Suffering from back and knee pain and a leg injury, Najee Ladd-Ali started working with Kettlebility owner Andrea U-Shi Chang at 17. A serious basketball and football player at Seattle’s Rainier Beach High School, Najee was an elite, broken athlete.
Many competitive athletes like Najee come to the studio for elite performance coaching to help them enhance their movement skills—for power production, to run faster, jump higher, react more quickly, accurately, and to get stronger. Through one-on-one or small-group coaching, they also learn techniques for long term durability, staying injury free and resilient so they can continue the sports they love.
Sidelined by his injuries, Najee also came to Kettlebility with an overly bulked-up physique after working with a personal sport-performance trainer at a big box gym who thought he was helping by using old-school training techniques. The result? Najee was big, but he was also stiff and awkward. In his push to get bigger, the gifted athlete had lost his athleticism—his ability to move. Andrea knew Najee had to learn how to get functionally strong and restore his fundamental movement patterns, not just make his body bigger. It was a definite shift for the now-25 year old.
“It all seemed really unorthodox to me,” Najee says. “I was questioning whether I was really getting stronger.”
Over time, Najee returned to Rainier Beach as a leader on the basketball team. He credits Kettlebility with enabling him to cut faster on the football field, to be more explosive on the basketball court. “I was getting more flexible. I basically re-learned how to run, by learning better movement at the studio. And my core was much stronger than before.”
Najee won an athletic scholarship to Central Washington University, which he partially attributes to his Kettlebility training. “It definitely played into how I played the sport,” he says.
But his training has influenced him in some profound ways off the court too.
“I feel mentally disciplined. There’s a lot to remember when you’re holding up weight. Thinking about your breath. Thinking about locking out. It’s almost like a yoga mode,” Najee says. “You have to be focused.”
And his training has inspired him to change some habits. After watching his grandfather suffer multiple heart attacks and strokes, Najee resolved to avoid the same fate. He stopped drinking soda and junk food and now slurps smoothies and eats mostly home-cooked food. “I was running into people who were training at Kettlebility who had bodies like mine, but they were in their 50s,” says Najee, who still trains at Kettlebility while working with at-risk students at Garfield High School, the Center School, and pursuing a master’s in teaching.
In fact, just as Kettlebility training helped Najee in his own athletic performance as a teen, Najee now brings what he’s learned in training to help other teens—the at-risk youth he works with daily, and namely, the basketball players he has coached on Garfield High School’s state championship-winning team.
“Bottom line: Training this way makes me feel good,” Najee says. “And I knew it was something good for my body—and my mind—long term.”
Kettlebility: Own your movement, earn your strength.