are raw
  • Not taking care of hygiene factors while on the course – keep hydrated and if working outside in the sun ensure you have enough sun screen on
  • Unaware of the principles being covered – you don’t need to know the detail but you should have at least read some of Pavel’s work, especially “Enter the Kettlebell” and “The Naked Warrior” because armed with this knowledge you will get more out of the weekend than not
  • Not having your form vetted by a certified SFG instructor – the hour or so spent with an SFG prior to your cert weekend can be the difference between training for the SFG with great form or just re-enforcing through training poor technique that becomes almost impossible to change in 3 days

None of the above errors are difficult to remedy. Except for the first item the others are self-explanatory. On hand care, don’t rely on gloves, socks or tape to hold your hands together. Those are just added barriers but do not excuse you from setting the right foundation and ensuring that your hands are tough and ready for the job. There are so many different approaches to hand care but the one I like is the one Tim Almond, SFG Perth, talks about when we run SFG workshops in Australia. Here it is:

  1. Get aggressive with existing callouses – sand them down with sand paper
  2. On a daily basis scrub your hands with a foot scrub (or continue with fine sand paper) to ensure that the callouses don’t build up
  3. Apply hand cream to your hands throughout the day to ensure that the skin stays pliable, but don’t forget to wash off completely before training

This doesn’t sound too difficult and neither is it rocket science. The principles are simple, get rid of thick callouses and ensure they don’t grow, keep your skin pliable and do this DAILY. Daily is the key here so that your hands will follow the SAID (specific adaptation to imposed demands) principle and adapt to the stresses placed on them by both training and correct hand care.

So, prepare well and be prepared for a life changing experience for you and your clients.