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Power Talk With Top Strength Coach Jason Dolby!

Strength coach Jason Dolby explains how he uses Kettlebells to create the best athletic potential in everyone. Find out more from this power talk.

Article Summary:
  • Jason has been involved in some form of athleticism his entire life.
  • Jason views kettlebells as a multitool which can be used many ways.
  • If you're competing, choose an event you like and use contest style bells.

Power Talk With Top Strength Coach And Kettlebell Instructor Jason Dolby!

With a diverse athletic background, including martial arts, football, rock climbing and backpacking, Jason has had experience with many fitness tools and conditioning modalities, but feels that the kettlebell reigns supreme.

Jason Feels That The Kettlebell Reigns Supreme In Fitness Tools And Conditioning Modalities.
+ Click To Enlarge.
Jason Feels That The Kettlebell Reigns Supreme In Fitness Tools
And Conditioning Modalities.

As a personal trainer and competitive kettlebell lifter, Jason feels that the kettlebell builds injury resistance, true endurance strength, core strength, and cardiovascular conditioning all at once.

Aside from improving the health and wellness of the general public, Jason is currently bettering the mobility, conditioning, and athletic performance of firefighters, football players, kettlebell lifters and MMA fighters.

Jason states that "We were never designed to sit all day, whether at the desk, on the couch, in the car, or on a fitness machine! We were designed to move!" Credentials - IKFF (FMD) (CKT), AKC, RKC, Z-Health (Level three), NASM (CPT), MBG (CNT), ART (lower extremity).

IKFF CKT-FMD Level 2 - Jason Dolby!

Jason Dolby doing a quadruple 16kg jerk at the IKFF CKT-FMD Level 2 Course at the TFT Academy in San Diego, CA.

In addition to being an outstanding trainer who is always looking to learn more to help his clients, Jason has a great deal of enthusiasm that is contagious. He is genuine and an exceptional communicator. He uses a variety of training tools and is more concerned with showing his clients a variety of effective ways to train rather than getting tangled in myopic dogma.

Jason is another rare trainer that is willing to put in the research and experience that is necessary to achieve mastery. In addition to his hectic personal training schedule, Jason travels a great deal to be an assistant instructor for the IKFF. He is exactly the kind of trainer that you want to work with to get the best cutting edge information.

[ Mike Mahler ] Tell us about your athletic background. How did you get into strength and conditioning?

    [ Jason Dolby ] My athletic background started in martial arts at a young age. My father has been teaching Soo Bahk Do in Lakewood, Calif. since 1970. It was through this art and the positive influence of my father, that I developed my enthusiasm for fitness and health.

    What Is Soo Bahk Do?
    Soo Bahk Do is the name of the martial art founded and taught by Kwan Jang Nim Hwang Kee, his successor Hwang Hyun Chul, and instructors who are certified by member organizations of the World Moo Duck Kwan, Inc.

    In Korea the indigenous arts of self defense (Soo Bahk Ki and Tae Kyun) were combined with other fighting principles (Northern and Southern Chinese Kung Fu) and moral guidelines such as the philosophy of Do (Tao), No Ja (Lao Tzu) and Kong Ja (Confucius) by Founder Hwang Kee, into what is now known as Soo Bahk Do (Tang Soo Do) Moo Duk Kwan. When developing the martial art, Hwang Kee drew heavily on the the Muye Dobo Tongji, ancient text published in 1790 that translates as The Comprehensive Illustrated Manual of the Martial Arts of Ancient Korea.

    Karate was the only sport I was involved with for most of my youth. Later I began rock climbing, and got serious with backpacking and hiking. When I went through high school, football was my thing along with track and field.

    My father's karate studio was one of the first to have a full weight room. As a young kid I watched my father and his students train hard with free weights and the old universal circuit station machine. By age 14 my father let me begin lifting weights, and it was new and exciting to me. All I knew was the bodyweight training we did for our martial arts conditioning.

    Getting strong was fun and putting on some size was great also because it helped me hold my own in sports and increased my self-confidence during my teenage years. Throughout high school, college and several years after, I continued going to the gym with my buddies to train in a very bodybuilding-type split routine.

    [ JD ] From age 21 to 24 I was a live-in caretaker for my grandfather. During this time I was able to think a lot about what I wanted for my future. I had many great opportunities to chat with my grandfather about what the most important things in life are.

    Those rewarding years of my life helped me realize that I wanted to do something to help others, but also something I had a passion for. Fitness training was the answer for me. Since 1999 I have had the privilege of training and coaching people to achieve their goals and a healthier way of living.

Since 1999 I Have Had The Privilege Of Training And Coaching People To Achieve Their Goals.
+ Click To Enlarge.
Since 1999 I Have Had The Privilege Of Training And Coaching
People To Achieve Their Goals.

[ MM ] When and why did you get into kettlebell training?

    [ JD ] Four years ago a friend of mine had told me about his new kettlebell workout and wanted me to stop by his gym so I could see what he was talking about. At first I was a bit skeptical. The kettlebell looked silly to me.

    He demonstrated a hand-to-hand swing and asked me to try it. I laughed and then gave it a shot. I wasn't laughing 20 seconds later, after I had to put down the kettlebell because I was gassesd out! I was confused!

    It was at this moment I realized that all my leg pressing, benching, and lat pulldowns didn't help me very much in my underwhelming display of real world strength! What I had was gym strength, not "true strength". This motivated me to change that. I got my own kettlebells, was determined to get better and I was diligent with my training.

    A couple of other trainers and I hired Steve Cotter to come up to Los Angeles and teach a Full Kontact kettlebell workshop. After the wonderful day of punishment and superb instruction from Steve Cotter, I was even more motivated than before.

    Since then I have challenged myself to continue bettering my kettlebell lifting technique and coaching skills by learning from those who have more experience than I do.

[ MM ] Do you think kettlebell training is a fit for everyone or is there a particular type of trainee that will get the most benefit?

    [ JD ] The type of trainee that will benefit most from kettlebell training is anyone who is interested in decreasing risk of back injury, gaining true strength, increasing stamina and burning calories.

Do You Use Kettlebells In Your Training Routine?

Yes They Are Great.
Those Balls With Handles? No Thanks.
What's A Kettlebell?

    During dynamic natural human movement, the kettlebell becomes a loaded extension of the body. This is exactly why chiropractors and physical therapists are now gaining interest in the role kettlebells can play in rehabilitation. The hand to hand swing alone could potentially prevent millions of serious back injuries nation wide.

    Whether an athlete or an office manager, a chef or a deckhand, I believe that almost anyone can benefit from kettlebell training. Individuals with unsafe kinetic chain imbalances and who are in desperate need of neural re-education may have better success by initially holding off on kettlebell training and seeking more appropriate methodologies.

[ MM ] There is a debate on the merits of various applications of kettlebell training. Some argue that the sole purpose of the kettlebell is for work capacity and that kettlebells are made for jerks and snatches. Others argue that kettlebells work great as a weight training implement. What is your take?

    [ JD ] I say there is nothing to debate about. Kettlebells can be used to prop your door open, tie your dog to, flatten aluminum cans, display your favorite magnet, drive in a nail when you can't find the hammer, or to enter the house when you can't find your key. Use the kettlebell for whatever you want!

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    Ask yourself what your goal is with the kettlebell, then make the appropriate decision in how to achieve your goal. If you want bigger biceps, then do preacher curls with it. If you want to do more consecutive jerks, then do more consecutive jerks. Do whatever you like with the kettle, just know what your objective is first. If someone is using kettlebells differently than you are, it doesn't mean they are wrong, their goals may just differ from yours.

[ MM ] Do kettlebells work well when combined with other training implements or should the trainee focus solely on kettlebell training?

    [ JD ] I think kettlebells blend well with other strength training tools and fitness modalities. Basketball and football players could incorporate kettlebell swings just after sprinting to the top of a hill before walking down to repeat. With the kettlebells at the top of the hill, the athlete can incorporate some interval strength endurance into what was just an interval endurance workout.

I Think Kettlebells Blend Well With Other Strength Training Tools And Fitness Modalities.
+ Click To Enlarge.
I Think Kettlebells Blend Well With Other Strength Training
Tools And Fitness Modalities.

    A powerlifter could do a minute of swings or snatches immediately after a set of squats. This would add some strength endurance to a workout that was just strength based. By training this way, the powerlifter's recovery rate would greatly improve, and during a meet he/she would feel 110% rested between lifts.

    One workout I like for full body conditioning is kettlebell single arm push presses mixed with torso bag slams for several rounds. One of my favorite workouts for legs and back is my "Trap Bar/KB Ladder." I load my trap bar with enough weight so I can only deadlift it ten times, then I line up pairs of kettlebells in front of the bar, heaviest to lightest and spaced three feet apart.

    I begin with the deadlifts and then immediately hop to the kettlebell double cleans, doing as many as I can with each pair until I reach the end of the ladder. Deadlifting first will prime your nervous system to handle the extra heavy cleans without a problem.

    The possibilities of blending the bells with different tools is limited only by your imagination. Yet, if you are less than four months away from your kettlebell competition, I would suggest using the sport bells for at least 80% of your training.

[ MM ] What are you using kettlebells for with your own training and what are your current training goals?

    [ JD ] I am currently using kettlebells every other day and remaining focused on building my endurance strength and bettering my technique for GS. I do lots of interval sets of jerks and clean and jerks. I am also doing a ton of assistance drills to help turn my weaknesses into strengths.

    Having an equal amount of respect for rest days as I do for training days has made a huge impact on my progress. The goal I am most focused on is to achieve Master of Sport in the Long Cycle. Consistency in training along with adequate rest and a relaxed attitude will make this possible.

[ MM ] The Kettlebell Sport is becoming popular and many trainees want to dive in and compete. How would you recommend they get started with training for kettlebell sport competitions?

    [ JD ] For anyone interested in kettlebell sport, before just jumping into a competition, I would recommend a few things. First choose which event you enjoy enough to put lots of hours into. If you feel that the snatch is your strength, then maybe you can work the jerk into your training and compete in the Biathlon, (jerk/snatch). If you have a very strong back, feel comfortable with jerks but don't care for snatches, then the Long Cycle, (clean & jerk), might be a fit for you.

Choose Which Event You Enjoy Enough To Put Lots Of Hours Into.
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Choose Which Event You Enjoy Enough To Put Lots Of Hours Into.

    After choosing your event, you can now go to work. If you choose to compete with the 24kg's, I recommend owning or having access to pairs of 16kg's, 20kg's, 24kg's and 28kg's. If you choose to compete with the 32kg's I would recommend getting your hands on pairs of 24kg's, 28kg's, 32kg's and 36kg's.

    From there you can try working up to 10 minutes with a given pair of kettlebells, then work on increasing the number of repetitions in the 10 minutes. When you are satisfied with your numbers, you can now jump to a heavier pair of bells and repeat the process.

    Another effective way to prepare yourself is to choose a pair of kettlebells and do 10 one minute or 5 2-minute interval sets and each week decrease the rest periods between them until there is no rest at all.

    You can choose either method or you can experiment with both. The most important thing is to choose what works best for you as the individual. Lastly, working with a good coach who has great knowledge and experience will speed up your progress on the platform.

[ MM ] You are a big fan of the competition style kettlebells. Please explain why they are your preference?

    [ JD ] I really enjoy training and teaching with the competition style kettlebells. I have been using the comp style kettlebells for my self and my clients since 2007. I had used the cast iron bells for a long time prior to my sport bell introduction, and still consider them to be great tools. Yet, I knew there was something special about the competition kettlebells the moment I got my hands on them! They felt great in the rack position and I knew my clients would appreciate the handles, due to the smaller diameter.

    To any kettlebell lifter who has only trained with the cast irons, the uniformity of the sport bells might be a bit puzzling at first, due to the identical size and shape regardless of weight. The idea is simple, but genius! Whether you are training with the competition kettlebells to compete in the sport or just to get stronger, once you have honed your technique, you're done!

    Once your nervous system allows you to adapt to your rack position and hand placement, you will never need to relearn it. Now you can save time by focusing on developing more strength and strength endurance without constantly having to readjust for a larger and larger bell.

Once You Adapt To Your Rack Position And Hand Placement, You Will Never Need To Relearn It.
+ Click To Enlarge.
Once You Adapt To Your Rack Position And Hand Placement,
You Will Never Need To Relearn It.

    When we played basketball on the playground as kids we never had a middle school size ball, then a high school size ball, then a college size ball, no, we had a "basketball" and a ten foot rim! We adapted with efficiency.

    The smaller diameter handle of the competition bell has really helped me keep my thumb on my index finger when holding on to the bell. This allows my grip to last much longer, allowing me to work longer, yielding greater results in performance and strength endurance. (for more info on competition style kettlebells, go to: Competition kettlebells)

[ MM ] What are some common mistakes that people make with kettlebell training?

    [ JD ] Some of the most common mistakes that I see people making with kettlebells involve the incorporation of slow speed into very dynamic exercises. Most of these problems arise when someone learns an exercise from YouTube University instead of learning from a qualified instructor.

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    For example, if it takes someone 10 seconds to do a swing or a snatch, 5 seconds up, 5 seconds down, they are missing the boat. They are also putting themselves at risk of injury. Kettlebell swings and snatches are very dynamic movements and if they are slowed to a crawl, undesired stress will be immediately placed on the joints of the shoulder and lumbar spine. Move the bell quickly to the top of the exercise, and please, let gravity do it's job on the way down.

    Another big mistake I see kettlebell lifters making is trying to make somebody else's rack position work for them. Try finding a position that works best for your body type. This will allow you to conserve more energy by supporting the kettlebell with your passive structures, not your active ones. This will yield more repetitions and/or more weight to be moved.

[ MM ] Should beginner focus on unilateral kettlebell work or can they start with double kettlebell training?

    [ JD ] If a person has never used kettlebells before and wants to dive right into double kettlebell work, they can, yet I would suggest working with a single bell first. Many people already have a solid feel for working with dumbbells and barbells, but kettlebells are different enough to create a bit of a learning curve.

    Learning some of the basic moves with a single bell will keep the complexity low and allow for a smooth development of new neural pathways, rewarding you with a foundation of coordination.

    Louie Simmons is famous for his conjugate method for powerlifting. For those, not familiar instead of working on the primary lifts as the focal point (bench press, squat, deadlift) they instead do similar lifts and rotate them often. As a result they can push each exercise hard and then switch to another one before they burn out.

    Do you think there is any benefit in applying this principle to kettlebell sport training? In other words, instead of just working on the actual comp lifts exclusively (Jerk, clean and jerk, snatch) rotate in other kettlebell exercises and similar exercises with other implements all-together.

    I think it's ok for kettlebell competitors to use different exercises in their training, especially when the meet is a ways away. If the exercise makes sense and will improve your overall true strength and structural integrity, then try it out.

    If it benefits you, keep it, if it doesn't help you, dump it. For example, barbell front squats, full or partial, are nice because you can work with a much heavier load and you are still front loaded, like kettlebells in the rack. Sometimes I will even take some time off of double kettlebell work and focus on some heavy one-arm jerks and presses.

    Working unilaterally for a while is a nice little break for the nervous system. It's the same exercise but because the total load is less, you can use a heavy bell, forcing the connective tissue in your joints to adapt and get stronger one side at a time. The carryover is excellent. Play with different lifts and drills to see what works great for you.

[ MM ] You are going to be doing a section on the benefits of Indian Club training at the Age of Quarrel courses in the fall. What are the benefits of such training? Is it only for hardcore trainees or can the average trainee benefit as well?

    [ JD ] At the Age of Quarrel workshops I will be teaching a sequence of Indian club drills that will help people maintain shoulder health. Training with Indian clubs on a daily basis is a great way to prevent injuries in our shoulder, scapula, elbow and wrist joints.

Injury Prevention Training.

Louie Simmons demonstrates injury prevention training with the Indian clubs.

    When used while the body is relaxed and free of tension, the clubs will create dynamic traction in the shoulder girdle, helping to loosen stubborn connective tissue and tight muscles. The Indian clubs are very light, usually from 1 to 3 pounds, so anyone can benefit from them, regardless of individual strength level.

    Though they are light, the weight is at the ends of the clubs, so as they fall, there is an exponential loading factor. This is why by using the Indian clubs, we can open up the shoulder joints more so than by arm movement alone. The Indian clubs are to the shoulders, what the kettlebell is to the low back. I'm really looking forward to sharing the benefits of the clubs at the course.

[ MM ] Thanks Jason. Looking forward to working with you in the fall.

Jason is available for private lessons and workshops in the Los Angeles area. For more info, go to Jason's Webpage.

About The Author:

Mike Mahler is a strength trainer and fitness information provider. He is currently work on a new book "Live Life Aggressively! What Self help gurus don't want you to know". Sign up for his free online magazine at

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