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Power talk with Steve Cotter

Steve Cotter, well what can I say about him that has not been said already? In the strength and conditioning world or frankly speaking in the wide world of physical culture, Steve is one of the most respected and knowledgable trainers around. Having an impressive profile that includes a background in kettlebells, martial arts, qigong, strength and conditioning, athletics and human performance fields, he is truly what one would call a grand master. Yet, despite his wealth of knowledge and high stature as a trainer, he is still one of the most humble and approachable coaches around that I know of. Which is also one of the major reasons why he is so loved, by many.

In 2008   Steve founded the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation (IKFF), which today is recognized as the best kettlebell certification organization worldwide by many. In a very short time he has conducted IKFF workshops all over world, and they have been a huge success. So lets learn more from Steve on how to improve ourselves physically and mentally.

Arnav Sarkar (AS): First of all Steve, I would like to thank you for taking the time to do this interview. To begin the interview lets talk a bit about your early days, when and how did you begin in the world of physical culture, both personally and professionally?

Steve Cotter (SC): Thanks for your time Arnav and for interviewing me. I was drawn to martial arts study in 1982, when I was 12 years old. That is when I first developed a love for physical training and mind-body fitness. I trained religiously 6-7 days per week and was able to progress rapidly due to my age and lack of any other commitments. At the age of 15 I started to teach as an assistant and also professionally began running Gong fu classes for children.

AS: What are your current coaching commitments?

SC: My primary commitment is teaching Certified Kettlebell Teacher (CKT) courses. I do this all over the world, as well as teach hands-on workshops in kettlebell training, bodyweight conditioning, mobility and flexibility training. This year alone I teach courses in US, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Argentina, Iceland, England, Scotland, Wales, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Greece, Romania, Israel, South Africa, Australia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea, and India.  These courses are all hands-on and very active, so there is a lot of energy and time-expenditure.

AS: Wow, that’s one busy year that you have on your hands for sure. Let’s talk a bit about how you got into kettlbells, what attracted you towards them?

SC: They impressed me as a tool that is very time-efficient, which was very important to me as a busy person. In addition the nature of KB training is full-body movements rather than isolation, so this integrated manner of moving attracted me because of it’s similarity to martial arts training in that regard.

AS: I believe that in your early days of kettlbell training you made a trip to Russia to compete, and during that trip you found that your then current methods were inadequate to compete with the Russians. Could you tell us about the whole experience and how you went about improving your methods?

SC: Yes, that is true.  My first exposure to kettlebell training was via the so called hard-style method of training. It was great for what it offered, above average fitness and variety from the more well known methods of weight-training such as machine and barbell based bodybuilding methods. But as the saying goes, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. This means, when the frame of reference is less developed, as mine was in 2003 when I first learned about kettlebell training, we do not know what we don’t know. So my first visit to Russia was a rude awakening in that regard. What I saw there, in terms of the performance of the Kettlebell sport athletes, left an unforgettable impression on me. There were men who were smaller than me, able to do much greater quantities of training volume than I could do, and I was by that point already becoming well-known as one of the top KB performers in US. So I was humbled by realizing during that visit, how little I really did know and how incomplete my KB education was still.

That said, I am the eternal student; in fact I first got into teaching so that I could become a better student; and so I sought out whatever additional information I could find and continue to do so. Picking the brains of great lifters and coaches as much as possible. In the years following my experience in Russia, there were very few resources, because of the language and distance barriers. So Valery Fedorenko was the one Russian who had high-level experience who could communicate in English. So I asked him a lot of question and took a few opportunities when they were presented to study in some seminars with him. Since then I have continued to take every opportunity to pick the minds of respected coaches and athletes who are willing to share their experience.

AS: What were your goals and vision when you started IKFF?

SC: It was and still is 3-fold. One, kettlebells and kettlebell education was non-existant outside of Russia and former Soviet nations. The exception being USA, where Pavel Tsatsouline had developed his KB program in 2001. So, I was a big need to bring kettlebells and education to all corners of the world and I have been successful in doing so, having introduced kettlebell training workshops, certificaton courses and presentations successfully in over 30 nations since 2008. The second primary goal was to offer a higher and more complete standard than what was previously available to kettlebell trainers and others who desire a well-rounded education. Previous to IKFF there was fitness-oriented KB courses and there was KB Sport competition. But no one was taking the finer technical points of KB sport and teaching how to apply them for general fitness goals, until IKFF started doing so. The third main goal and what is now our primary focus is to help empower individuals across the world who want straight forward information that can help them to help themselves and those they serve to become healthier, strong and more financially secure by developing useful skills that serve value to people in our communities. 

AS: Alwyn Cosgrove in one his articles ( had this to say about you-

“The most impressive feat I’ve ever seen, though, came courtesy of a 160-pound guy named Steve Cotter. Steve’s a martial artist, and one day he did a dozen single-leg squats while holding an 88-pound kettlebell in each hand. If that doesn’t sound particularly jaw-dropping, try doing one — without any weights.”

Having seen many of your amazing stuff on videos, pictures, etc, I must admit that even to me you seem to be some comic book superhero at times. How do you develop such a fabulous combination of strength, endurance, flexibility, athleticism, power, etc? Is it your goal to be so well rounded, or is it just a byproduct due to the various disciplines like kb’s, martial arts, etc that you practice?

SC: Thanks for your flattering compliments. Before answering I have to correct something. With all due respect to Alwyn and he is a highly respected professional in our field—the kettlebells I were using were only 32kg (70.6) each, not 40kg/88kg each! So I can’t take credit for those extra 36 lbs!  I’m 41 years of age now. Starting at the age of 12 I began very serious study of Chinese martial arts and a huge component of that training was conditioning of all sorts, primarily with the bodyweight. I worked very, very hard daily and developed that love of hard work at a young age; and I kept up with it religiously for almost 20 years without a break. So I did thousands upon thousands of repetition of conditioning, hours and hours of stretching and pushups and pistols and forms and tumbling and ground conditioning. So that formed my base. Kettlebells in comparison to my training when I was younger is a relative break!

Yes to be well-rounded is and has always been my goal. I never was interested in sacrificing versatility in favor of specialization. I would maybe not be the strongest martial artist, but I was going to be the most well-rounded. In this way, if you cannot match someone in power you can overcome him with speed and if not with speed then you can out finesse them. If your leg is injured you can punch and if you can’t punch you can kick and if you cannot strike you can throw. This is the mentality of a well-trained martial artist. So while I have not kept up with my serious martial arts training, this mentality has been instilled within me and stays with me. 

Steve Cotter Peforms The Triple Bell One Arm Press

AS: So what is your own training program like currently?

SC: Currently I am not following any specific template, so I am focusing on what I consider to be my weak link, or things I need to improve upon. The overlying goal is improvement in kettlebell sport and of course I have to balance my training with the fact that I have an immense travel schedule, which means I never have adequate recovery.

At the moment I am working on a few things—improving my technique in snatch and Jerk and developing more limit strength, specifically in areas that relate the KB techniques, which is legs for jerk, low back and grip for Snatch and shoulders for both.

My current training revolves around these movements:

Barbell Squat; Barbell Deadlift, KB 1 arm Snatch, KB 1 arm Jerk,  Farmer’s Hold, Pull-ups, Dips, Roman Chair Hyperextensions and some running and stretching. I am freestyle for now, meaning I just do what I feel and I am training usually 5 days per week.

A workout might look like this: 

Set of high-rep pull-ups using Fat Gripz (2.5 inch grips); either 1 set of  bodyeight weight 35-40 reps, or a descending set of Weighted Pull-ups with Fat Gripz (e.g. BW+40kg x 3, BW+36kg x 5, BW+32kg x 10, BW+28kg x 12, BW+26kg x 13, BW+24kg x 16, BW+22kg x 17, etc all the way down to BW+8kg x 28 reps, something like that); basically get in a lot of volume of pull-ups with or without added load, which is to train my grip endurance and of course general conditioning for upper body

Then I will do 1 long set of snatches with a light KB, such as 16kg x 20 min (10 min per hand) or 18kg x 16 min (8 min per hand);  I will follow this with 1 set of Farmer’s Hold to work grip endurance, such as 2x36kg x 3 min or 2x32kg x 6 min; this will be followed by anywhere from 3-5 sets of Roman Chair Trunk Hyperextensions with Bodyweight only or BW+added load behind the head; these are done full Range of Mation at top and bottom. I may add in a run for 30-40 min and then stretching for 10-30 min

That would be an example of a training day, or I may do Barbell work instead, usually moderate load and moderate reps (eg. 8-10 reps with 70-80% of 1 Rep Max); a few times per week I’ll do High rep Dips, either with Bodyweight only for 1 set, or adding load from heavy to light (like with Pull-ups) 

AS: I know that you are big time into meditation. How important do you think is the mental side of training and any tips to work on getting better at it, especially when it comes to doing things that are tough, or for those times when one does not feel like working out at all?

SC: Body and mind are interconnected. We cannot do anything that we don’t believe we can do. Conversely, if one has enough faith and focus then anything is possible. There are multiple benefits to meditation practice. There are various health benefits, ranging from stress-reduction, improved circulation, improved lymphatic function, improved digestion, increased immune response, deeper, more restful sleep. Then there is what we call mental improvements, such as greater clarity of focus, a sense of well-being,

With regards to training, we get indirect improvement because of the increases to health and energy. The other component that relates to training performance is along the lines of visualization rather than meditation. Of course visualization is a form of meditation. It is the process of clarifying the goal and going step by step over the accomplishment of the goal in the mind’s eye, and by brining in all the senses it gives great power to this process—how does it look, feel, what are the sights and sounds and smells  when this goal is accomplished? How does it taste? The more detail, the more powerful it is. This is a complex study, because we do not fully understand how our brains process information and it works on the subconscious level—our subconscious minds do not know the difference between something ‘real’ in the tangible sense and something imagined. If there is great energy and emotion and a clear vision of something, the subconscious mind accepts this image as reality. This is how meditative visualization works for physical pursuits, or for any other goal achievement.

AS: Lets talk about training, how would you begin with the average beginner with no health issues? Would you prefer to start with kettlebells and bodyweight, or maybe only bodyweight training for a few months?

SC: It depends upon his or her age, background and general coordination. For most adults who have lived a sedentary life, for example an office worker or businessperson—he or she tends to be very disconnected from his or her body—not aware of the body as it moves through space. For this person I prefer kettlebells and very basic movements like 2 Hand Swing and Squatting onto a chair or box. This is because the KB with it’s offset center of mass, requires participation of our own body’s center of mass in order to control it’s movement. So it teaches in a very short time about the relationship between our center of mass and our base of support (where we are standing). This gives some more control, some confidence, some awareness and some caloric expenditure leading to increased fitness and fat loss. So it is to establish some base to build upon. Once this person has some increased strength, awareness and athleticism, we will move to other movements using both Bodyweight and KBs, which previously would not have been possible for him or her.

On the other hand, if it were a young person or someone who is athletic from the start, then we would focus on Bodyweight movements first to develop greater mastery over his or her movements, then integrate KB training from there. Every person is treated as a case-by-case basis.

AS: What are the biggest mistakes you see people make in their kb training?

SC: Trying to “Kill” every rep, trying to be “hardstyle” or hardcore. In other words they make the error of thinking that maximal effort equals maximal results. It does not usually. The first step to master the movement, to learn basic control and grace over the body and use of the implement. This ties into mindset and the fundamental shortage of patience that most trainees have. They want to hurry up and get results and may skip over taking the time to do it well from the beginning. Don’t be in a rush, learn to do the movements well. If something is worth doing, it is worth doing with excellence—to the best of your abilities.

AS: Considering that kettlebells have been around for centuries, yet it has become a mainstream training tool only in the last decade or so. What do you think has caused this rapid growth in the last decade, is it just better marketing or have the training methods been modified in the last few years to make them more beneficial for the majority of the trainees?

SC: I think it is a combination of both factors, first the marketing but now as a result of the utility. The two go hand-in-hand and one cannot exist without the other. In the early stage of the modern kettlebell movement, marketing definitely drove this developing industry, specifically non-traditional web-based guerilla marketing—lots of hype and outlandish claims. Yet at the same time, the results of kettlebell training gave some legitimacy to this type of marketing, because people were indeed experiencing improved fitness, fat-loss and enhanced athletic conditioning. In recent years, I would say that more comprehensive information has come forward, especially from Russia, Ukraine and those regions, where kettlebell training was developed and perfected. At the end of the day, kettlebell training brings tangible results and that is why it is thriving and continuing to grow in use and popularity.

Double One Arm Jerk with 2 x 32kg Kettlebells

AS: Do you however see any problems in the kettlebell community that might slow down the progress of popularizing kettlebells?

SC: Well in some respects yes, there are factions, meaning there is some bickering over agendas that relate to growing the various organizations. This bickering is of course motivated by profit. In other words, one group wants to compete with another group in order to gain in popularity, to prove that one way is better than the other way. But this is only at the organizational level. Among users, it is not so prevalent most people just want to learn and improve and are going to be open to learning from any resource who has something of value to offer.

Another factor which can be considered detrimental to progress is the proliferation of various fitness celebrities who are jumping on the kettlebell bandwagon and offering DVDs and workshops around KB training, without having put in their time and energy to learn how to utilize the tool safely and effectively.  Such trainers, who may have a larger following within the fitness community are promoting, either knowingly or not, poor practice habits and in the long run this will hurt the development because if many people follow these poorly trained fitness celebrities, they will not make progress or worse will suffer injuries.

AS: What about kb’s for athletes? I know that athletes from various sports have very different needs, but could you share some general tips that athletes should follow when using kettlebells for their training?

SC: Kettlebell are a tool in the athlete’s toolbox. It is a great tool, but not the only tool. So a good starting point is to determine what is the best use or at least a good use of this tool. Don’t treat KB as the answer to all life’s problems or the solution to every training challenge. It does some things very well and for other things there are better tools. Kettlebell are most useful as an implement for developing increased work capacity, which is strength-power-endurance.  So, for example, if an athlete needs to put on mass or increase in maximal/limit strength, I would not necessarily advocate kettlebell as the primary tool. For that goal I would suggest a basic Power lifting template, using barbells would be far more appropriate. But, if the athlete wants to develop a well-rounded conditioning, addressing many factors simultaneously, such as muscular endurance, cardio-respiratory endurance, grip strength, core stability and a full-body workout, then kettlebells are ideal for that.

AS: Let’s talk a bit about kettlebell training for regular folks who have 2-3 hours a week to train. Could you share a sample routine that they can do for mass and size building using kb’s?

SC: Time is money and for busy professionals, they need a solution that gives well-rounded fitness and work the entire body throughout a full range of motion and can accomplish real results in a short period of time. Kettlebell training is great for that! Of course the ‘perfect’ program is going to be different for each person, we all have different starting points, so the weight of the KB will vary, the rest periods will vary and the volume of training will vary, according to the person’s size, strength level, fitness level, age and experience.

So as long as those things are factored in, here is an approach that will work well for most people who have 2-3 hrs per week to commit to working with KB.

4 days per week: Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri:

Monday and Thursday:

Around the Body Pass: 30 sec each direction
2 Hand Swings: 3 sets of 10-15 reps
1 arm Clean and Press: 3 sets of 5-10 reps per arm
Front Squat with 1 KB held in Front of body: 3 sets of 10 reps
Plank Position: Hold for 3 sets of 30 seconds
Hand-to-hand Swing: 1 set of maximum reps (increase each session)

Tuesday and Friday:

Between the Legs Pass: 30 sec each direction
1 Hand Swing: 2 sets of 10 reps each hand
1 arm Snatch: 3 sets of 10-20 reps each hand
1 Leg Deadlift: 3 sets of 5 reps each leg
Alternating Press: 3 sets of 10

This is just one example. Of course there are many other useful exercises, but I select these because I don’t know if the reader has a good understanding of mechanics and these are all relatively safe. Other good exercises like Windmills or Turkish Get-ups, Lunges or Bottoms Up cleans require more precision to do safely so I leave those out of a beginner’s program unless I have a chance to first assess this person.  The goal in this and every KB program is to gradually increase the total number or reps and/or decrease rest between sets and/or increase the load of the KBs utilized.

AS: And what about kb for fat loss for regular folks. Could you share a sample program for such purposes?

SC: The idea for fat loss is to have a blend of aerobic and anaerobic exercise. Aerobic for caloric expenditure and anaerobic to build muscle, thereby increasing the metabolic rate.

I would build any fat-loss program around lots and lots of swings of all varieties—2 Hand, 1 hand, Hand-to-hand. There are other great fat burners, such as snatch and clean and jerk, but those are more technical and if a person has too much fat they probably have not been training anyway, so best to keep it very simple.

I would make a program every other day, so 3-4 days per week and on non-KB days would add in some steady state cardio, be it jogging, biking or even an elliptical trainer in the beginning, until the person has lost enough weight to be able to do more athletic movements.

A fat loss program could look like this:

Day 1:
Swings: 30 sec on 30 sec off for 5 min (will be approximately 75 swings total)
Squats: BW only 30 s on 30 sec off for 5 min

Day 2:

Squats: 1 set x 20 reps – BW only
Swings: 2 Hand x 50 reps in as few sets as possible
1 arm Push/Press: 30 sec on 30 sec off, alternating arms for 6 mi (R arm 30 sec, rest 30 sec, Left arm 30 sec, rest 30 sec, repeat)
Hand-to-hand Swings: 100 reps in as few sets as possible

Day 3:

Continuous circuit for 20 min:

2 Hand Swing
1 Hand Swing
1 arm Clean
1 arm Press
1 arm Push/Press
1 arm Snatch
Front Squat with 1 KB
Hand-to-hand Swing
1 arm Clean & Press
1 Hand Swing
2 Hand Swing

** each exercise will be 30 sec each hand (except 2 Hand swing which is 30 sec total); between each exercise add 30 sec of Around the Body Pass as active recovery)

* total circuit including active recovery should take about 20 min in total

Day 4:

30 sec sprint, followed by 30 sec rest:

2 Hand Swing
1 Hand Swing
1 arm Clean
1 arm Push/Press
1 arm Snatch
Front Squat with 1 KB

Rest 3 min and repeat 1-2 times more

AS: What about bodyweight training for those who have no access to weights? Could you suggest a sample program with bodyweights for size and strength and one for fat loss?

SC: For size and strength the exercises need to be those that induce a higher degree of resistance or tension, that means those which are challenging. For most people, things like 1 hand pushups and 1 leg squats (pistols) are great, but for beginners these movements are too difficult to start with .

Here is an example for a beginner to intermediate level person looking to add some strength and a bit of mass:

Pushups: 3 sets of 15-20
Squats: 3 sets of 15-20
Assisted Pull-ups: 3 sets of 5-10 (can use a band around the knees until strong enough to do unassisted pull-ups)
Wall Sit: put feet out in front and back against wall;  hold for 30 sec x 3 sets so that thighs are parallel to ground

For fat loss, we need to have higher volume and more rhythmic movements to get the heart rate up and sustain the heart rate; of course running is going to be one of the best selections, if the person can run with out pain.

Interval training is also a good choice, such as Tabata protocol, which is basically, after a brief warm-up, doing 8 intervals of all out intensity for 20 sec followed by 10 sec of rest, so it would be:

20 sec all out, 10 sec rest, repeated 8 times

Then do a few minutes of cool down such as gentle stretching or joint mobility.

Tabata can be used with basic movements like squats or can be applied even to aerobic machines like treadmill or bike, it is good for fat-burning.

AS: What type of a dietary approach do you follow and recommend? Do you use any supplements?

SC: I don’t believe there is a perfect diet that is ideal for every person. I do have some general philosophies that I subscribe to and things that I find work best for me. Here are some of my general guidelines:

-Eat fresh, locally grown foods (I live in Southern California, so almost every food is local here)
-Eat whole foods, not processed; general rules of thumb—if it comes in a box, or a can or if you cannot pronounce the ingredients, most likely it is not a healthy food

I tend to function best on a diet that is more alkaline and less acidic; foods such as fried foods, greasy foods, red meats, alcohol, caffeine and processed foods have a more acidic effect on the body, so reducing or eliminating these types of foods; whole, raw, fresh and foods that are rich in water-content are more alkanalizing (such as veggies and fruits, seeds, whole grains, etc)

Mostly raw foods, although I do not eat completely raw

A big consideration is not just the chemical composition of foods but the digestive process of eating; this topic is called food combining. The basic premise of food combining is that different types of food have different rates of digestion and require different enzymes to digest them. For example, meats are a heavy protein and may take up to 4 or more hours to transit. Transit time is the time it takes to move from the stomach and enter into the intestines. Fruit will take only about 30 minutes to transit.

So the theory of food combining is that, if we eat foods that have different transit times, in other words foods that do not combine well, it will cause poor digestion, indigestion, gas, bloating and so on. This is not optimal digestion therefore is not optimal health.

If I am hungry and I eat say a steak, I cannot eat anything else for at least 4 hours. If I eat steak and a piece of fruit together, the meat will keep the fruit in the gut and so the fruit will begin to ferment in the stomach while waiting for the meat to transit. This fermentation is what causes gas, bloating, upset stomachs, etc. On the other hand, if I am hungry and eat the fruit first, I can eat something more filling again in 30 minutes, because the fruit will have transited by that time and the stomach is now empty.

This is a very simple and introductory description of a fairly in-depth subject. Interested readers can read up on Food combining to learn more and ultimately, like with all things, put the information to the test to see how you feel and function.

I am not a bodybuilder, so I focus on health and performance and my food choices reflect that.

The last things I will say about nutrition and food is that I think it is more important what comes out of my mouth than what comes in! What goes in goes to the stomach, but what goes out of the mouth comes from the heart and mind.

Our attitudes and state of mind is every bit or more important than what we eat, how we eat. Try not to eat when angry or when driving or while watching tv, etc.

AS: Great point. Moving on, Steve lets talk a bit about Girevoy, the kettlebell sport. Do you see it becoming big in the future and what benefits do you think it can offer to those who do not wish to participate in it but would like to do it at home/gym only?

SC: I definitely am seeing Girevoy Sport growing and the indications are that it will continue to grow for some years. In terms of getting “big”, not likely in a broad commercial sense for 2 main reasons. One is that it is simply very, very hard work. It requires extreme mental and physical toughness and a willingness to accept pain as a condition. To do this once or on occasion is one thing, but to have to face this reality day after day in every training session is just beyond the scope of the general fitness enthusiasts. The other factor is that it is not a very spectator friendly sport because the events last 10 minutes and it is repetitive in nature. Only those who participate or have participated on some level can appreciate it and what is involved in developing a high level. So, it will grow as a participation sport absolutely, but will always be limited by its demands and duration. Like marathon running, there are far many more participants than observers.

As for benefits to the participants, whether they compete or simply train alone at home or the gym, there are many physiological and mental benefits. First of all, girevoy sport is a higher level of development with kettlebell training. Like in all other sports, the best results are demonstrated by the active athletes. If kettlebell training for fitness gives us a sum of 10 then girevoy sport will give us a sum of 100. Meaning it is fitness plus. It is a very high level of fitness.

How is this different or more valuable than just using Kettlebells in a circuit based program for general fitness? Well, the sport gives tangible goals; there are clear guidelines for advancement and international standards for comparison. Fitness doesn’t have this same reference. I can do say 10 sets of 10 snatches and get a great workout. But if I train according to Girevoy sporting standards, I know that, for my bodyweight using a particular kettlebell, such as a 24kg, if I can do say 50 snatches each hand, I know that I am at a Level 2 ranking (in skill) or if I can do 80 snatches each hand I know I am at a Level 1 Ranking, or if I can do 100 snatches each hand I am at a CMS (Candidate for Master of Sports) Level. If I can snatch a 32kg 50 or 60 times each hand I am at a Master of Sports level. So I have a comparison that tells me how good I am or am not. It removes the subjectivity.

Physical benefits of girevoy sport training is like general kettlebell training, only accelerated—increases in strength, power endurance; improved cardio-respiratory stamina, joint mobility, and well rounded conditioning of the shoulders, arms, back, legs, grip and core musculature.

The mental/emotional benefits are increased pain tolerance, patience, self-discipline and self-control. One won’t succeed without these qualities and in fact the process of training in this manner will further develop these qualities.

AS: Now for most of us kettlebells represent a form of primitive tool that to a great extent is a sign of raw power and brute force! Many kettlebell trainees have displayed amazing strength, endurance, power with various kettlbell drills. Of course people like yourself, Mike Mahler, Ken Blackburn, etc are largely responsible for promoting training with kb,s and to expose its real brutal methods for amazing results.

However very unfortunately as it happens, there will always be opportunists who will come and try to make money off the hard work of others by cheating the regular public. In this case I am referring to some rubbish things like hollow kettlebells, ultra light kettlebells, etc that some greedy modern manufacturers make to tempt those who love to take the short cut and do not want to work hard. Surely, such cheap duplicates must be frustrating for you to see come in the market, considering the extreme hard work you did to promote real kb training.

SC: To tell you the truth Arnav, I really don’t care because I do what I believe in and I know that what I teach is based on real experience that I have earned through hard work. I also feel that what I have to offer is not for everyone. I can teach anyone who wants to learn, but some are looking for shortcuts or an easy way to reach goals. So for those people I am not the best match. For people who are willing to work hard and value dedication and commitment to honest effort—I am a great match for them. I don’t feel these companies and products that offer a watered-down version of kettlebell training cheat me or diminish what I do in any way, because what I do speaks for itself. I stay focused on my work and service and try not to be distracted by what others are doing.

AS: Lets move onto discussing more general topics in the S&C world. In the last decade or so there has been a huge uproar about functional training. Being a fan of functional training myself, I do however disagree with what many promote as functional training. For eg trying to do various balancing acts on a swiss ball when clearly the trainee cant even squat his own bodyweight with a barbell to me is developing no functional strength whatsoever. Considering that you still use traditional barbells along with kettlebells in your own training I would like to hear what are your thoughts on this issue. Do you feel that such stunts in the name of functional training are the best way to train or is the more traditional method of grinding and pushing with the old fashioned barbell along with basic kb and bodyweight training still the best way to go?

SC: I think simple is best and I think more times than not the time-tested methods which have proven their value over many generations are the best use of time. There are occasionally new innovations which enhance what we previously knew, but those are rare. There is nothing wrong with Swiss ball training per se, it offers value, but I think tools such as that should be a supplement to a more traditional program and valuable training time should not be wasted on too much variation and variation for variation’s sake. In general I agree with your sentiments about the functional training model. Too many trainers do things just for the sake of being different or trying to differentiate themselves from other trainers by doing ‘exotic’ movements, be it standing on a Swiss ball, doing curls on 1 leg or what have you. These are mostly wasted time and effort and often put the client at risk because as you state, the priority should be on first developing a strong foundation and that means looking to tools like barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and bodyweight exercises.

AS: Cool, okay so what are the top 5 kettlbell exercises that all trainees must get good at, irrespective of their goals?

SC: Swing, Clean, Snatch, Jerk, Press—and everyone must Squat, if not with KB then in some form

AS: 5 top barbell exercises?

SC: Deadlift, Squat, Press (I prefer Standing but Bench Press is also good one, if not for all), Power Clean; Snatch

AS: 5 top bodyweight exercises?

SC: Pistol/1 Leg Squat; Pull-up; Hindu Pushup; Burpee; Tumbling (for body awareness and coordination)

AS: What advice would you like to give to those who are beginning coaching others and would someday like to be as big and successful as you?

SC: Love what you do, believe in who you are and what your value is; Serve others; focus on the Cause not the effect (in other words don’t think about the money, think about the value you are offering); dream, be creative—limitation is a man-made invention

AS: Thank you so much for doing this interview. Would you like to add any final thoughts and how can the readers contact you?

SC: I am available via email at: ; via Facebook on the Steve Cotter/IKFF group page, the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation group page, and/or the IKFF India group page. We also have a Youtube channel, the IKFFChannel and of course our website is

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