At Chicago Primal Gym, our mission is simple:

We aim to ignite and inspire the full potential in all of our members.

If you’ve spent any time at CPG, you know that the primary way we do this is by teaching the skill of strength. We’re firm believers in StrongFirst’s core principle that strength has a greater purpose.

While teaching strength principles is relatively straightforward, CPG’s group training setting presents specific obstacles throughout the progression from new student to advanced kettlebeller.

Each student starts with a different training background and a unique set of limitations and capabilities. In addition, all students learn and attend at different rates. Lastly, each class presents a unique mix of students all working at different levels.


We’re Not Like Other Gyms

Most group training gyms take the easy way out with cookie-cutter, self-limiting, cardio-centric workouts. Plateaus and boredom from a lack of skill progression are the norms.

At CPG, we’re absolutely committed to developing the fullest potential of every student with STRENGTH as the teacher!

The process of trying to individualize a training program in a group setting has always been one of our top priorities and our biggest challenges. With a growing membership and coaching staff, we wanted to take the time to thoroughly detail CPG’s proprietary Strength Mastery System.


The Primal Difference

The SMS was built around very specific principles:

  • Experience. Deliver a remarkable training experience for every member in every class
  • Skill Development. Teach all members technical kettlebell skills
  • Mastery. Provide an appropriate amount of time to master those skills
  • Transparency. Give members a clear understanding of their individual training progression
  • Recognition. Create specific measurable milestones members could strive to achieve
  • Results. Maximize performance and results for all members by building strength
  • Safety. Ensure the safety of all members

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The SMS is a simple “roadmap” all of our members can follow. It was specifically designed to build an individual’s strength and skill in a safe and sustainable fashion over time.

The six kettlebell exercises broken into our four-level system are called the Deep 6:

  • Swing
  • Getup
  • Squat
  • Clean
  • Press
  • Snatch

Members progressively acquire new skills and master more challenging movements throughout the SMS. Each level contains exercises you are TRAINING, those you are LEARNING, and the specific TEST OUT measures to graduate to the next level.

If you focus solely on mastering and building strength with the exercises in your level you will set yourself up for massive success within the primal program.

Let’s take a look at each level in the SMS, starting with the Protege level.

primal protege

The Protege level is for newer individuals who are just learning the basics.

Maybe you have never used kettlebells in your life and are wondering what the hell everyone around you is doing “swinging” these weights between their legs. Maybe you have significant experience weight training but have never touched a kettlebell.

Welcome to the start of your glorious primal training journey!

In this level, you will quickly start training the Kettlebell Deadlift, the Goblet Squat, and other Primal Elements (crawling, pushing and pulling different implements, carrying heavy stuff, sprinting on the fan bike, etc).

Proteges build a foundation of core stability and full body control through a variety of movements, setting the stage for a safe voyage to #gainzville.

Yet, the goal of the protege level is to learn the 2H Swing and the Getup. That’s it.

Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of learning only two movements. Training these two exercises alone can develop incredible strength and produce serious body composition results.

The kettlebell swing and getup are the centers of the primal universe and every kettlebell exercise you learn from here on out will be influenced by your proficiency in these two.

Your test out of Protege into Swinger is simple: 100 2-Hand Swings and 10 Getups (5 per side) in 20 minutes.

Protege Test Out Goals 

  • Deadlift: Women 32k x5, Men 48k x5.
  • 2H Swings & Getups: Women 16k swings, 12k getups. Men 24k swings, 20k getups.

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Once you learn the 2H Swing and the Getup it’s time to build a foundation of strength.

In the Swinger level, you are training the swing and getup as you are learning the 1-Hand Swing. The 1H Swing is a different beast as it challenges your body’s ability to resist rotation as you perform your swing.

This rotational component increases the difficulty of the movement, building serious grip, hip, and core strength.

The 1H Swing is also the pre-requisite to learning the Clean, Front Squat, Press, and Snatch.

Your ability to execute high-quality 2H and 1H Swings will determine the rate at which you progress through the Deep 6 kettlebell exercises.

Taking your time at the Swinger level is crucial.

Remember, the goal is not to speed through the system, but to take pride in the process of building strength and skill over time.

The test out of the Swinger level is a 100 Swing and 10 Getup test just as with the Protege level. However, the weight increases (for the getup), time decreases, and we now test 1H swing instead of 2H swing.

Swinger Test Out Goals

  • 2H Swing Goal: Women 20k, Men 32k for solid sets of 10.
  • 1H Swings & Getups: Women 16k, Men 24k. 100 + 10 in 15 minutes.

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Up until this point in our system, your training has been predominantly focused on Swings and Getups.

It is called Strength Mastery, not Strength “I did it a handful of times with okay technique, can I do something different now?”

Reaching the Swinger+ level indicates a level of commitment and determination only the strong (like you) possess.

In this level, you turn your 1H Swings into single and double bell Cleans and Front Squats (FSQ).

The kettlebell clean is an especially challenging exercise to perform, as it teaches you to tame the arc of the kettlebell and direct the energy of the bells into a strong rack position. This rack position is essential for the execution of kettlebell FSQs and eventually Presses.

Many students struggle with the high-impact nature of Cleans.

It is not uncommon to bang up your wrists, forearms, biceps, and pecs as you improve your technique. Additionally, double KB FSQs force students to grind through a full motion, creating massive core tension and producing serious strength in the hips and legs.

The toughness needed to master the kettlebell Clean and FSQ cannot be overstated.

In order to test out of the Swinger+ level, you must display perfect technique on one set of 1H Swings and Getups with one bell size larger than the standard bells tested in the Swinger level. You also need to display crisp technique on a set of 5 Cleans and 5 double FSQs with the standard size bells.

Standard size bells are 16k for Women and 24k for men. 

Swinger+ Test Out Goals

  • 1H Swing & Getup: Women 20k, Men 32k for. 1H Swing (10) and Getup (1/1).
  • DBL Cleans & FSQs: Women 16k, Men 24k. 5 reps each exercise.

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The Ninja level is the final step in mastering the Deep 6 kettlebell skills.

In this level, we teach the elite strength skills needed to master the kettlebell Press and Snatch. These two exercises are the most challenging of the Deep 6 skills, as they require near perfect overhead mobility and stability.

Becoming a Primal Ninja is no easy task. In this level, you are either learning or training all of the core kettlebell lifts in our curriculum.

By taking the time to master each of these exercises you have developed a skill set you can pull from for the rest of your life.

The kettlebell has now become your most valuable fitness tool. You can combine the Deep 6 exercises to produce limitless variety and can train just about anywhere with a single bell.

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Yet, your kettlebell education does not end by becoming a Ninja. We’ve developed an entire chapter of skills privy only to those who test out of the Primal Ninja level.

Graduating out of the Ninja level includes testing in line with the StrongFirst Level 1 kettlebell instructor requirements. Specifically, Ninjas must show perfect technique test on all of the Deep 6 Kettlebell Skills and successfully complete a 5-minute snatch test.

Taking your training to this level is an ultimate test of patience and continuity of the training process.

Test out of Ninja level and you receive the coveted Primal Master status.

Ninja Test Out Goals

  • Technique test on the 1H Swing, Getup, Clean, FSQ, Press, Snatch: Women 16k, Men 24k
  • 5-Minute Snatch Test: Women 16k, Men 24k. 100 reps.


Okay, cool system. I just joined, how do I get started?

GREAT question.

Strength and skill are sexy for sure. You know what’s even sexier? The pre-requisite mobility and stability needed to perform these movements safely and effectively. 

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When you first join CPG you will be taken through a Movement Quality Assessment. During this assessment, we will cover three foundational qualities every primal member must have:

Your screen results will be logged and our coaches will be informed of your specific restrictions (if any). We’ll give you the ultimate “heads up” on what exercises are and are NOT safe for you to perform and why.

If the screen uncovers movement limitations you need to clear up before we dive into intense training, you will be sent a specific exercise regimen designed to eliminate restrictions and enhance your performance.

Note, if your screen indicates you have a restriction it does not mean you cannot start training.

All it means is that we do not want to put you in a situation that could put your body at risk for injury. It’s never a good idea to build strength on top of dysfunction.Because injuries suck. Injuries crush the primal dream.

Because injuries suck. Injuries crush the primal dream.



How do I progress through the Strength Mastery System?

In order to progress through CPGs training system, you need to be able to,

  • Train the skills you do know
  • Learn and develop your skill with more challenging exercises
  • Test out by displaying mastery of the exercises within your level

But how do you train the skills you know, while simultaneously learning new ones?

What if the program isn’t specifically working on the skills you need to progress to the next level?

On top of that, how and when do you test into the next level of training?

These are important questions, especially when your sole focus is progressing from level to level. In order to answer those questions we created a specific calendar of events dedicated to:

  • Level specific workshops designed to improve your skills
  • Strength Mastery test out dates so you know exactly when you have the opportunity to move up in levels

Our workshop and test out sessions are scheduled to run every 6-weeks starting in July. Make sure to mark your calendars for these specific dates over the next 6 months

  • Primal Workshop July 15th, SM Testing July 22nd
  • Primal Workshop August 26, SM Testing September 2nd
  • Primal Workshop October 7th, SM Testing October 14th
  • Primal Workshop December 2nd, SM Testing December 9th

Though the learning curve is all individual, members can expect to train in each level for a certain amount of time. Remember, these time frames are all based on your previous experience level and commitment to the process of getting strong.

  • Protege: 2-4 months
  • Swinger: 6-8 months
  • Swinger +: 8-12 months
  • Ninja: 18-24 months

The Path Forward

We have seen time and time again, the individuals who stick to the program and dedicate themselves to building strength and skill sustainably over time are the members who experience real transformations.

No matter what you are looking for in a fitness routine: fat loss, muscle gain, strength development, improved endurance, building a foundational level of strength and skill is a critical factor in achieving those goals.

The CPG Strength Mastery System was designed to deliver the ultimate training experience to every single primal member. An experience that is focused on high-quality training methods and a community of people all on their own personal mission to be their best self. 

DISCLAIMER: Building strength and skill sustainably over time isn’t the sexiest version of fitness. It is not the newest fad, not a fitness trend, and most definitely not a quick fix. But it is the key to building habits that will change the way you view fitness.

CPG’s ultimate goal is to ignite and inpire you. Our weapon of choice is a true strength education that lasts a lifetime.

Oh, we also like to have a good time celebrating the shit out of our members.

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Want to get strong and have fun while becoming a primal ninja? Get started with a one-week Test Drive to see what CPG is all about.

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