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Dragon Door Interviews RKC Team Leader, Darius Gilbert

Darius Gilbert training with Marty Gallagher
Dragon Door: How did you first find kettlebells?

Darius Gilbert: A good friend introduced them to me—Glenn Seth, one of the first original RKCs back when it first started in 2001. I was a trainer at Gold’s Gym, and was in a functional fitness mode, and doing the typical functional exercises using Bosu balls, Swissballs, and all kinds of crazy stuff. At the same time, Glenn was over in the corner working with just a few heavy kettlebells. He was also a trainer at Gold’s and had tried to get me to try kettlebells for a long time—finally I decided to give it a shot. Immediately I was impressed and realized that I’d never felt this way before while working out. Kettlebells really effected me, and right from the start I knew that I’d have to get into it. I went to NYC, took some courses, bought some kettlebells, then came back and just started training. The moment I tried them the first time, I knew it was for me. Being an athlete I know when something feels right, and kettlebell training felt great. I jumped into it and soon signed up for the RKC. Everything happened quickly as I first tried kettlebells in 2007, then went for my RKC in 2008. I knew right away that kettlebells were for me.

Dragon Door: You have an extensive athletic background in football and basketball, how does that effect your training?

Darius Gilbert: Being an athlete, I always love to be in shape and love to train. Also, kettlebells are just perfect for how we want to train our athletes at my gym. I’d say that I’m the perfect testimonial because I still feel just as strong, explosive, and capable of doing many of the same things I did when I played football at the University of Virginia. I know I’m training the right way because at age 40 I can still keep up with the 18 year old kids we train, and still dunk a basketball. Also, I don’t have any injuries and I’ve never been injured during training—I’m always feeling good and explosive. Kettlebells are the perfect tool for what our athletes need, because we don't like to load them with a lot of heavy barbell work. At first, most of the kids who come in to train with us don't move very well, so we start to work on their mobility, movement competency and core stability—and kettlebells have been just perfect for that. Our athletes really take off after training with kettlebells.

Dragon Door: Do you mostly train athletes at your gym?

Darius Gilbert: We also lead classes for general fitness, but we do specialize in training youth athletes.

Dragon Door: What are some of the results you've seen with your athletes and general fitness trainees?

Darius Gilbert: Within our general fitness clients, we have a group who’ve been training with me for about 4 years. Nearly every lady in that class can snatch a 53lb kettlebell for reps, and a few of them can clean and jerk 72lb kettlebells! They are all really strong ladies, really fit, and they look great! They train four times a week with no injuries. But, we’ve also had people come to us with bad backs and our training has helped them recover. In other words, we’ve had some of the same client transformations you hear about from other RKCs.

BRYC's U16 soccer team trained with us for 8 weeks over the winter, and they won the U16 National Championship. We also trained a baseball team which had only won 2 out of 14 games during the year before training with us. After they trained with us, they went nearly undefeated winning 15 out of 16 games. Hockey players also do really well with our training—in fact, one of my pro-athlete clients is a leading scorer for a hockey league in Norway. All our athletes are really thriving with kettlebells, TRX, and bodyweight. Because we know the results that they need, and have the right tools, the training becomes very simple.

Right now we are building three soccer teams that are gearing up for the spring. We are also doing a lot with Futsal—indoor soccer which is becoming very popular right now. We have a Futsal Academy and one of my coaches is actually a former US National Futsal team member, and has played professional soccer. He will be getting RKC certified, and we want him to be able to take these kids from the soccer field straight to the weight room. We also have a Tennis Academy with some high level tennis players coaching, including a young lady who will be turning pro next year.

Darius Gilbert trains young athletes at a wrestling camp
Dragon Door: What are some of your favorite movements for athletes?

Darius Gilbert: We do many moves from the floor and from blocks—dead cleans, squat cleans, dead snatches—all with low reps and performed very explosively. We're not trying to punish our athletes! We also do a lot of double kettlebell work, and we use a good amount of weight. Favorite moves for double kettlebells are just basics like double front squats, double swings, and double clean and press. Of course we also love deadlifts, single leg deadlifts and the Turkish get-up. It’s all very simple, but that’s what we do here.

Dragon Door: What is your favorite kettlebell exercise?

Darius Gilbert: I love double kettlebell clean and presses, and really any double kettlebell work. I like taking double bells from the floor—just like an old-time strongman move—double cleans from the floor, with a strict press. Sometimes we like to put our clients through a Sig Klein challenge, where they try to get 13-15 good reps from the floor with the double clean and press.

I'm a simple guy. I love to loaded up with double kettlebells. I like to choose big bang for the buck exercises and don't like to waste time just doing something random—I don't have a lot of spare time, so when I work out, I need to make it count. And I just love double bell work—it feels good. Admittedly I also like to workout with barbells from time to time. Marty Gallagher is a close friend of mine and an influence, so sometimes I like to load myself up with a back squat every now and then too.

Dragon Door: How long have you been a gym owner?

Darius Gilbert: I’ve been in business since 2007, but my current gym is my new company which is only about 8 months old. My training facility is all new. When I started back in 2007, one of my original business partners was Karen Smith before she moved to Virginia Beach, and my other partner at the time was more concerned with health related training—we didn’t work with athletes at that time. A little less than a year ago I decided that I wanted to start working with athletes and go in the direction of working with teams.

At my gym, we often like to use kettlebells where others might use barbells. I've sent my staff to train with Coach Mike Boyle—the strength coach for the Boston Red Sox—and we've had Charlie Winegroff, Dr. Craig Leibenson, Dr. Perry Nickelston and Brett Jones lead seminars at our facility. We use many of their concepts then add a lot of our own to put together programs for our athletes.

Dragon Door: How many trainers are working at your gym?

Darius Gilbert: I have five trainers and a massage therapist. One is an RKC, another is CSCS and works with athletes at George Mason. They are all preparing for RKC certification by this summer. They will all also be attending the PCC Instructor Certification Workshop that we are hosting. Our staff is very excited about everything that’s happening now.

In the past, I've hosted what were probably the two largest HKC certs here with Brett Jones. Recently, John Du Cane and Andrea Du Cane reached out to me about hosting more events. Working with Dragon Door just makes sense from a business standpoint, especially with how we want to move forward with our gym.

After doing some research on the PCC, I realized that it has a lot of what our clients need, especially since many of our young athletes need to be trained with bodyweight exercises. I wanted to learn more about it, as did our staff, so we decided to host the workshop. We are so excited about it!

Darius Gilbert training young athletes
In preparation for the PCC, I’ve been adding handstands, handstand push ups, pistols and other bodyweight exercises to my workouts. It’s been a while since I’ve worked on handstands.

We are working to have a full physical therapy staff next door to our gym and Dr. Perry Nickelston is coming here to teach a Neurokinetic Therapy course. We've got a lot going on!

I am fortunate to be in an area where sports performance is a big deal. There isn't another facility nearby that offers our services. We are growing really fast, and it just feels great. I want people to understand the benefits of kettlebells, but I also want them to know what Dragon Door is all about. I think that with the team John Du Cane has put together, we can really take everything we do to a whole new level.

Dragon Door: What will you bring to your new RKC Team Leader position?

Darius Gilbert: Experience. I have worked with, trained, and helped a lot of athletes. And I have hosted the two biggest HKC workshops. I've been an RKC since 2008 and I've trained 20+ people in preparation for their RKC certifications. From a business standpoint, I feel like I could really be an asset to the Dragon Door community. I know how to start a business with no money and how to grow it to the point where 5-6 staff members are necessary. I think anyone in the Dragon Door community can take kettlebell training and create a viable business by helping others with fitness or athletic performance.

DariusGilbertMartyDeadlift thumbnailRKC Team Leader Darius Gilbert Owns Dynamic Sport Performance in Alexandria, Virginia. His website is and he can be reached by phone at 703-209-8696 or by email at