Always Get Better Stronger with Robert Brinkley

Always Get Better Stronger is one of those Instagram profiles that’s so awesome you wonder to yourself, “Why doesn’t this guy have more followers? He’s doing such cool stuff!” Or at least I did. So when I wanted a garage gym athlete to break down kettlebells and how to start training with them, Rob was the first person I thought of. Read on to find out about this stay at home dad with the cool training videos and how to start your journey to always get better, stronger!

About Me

My strength journey began back in 1992. I sat in the basement and read a book by Charles Atlas and starting practicing calisthenics and dynamic tension. I continued reading about strength, but my focus switched to a bodybuilding style. I continued training in the basement for 4 years before I joined a gym. From there I worked at gyms (many positions, multiple gyms) and supplement stores and became more knowledgeable about working out in a bodybuilding style format. During college I competed in a couple of bodybuilding NPC shows. The gym was a way of life and I loved it! After almost two decades of training like a bodybuilder I had the opportunity to train with a multiple world record holding powerlifter. I really enjoyed it and caught the powerlifting bug. I competed in a few WABDL and 100% raw powerlifting competitions.

In May of 2014 I had the opportunity to go to a seminar on powerlifting put on by Andy Bolton. At the time I was very interested in deadlifting, and was very excited to learn from him. He was co-teaching with Pavel Tsastouline. To me learning from Pavel was also a big deal; I had read many of his books. Previous to this seminar, I had been interested in learning kettlebells but had never seriously pulled the trigger. This seminar reignited my interest. I enjoyed how Pavel explained and taught things and several of the attendees were certified in kettlebells via StrongFirst SFG (Pavel’s company). To get certified you must attend a 3 day certification weekend. They review the skills, refine when necessary, have you go through some pretty tough workouts, have you demonstrate teaching, and then the last day is the test day. But it isn’t something you want to walk into unprepared.

Breaking Down Kettlebells Barney Style

Keeping things simple: there are 2 kinds of kettlebell lifts, Grinds and ballistics. The grinds are the getup, military press, and the front squat. The ballistics are the swing, clean, and the snatch. For your test you demonstrate your technique/form for all the lifts. And you perform 100 snatches in 5 minutes. To determine the weight of the kettlebell you will use, you just reference their chart on their website. It is based on gender, body-weight, and there are senior(s) listings as well. Because I had been lifting for over 2 decades the grinds felt easy; but the ballistics were brutal. My ego made me reluctant to seek out professional help. But I continued to make many mistakes practicing the ballistics (bruises, torn hands). I signed up for a Kettlebell User Course. Strongfirst has a one day user course that goes over the basics. It’s not a certification, but it helps get you started, even if you are only interested in personal usage. It was helpful. After the course I got some additional 1 on 1 training to get better at the ballistics. After I got certified through StrongFirst SFG I went back to barbell training.

My Journey Back Home

The goal was never to be a kettlebell guy, it was to learn another strength tool. Plus as this was the most difficult certification I had ever received it was sort of a badge of honor. So back to the grind! I was a personal trainer at a busy gym in Southern California. The gym was always busy! One day after I waited WAY too long for a barbell, I threw my kettlebell in my truck and drove to the park to practice my kettlebell skills. It was awesome! From that point on I was working out with my kettlebells at the park or the beach most days. I would get mad when it rained, because I had to go workout in the gym. As weird as it sounds, it felt liberating. Not having to wait for anyone, not having to worry about anyone walking into you mid set (yes that happened). I originally started working out in the basement, so non-gym workouts sort of felt like a come back. Now at first it might be easy to look at the typical kettlebell weights and think the weight may be easy. But it’s all in how you practice. In StrongFirst we practice what is called hardstyle. It means in your practice you are focusing to squeeze all the energy out of each repetition. When you are practicing your military press: you are pressurizing your mid-section, squeezing your glutes, and driving you legs into the floor. After the press, you actively pull the negative back down with your lat. So instead of a lackadaisical dumbbell press I used to do – it’s nearly full body tension. That takes some practice, but that is the goal.

When my son was born, kettlebells were a huge asset. As you could imagine, no one in the house was getting much sleep, and I didn’t have the luxury to leave for my leisurely beach workouts. Pavel has a program called Simple and Sinister. Basically you are practicing the swing and the getup. You practice everyday. It takes less than 25 minutes including warmup (of course you could take longer if you needed). You start with 50 swings and 5 getups per arm. The program progresses and has “Simple” and “Sinister” goals to achieve (which have time limits and kettlebell size goals). The great thing was that it was quick, it was simple to practice, and it is as difficult as you make it. Because you control the dial of your intensity.

Now my son is over a year old and I am a stay home dad. On a typical day I will work on 2 skills and a conditioning routine. I could easily break that into 3 workouts of 20 ish minutes each; or do the whole thing. It all depends on the mood of my little guy. The skills I practice are: getups, pressing variation, squat variations, and barbell deadlifts. Conditioning will usually be swing variations, but I will add cleans to my presses from time to time, and if I want to burn my lungs – snatches will make the menu.

Now You

*If you are interested in kettlebells I’d recommend you learn from my mistakes.

  • Instead of literally beating yourself up with them – learn from someone that is certified. On the strongfirst website: www.strongfirst.com it will give you a list of instructors near you.
  • The cheapest kettlebell is often not the best. At first glance I assumed they were all the same. But the cheap ones I bought have chipped, increased the chance of blisters when practicing the ballastics, and some have been off on weight. I’d recommend a cast iron bell that isn’t oddly shaped and I prefer them labeled in kilos.
  • Don’t let your ego get in the way.

**Not all trainers are qualified in teaching kettlebells, if they don’t have proper credentials, I’d be wary.

I am certified through StrongFirst. But they grew out of the Dragondoor’s RKC. And it appears that some of the leadership has branched off again and started another organization called Strength Matters. All three have similar modalities. I have friends in each organizations. Any of them would be worth looking into if you are interested in learning more.

Want to learn more from Rob? You can reach him by either one of the ways below:

About the author

John Greaves III is a writer based in North Georgia with nearly two decades of experience in training at home. A former amateur kickboxing champion, John now competes recreationally in powerlifting. He takes a physical culture approach to training; believing that strength and health need not be mutually exclusive. In addition to his nonfiction work, John has written two fiction books, A Different Kind of Giant and A Little Lesson in Manners that are available on Amazon.com.

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  • Meet David Albers The Durable Dad – garagegymmagazine July 4, 2018 at 11:41 pm

    […] and I plan to attend their Kettlebell User course this fall. Rob Brinkley spoke highly of them in the article we did on […]

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