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RKC Team Leader Dorothee Appel's Kettlebell Press Challenge

Dorothee Appel Press Challenge

Dragon Door: We heard that you were running a popular kettlebell press challenge online. What inspired you to create it?

Dorothee Appel: I started it in the first of November. A few things happened that brought the challenge together. First, some of the people who are prepping for their RKC-II in March asked me for a press plan so that they would be ready for the heavy press test. Many people get a little concerned that they won’t be able to press the heavy weight in testing.

Then I realized that Winter was coming—and that’s when everyone gets a little sloppy with their nutrition and training. It’s also dark during this time of year and the mood goes down. Then it all gets worse through the end of the year after everyone has had too much food around Christmas! Even if people make New Year’s resolutions, they start executing those while weak and overfed. They usually stop two weeks in and then they’re back at square one.

So, I played with the idea that we could end this year with a challenge. We’d work to get as strong as possible until the end of the year and start 2019 as the strongest version of ourselves. This challenge would also let me test an online program I was currently working on. I could help people reach their goals, stay on track over Christmastime and experiment with running and overseeing an online training program.

One day in the middle of October, when I was pressing in a workout, I eventually put it all together and posted on Instagram that we should do a press challenge starting in November. I am woman of my word. After I posted this, I knew we had to do it, and I began to create the press challenge plan.

There are two goals the participants can chose from in the challenge—one for beginners or those who have not pressed very much before, and one for those who have done thousands of presses and are working towards a heavy press goal.

The challenge starts with an entry test and a set of onboarding videos that I created to make things easier. The videos answer most of the questions people have about the challenge and about pressing. Of course, I am still answering individual questions, too. The onboarding video tutorials explain the kettlebell press as well as every other exercise in the challenge. There’s even a 15 minute tutorial about pressing technique.

Originally my goal was to have 40 people in the program—and I thought that if I could get at least 40 people involved, then it would be a good program to run. But, almost 200 people signed up! It’s really cool and the group has developed its own dynamic. Everyone is following the program, getting better and even working together—the pros and the beginners. At first, I didn’t even think that total beginners would even want to be involved.

Dragon Door: Wow! That is really cool! I love the idea of the testing and onboarding videos. How are you ensuring that participants are paying attention to the tutorials, even if they think they already know what they are doing?

Dorothee Appel: It's good for the beginners because they see how the kettlebell press works, and will gain a better understanding of it. For the trainers (even those who have gone to the RKC and teach kettlebell techniques) is good to review their knowledge. In the videos I repeat the most important things—where you should look, how the press should feel, breathing, putting the core together, packing the shoulder—it’s good to hear it all again.

Dragon Door: We all need review! I bought a book recently knowing that I probably already knew most of what was in it, but I was happy to pay to be reminded all over again.

Dorothee Appel: Exactly. That's why I love to attend all the RKC workshops, especially when they are taught by different Master RKCs. Everybody has a slightly different approach and you can always add something to your toolbox.

Dragon Door: Are the people who are participating in the press challenge mostly from your local gym?

Dorothee Appel: No, they’re from all over Germany.

Dragon Door: And it’s in the German language?

Dorothee Appel: Yes, although many people have written to ask if I could do some of the videos in English, too. I think it would be worthwhile to translate some of the tutorials. First I want to approach the German market a little more, since there is not as much kettlebell information available in German.

Dragon Door: What happens during the onboarding and the next steps?

Dorothee Appel: During the onboarding, they have to do three tests. Two mobility tests: an overhead reach and a toe touch just to make sure that they can do a clean, swing, and press. If you can't hold your hand overhead, then it's not worth it to press a weight overhead. They had to send me a video for this if they wanted to participate in the challenge—and everybody did it, it is amazing! Lastly, there’s an entry test for pressing. I wanted them to press a little and find their 80% press. From there, the whole plan goes into different directions in reference to this weight depending on what exercises and challenges they will do.

Dragon Door: How many different exercises are you using in the challenge?

Dorothee Appel: That depends, especially with the two different goals to choose from. The first plan is three days a week, and the second plan is four days a week. Each plan has different exercises but there is always one press, something for the core, and something to connect the core with the glutes. The goal is to improve every position of the press.

Dragon Door: It looks like you're doing the challenge along with them, are you?

Dorothee Appel: I am.

Dragon Door: What's your goal?

Dorothee Appel: Actually, it's funny, because pressing always came easy to me—even before the RKC. It was the only exercise I could do without any problems, and I could press a 16kg kettlebell easily. I decided to work on pressing and in two years I ended up at 24kg—and stopped. Then, I saw a video of you (Adrienne) pressing a 28kg and asked myself why stop at 24kg? I knew I could even go heavier, so I started to press more. After pressing 28kg, I did other things for a while. My goal now is to get to 28kg again—or maybe a little heavier, who knows! I want to find the most I can press.

Dragon Door: I need to get back to pressing the 28kg too, it’s out of rotation at the moment but I've always got a 24kg press. If I don't then I know there's something I need to work on. Your challenge is so exciting, it’s great to focus on strength and a skill.

Dorothee Appel: So many people are in the group now, I am also doing live sessions every Saturday. The first live session was about all the onboarding process because there were still some unanswered questions.

The second live session was about kettlebell safety—what to do, what not to do, when to have a spotter, and the golden rules of spotting. Basically, how to train safely. People have been very interested so far. I always think that they already know everything, but they don’t! The third live session was all about breathing, plus the HKC and RKC certifications and their requirements. Many of the participants are interested in the RKC certification.

The fourth session was my first joint livestream, and it was with Germany’s most famous strongman and RKC-II, Frank Delventhal. We talked for an hour about goal setting, how to develop a future vision, journaling (of which I am a big fan), and why all of these practices will make you successful and happy.

Dragon Door: How long does the challenge last and when does it all end?

Dorothee Appel: At the end of the year, exactly on New Year's eve. But people of course can still participate in it afterwards, too. Some participants have onboarded later.

Dragon Door: What will happen at the end of a given challenge?

Dorothee Appel: The people on the first plan are supposed to work towards five presses on each side with their snatch test kettlebell, and the group on the second plan will press the heaviest kettlebell that they can.

Dragon Door: That's when you're pressing the 30kg, right?

Dorothee Appel: Well, I did a bottom-up press with a 24kg kettlebell last week.

Dragon Door: WOW! I'd love to see that—and do that as well! There seem to be a lot of very strong RKCs in Germany right now.

Dorothee Appel: At the moment there's a lot happening in Germany. We have a lot of new RKC Team Leaders and the whole leadership here has been very focused on RKC preparation. We’ve developed a series of workshops based around the Big Six—they aren’t certifications of course, but they’re based on preparation for the RKC and learning how to work with kettlebells.

We also have RKC preparation weekends at regular intervals before the RKC certifications to help people work towards their goals and passing the tests. At the moment I think the standard in Germany is pretty good and everyone seems to have really good technique when they get to the RKC. Almost everyone rocks the snatch test.

And when people come together for the preparation workshops, they form groups and they train together. The whole standard improves and they all get better. Everybody wins.

Dragon Door: It’s great to go to a workshop with a friend and then compare notes. But, back to your challenge... are you designing specific workouts for the three and four training days of each group? How does the training part of your challenge work?

Dorothee Appel: Yes, and every workout is just about 30 minutes with an optional 10 minute finisher. You can integrate the whole thing into your training for the day, which shouldn’t have any other pressing of course. Overall, it's a 60-day program. I think everybody is able to find 30 minutes somewhere in their day. I also started to develop play days—off days where we don’t lift heavy but where we try different variations of the press. Last week I added the straddle press to help with a little mobility. I don’t want the participants to do too much on these days, it’s optional active rest that’s a little more like loaded stretching.

Dragon Door: Where can people go to learn more about your challenge and watch your videos?

Dorothee Appel: They have to join our Facebook Group called "Press Challenge Last 60." It’s named for the last 60 days of the year.

Dragon Door: This is such a creative way to get people involved with kettlebell training, and I would also imagine also with the HKC and RKC.

Dorothee Appel: Yes, and I am also mentioning the HKC and RKC workshops as another goal. I think the challenge is a very good way to start or stay motivated to work with kettlebells.

DorotheeAppelPressChallenge thumbnailDorothee Appel, RKC Team Leader, Diploma in Business Administration, Certified Psychological Consultant, PCC Instructor, Athletic Trainer, Certified Personal Trainer, Cofounder Die Athletenschmiede Düsseldorf, Founder Paleo4me, Founder, Founder Kettlebell Düsseldorf. Follow her on Facebook at, Instagram: coachdoro, YouTube: Coach Doro. To learn more about the Press challenge, join the presschallengelast60 group on Facebook.