An Interview with Carl Sipes, RKC Instructor, CK-FMS

Carl Sipes With RKC Logo

Dragon Door: In your bio, you mention having a Bachelor's Degree in Exercise Science/Kinesiology, and it seems like you’ve been in the fitness industry for a while. How did you choose this profession?

Carl Sipes: It's kind of funny, I think I had about 3 or 4 majors in college before I decided on Exercise Science. In college I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I started trying a bunch of different things, and none of them worked for me. Then I thought about what I really like to do. I played sports as an athlete in high school and liked exercise. And, not sitting at a desk all day long interested me a lot! I started taking exercise science and anatomy classes and was lucky enough to make a career out of it after I got out of school.

Dragon Door: When did you become a business owner?

Carl Sipes: When I graduated from college we moved out to California for my internship. I worked with other people’s businesses as a personal trainer until about 3 years ago. I’ve worked at many different personal training studios, gyms, and with a chiropractor. Finally I had enough clients to start my own business and took the leap. Renting space from established gym meant that I could subcontract and have run my own business there for the past three years. It was a nice, easy transition.

Dragon Door: How did you originally learn about kettlebells?

Carl Sipes: When I moved out to California in 2003, I was lucky enough to start working with someone who had just ordered a set of kettlebells. I was introduced to them while they were still early on the scene! I thought they were interesting and had never seen anything like them before. We probably didn’t really know how to use them very well, but we swung them around and tried not to bruise ourselves too much. The RKC certification workshops had just started and gave us a better idea of what to do with kettlebells—it was just so efficient, and that’s what everybody needs. From then on I was into kettlebells!

Dragon Door: When did you become an RKC Instructor?

Carl Sipes: My first RKC was in the October of 2007, though I probably should have gone years earlier! I went before we moved from California back to Illinois. Since I was trying to bring something new back with me, I figured I'd better know what I was doing.

After the RKC, I actually knew how to teach people and progress them through the kettlebell exercises. I also learned how to do it myself and progress my own training into the actual moves. I already knew the swing was a big deal, but I was introduced to the clean, the snatch, and all the other cool things you can do with kettlebells. At the RKC, they give you a teachable progression you can use to actually teach people without beating yourself up like I did for the previous three or four years before I went to the workshop. It really gave me the ability to know how to use kettlebells and more importantly, how to teach them to others.

Carl Sipes and Andrea Du Cane Demonstrating Kettlebell Swings at an RKC Workshop

Dragon Door: What's your favorite kettlebell exercise?

Carl Sipes: I have to go with the swing—I'm boring! It is just so efficient. You can get so much done with this one easy movement. Even if you only have five minutes to spare in your day, you can get a pretty decent workout with kettlebell swings. You can program your workout differently by swinging heavy which will get you really strong. I like versatility of the swing, it’s good for any situation!

Dragon Door: What changes did you notice after you started doing RKC style kettlebell training?

Carl Sipes: I noticed I got really strong. I went from spending forever in the gym, working myself to death to training smart with it. I didn't work on beating myself up anymore, I thought of working out with a kettlebell more as a practice and things started to improve—imagine that!

Dragon Door: Do you usually train a specific demographic? Do you mostly have individual clients or group classes?

Carl Sipes: Basically I have a lot of one on one and semi private (2-3 people) clients. Most of my clients are "regular everyday Joes", but I also train a few high school athletes. The majority of my clients are in their mid 40s to 50s and I probably train more women than men, but I also train people all along the scale.
Carl Sipes Instructing at an RKC Workshop

Most people come to see me when something's not going well. They've tried to do this or that workout and their body isn't responding, or it made them hurt. They come to me to learn how to do move while exercising and not hurt—I've gotten a reputation for being able to help. We teach them how to move a little bit better, and then we start layering strength on top of that. My clients like it when they discover that they can go and do household tasks and not hurt. They gain a feeling of independence, and don’t need others to come to help them.

Dragon Door: So you teach corrective exercises and mobility as well?

Carl Sipes: Yes. When I was younger, I think I messed myself up good enough trying to workout that I became pretty interested in the FMS screen and drills. I also like the Original Strength system from Tim Anderson and Geoff Neupert that kind of brings people back to the primitive patterns and helps them move better. My clients have experienced really good results using those two systems. Once I get my clients moving well, they get really strong with the RKC system and just live life better.

Dragon Door: What did you bring to your leadership role while assisting at the recent RKC workshop in Chicago?

Carl Sipes: I think that best thing I bring is my experience. I have been training others since 2002-2003, and in about 12 years I have seen a lot! When I was younger, I used to wonder how the instructors knew so much. When I was learning at the RKC and at other workshops it seemed like the instructors had been around and seen a many different situations and scenarios—and knew how to handle them all. So, just being able to give advice coming from 12 years of experience to new instructors and instructor candidates was what I felt like I brought to that role. Guys who don’t yet have a lot of experience can hopefully learn some things that I had to learn the hard way.

Dragon Door: Why do you think fitness instructors and personal trainers should add the RKC to their toolkit?

Carl Sipes: The teaching style from the RKC, which shows how to progress people through the movements is second to none. The RKC starts out at the very barebones minimum and just builds, builds, builds! Since I rent space in a large gym, I see what the other trainers do and they just don’t have the same teaching method or skills that I do. Sometimes there are big gaps in what they're trying to get their clients to do.
Carl Sipes Instructing At An RKC Workshop - Get Ups

The RKC does such a good job of bringing people up from the very beginning, and then layers the next skills so that people are set up to succeed. They can actually benefit from their workout instead of just what I like to call "surviving a workout". Unfortunately that’s what I see most people do in the gym, they just try to survive a workout instead of actually practicing a skill. You can get so many more benefits from training the RKC way.

Dragon Door: What kind of results have your clients experienced from training with you and kettlebells?

Carl Sipes: One of my ladies is a little bit older than 75 now, and has been training with me for about five years. She started training with me because her husband had just passed away and she was afraid that she wouldn't be able to take care of herself in her home. She was scared that she's have to go to an assisted living or nursing home, so we started working together and slowly getting her stronger. We used those nice low-level progressions that she was able to do. Then we built strength on top of it and she's amazing now. Now, she continues to live by herself, can mow her own lawn, and drives herself to Florida and back to visit friends.

Many of my clients get these kinds of benefits, and it’s huge for them to be able to do these things and to continue to live actively and independently. At the gym they might be deadlifting a kettlebell, but at home they can now complete tasks like easily taking a big bag of water softener salt from the car into the house. I think that's really cool, and I have been able to help a lot of people in this way.

Dragon Door: What are your next goals?

Carl Sipes: The next goal for my business is getting my own building, and I am currently working on that. My own training has lately been geared towards competing in the next Tactical Strength Challenge. I want my clients to keep progressing, and getting more and more out of their training. I want to continue to help them understand why they need to keep training too. I can keep them interested and keep showing them how much they are improving—and how much this effects everyday life. It’s an important thing to understand that this is a lifestyle, so I want to help them understand the goal is to keep training and keep getting stronger.

The idea of an active healthy lifestyle is the number one thing that I use to motivate my clients. I don't train a lot of competitive athletes or many people who come in with a specific goal related to a powerlifting meet or a competition. I help my clients understand that life is their sport, and that it’s non-stop. The better I can teach them how to move and how to do things here in the gym, the better they can do anything outside the gym. When they can see that, I think that's the best motivation I can give them. It's more intrinsic than extrinsic.

I care a lot about the people that I train and am trying to help. I care about each one of them as an individual person. It makes it a lot easier for me to put a ton of effort towards helping them—they’re not just a number to me. I want to know how their grandkids are doing, or how an important event was for them last weekend. I feel like the work is very real then—I am helping out a friend which is always very easy for me to do.

Carl Sipes, RKC Instructor, CK-FMSCarl Sipes, RKC Instructor owns Method Training, LLC in Peoria, Illinois. He can be contacted via his website at methodtrainingofil.com via email at carlsipes@gmail.com or phone 309-339-4849.