StrongFirst in Israel: the Revolution is coming

I was honored to be suggested by Alex Salkin,the first Israeli assistant to the world renown StrongFirst Master Instructors whom I deeply respect and appreciate – Fabio Zonin and Mark Riefkind, to discover and post his unique story on my blog

Today I have for you guys a host post by special guest Aleks Salkin. I met Aleks at the Strong First kettlebell-barbell-bodyweight 2-day workshop taught by Master Instructor Fabio Zonin that we both attended this year. This workshop was really great for  learning new skills and drills and was a life-changing experience for me as well as for my private clients, the groups I teach, and  for my trainees  and  followers that workout with me on my YouTube WOW YOUR BODY channel and facebook page

I am certified as Primal Move Fundamentals instructor,  FMS certified instructor and fitness trainer through on of the leading sports school in Israel. I am proud to be a part of the leading Israeli Kettelebell team –"Kettelebells Israel". Two weeks ago there was The First National Competition of group Sprint Snatch that 60 participates took a part at the  city of Tel Aviv. Our team won the second place, I am happy to say that I won the first place in the women's category with the high result of 145 reps in 5 minutes. I am the owner of one of the top Fitness blog WOW YOUR BODY in the country that became very popular for the fitness community in Israel. My goal is to increase the interest and to improve the life style of my followers and the  community

Jenny Kaplan with the Master Fabio Zonin at the Strong First kettlebell-barbell-bodyweight 2-day workshop

After this amazing workshop, Aleks and I stayed in touch.  In April he became an Oleh Hadash and told me about his recent trip to Croatia as the
first Israeli assistant to  the world renown StrongFirst Master Instructors whom I deeply respect and appreciate – Fabio Zonin and Mark Riefkind.  I was honored to be suggested by Alex to discover and post his unique story on my blog

The Kettlebell  Revolution  by Pavel Tsatsouline

For the last 12 years a revolution has been quietly engulfing the fitness world. In 2001 former Soviet Special Forces physical training instructor Pavel Tsatsouline introduced the Western world to the now-popular kettlebell and kicked off the revolution with his book “The Russian Kettlebell Challenge” and the world’s first ever kettlebell instructor certification course

Pavel Tsatsouline

Slowly but surely his organization – now known as StrongFirst – and the time-tested principles of strength training that it teaches has made its way from its humble beginnings in Minneapolis, Minnesota to a world-wide phenomenon, with converts to its principles in every state in the US and countries as far flung as Canada, Japan, Korea, Western Europe, South Africa, and Israel.  And as of October 27th a new country was added to the growing list: Croatia.  To add to the historic event, it also marked the first time an Israeli citizen had served as an assistant instructor in a StrongFirst kettlebell certification in Europe.  That instructor was me

Israeli StrongFirst instructor makes history in Europe

Alex Salkin with the Master Fabio Zonin at StrongFirst Kettlebell Certification in Croatia

My name is Aleks Salkin, I’m 27 years old, and I made Aliyah to Israel on April 10th of this year.  I decided to make Aliyah after many years of consideration and have made it my mission to come to Israel to strengthen the Jewish nation and people through the strength training knowledge I have acquired in my years of being deeply involved in the world of kettlebell and bodyweight training.  I am certified as a kettlebell and bodyweight strength instructor through StrongFirst, and I recently had the honor of traveling to Croatia to assist Master Instructors Mark Riefkind – a former high level competitor in gymnastics, bodybuilding, powerlifting, and triathalons – and Fabio Zonin – a former bodybuilder and powerlifter and current Master instructor for the Italian Federation of Fitness – in teaching candidates for the position of StrongFirst certified kettlebell instructors.  13 men and women from around Croatia (and one from Germany) gathered at a gymnasium in Kastav, Croatia to put their many months of kettlebell training to the test

Alex Salkin with the Master Mark Riefkind at StrongFirst Kettlebell Certification in Croatia

Not only would they be tested physically with a variety of technique, strength, and conditioning tests to prove their physical preparedness, but also mentally by testing their ability to instruct volunteers from the outside world with limited experience to learn how to use kettlebells

The  toughest criteria to pass the course for the candidates

Both the course itself and the requirements the pass the course are tough.  Candidates typically spend 6 to 12 months preparing themselves both physically and mentally, and the failure rate is generally 20-30%.  All candidates must pass the following criteria to pass the course.  Failure of any of these constitutes failing the course

Exhibit safe and efficient technique in the foundation skills***

Demonstrate good judgment, especially concerning safety***

Show a strong spirit***

Demonstrate effective teaching skills***

Pass the pull-up/flexed arm hang test***

Pass the kettlebell snatch test administered on the last day of the certification***

Conduct yourself like a professional***

The Big Six

The techniques the candidates have to pass are what are often referred to as The Big Six.  Only six exercises, but all of them unique in their abilities to transform physiques and build strength, cardio, and recruit every muscle in the body for a fast, efficient training session that can deliver twice the  results in half the time.  The exercises are as follows

Double Swing – two snatch-test-sized bells***

Get-Up  – one snatch-test-sized bell***

Double Clean  – two snatch-test-sized bells***

Double Press  – two snatch-test-sized bells***

Double Front Squat  – two snatch-test-sized bells***

Snatch –  one snatch-test-sized bell***

Men use 24 kg kettlebells, women use 16 kg kettlebells

Additional physical tests – focus on perfecting the technique

The other physical tests include a basic test of the candidates’ abilities to control their bodies – a pullup test for men and a flexed-arm hang for women – and the infamous snatch test.  The candidates must swing a kettlebell between the legs and using one fluid full-body motion starting from the hips, bring the kettlebell overhead with a straight arm.  Men use 24 kg, women use 16 kg, and both must perform 100 repetitions in 5 minutes.  Training for all of the above includes a lot of practice on all of these basic moves with a focus on perfecting the technique.  Many candidates prepare in group preparation classes, whereas others train alone, but all of them regularly have their technique and progress checked by colleagues who have already gone through the course

The concept of StrongFirst certification

The concept and focus behind the StrongFirst certification course is to ensure that future instructors learn how to teach their clients central principles of StrongFirst’s system of training for dramatically improved strength, conditioning, power production, cardio, and fat loss, both for general fitness and for sports training.  Because of its wide range of uses, StrongFirst’s system is popular among personal trainers and sports coaches around the world

Learning The secrets  to build strength faster

Over the weekend the instructor candidates went from acceptable to exceptional. In order to improve their own skills and learn how to teach them to future clients, the candidates were taught by Master Instructors Riefkind and Zonin how to perform specialized drills for each exercise. The drills are designed to bypass conscious thought as much as possible – it takes too long – and go straight to the muscles and the nervous system to ingrain the movements in your body and make them easier to repeat over and over again.  With each exercise they learned how to spread the work to as many muscle groups as possible, enabling them to build strength faster and reduce fatigue at the same time.  For the average exerciser this means twice the results in half the time, as these practices make kettlebell training incredibly time efficient – 20-30 minutes is often all one needs to get in a dynamite workout

My experience with Croatian candidates – well prepared and strong

I have attended several such workshops, and have been an assistant instructor before, but never before have I seen such a well-prepared group of candidates.  They all came very strong and very well prepared.  Several of them had a difficult time correcting technique flaws in exercises.  For example, when they were working on the clean – a move where the kettlebell is swung between the legs and brought to rest at the shoulder – one candidate was twisting his body too much.  Since they were working in small groups, I gathered the group around, showed the others the issue with the technique, and then demonstrated a cue to fix it and had each group member treat the candidate as a student and work together to fix the issue, both on him and then on other candidates

Technique is all-important – the strictest  standards to earn the certification

Technique issues are important, and the large majority of the course was spent actually lifting kettlebells and working on drills to improve the execution of the exercises.  A high level of discipline is expected from the candidates as the course requirements set forth strict standards on what passes as good technique and what is not acceptable.  The Master instructors are firm but fair – they are strict on all tests.  However, any candidate close to passing one of the physical tests who for whatever reason missed the standard can either retake the course within a year for $500 or make arrangements to re-take the test with the Master instructor after the course is over.  One example of this from the course is a girl who only completed 98 snatches instead of 100 for her snatch test.  She met with Mark Reifkind, the head instructor of the course, three days later, retook the test, and passed with flying colors.  There are no exceptions – everyone earns their certification

Life changing experience – beyond the drills and money investment

There are three things about the StrongFirst kettlebell course that seem to be universal in that no matter where you go, everyone experiences the same thing.  Immediately after the course is over, everyone talks about how life changing the course has been for them. Not only do they learn how to move their bodies and their iron better, but they learn what it means to be strong inside and out as Mark Reifkind says “Strength is an attitude.” A part of that attitude is how you carry yourself as a person – with integrity for yourself and your clients as well as with professionalism and a constant focus on improving both your strength and your teaching skills to better improve the lives of your clients. In a relatively short period of time, people are changed for the better, and forever.  A year or less after their certification, the newly minted instructors all tell tales of how much their pocketbook has been filled and how much their business has grown with happy clients – both old and new ones – and how amazed they are at how quickly they’re now able to drop fat and get fitter and stronger than ever since they began working out with kettlebells.  But the first thing that people think to themselves is “this course costs too much money.”  Except that it doesn’t.  Each course is taught by world class instructors and their assistants who give one-on-one and hands-on help to all the candidates, and each new instructor leaves with skills that set them above and beyond those of the average personal trainer, both in terms of knowledge and money earning potential

Sweet home Israel – the revolution is nearby

While the Croatian certification is over, another course is coming, and this time much closer to home: the first ever Israeli StrongFirst certification is coming to Israel in December ( , and I will be again assisting Master SFG Mark Reifkind – along with my colleagues Ronen Katz and Benny Mayer as he teaches the time-honored principles of strength training to a new generation of future instructors who will lead the way in doing exactly what I’ve come here to do: strengthen the Jewish nation and people

The revolution has quietly spread around the world, and it has finally reached Israel.  Be the first to experience it, and experience a life-changing event that you will never forget

Aleks Salkin is a StrongFirst (SFG)-certified kettlebell instructor, StrongFirst-certified bodyweight instructor (SFB), and Primal Move Fundamentals instructor. He grew up scrawny, unathletic, weak, and goofy, until he was exposed to kettlebells and the teachings and methodology of Pavel in his early 20s. He is currently based out of Jerusalem, Israel and spends his time spreading the word of StrongFirst and calisthenics, and regularly writes about strength and health both on his website and on his Facebook page. Find him online at