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Steve Cotter and the Wild Geese

It’s been a long time coming but Steve Cotter, president of the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation ( has just landed at Dublin airport. He’s in Ireland to teach his Certified Kettlebell Trainer Level 1 course. A course that since it’s launched has picked up the reputation as being the premier Kettlebell lifting certification to attend.

This is the first time it will have been run in Ireland.

As I get to the Airport, I’m not entirely sure what to expect, meeting a man of such reputation. Plus they always say, never meet your hero’s, they always disappoint.

However, I spot Steve in the Arrivals lounge and make my way over. I’m greeted with a warm smile and friendly outstretched hand. All good so far. We have about an hour to kill as his Girlfriend was due in on another flight. This gave us time to chat and beak the ice a little. We discussed everything from Irish politics, the recession, martial arts ( a topic dear to both of us), the current state of the fitness industry and various other topics. Steve is a man with a sharp and enquiring mind, this will be a fun weekend…

Day 1 – So hear we are, in Wild Geese Headquarters, the House of Strength, attendees from Galway, Germany, London, Edinburgh, 8 of us in total. Steve briefly introduces himself and we begin. Warming up dynamically first, very reminiscent of my days as a young fella learning karate, skipping &  jogging round the room, forwards, backwards, sideways. Getting the blood flowing and opening up the hips, knees and waist. This was followed by lunges to get the hips fully opened and loose. Steve then took us through a joint mobility series, explaining how this will help us to keep moving efficiently. Essentially “taking the brakes off” for when we get to the lifting.

Warm ups over, grab a kettlebell each.

At our House we have mostly the black cast iron bells as these are what most people expect and are familiar with, Steve refers to these as faulty bells. We also have a set of Professional bells, naturally he grabs one of these. Guess I’ll be getting more of them in……

The first day consisted of Swings, Cleans, Strict Presses, Push Presses and Jerks. We were taken through, in great detail, the correct methods of holding the bell, the various grips and why they are used, correct breathing for maximum efficiency, and much much more. The level of detail was astonishing. Each time we were shown something we performed a timed set in order to practice it, all under the watchful eye of our coach. It was interesting looking around the room, each participant was very different in terms of experience, style and background, yet everyone was giving their all, no regard to the fact that we had another full day to go, they were all in the moment, eager to learn and absorb even a small part of Steve’s knowledge and experience.

In the clean, we learned how to eliminate all the gaps from the grip, how to stand in order to recover faster and the most efficient groove for the bell to travel. The press came with a whole new take on breathing, but as a precursor to the push press and then jerk, it is a fantastic drill. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried military pressing for time, it’s fun! Then the Jerk, Steve’s favourite lift. Here we learned to really use the feet and ankles to power the bell up, as well as bumping upwards with the chest. By using very powerful muscles it was easy to elevate the bell off the chest with minimal effort. Next came the stomp or jumping down to lock out the bell. Again, time was spent on the breathing and tiny details that just make the bell fly effortlessly to lock out. Again we did several timed sets to both lock in the technique but also to experience the Girevoy Sport methods of training.

They day concluded with a Chi Gung set to assist in recovery and recuperation.

Day 2 – Everybody came back, looking fresh and raring to go, maybe a little more tape on the hands than before, but still itching for more. Today would start as yesterday finished with a few rounds of the Chi Gung set. Steve explained how every complete system must contain balance, the hard (i.e. lifting the bells) and the soft (in this case Chi Gung), without this balance the body would simply breakdown, it is apparent that Steve approaches his Kettlebell training in the same way he was brought up as a martial artist. There are many ways to recover, but Chi Gung is one of the nicer ones, relaxing and reinvigorating. From there it was into Snatch, Squat and Overhead Squat. Again, the detail was incredible. Breathing methods that have been proven to slow the heart rate during the Snatch, correct grip, the correct path for the bell to travel, using the feet and ankles to add impetus, using the Traps for deceleration. We then Snatched our way through a pyramid of timed sets using consecutively heavier bells, then working back down again. I’ve used this format before, but when adding in the details from Steve’s teaching, it went far more smoothly and easily than before. Into the Squats then. A big problem with teaching the Squat is simply that most folk don’t have the necessary mobility and flexibility. Not any more, armed with the methods Steve gave us we can mobilise the ankles, activate the hip flexors and teach the correct back arch. Just with a few simple corrective exercises. Just this portion of the course alone would double the effectiveness of many gym instructors and was worth the course fee. From there we broke from the timed sets format and instead worked a sets and reps format on the double kettlebell front squat. 6 sets of 10 reps, each set heavier than the last.

And then, last but not least the Overhead squat. Again, corrective and preparatory drills were shown followed by a nasty drop set. We started with 1 minute each hand with a heavy weight, then 2 mins each hand with a medium and finished with 3 minutes each side with the lighter weight. Great fun!

Overall it was one of the best explained and detailed courses I’ve been on, regardless of the topic. At no point was anybody out of their depth, or left waiting for the other to catch up. Group camaraderie was encouraged and developed and Steve led by example, not only demonstrating but joining in with us on the timed sets.

As a bonus we also given a talk by an NLP practitioner, Andy Murphy. Andy has trained with the IKFF before and has presented for them on other occasions. As a Practitioner he deals largely with combat athletes, helping them find the perfect mindset so they can perform optimally in the ring/octagon. He took the time to explain how internal dialogue can be used to overcome adversity or if left unchecked can become the adversity. He talked about how we can distance ourselves from the emotions of a situation and really look at a situation. And then lead us through a brief visualisation of how to see yourself succeeding. Powerful stuff, a topic I would like to follow up in the near future.

All in all this was a fantastic weekend. Each of the participants swapped emails at the end, leaving with new found friendships as well as knowledge.

Oh, and a Certificate.

If you’re looking to start teaching  Kettlebell Lifting, I cannot recommend Steve Cotter and the IKFF highly enough. I guess the rule about not meeting your Hero’s doesn’t always hold up.


Dave Hedges IKFF-CKT Lvl 1 IUKL National Level Coach

+353 87 672 6090

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