Strong First Certification Weekend In Utah

Strong First Certification Weekend In Utah

Strong First SFG Certification Weekend in Utah

First of all, I need to express my gratitude and say thank you to my friend Dan John for inviting me and my Heavyweights team to attend the Strong First SFG Certification event in Utah.  Dan is an amazing coach and an incredible guy. 

Thank you Dan. I am proud to have you as a coach and friend.


On Wednesday, five of my Heavyweights team (Kevin, Josh, Tyler, Carla and I) hopped on a plane, and after 16 hours of travel, we were in Utah.

I love new experiences, and traveling to new places.  I jump at any opportunity to learn from the top coaches in the world, to experience new gyms and facilities, meet new amazing people, and of course to grow as a coach and fitness professional.

Before we landed in Utah, we had a scare flying into Chicago.  We are coming in to land, and the pilot’s voice came over the speaker system informing us that we had a “mechanical error,” that our steering upon landing would not be working,  and that the fire department and rescue trucks would be waiting for us.  However, he assured us that he was trained in this issue, and that things would be ok.

For ten minutes, Kevin and I basically sat in silence.  No one wants to ever think that things like this can happen.  In my mind, I thought of all the things I regretted not doing, and the things that I wanted to do.  In a weird way, my life flashed before my eyes.  It was a very surreal experience.

Thankfully, the pilot did an amazing job and we landed perfectly with no issues whatsoever.  I celebrated living over a cold beer with my team, and felt very grateful for life and opportunity.

We headed to our hotel post-beer.  Once we got there, we were notified that our hotel rooms had not been held and had been giving to someone else because we did not check in before 6pm. 

Not good.

So, we started looking for another hotel.  Just our luck: everything in the area was sold out as there was an outdoor convention that weekend in Utah bringing in over 20,000 people.

After a few hours, we found two rooms.  Let’s just say they “did the job.”  It was not very comfortable.  Running water was a bonus for our room.

The next day, things got even worse for me.

I received a call from my Danielle that Max, our 13-year-old adopted dog, had taken a very bad turn for the worse.  He was not breathing well, and was in pain and very distant. 

I was destroyed. You can read more about Max and his story by going HERE, but things did not go so well.  Danielle and I had to make the decision to get our old friend put to sleep on Thursday. 

My heart was broken.  I just wanted to go home and be there for Danielle and to say goodbye to Max.  However, Danielle and I talked and agreed that it was better for me to stay, focus on the certification and that she would handle things at home.



READ MORE  Goodbye Max, You Won't Be Forgotten


Not an easy decision.  Thank you, Danielle for being so strong.  Max, I will miss you.

To take my mind off of everything and to not continue to feel sad and depressed, we decided to go see some of the sights in Utah. 





Getting up the next day at 6am to get ready to enter three days of intense training was not easy, but it had to be done!

Upon arriving at the Strong First SFG Certification at NRG Crossfit, we had to do our first “Strength Test” as soon as we walked in the door, before we could even continue with the course.


5 dead hang pull-ups.

We asked about a warm-up.  The response was, “if you were in the water and a shark was coming at you would you warm-up?”

So we proceeded to get our 5 dead hang pull-ups done.

Once this was over, the physical  and mental torture began.

Over the three days we did a combined 30 hours of education and training.

I have done many certifications and training in my almost 25 years in the fitness industry.  I can honestly say that the three days of StrongFirst were some of the most physically and mentally demanding training I have ever gone through.

We were coached in great detail by Pavel, my friend Dan John, and all the StrongFirst coaches.

We were taught the following Kettlebell Exercises :

  • The Deadlift
  • The Swing
  • The Double Swing
  • The Get Up
  • The Clean
  • The Double Clean
  • The Snatch
  • The Goblet Squat
  • The Prying Goblet Squat
  • The Double Front Squat

And much more.

The weekend was intense.  Physically and mentally this was insane.




On Saturday, my hamstrings felt like they were put in a blender from what must have been over 1000 swings on Friday.

The intensity of Friday’s workout was far beyond what we were expecting.  Most people at this certification had been training for months.  We had had about two weeks notice, and to tell you the truth I didn’t even train for it. 

Not smart.

For 3 days, we did our absolute best and showed them what Team Heavyweights and our coaches are all about.

We brought our best, pushed through pain, fatigue, exhaustion and more.  Training in a non air-conditioned gym in Utah without a fan for 3 days was exhausting enough, let alone every 15 minutes having to get up and down off the turf (which was one of the most uncomfortable things in life).

After 3 intense days of physical and mental exhaustion, I want to share with you 10 things learned from StrongFirst Certification. 



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10 Things I Learned From StrongFirst Certification

1. I have a new found respect for kettlebells.  I used kettlebells sparingly in my training but I didn’t know them well enough, which is why I sought a teacher and expert to teach me.  After this weekend, I have a different view of the kettlebell as a training tool both physically and mentally.

2. The kettlebell Swing done properly is an amazing exercise.  I have done swings before, but I had not done them right.  Once I learned how to swing, my hamstrings and glutes let me know that I had got the motion down.  I am far from mastering swings, I have a lot of work ahead of me, but I have a much better understanding of the benefits and the mechanics of “The Swing.”

3.The kettlebell is a full-body workout.  There is so much you can do with just 2 kettlebells, it’s amazing.  I will be using them more in my training and my clients’ training.  They can be used for strength, fat loss, corrective exercise, explosiveness, conditioning and more.

4. Gripping the “kettlebell snatch” too hard is dumb.  I learned the hard way to improve snatch, and that I need to go home and practice.  As you can see by my hands after the 5-minute snatch test I need to work on flowing my grip more


5. The 100 Rep/5 Min Snatch Test with a 24kg is one of the most exhausting and demanding things I have ever done in my life.  I didn’t pass the test, so I need to redo it and send in a video within 90 days, but this test ruined me.  Out of 5 of my team, only Kevin and Carla passed.  The rest of us have some work to do.  With a herniated disc, two bulging discs and 2 bicep tears, I did my best.  At 87 reps they stopped me with 1 minute left because my form was breaking down.  I understand the call, it made me mad, but as a coach I know when someone starts to break down, you have to go for safety.  I would have killed myself to finish it, but at least now I live to fight another day and I have some practice ahead.

6. StrongFirst Kettlebell Certification is not for the weak of heart.  If you think this is a easy certification where you show up, get a little sweat, pay your money and get your certification, you are dead wrong.  These people take their training and kettlebells very seriously.

7. Dan John is an amazing coach and teacher.  If you don’t know about Dan, you really need to start reading his blog at and also check out his books on  I am so glad to have him as a coach and friend.

8. Kettlebell training will make every other training that much better.  Kettlebells can be used for MMA, fat loss, strength, speed, power, mobility, stability and more.  I have a new found love and respect for Kettlebells after this weekend.

9. Be coachable.  For my 4 coaches and I to show up to a new environment, and learn new training skills, we had to keep an open mind.  Most coaches and trainers stop learning.  At a certain point they close off and think they know enough.  One of my mottos as a coach and in life is to “be coachable.”  I made it my goal to “empty my cup” and learn as much as possible during the StrongFirst certification.  In doing so, I learned so much more than just kettlebells.  I learned a lot about myself, I met some amazing people, and I had an incredible experience.  Always keep an open mind and always be coachable.

10, “Iron Sharpens Iron.”  If it wasn’t for my Heavyweights Team, I don’t think I would have made it through this weekend.  I was feeling beaten down mentally going into the certification, but my friends, my team, and my HW family kept me strong until the end.  Thank you to Kevin, Josh, Carla and Tyler for all of your support.  We all brought out each others’ best. 

Reflecting back on this weekend, I can say that it was worth it. an incredible experience.  I learned so much, got tp spend time with my HW family, and got to grow as a person and coach.

If you are considering the StrongFirst Certification, I recommend it.  Just be prepared.

To get more info on StrongFirst, go to







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