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Are Kettlebell Certifications Too Expensive?

In June of 2009 I attended the RKC (Russian Kettlebell Challenge) certification in St. Paul, Minnesota. I am a librarian, not a personal trainer. I went for personal reasons–read: I thought I would have a lot of fun. That turned out to be true. I enjoyed the three days quite a bit, but I was not there for the same reasons as everyone else. I was one of a handful of people who were not actually working in the fitness industry in some capacity.

For the three day workshop I paid $2000 plus airfare. I paid six months in advance or it would have been nearly a grand more. Those numbers might sound ridiculous to you. They sounded pretty steep to me, but I really wanted to do it. I sold some old rare books that I owned and was able to afford the trip.

Why are kettlebell certifications expensive?

Because we’re sending the message that we’ll pay whatever price is put in front of us.

I have looked at a few other certs and while some are much cheaper than the RKC cert, all cost a minimum of a few hundred dollars. The prices are set based on the value that is provided. And of course, the higher the price, the higher the perceived value, according to several of the tiresome marketing books I have read.

People ask me sometimes how much they should charge for personal training clients. The marketing answer is “You’re worth whatever someone will pay you.” I disagree with that, although I understand the attraction on the side of the person making the money. It would be stupid to charge less from a financial standpoint, until people convince you that they won’t pay the asking price.

The money pays for the instructor’s time, of course. And what do you learn from the instructors?

At the certification I learned how to swing a kettlebell. And do a Turkish get up. And the military press and goblet squat. And the kettlebell snatch. And that cost me $2000. Was it worth it? Who knows? How can you possibly begin to quantify the worth of “Now I know how to press a kb exactly the way that those guys do it?”

I can’t. I have heard a lot of people say that their income skyrocketed after getting a kettlebell instructor certification, but the highest paid personal trainer I know is a Senior RKC and he told me that nobody has ever come to him because he is an RKC. He always has to explain what it stands for.

For me, a passionate amateur, the RKC weekend was a fun way to meet people I had only interacted with online, and a reason to travel. I had fun. At the same time, it quickly became apparent that the course is only the beginning of an endless sales funnel. Again, smart marketing, I don’t begrudge them that. When I left the RKC I course, I was positive I needed to return for the Level 2 course or I couldn’t possibly make progress. I needed more books. I needed the DVDs.

That was not true, of course. Great training gains take commitment, persistence, curiosity, and some weights to use. That’s it. Not a certification, not $3000, just a willingness to learn. I had a good time but I could have easily learned the material right up the street from my house where a certified RKC lives.

I do not have any ill will towards this kettlebell system. Some people have put together a great marketing gimmick and they reel people in just like they did with me. I ate it up and I’m not sorry I went–it was a good learning experience. More than anything I saw the power of camaraderie in action. It is fun to belong to a group. It is fun to participate in something that feels like it’s on the fringe. I can see people paying for that feeling over and over.

But I do not believe that any certification is necessary to make progress. If you’ve followed my training at all you know I no longer train with these principles and have made a lot more progress since leaving the RKC methods behind. That’s all I care about with my training: progress and quality of life.

I also work in the library, however, so I’m partial to the Poor Man’s University concept. I like to figure things out for myself.

So my final verdict, which is of course highly subjective, is that if you think that the price points of the various kettlebell certifications are expensive, then you’re right. They say you get what you pay for, but these prices are simply pulled out of the air because we’re willing to pay them. They would plummet if we sent the message that they were too high.

The cost of something conveys the perception of value, not value itself. That doesn’t mean the service isn’t valuable because it is expensive, but it’s not a given. Just think it over before ever spending money on a sales pitch typed in ALL CAPS.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Duke January 5, 2011, 4:28 pm

    Finally an honest review of the rkc. I had my share of $1000+ dollar fitness/certification seminars and I’ve felt the same as you. I have a personal laundry list of certs and yes no client (take that back, had 1) has seeked me out as a result. I won’t say it’s a waste, I learned allot and excellent for a resume, but never assumed it would automatically generate clients. My biggest hesitationn towards dragon door is from reading their books. Good basic info, but massively hyped and full of fillers. Thank you for post. You’ve sold me on not failing for the hype yet again.

    • Josh Hanagarne January 5, 2011, 4:37 pm

      You’re welcome Duke. Please let me know if you ever want to talk about anything or compare notes. Thanks for stopping by!

      • Richard July 30, 2011, 3:58 pm

        I am planning to take RKC cert next year in St Paul Minnesota, at first I want to take IKFF but I was sold to the idea that RKC is the number one. Upon reading your article, honestly I am having second thought. I am a personal trainer for over 15 years now and I can say I can swing, snatch, clean and press kb with an excellent technique. All acquired through research and constant practice. My only reason why I want to take RKC is it is good in paper. In this commercialized world we live in, all those big letters says a lot. The more big letters u can attach to your name, the better it sound but that doesn’t mean you are good trainer at all.

        • Dave May 4, 2012, 11:47 am

          – Richard,

          I’m considering kettlebell certification in July, and the program is dispersed in 3 modules at $250/module at Kfit USA. Take a look below:

          For the price it doesn’t seem too steep at all, especially for my budget and as a Kbell enthusiast for about four months now. Honestly, I’ve known quite a bit of personal trainers over the years and it all comes down to who you know and how much of yourself you’re willing to put out there for the business.

          • Josh Hanagarne May 4, 2012, 1:07 pm

            Thanks for the comment Dave. Good luck with the cert.

  • Laura Machuca May 13, 2012, 8:41 pm

    I just became certified in kettlebell this weekend by the International Kettlebell Sport and Fitness Academy (IKSFA). While IKFF courses are good, IKSFA is by far the most rigorous and thorough. This organization is working hard to make kettlebell standards, especially in sport, more uniform. The cost is also less than that of other courses. If you go, you’ll be taught by world master of sport, Sergey Rudnev, simply one of the best teachers around. You won’t be disappointed! See iksfa.com for more info.