Phil Ross demonstrates the health of his spine and shoulder by pressing Cathy Raimonda

Phil Ross demonstrates the health of his spine and shoulder by pressing Cathy Raimonda

I don’t know how many of you know much of history, but in September of 2011, I suffered a spinal cord injury and sustained permanent damage. In December of 2011, four levels of my neck were operated on. I underwent framenectamy, lamanectamy as well as other procedures to alleviate my spinal stenosis and remove the osteophyte that created my spinal edema (scar on my spinal cord). Needless to say, I couldn’t even hold a piece of paper in my hand until after the operation. Immediately after the surgery, I could not even bottoms up press a 10KG! (Now I can do the 28KG).
My son Spencer is 17 and one of the top ranked high school aged throwers in the country. He’s an RKC and is quite strong. I wanted to put a little more size on him, so I started incorporating some barbell training into his routine. We started doing dead lifts. I used to be able to rip 505 lbs of of the ground, but no more. Once I got over 305, my right hand (the side most adversely effected by the injury) would simply give out. I was getting very frustrated. During one training session, he suggested that I try to single leg barbell deadlifts. What a great suggestion! I’d been doing the Dual Bell Kettlebell Deadlifts for years, but it never dawned on me to do them with a barbell. At this point, I’m doing 185 max for my sets of 6 and my hand has no issue holding bar.
The point of the story is to simply talk about my deadlift numbers, but to listen to others and look outside o the box – especially when it comes to your own training. I’ve never had an issue coming up with solutions for others, but solving my own issue took listening to my kid!

Master Phil Ross poses with New Crowned AMMO Fight League Champion Zack Fox

Master Phil Ross poses with New Crowned AMMO Fight League Champion Zack Fox

South Windsor, CT: AMMO Fight League. On Saturday, May 11th, Zack Fox of the American Eagle MMA/ Team Alliance Fight Team won two divisions and secured the Cruiserweight Submission Fighting Title Belt at the Second AMMO Fight League Championships. The tournament was heavily attended by Gracie Jiu Jitsu Schools and the American Eagle MMA fighter was the only representative from Team Alliance Jiu Jitsu. There were Professional MMA Fighters from the Bellatore as well as Team Link Jiu Jitsu fighters in attendance.

Fox finished two opponents via Submission Armbar and one by a dominant decision enroute his title belt. This is Zack’s 4th Championship in a row. He won 1st at the NAGA Nationals last November, 1st palce at the NAGA World Championships in April and now the AMMO Fight League title winning first place in both Gi and No Gi Competitions.


Zack Fox, NAGA Cruiser-weight Champion

Zack Fox, NAGA Cruiser-weight Champion

Mennen Sports Arena, Morristown, NJ, April 20th & 21st; The North American Grappling Association: NAGA, 
held the the 2013 World Championships. There were teams from Poland, Brazil, China as well as the top US Teams from all over the country. Team Alliance, Gracie Jiu Jitsu, Wilkes Warriors and even the US Naval Academy entered 17 Mid-Shipmen from their Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Competition team.

Two of Phil Ross’s American Eagle MMA/Team Alliance BJJ students earned titles at the two-day event. Zack Fox from Wykoff won the Criuser-weight (190-199) No-Gi contest and 12 year old Julian Rigg from Allendale secured the Gold in Gi and a Silver in the No-Gi children’s competition. Zack’s Gold came after his NAGA National Gold in November.
For more information on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Martial Arts or Kettlebells call 201-612-1429 or

Zack Fox began his Martial Arts training here at American Eagle MMA in June of 2012. However, Zack arrived at the AEMMA Academy with quite a solid list of athletic accomplishments. Zack was a High School All American Lacrosse player for Don Bosco Prep and an NCAA Division 1 Recruit for St. John’s University. Zack was also a Jr. National Power Lifting Champion and now at a weight of 195lbs, has a bench press of 520, a squat of 680 and pulls another 680 in the dead lift.

Despite having no wrestling experience or any other prior combat experience, Zack began competing in Jiu Jitsu after only 5 weeks of training at the AEMMA Academy. He placed second in the White Belt Gi Division after training only 9 weeks and after only 3 months of training he secured his first Championship at the NAGA North American Championships on November 17th, 2012. We are anticipating a lot of achievements from this young competitor. Zack is also HKC Kettlebell Certified and is a personal strength & fitness trainer at the AEMMA Academy.

On April 20th, 2013, Zack Fox added a NAGA World Championship to his list of accomplishments. He won the Cruiserweight, Beginner Title in the No-Gi Competition.

Never Say Die

You hear it all of the time “Never Say Die”. You see the athlete in competition, whether its MMA, a Grappling Match, a Track Meet or a Football game – the sport does not matter, only the actions that lead to the end result. The participant is behind and it seems as if all is lost and then the tide shifts and the athlete that appeared to be done for surges and emerges victorious.

Everyone wants to win. Wanting to win is not the hard part. Sacrificing everyday in your training, your eating habits and ignoring distractions; that is the difficult task. You need to make your training your priority – no room for excuses – make it to your workouts and push yourself to get better, stronger and faster. Excuses for failure are common, find a way to succeed.

How does this happen? How does one develop this “Never Say Die” attitude? Can it be developed? Or is it only in certain people?

There are certain people born with an innate inner toughness, but if it’s not cultivated, they burn out and lose it over time. Others seem to develop, grow tougher and more resilient over time. How is this done?

There is one sure fire way to develop this Never Say Die attitude, Train Hard. Yes, the more that you sacrifice and persevere, the more you become committed to succeed and less you are able to tolerate failure. There are many times when a combatant is in a scramble, they could easily give in and let their opponent win, yet they do not allow this to happen. The time, effort and pain endured in training comes through and they “dig deep” into their soul and put forth another effort. Training with purpose will not only harden your body, but your mind as well.

When you are training, think to yourself “What is my opponent doing? Is he training like I am? Is he sparring those extra rounds, running that additional mile and performing those few more reps? Is he pushing through the pain?” You will never be able to answer those questions, until after the contest. The best chance of success that you have is to train to your best ability and don’t make excuses for not training.

The more that you put in, the more that you will be prepared to win. Take the Samurai for example. They were in Life and Death Battles. If they lost, they were dead. In order to win, they needed to have supreme confidence. They developed this confidence through their daily training regiment and discipline. The tenants espoused by the Samurai are ones that we can base our training on to develop our Never Say Die attitude.

As Always – Train Hard & Train Often.

Muscle Confusion: Hype or Reality? 

Since the advent of the P90X video series, the notion of “Muscle Confusion” seems to be on everyone’s lips and has replaced conversations of Core Based Workouts as the main concern for fitness enthusiasts. We’ll tackle the notion of the elusive “Core” in another blog.

Muscle confusion has been a very popular training method for many, many years. Yes – the P90X does a good job at leading you through your daily routine, but the program does not take into consideration the varying degrees of fitness, athletic ability, age and other stressors that the potential customer base may possess. I am not here to bash the P90X series. On one hand it has inspired many people to lose weight, get in shape and improve their lives, on the other hand many people have become injured while using it. I have personally worked with several clients, of various ages, that came to me after doing the PX90 series and incurring injuries. People have injured their backs, knees, hips and shoulders.

If you read the book by Arnold Schwartzeneggar: The Education of A Bodybuilder. I read this book in 1978 and it had an incredible impact on me. While attending the University of Maryland I participated in a workout session with the Barbarian Brothers, Peter & David Paul. They were filming of the movie DC Cab with Mr. T & Gary Bussey. My friend’s dad owned the Gold’s Gym in Wheaton, Maryland and he invited a few of us guys down for the workout session. The book by Arnold, the workout session with the Barbarian Brothers and countless other strength and fitness athletes have always stressed “Varying the Workout”, “Shock the Muscles”, “Change your Routine”. That is the only true way to stimulate growth and achieve higher levels of fitness.

Why is it so important? Why can’t I just stick with my set of exercises? Why can’t I simply run the same amount and the same route every time? Why – because the body gets stale with the same routine. You need to “force” the body to respond to varied loads and/or movements. Soreness from your workout should be the norm. If you do not experience soreness on a regular basis, you are not developing. If you have hit platues with your strength or your times running or find that you are dreading training; you need to varying your routine. Not to mention the fact of repetitive stress injuries that the same routine breed.

When you do your roadwork, you need to vary the terrain, the distance and the level of intensity that you run. Example: If you run three times a week, session one, do a 3 mile mile run at 80 percent your capability. Next session, do interval training or what runners call the “Float”. Go to the track and run a 200 hard, then at 50%. Do this for several laps, in accordance to your fitness level and ability. The third session of the week, go for a long run at an easy pace, 65 to 70%. This is just an example for one week. I’ll address running programs in more detail in future blogs.

Kettlebell Training: Lends itself to Muscle Confusion better than any other method available. Personally, I know several hundred movement variations with the Kettlebell. There are also a plethora of workout delivery methods with a Kettlebell. Complexes, Chains, Powerdure, 4×8’s, Combined Kettlebell and Body weight routines, Scrambled eggs, Strength, Endurance, Flexibility, Explosive Power Focus. One of the differentiators  with Kettlebells, is that you have the ability to either focus on one of the phases of training or mix and match the methods in any combination that make sense or that keeps your workout interesting. You also need to employ the various levels of intensity to your workouts. You can’t go 100% every workout. This is another subject that I will cover in greater detail in a future blog. Hey – I have to keep you coming back for more!

Yes – Muscle Confusion is a reality and has great merit, but it’s not new or revolutionary – It’s just simply good.

Train Hard & Train Often!

What’s your motivation? (and how to keep it)

A seemingly simple question to answer, but whatever your motivation to train is, it must be more compelling than distractions that will dissuade you from your fitness commitment. Maybe you want to be the best fighter in the world, or your grandfather died of a young age due to his weight, you were mugged or picked on as a child. There could also be positive motivations: the quest to be the best that you can be, to stay in or get in great shape, for the enjoyment of training, stress relief, competition with others and yourself. Unless your motivation is harmful to others, there is no right or wrong reason to train, as long as it keeps you working out and improving yourself – it’s good.

Many of the the reasons that are our original motivation to train do not last forever. Example – let’s say you want to make the Varsity Football Team. You have to get bigger, faster, stronger and learn the skill set for your desired position. OK – you’ve made the team, now the season ends and your are graduating high school. There’s no way that you are going to play in college, yet you really enjoyed the way that you felt and how your body looked and performed when you were working out. Now you have a different motivation.

Just like rotating your workout schedule, you need to alter your motivational factors from time to time. If you start a new martial art with the goal of becoming a Black Belt and then a few months later decide to enter a triathlon.  They are quite different goals, but the training for one will help the other. Keep fresh motivation, shot range goals and try different motivations.

I have plenty of clients that come in want to lose weight. They have now lost their 80 lbs (yes, this did happen), what do they do now? Just keeping the weight off as a goal may not be motivating enough. The person knows that they must keep working out – but what is the motivating factor? This person wants to be able to do a pull-up and start the martial arts. They can achieve the new goal because of their former motivation.

I’ve had other clients that wanted to get off of all of their blood pressure and cholesterol medications. Avoiding death is a reasonably strong motivator. Now that the client is off of the pills, what’s his new motivation? He now wants to be able to snatch a 24kg (53 lb) kettlebell 100 times. That’s a very respectable goal and new motivation. He had to change his motivation since his former goal to train had been met.

The point of all of this is to get you to think of new goals, new motivations and new methods to keep you inspired to continue your training. There are many excuses for failure – find the reason to succeed!

As Always: Train Hard and Train Often!

I was recently interviewed by Reggie Malz, a reporter for I urge you to view the site. They have a section dedicated to Combat Sports. That aside, following you wil find the interview. Happy Reading!

How old can children be when they start lifting with kettlebells?

I have trained a few children as young as 9, but they were the exceptions. They were National caliber wrestlers. Plus, I used relatively low weights. focused on body tension, form, body weight exercises & repetition. Generally, I would not start training a child until age 11 or 12. Standard weigh training, I would wait until they are 13 to 15, dependent upon their physical development. 

You may start training children with kettlebells at an earlier age than you do with standard barbells because the amount of weight that one trains with is generally a great deal less with the kettlebell than you need with a standard barbell. You get more out of kettlebell training pound for pound than you do with a barbell. It’s less taxing on the joints.

What type of training and activities do you offer through your program?

With my S.W.A.T. Kettlebell based training system we incorporate the kettlebell movements from the RKC Hard Style of training as taught by Pavel Tsatsouline, plyometrics, VO2Max (Maximum Oxygen Uptake), body weight, mobility and other speed and explosive power enhancing movements. Therefore, strength, endurance, flexibility, durability and athletic ability are all enhanced. 

In addition to Kettlebell training, we offer a full Martial Arts Training Program for children, adults and teens. We have martial arts for 3 to 5 year old children, MMA for those 6 to 12. That program includes our Kidjitsu grappling training. We also have a full MMA curriculum and No-Gi Submission fighting taught by me and a Boxing class instructed by Joe Rubino, a former North American Kickboxing and East Coast Boxing Champion and we are a certified Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Center with the #1 BJJ Team in the World – Alliance Jiu Jitsu.

What kind of sports would be great to use kettlebell training with?

Being Combat Sports orientated, my program attracts a great deal of MMA fighters, Martial Artists and Wrestlers. However, due to the nature of the athletic movements of the the kettlebell exercise and the body weight training, we have a substantial number of clients representing other sports as well, notably Track & Field, Volleyball, Baseball, Football, Golf, Gymnastics, Triathletes, Tennis and Basketball – to name a few. A great deal of professional and college teams employ the use of kettlebell training. Some of the first to do so were the Tennessee Titans, Boston Celtics and the New York Yankees. The Titans had 13 wins the year after they started KB training and both the Celtics and the Yankees won World Titles after they had started. Now virtually all of the major sports teams use Kettlebells. 

Not only does the training appeal to athletes. I have clients from all walks of life training at the center. Physicians – in particular surgeons, physical therapists and chiropractors all train with KBs. Kettlebells also appeal to Law Enforcement Officers, Fire Fighters and Military Servicemen. Due to the both physically and mentally stressful occupations, the kettlebell training provides a fantastic means of stress release and full body conditioning. 

We also service quite a few clients that simply want to lose weight and get stronger and healthier. The kettlebell is an extremely time efficient tool to achieve those goals. You can burn up to 1200 calories per hour with Kettlebell Training. This is extremely appealing to people form all walks of life.  

What kind of risks and injuries are associated with the kettlebells?

In my humble opinion, the Kettlebell is the #1 overall training tool. However, as with most ballistic type of training there is a significant amount of skill required to execute the the techniques both safely and effectively. Without proper training, you may expose your shoulders, backs. elbows, wrists and knees to injury. However with proper tension and form, one actually can heal many ailments and misalignments. The forearms can get overworked as well with all the grip work involved. So proper stretching and rotation of exercises is tantamount. 

Since there is a great deal of grip work involved in the the Kettlebell Training, Body Weight Training is essential due to the hand positions required for the handstands, crows, wall push-ups, standard push-ups and other associated exercises. These movements counteract the adverse effects on the forearms that one or the other alone would inflict.    

How much does the training cost?

OK – you asked – so I’m going to make some shameless plugs! From $0 to $1900. The cost varies and you get what you pay for. If you go to Youtube and base your training solely what you can download for free, be wary. Even though there is some good material on Youtube, there are some very poor examples of training and exercises. Only use Youtube once you have had some solid instruction. This will allow you to sift through the garbage and make an educated decision on what training is valid or not. You could also take and HKC ($599) or and RKC ($1995) Certification Course. The RKC is considered the Gold Standard in Kettlebell Training and I highly recommend the organization for the serious Kettlebell Enthusiast.

Private sessions vary from trainer to trainer and area of the country. I would recommend seeking out your local RKC Certified Instructor and setting up a set of sessions with them. All certified instructors are listed Go to the Instructor Section and plug in your Zip Code.

At my studio, we offer an Introductory 3 week Special for Only $39. We are that confident in our program. I also offer an online Kettlebell Video Training Course with 12 Workouts, Warm-ups, Body Weight, Instruction on over 22 movements and a 37 page Electronic Manual for only $49. You may download this from

There are also workshops and seminars. I will be hosting a 5 hour Kettlebell Basics Plus Workshop on December 4th. The cost for that is $149. 

As you can see, there is quite a wide range of costs involved. But with the right instructor, it’s more than worth it. Your training will be much better and safer. 

Our Martial Arts training is available for anywhere from $79 to $169/month. We have a 1 month introductory special for $99 – that also includes a student uniform.  

How often should someone work out with the kettlebells?

That is another benefit to training with Kettlebells. Three times a week is all that you need. This will allow you to focus on training for your sport, instead of concerning yourself with “Leg Day or Chest Day, etc…” For the busy fitness enthusiast, you are able to hit your whole body with resistance, cardio and flexibility training in a relatively short amount of time.  

Anything to add:

There are many other methods of training available, many of them are fantastic. Is it possible to get the gains form the other methods as well? Yes, but it will take much more time and a plethora of equipment. I have not seen any single method that address all of the facets that Kettlebell and Body Weight Training do. By employing the use of your own body and kettlebell training, you replace barbells, machines, bands, ropes, hand grips, treadmills, elliptical trainers, sand bags, medicine balls, etc… The kettlebell is the most versatile training tool on the planet.