Fitness club manager, Brett Jones, his wife, and his Marine Corps brother transform themselves with the magic of kettlebells

January 18, 2011 09:47 AM

Russian Kettlebell Challenge Workshop participant Brett Jones and Pavel Tsatsouline

Brett Jones ran a hospital-based wellness program for five years before taking a managerial position at the prestigious Duquesne Club Health and Fitness Center in Pittsburgh, PA. Currently, he is in the process of starting up a personal training operation, and will specialize in kettlebell instruction. He received Russian Kettlebell Challenge certification in February of 2002.

Currently, I am more on the management end of a private fitness club, Duquesne Club Health and Fitness Center. I've been working there since the middle of June of '02. For 5 years prior to that, I was running a hospital-based wellness program, called Wellness Works. Before I made the switch to fitness, I was an athletic trainer; I took care of athletic injuries.

Currently I'm in the process of updating my instructor page, getting a website together, starting some workshops, and getting individual clients so I can make the switch to doing kettlebell training and personal training on a full-time basis. It would be Pittsburgh-based, and would be primarily home visits. I'm hoping to have a couple of athletes in there; there are four professional sports teams in the area. Maybe, eventually a studio, but that's a ways off. We'll wait on that.

Christmas of '01, I got my first kettlebell ( a 1.5 pood ). I'd say about four months prior to that is when I started bugging my wife and in-laws for a kettlebell for Christmas. The poor UPS guy—he barely made it to the porch, then my mother-in-law had to carry it upstairs, which was tough on her. Then at Christmas, I got a box with a little piece of paper in it. I had to go upstairs and bring the kettlebell down, 'cause no one was going to walk it downstairs but me.

I had found out about Pavel and Dragon Door through a friend of mine, who had worked with Ethan Reeve when he was still at the University of Ohio. I started with Power to the People, got interested in that, and then got interested in the kettlebells. Spent a lot of time staring at the Vitalics pages, checking out the kettlebell information. I bought the RKC book and tried to do the program minimum, which was with a dumbbell. Tried some swings, and damn near died. It worked me in a way I had never experienced. I had felt like I was in pretty decent shape, but the kettlebell swings or snatches with the dumbbell just destroyed me. I figured that was probably something I wanted to look into.

I kind of kept doing dumbbell stuff until December of '01, when I got my first kettlebell. I got certified in February of '02. Basically, I knew there was a lot I needed to learn about kettlebells. Getting the certification, since there weren't a lot of certified people out at that time, was one of the only opportunities to learn more about how to use the kettlebell. I was working' at a hospital then, and they paid for continuing education stuff, and the hospital was the one to pick up the tab. It was amazing. And actually, the kettlebell certification was good for continuing education units, for my NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) certification.

From a physical standpoint, I guess the best way to say it is, I'm the athlete I've always thought I would be. I was always the type of kid who could barely make it halfway up the net-I wasn't horribly athletic. I can now get the rim; I find myself able to hop into a wide variety of activities and do pretty well right off the bat.

My strength levels are where I never thought they would be. Physically, I'm exceeding all of my expectations. Therefore, I have increased confidence from a personal standpoint. I feel really good about everything.

Professionally, I think that I finally found something that I can take and make my own and do with other people. I'd always hesitated getting into the strict personal training end of things, because if I was going to do anything, it was always somebody else's thing. With the kettlebell being so adaptable and workable for a wide variety of people and situations, I feel like I have something that I can take and make my own, and have something that's unique and marketable and beneficial to the people I work with.

One of the best success stories I can give right now is my wife, who has just completely transformed her body. She had just kind of accepted that she was never going to be the size that she wanted to be. And she'd always been a real small girl—5'1", 115 lbs. At 31, she had gotten to 130 lbs.

She's back into zeros and ones—clothing size. She's really just shrunk all over. She can't believe her arms—you know, she was buying shirts and they'd be tight on her arms. She can't believe how toned her arms are, and how her stomach's come along, and how her legs have shrunk, and her butt's shaped.

It was funny: We had bought a Bowflex. She said, "I want a Bowflex," and I'm like, "Okay." I got on the phone, ordered it, and got it—and she never used it. You know, she got on a couple of times and did it and didn't feel it. She's not happy with it. So she got an Orbitrek, and started doing regular cardiovascular exercise, which is a good beginning, and something she'll alternate days with even now.

But then eventually I came back from the RKC seminar and started showing her some of the things I'd learned. Pretty soon, we'd ordered an eight-kilo kettlebell. I started with her just doing real simple swings. Just load your hips, snap, load your hips, snap. Do a couple of windmills. Just started her real small.

She kicked my butt Sunday night when we did a workout. We were doing snatches, and she's snatching a 16-kilo now, and she was doing 3x3 an arm and I was doing 5x5 with a 40. So we'd rest a minute, do it again, and by the end of that I'm kind of tired, and she's looking at me like, so what are we doing now? Then we go to clean-and-jerk—density training. And I was like, "We gotta go to a one-minute rest," and she was like, "Ugh, all right." And we finished the workout and I was like, "That was a good workout," and she was like, "Yeah. Pretty good."

You can see that her self-confidence has really come along. She's much stronger; a much more fit person. I'm very proud of her. Instruction-wise, I will demonstrate and I will show and help correct, and then I get away. I back off, because she wants to do it. And she sticks with it. She's never stuck with an exercise program in her life. She loves kettlebells. She's done amazingly well.

My brother, to give you another example, is sold on bodyweight exercises. Loves 'em. More pull-ups and push-ups, and different stuff that he's learned. And I was telling him, "You'd really like kettlebells." So finally, I sent him the RKC book (which I've never gotten back). So he grabs a dumbbell and he starts doing some of the stuff, and he calls me and says, "Hey, I ordered a whole set!" I'm like, "What!? What did you do?" He ordered his wife an eight and 12, and ordered the 16, 24, and 32 for himself. He said, "I figured I'd get them all at once so I could progress," which was real smart. But I was like, "Why didn't you tell me? I could've gotten you a discount." He was like, "No, no, I wanted to get them."

He now has five to eight Marine Corps guys on base who work out with him pretty much everyday. He's hammering the swings and snatches and windmills and presses, and he's combining them with some pull-ups and stuff. He's had a lot of injuries. He's had lower back surgery, stuff with his shoulders—bad rotator cuffs. He's really been banged up, and he can't believe how much better he's moving and how much more powerful he is, even just in the month or two months he's been training with kettlebells. And it's usually that quick. You get them in their hands, they start popping their hips, and things start happening. It's awesome.

Anybody that wants to perform gets these things in their hands and they just know. You just pick it up and you know.

Kara Jones at the June 2003 Russian Kettlebell Challenge Workshop Kettlebell Success — Fitness Club Manager Brett Jones receives a 'correction' from Chief Instructor Pavel Tsatsouline Kara Jones works out at the June 2003 Russian Kettlebell Challenge Workshop

Brett and his wife Kara at the June 03 RKC