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The Safe, Practical - And Highly Effective - Way to Give Your "Kettlebell Boomer” Clients the Golden Body of Their Dreams

June 21, 2011 10:00 AM

AndreaDuCane Article
There are an estimated 77.3 million "Baby Boomers" in the United States. Ranging from middle age to early retirement. Of this group most are still in the work force and earning good money. Some are beginning to retire with fairly secure incomes. Because of the G.I. Bill and the increased interest in higher education, a record number of this generation attended college and attained college and post-graduate degrees. Recent health studies have shown that in general, the higher a persons education the more likely they will be to join a health club, go to a yoga class and take an active interest in their health. In other words, they have the interest, motivation AND money to seek out effective training tools and workout programs.
Why is this important? Because if you are a kettlebell instructor – or are currently thinking about kettlebell training as a career - this just might be your ticket to a successful business.
If I took a random poll of all kettlebell instructors, I’ll bet that the majority of you would say that women and middle-aged boomers make up the majority of your clientele. Those are the people who consistently go to classes or seek out an instructor for Kettlebell training.
Yet, many of you don’t know how to work with older or de-conditioned populations safely, confidently and as effectively as possible. Since my Working With Special Populations DVD came out, I get calls, emails and people pulling me aside at workshops asking me for advice about how to train their older clients and those with various limitations. There is obviously a need here that is currently not being met.
Hardstyle Kettlebell training doesn’t have to mean hard-core training, which is often what trainers fresh from obtaining their RKC’s will assume. The truth is that often the boomer client will need Hardstyle principles applied to them in a gentler way – utilizing the principles without the hard-core attitude. You are not going to train your older clients in the same manner that you were trained during your RKC.
Over the last few years, I have watched my elderly in-laws dealing with the effects of aging. The combination of their need and others like them, the interest expressed by RKCs, and a lack of available products inspired me to develop a program specific to older populations. This led to my Kettlebell Boomer DVD and book.
One of the things I find interesting when working with this group, is that you can have three 60 year olds and they will all be completely different. One will seem old and frail, another might be dealing with injuries and the third is healthy and raring to go. It really struck me; we have a CHOICE in how we age. We don’t have to whimper and say, "I’m too old for that". By focusing on diet and exercise we can stay healthy and fit into our 80’s and 90’s and beyond.
That said, I don’t believe it’s necessary or safe to think you have to keep pushing for some PR of your youth. The goal is to be strong for YOU, for who you are at any age. The only way to achieve it without injury or other set-backs, is to train SMART, learn about your body, it’s limitations, it’s strengths and it’s weaknesses.
This applies to the trainer working with someone of this group. You must learn about your client, get a very detailed health history, including all drugs they are taking. Certain drugs or medical conditions are contraindicative of certain HardStyle skills, such as power breathing. Screen them, I have a very simple screen they can do to clear overhead work and to gage overall flexibility, as well as show you if they need to use platforms and of what height (in some cases the full FMS screen is not appropriate for some older clients).
Once you have a detailed health history and have done a basic movement/flexibility screen you are ready to go. Working with an older population requires a three-pronged approach: teaching basic movement skills, developing mobility/flexibility and increasing strength.
Basic movement skills or patterns: For example, understanding and learning neutral pelvis from different positions: i.e. Standing, or from a deadlift position. This also includes when to use a "flat-back" or a slight posterior tilt, while in the plank position.
Mobility/Flexibility: Being able to bend forward and touch your toes - or at least getting close - thoracic spine mobility, ankle flexion and mobility (very important for balance, a major issue for seniors).
Regarding Strength: there are SO many important health benefits to be obtained from increasing and retaining strength. For instance, regular strength training equates to more muscle mass, which raises the metabolism and leads to a healthier body composition.
Maintaining strength helps with balance and reduces the risk of falls. Falling is one the top risk factors of mortality in the elderly. And building muscle helps to prevent bone loss. Osteoporosis is the leading factor in fractures in post-menopausal women and older men. These are just a few reasons maintaining muscle strength is key to a long and healthy life.
Before I go any further, I want to mention again the incredible differences you’ll find within this broad age group. As a trainer, you will run across some boomers/seniors who are strong and fit as an ox, while others are frail and weak. It is your responsibility to make sure each person is addressed individually. Always start at the beginning and then if and when they are ready move them up to the next level, always watch to make sure they are maintaining perfect form.
For the fit seniors it is your job to make sure they don’t push beyond their current level too fast. Many will want to go immediately to a heavier weight (one little taste of success goes right to their head!). The reason for this is simple: aging. When we age, our ligaments, tendons and joints do not have the same elasticity as when we are young. Add to that the fact that muscle builds up faster than ligaments, and before you know it you can have an injury faster than you can say HardStyle Swing.
If I were to pick one exercise that incorporates all three prongs of the approach, it would have to be the suitcase deadlift. Simple, yes, yet not easy to do correctly.
It incorporates proper hinging and hip loading, encourages correct shoulder alignment and develops the back and shoulder stabilizers, strengthens the – dare I say it – abdominal core and last but not least trains neutral spine and pelvis throughout the movement pattern. Can you believe it, all in one simple and sinister exercise!
As "easy" as this exercise is to do, it is even easier to do incorrectly. One little cheat and you’ve blown all the benefits away. When coaching or performing this exercise constant vigilance to PERFECT FORM must be observed.
Here is how it is done correctly:
Before beginning, make sure you or your client has a platform handy if they are not able to reach for the kettlebell maintaining neutral spine with shins nearly vertical and hips loaded. Make sure the platform is just the right height, not too high and too low. Second, if you are performing the exercise on your own, use a mirror to watch yourself from the front to help you keep your hips and shoulders straight and in alignment.
  1. Stand in a deadlift position, with the kettlebell on your right side, next to your foot.
  2. Start pushing your hips back, as in the regular deadlift. Keep your pelvis and back in a neutral position. DO NOT let your back round.
  3. Keep your shoulders and hips perfectly level, and reach down and grip the kettlebell with your right hand. It helps to imagine that you are reaching for a second kettlebell with your left hand.
  4. As you reach for the kettlebell make sure the shoulder picking up the kettlebell is engaged at the lat. Think about keeping your shoulder blade glued to your spine. Notice your arm can pendulum down while your scapula is still pulling in and down the back. If your upper back rounds or your shoulder drops as you move your arm forward you have lost the connection of the arm to the body.
When this exercise is done correctly, you should feel your hip and leg loaded and your abs and lats engaged. If you want some more fun go for a walk after you’ve completed the last rep of each set. An extra benefit of Farmers walks is that it strengthens the grip!
I hope this article has opened your eyes to the possibilities and importance of working with Boomers, seniors and other less-conditioned folks. I also hope you have found a way to gain the confidence you need to go after this group and join the movement of "Aging is a Choice"!

Andrea Du Cane, Master RKC, author of The Kettlebell Goddess DVD, Kettlebell Boomer DVD and book, and Working with Special Populations. Andrea will be holding a Kettlebell Boomer workshop in September 2011. For more information on the upcoming workshop please visit:
For more information on Andrea visit: