An Interview With The Iron Tamer David Whitley!

David Whitley, RKC is a kettlebell instructor, strength coach and massage therapist located in Nashville, TN. This interview will tell you more about who he is, mistakes people make, and much more. Check it out.

David Whitley, RKC is a kettlebell instructor, strength coach and massage therapist located in Nashville, TN. He conducts kettlebell workshops across the country and trains clients privately in the Nashville area.

He is also the author of the Power Circuit Workout DVD, which combines kettlebells and bodyweight training and is available at Contact him by email at for online personalized training and phone consultation, and visit his website:

Hi Dave, thank you for being willing to help provide my readers the opportunity to learn more about you and the kettlebell training you do. Let's get started!

[ Q ] Okay Dave, so besides having the best name ever, what should my readers know about you first off?

    A: It is an excellent name if I do say so. I am based in Nashville TN. I have been into training off and on since I was a kid and have been doing it professionally since 2003. I am also a licensed massage therapist and instructor at a massage school in Nashville.

[ Q ] What is your education and training background?

    A: I first became interested in getting strong as a kid. I grew up in a very rural area of southern Tennessee. I was a fat kid who stuttered, and dreaded the day we had to get up and do book reports. I spent a lot of time running around in the woods and I loved comic books and fantasy novels so I really wanted to be the Hulk, Tarzan and Conan when I grew up. Sometimes I think I am still working on that.

    I stayed in pretty good shape until I was in college, then I went on a strict diet of beer and pizza for a few years. I played in a rock band and did all the stuff that goes along with that. Needless to say, it began to take a toll.

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    In my twenties I worked for a few years as a professional musician and when I wasn't doing that I was doing odd jobs until the next paying gig. The entertainment lifestyle is of course famous for destroying people's health so by the time I was about 27 or 28; I was a big, fat, bloated piece of crap physically. By the time I got out of the music business I was a big soft 320lb fatty.

[ Q ] How have you developed your background in strength training?

    A: Deciding I had had enough, I joined a gym, bought a few magazines and began training again. I got very into Mike Mentzer's Heavy Duty system and made progress for about 5 months, then stalled out. Around this time I discovered the internet and the huge amount of info on strength training from the 60's all the way back to the late 1800's.

    That stuff absolutely fascinated me and I wound up doing 20 rep squat cycles alternated with things like 5x5 workouts. I finally started to realize some strength by then. I also got into some other things, martial arts, qigong, and a little yoga, stuff like that. I decided to become a massage therapist and enrolling in school for that got me moving in an even more health conscious direction.

    I kept up with the magazines, one of which was Muscle Media. In early 2003 I read an article by Pavel and saw some info about kettlebells. I remembered seeing photos of old timers using them, but didn't know much else about them. A friend of mine had one and let me play with it.

    Next thing I know I am in Minneapolis training with Pavel at the Russian Kettlebell Challenge Instructor Certification Weekend. It was a life-changing experience for me and I met many friends and mentors there. Steve Maxwell, Mike Mahler, Steve Cotter, Brett Jones and of course Pavel all had a big impact on me. Obviously I wouldn't be telling you this now if not for making that trip.

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[ Q ] Did you have a background in sports and if so what sport or sports were you involved?

    A: I played football in high school, that is really about it. I wasn't a very good football player. I didn't suck, but I wasn't great either. I was a lineman, playing center my junior year and tackle my senior year. I started lifting weights pretty young and played football in high school mostly to gain access to the school weight room.

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    I was average as a football player but loved training. When I was 16 we had a powerlifting contest with a couple of other school football teams and I won my weight class and had the highest total.

[ Q ] Did your Sports Background help fuel your interest in strength training?

    A: Not really, it was the other way around. I just wanted to get big and strong. Sports were secondary.

[ Q ] Are you into Bodybuilding or any other sports now?

    A: I like the UFC and strongman stuff, but that is about all the sports I follow on television, and that isn't very serious. I did get sucked into the Tour de France last year and am looking forward to watching it again this year. Those guys are amazing.

[ Q ] Explain how your training style has evolved over the years?

    A: There was a time I was very gullible and believed most anything I read. I went from a high-set/split routine bodybuilding approach in my teens to the HIT/ Heavy Duty style in my 20's before I met Pavel in my 30's and realized that the approach he teaches is the best way for me to train. It is almost like I worked backward in time to get to where I am now. I am mostly interested in a very old-school approach, updated for modern times.

    I got in martial arts for a several years and really like the carryover of the so-called "underground" approach to fitness and strength. The kind of training I do now actually improves your chances in a fight, instead of making a bigger target.

[ Q ] So why do you like kettlebells?

    A: Kettlebell training gave me a huge paradigm shift. They are versatile, portable, effective and a lot of fun. I enjoy coming up with strange new variations of things and the simple beauty of doing one exercise for lots of reps. They are also a terrific medium for "expressing the human body" as Bruce Lee put it.

    Iron Tamer
    Click Image To Enlarge.
    Kettlebells: Great For
    "Expressing The Human Body."

    What I mean by that is that there is a lot of room for individuality within the exercises themselves. For example, take a look at Mike Mahler and Jeff Martone. Here are two different guys who have put a lot of time and effort into developing individual personalities within their kettlebell training.

    Mike does lots of heavy, double kettlebell work often for low reps and a lot of sets. Jeff has become recognized as the number one guy in the states when it comes to kettlebell juggling and rarely ever uses anything heavier than a 24kg kettlebell.

    My own kettlebell training has evolved through a couple of different phases. After attending the RKC certification, I spent a lot of time drilling a few basic exercises to get a thorough understanding and become a good instructor. After that I got into the sport of competitive kettlebell lifting, which is called Girevoy sport.

    There is a ranking system to the sport and I was the first American to achieve the rank of Candidate for Master of Sports, which is cool, but compared to what the Russians are doing is kinda like graduating from high school. I also won my division at the US national championship in 2005. The technique and training for GS is so specialized and demanding, I eventually grew tired of it.

    I wanted to develop a way to increase endurance and strength while burning fat, so I started putting together early versions of what has become my Power Circuit system. I did a lot of experimentation on myself (and my helpless clients), and came up with some stuff that works very well, although it is in a constant state of evolution and refinement.

    Earlier this year I created a DVD that gives a good over view of the system and contains some follow along workouts. You can get that at

    At this point my own training centers around getting stronger and putting together creative variations of standard exercises. There is a natural progression to it that reminds me a lot of learning to play guitar. At first you just learn the language of the instrument. Next comes copying other people and finally you start finding your own voice or style, so that people recognize it as you. After three years of serious kettlebell training, I feel that I am finally starting to develop my own "style."

[ Q ] So who are you training mostly? Do you have a typical client?

    A: I have run the gamut with the types of clients I have trained with kettlebells. There have been soldiers, police officers, martial artists, corporate executives, doctors, lawyers and stay at home moms. I have had a few people in the entertainment industry as well.

    The common factor among them all is that they are looking for that gets results and is not the same old "20 minutes of cardio in the morning," or "Monday is chest day, Thursday is leg day, etc." They want a challenge and they want to have fun. We have a good time but we work really, really hard too.

[ Q ] What do you feel is the most important aspect of your style of strength & conditioning?

    A: Full body power and training movements instead of muscles. I train the human body as a unit, not a bunch of parts. Every exercise is a full body exercise. Sometimes one area is emphasized more than another, but it is still a full body drill.

    For example, the military press appears to be exclusively an upper-body exercise, however my approach to it is by using full-body tension throughout the entire range of motion. I have had several clients have their quads cramp during pressing once they get the technique and learn to apply the tension.

    Click Image To Enlarge.
    Military Press.

[ Q ] What is a typical workout for you? Do you have some examples you can offer?

    A: I like training the body in they way it is designed by God to move. A few of the sexy & hip catch phrases in the business right now are "functional training," "core training," and the notion of training designed around specific sports movements.

[ Q ] Do you have a mentor or mentors and if so who has played the greatest influence in your current training style?

    A: My parents always told me that I could do anything I wanted if I set my mind to it. I think it has only been in the past few years that I have begun to realize how true that is. They gave me a strong work ethic, which I believe is one of the most important things. Without it, you can have all the knowledge in the world but it doesn't mean anything.

    Iron Tamer
    Click Image To Enlarge.
    I Have A Strong Work Ethic.

    As far as the nuts and bolts of training style, there are guys that I have met that have shaped my approach. Pavel is definitely at the forefront. His philosophy of "practicing the skill of strength" vs. "working out" has played a huge role in my development.

    Mike Mahler, Steve Maxwell, Steve Cotter and Bud Jeffries are a few of the guys I have been fortunate enough to be friends with. Knowing guys like that has definitely affected me for the positive.

[ Q ] What do you think is the biggest mistake people make in their training?

    A: Making things more complicated than they need to be and program hopping. If you do a heavy 5x5 program for a week, moderate-weight circuit training the next week, high rep bodyweight training the next week and a 20-rep squat program on a calorie restricted diet the week after that, should you really be surprised when you get nowhere?

    Whatever program you decide to do, do it and do nothing else for at least 4-6 weeks. If it works, do it some more. Train, eat, sleep, repeat.

    That kind of goes hand in hand with another problem - the "I got to lose a hundred pounds by Friday" mentality. We want it all and we want it now, but the body just isn't designed that way. I think everyone wants to believe that there is some magical solution, but the truth is that the body is quite predictable and none of us are the exception.

    Effort + Consistency + Time = Results.

[ Q ] How do you address regeneration or therapy following intense training?

    A: Being a massage therapist, I can straddle the fence so to speak. For everyone reading this, I can say with 100% certainty that if an athlete isn't getting massage or bodywork on a regular basis, that athlete is not performing at maximum ability, period.

    For some reason that aspect of recovery is something most people think of as a as a luxury when it should be thought of as a necessity. Find a good massage therapist, one who deals with athletes and does some sort of deep tissue work and see for yourself.

    Aside from that, I think our country as a whole is sleep deprived.

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[ Q ] How do you address Nutrition with your clients?

    A: It really depends on the individual goals. Clients get really excited when I tell them that I know the true secret of effective long lasting fat-loss and that if they do what I tell them I guarantee they'll lose body fat. The excitement diminishes when I tell them they need to eat less.

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    I have found that keeping a food journal really helps them too. Most people are eating more than they think they are. A journal solves that problem.

    I personally do better when I limit sweets and things like bread, pasta, etc. I eat a lot of beef, eggs, spinach salads, etc.

[ Q ] What is the best way for people to learn more about you and the services you provide?

    A: Visit my website and sign up for my free newsletter. The site has links to lots of online articles and training information. My contact information is also there. The newsletter comes out periodically and contains current information about what is going on with me, my products, workshops, etc.