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How to Work with Special Populations as an RKC—And Help Them Regain Control of Their Bodies

October 4, 2007 11:28 AM

I like to consider myself a movement coach. Most of my clients come to me wanting to learn more than how to swing a hunk of iron. They are coming to me to regain control of their bodies. I am teaching them to breathe, to feel their bodies, how to move, how to use the right muscles for the job, and hopefully get them out of pain.

I am giving them a chance to not only change their bodies, but change their lives.

As an RKC instructor, it is very important to be able to identify on some level with your clients' physical limitations. What must it be like to live with pain, to lack a decent range of motion, to not have strength or energy to do daily tasks? You may be seen as a last resort by some of these people. They've been to doctors, PTs, body workers, chiropractors and maybe nothing has helped, or perhaps they were referred by one of them.

You'll need to develop the skills to work with these clients. There will be cases that you will not be capable of handling. It is always the best policy to be honest and send them to someone else, or contact another RKC that has more experience in that area.

What are "special populations" for an RKC?

In Working with Special Populations, you get a variety tools and ideas on how to best handle special populations. This includes: older clients, de-conditioned, post-rehab, and those with various old tweaks and injuries that inhibit proper movement and functioning.

After the initial assessment, which should include ROM tests, basic movement patterns, gait, overall fitness level and of course a full medical history to screen for any serious contraindications, you are ready to begin. This information will tell you where to begin, and what your initial focus will be.

Some of what I present, you may have seen, done or are familiar with. I hope to introduce a new way to look at and utilize many drills that you already know. In other words, we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we set out to work with someone.
I hope to give you a new way to look at these drills, as well as why and when to use each to achieve a specific result.

You will get a target for each exercise and the proper cueing, what to watch for. I will provide you a basic strategy and general order of the drills to work with special populations. I also include what I call "pre-kettlebell" drills. It may not be possible for some clients to immediately start using kettlebells. For instance, if a client does not have enough body awareness to maintain neutral spine, or to track their knees properly you will want to deal with those issues before having them do kettlebell swings. Or, perhaps, your client cannot raise their arm overhead without lifting the shoulder or bending the elbow. I show you some drills that should be taught first.

The order and pace you teach these clients is also covered. Never start with overhead drills and don't rush the process. That may seem obvious, but many clients may want to start pressing too soon, or want to move up in weight too quickly. Your job is to keep their pace and progression successful and safe.

Here is a general list and order of my presentation:

Sizing up your client: Obtaining enough information to get a baseline of their current fitness and health level. Starting with basic body positioning. This would include teaching neutral spine, proper back and knee alignment and breathing. I would also include any joint mobility, such as ZHealth or Super Joints. This is also where you would do any assessment protocol, again ZHealth or Gray Cook's screening.

Building the Foundation: When you build a house you start with the foundation. The legs, hips and glutes are the foundation of our bodies. That's where you'll generally start. This includes, Bottom KB Deadlifts with a rocking motion, Box Squats, Wall Squats (with or without bands), Figure 8s, Shoulder Bridge with knee squeeze. Once your clients get stronger you can add, Box Pistols and One Legged DLs, Step-back Lunges with a KB pass.

Contemplate your center: Now that we've developed a foundation it's time to build the frame. To be frank, you cannot pick up a kettlebell without using your core. And you can't work the abdominals without making sure the lower back and pelvis are in a healthy alignment. This section includes the neutral spine exercise, Power Breathing with knee squeeze, Sling Shot, One-Arm Suitcase DL, Russian Twists.

Reach for the stars: Once the lower body and core are strong and stable, it's time to start to work the upper body. This is another problem area, the shoulders. Due to injury, many clients lack the mobility and flexibility to safely hold a KB overhead in a locked out position. I have some simple drills that target the shoulder to help strengthen the small stabilizer muscles in a safe, controlled way. This includes, Shoulder exercises with 5lb balls, Bands that target the rhomboids and lats, Wall Squats with bands. Once they have the stability and strength I move to Kettlebell drills; walking around in the Clean position, Farmers Walks, Waiter Walks, Arm Bars. Corkscrew Windmills (without a kettlebell).

The information on this Working with Special Populations will be some of the most useful and valuable for your Kettlebell training business. The majority of your clients will fit one of the above profiles. You will need the right tools and proper approach to positively impact your clients. The genuine gratitude and appreciation you receive by helping these people will give you the greatest of satisfactions as well as develop a financially successful business.

Click here for more information on Andrea Du Cane's 2-DVD set Working with Special Populations.

To contact Andrea Du Cane for workshops, classes and private lessons visit, email or call 612-802-3687