Flexible Steel Instructor Certification, Part 1

Greetings, all!

It has been longer since my last post than I prefer, but for the best of all possible reasons: I have had some wonderful projects developing within my professional life.

For one thing, I have been working on a “30 Days of Kind Movement” email series that I’m very excited about. It’s not yet ready to be released, but even just the act of working on it is filling me with inspiration!

For another thing, I have continued writing for StrongFirst, and have also recently begun writing for GymCloud’s blog; my first post on that site will be up soon, and I’m already plugging away at my next post.

And, on top of all of that, I was recently promoted to Personal Training Coordinator at the Eastside YMCA, which provides me with wonderful opportunities to be of service to both members and trainers.

So you could definitely say that I’ve been busy!

However, I recently had an experience that was so illuminating and transformative that I knew I had to write about it sooner rather than later: this past weekend, I traveled to Montreal to receive the Flexible Steel Level 1 Instructor Certification in a course taught by Louka Kurcer at Hardstyle Kettlebell MTL.

All of my students know that I prioritize the development of both strength and flexibility for all people, rather than simply focusing on one or the other (or, worse yet, neither!). Furthermore, I have read Jon Engum‘s book Flexible Steeland refer to it frequently as I aspire to improve the strength, mobility, and flexibility of both myself and my students.

As a result, it should come as no surprise that becoming a Flexible Steel Instructor has been on my bucket list for several years; after all, “Flexible Steel is a comprehensive training system with a main premise to be both strong and flexible in perfect balance. In other words, not be strong to the detriment of your flexibility and to not be flexible to the detriment of your strength.”

I was also excited to get to meet and train with Louka, who I have followed online for several years: through that time, I developed a deep admiration for his knowledge and approach, and was eager to learn from him in person.

So, I went… and I’m immensely glad I did! I couldn’t possibly fit the entire experience into a single blog post, and so I am going to focus on just a few of the highlights of my experience as a student at the certification; after I have incorporated some of these methods with more of my students, I will make a follow-up post on how the Flexible Steel approach to movement has been of benefit to them.

And, with no further ado, here is just a small sampling of what I experienced at the Flexible Steel certification:

The Three Ss

In the Flexible Steel certification, there is a focus on “the three main principles of power stretching,” which are referred to as the 3 Ss: Strength, Space, and Spread.

To offer a somewhat simplified explanation of these principles, Strength refers to the ways in which muscular force can help with movement; Space refers to utilizing traction and visualization to enable joints to move through a greater range; and Spread refers to the importance of allowing the entire body to assist with a movement, rather than simply focusing on a single joint’s action. After all, the body is a unified system!

So, this all sounds well and good… but does it work?

It does! Below, you will see a series of images that were taken at the certification: the first one is a baseline measurement of me doing a rotational movement drill, the second is an image of my incorporating strength, and the final one incorporates all three Ss (I didn’t get an image of me attempting the drill with strength and space before I integrated spread, but as you would expect it was in between the range of the second and third images). Keep in mind that these pictures were all taken within a few minutes of each other: the only factor that changed was implementation of Flexible Steel methods!

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How’s that for some impressive improvement?!

Squats Like Whoa

I make no secret about the fact that I have struggled with honing my squat form. For one thing, it’s true; for another thing, I think it is perfectly acceptable for coaches to publicly acknowledge that we face struggles and challenges in our training, just as our students do.

And so it was that I was hopeful but somewhat skeptical that I would be able to significantly improve my squat in a single day: after all, it’s been a process that I’ve been working on quite literally for years.

And yet…

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My squat at the beginning of the day: acceptable enough, but with less-than-optimal neck position, a less-than neutral spine, and some compensation in my knees due to moderate ankle mobility restriction.
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My squat at the end of the day: significant improvement in every single one of the aforementioned areas!!

Not only did my goblet squat improve, but I successfully completed free-standing Cossack squats for the first time ever; previously, I had only been able to do them with the assistance of a TRX. I even added in a Sots press into my Cossak squats during one round, which definitely presented me with a challenge: I’ll be working on honing the Cossack squat (with and without presses) in my future training!

Splits: Progress, Not (Yet) Perfection

One of my goals at the start of the weekend was to get into the splits in at least one direction.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t… yet.

(Shown: some out-of-order images of the process of using Flexible Steel methods towards getting into splits.)

However, I learned many tools, techniques, and drills that will enable me to reach my split-related goals before long.

More importantly, I also learned about how to program mobility drills and power stretches in ways will enable me and my students to all progress not just within a single day, but steadily and sustainably over the long term.

And that right there is even more significant than a single achievement.

Because, in the end, this certification was not about how to benefit me; it was about how I can use these methods to help benefit the performance and lives of my students.

In fact, that was a truth that was acknowledged throughout the certification. For every drill, each participant had a partner, and our partners changed frequently—thereby giving us all opportunities to coach Flexible Steel methods to different people with different bodies and levels of flexibility and mobility.

Which, of course, is key. The value of a certification isn’t just in the information: it’s in the degree to which that information can be effectively used to help others.

In that regard, the Flexible Steel certification is a resounding success… which, as I mentioned, you will read about in a future post regarding how what I learned this weekend will enable me to introduce my students to new levels of strength and flexibility.

If you are interested in learning about how Flexible Steel methods can help you move better and get stronger, please contact me, Louka, or another Flexible Steel-certified instructor. Don’t sell your potential short! You are worth it.

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