The 5 Ps of Passing the HKC

With our next HKC coming soon, and with this event being the 92nd HKC held world wide I thought I would take the time to help some people out. As someone who grew up working in the service industry I simply can’t stand it when people don’t get what they’ve paid for. I really get upset when people pay hard earned money to attend an event, work hard all day long and ultimately leave without the bit of paper they wanted. In most cases this can be easily solved with doing the right preparation beforehand. I’m a big believer in the 5 Ps of success – Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. So, in order, here are the 5 Ps for HKC success:

1. Spend time with an RKC.

It seems so simple, but so far out of the people I have seen attend an HKC and pass on the day (because don’t forget, just because something isn’t correct on the day doesn’t mean that you’ve completely blown it as you have three months to get it right. Although nothing beats passing on the day) they have all spent time with an RKC prior in all but two cases! So, while it is possible to pass, the question you need to ask yourself is are you that rare person, with such great mechanics and athleticism that you can just wing it on the day and pass, or are you like most people and need some coaching beforehand?

2. Know the movements already.

As much as the HKC is an ideal learning tool for people looking to get serious about their training, it is also an instructor certification. As such we expect that you should already have an idea of what you are about to do, and should have already spent a fair amount of time learning about and training with kettlebells. Ideally, you’d have familiarised yourself with the following list of technical points:

Swing –

Swing a kettlebell back between the legs and then in front up to chest level for 10 repetitions, switch hands and do another 10.

  • Back must be flat
  • Heels planted and the knees track toes
  • Working shoulder packed
  • Working arm is straight in bottom position
  • Kettlebell handle stays above the knees during the backswing
  • No forward knee movement on upswing
  • Body forms a straight line on the top of the swing: the hips and knees extend fully, neck neutral
  • Biomechanical breathing match
  • Abs and glutes visibly contract tat the top of the swing

Get Up –

Lie on your back, pick up the kettlebell with both hands and press it with one. Slowly stand up while keeping your loaded arm straight and vertical. Assist yourself by pushing into the ground with the free arm. Slowly reverse the movement.

  • Use both hands to lift the kettlebell from the ground at the start of the exercise and to return it to the ground at the finish
  • Wrist on the kettlebell side is neutral/straight
  • Elbow on the kettlebell side is locked
  • Shoulder on the kettlebell side is packed
  • Shoulder of the free arm does not shrug up
  • Heel of the front foot on the kettlebell side stays planted
  • Knee touches the deck silently when descending into the half-kneeling position

Goblet Squat –

Pick up the kettlebell by its horns and hold it next to your chest. Squat below parallel, rest your elbows inside your knees pushing the latter out, pause, stand up. Repeat 5 times.

  • Back is flat
  • Shoulders are pressed down (scapulae depressed)
  • Neck neutral
  • Heels planted
  • Big toes planted
  • Knees track the toes
  • Elbows push out against the VM in bottom position
  • Ascent initiated with a grunt
  • Hips ascend at the same arte as the shoulders
  • Hips and knees extend fully at the top of the squat

3. Be Physically prepared.

The day is long. We start at 8.30am with sign in and the course starts at 9am sharp. The last one ran until just after 6pm with only a 30 minute lunch break. That’s a lot of training! Within that we spend about 4 hours teaching and breaking down the Swing so that you can teach it and trouble shoot it well. While we expect you to do it perfectly, you also need to be able to teach it too. To be honest, 4 hours seems like a rush when you consider that nearly the entire first day of the RKC is about the Swing (yet another reason why the RKC are so good at what they do – devotion to perfection of movement and detail). Then we split the remaining time between Get Up and Squat. Along the way you will be doing lots of Swings. You will do them in drills and you will do them to grease the groove and perfect your technique. My last count at an HKC was around 800 Swings for the day. If you struggle to do 100 Swings now, what makes you think you’ll be ready for the big day?

One of the tests is a Pull Up test. While for most people it is no big deal the Pull Up is not everyone’s favourite list so here are some clues to help you master the test:

  • Lose weight. Really. If you’re carrying a few kilos too many it makes Pull Ups really hard. Dropping even 2-3kg can make a substantial difference. So ditch the poor food choices and get leaner and watch your Pull Ups improve instantly.
  • Practice static holds at the top position. Do not do these to failure. Jump up, put your chin over the bar and hold it there for a few seconds. Slowly lower yourself down and repeat a few times. Try to do this daily, greasing the groove of your Pull UPs. Allow the volume of your work to help you with this rather than a small number of gut busting painful workouts. Each week try to add time or reps to your efforts.
  • If the static holds are no problem try band assisted Pull Ups.
  • Use Pavel’s ladder method to increase your Pull Ups without fatiguing you. (See either Beyond Bodybuilding or Enter the Kettlebell for more details, available from

4. Swing!


The centre of the RKC universe, and the lift you’ll do the most on the day, is the Swing. If in doubt in your own training add more swings. Sigrun Bishop, who passed at the Brisbane HKC, notes that she did “roughly 4,000 swings in the 5 weeks leading up to the HKC”. And you could tell on the day. She looked rock solid and killed it all day long because of the work she had done prior. My basic instruction for people is to train 4-5 days per week and try to get in 200-300 good quality Hardstyle Swings each time.

5. Practice the movements in your training.

If you can’t figure out what to do in training try a workout like this, which is actually a Dave Whitley workout called the Furnace:

  • Overhead Lunges right
  • Two hand swings
  • Overhead Lunges left
  • Two hand swings
  • Kneeling windmill right
  • Two hand swings
  • Kneeling windmill left
  • Two hand swings
  • 1/2 Get Up right
  • Two hand swings
  • 1/2 Get Up left
  • Two hand swings
  • Full Get Up right
  • Full Get Up left

All exercises are 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off. The final Get Ups should take a full minute each side with 30 seconds up, 30 down. As you get more advanced you could replace the two arm swings with single arm swings on the same side. Alternatively you can replace the swings with Goblet Squats for alternate rounds.

For anyone keen to attend Dave’s workshops and learn more of his brilliance and great programming go here


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2 Responses to “The 5 Ps of Passing the HKC”

  1. Dale Says:

    Thanks for the article. I will share this with all of my HKC victims for the one i am hosting on Dec 4th

  2. Dave Says:

    Wow. An excellent article and pretty much EXACTLY what I was looking for. In planning for 2011 I saw than an HKC is being hosted in my home town and decided to add it to the dream/goal list. ‘Having 16 weeks to prep is great but I had no idea about a specific approach beyond the pull up test and getting an RKC to evaluate form, etc. Thanks again.

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