Kettlebell Snatch Test Prep, Part 1: The Art of 100

Physical performance, from highly explosive or sustained aerobic, are mental feats that are merely powered by our earned physical capabilities. In support of this notion, we can, not surprisingly, look to history. In track, it took 100 years to break the 4-minute mile. Yet, as soon as Roger Bannister did it in May 1954, it was done again a month later, and then again two months after that. Today, there are nearly 500 athletes with that impressive accolade to their name.

Modern day skateboarding is another amazing example, where one of the top professionals of all time, Tony Hawk, was first to spin a 900-degree rotation on a skateboard at the 1999 X-Games. Today, not even 20 years later, nearly 20 skateboarders have done it, including two 8 and 12-year -old boys. Simply stated, at times, humans must only believe in what is possible in order to achieve it.

“There is no try.” -Yoda

As it relates to the average kettlebeller, maximizing performance in the 5-Minute Kettlebell Snatch Test looms over many as the illusive “4-Minute Mile” or “900” like feat. For those unfamiliar with the test, the performance standard is 100 Kettlebell Snatches in under 5-minutes at a load of 24kg for males, and 14-16kg for females. During my first attempt on the test, I hit 83 reps before time ran out and I was nearly broken, mentally and physically. In truth, I was angry, and as I stood at a bodyweight of 150lbs, was quickly convinced 100 reps was near impossible for “the average Joe” to accomplish; or at least the average Joe weighing under 170lbs.

A few years later I finally decided to accept my defeat and I began planning my next assault on the test. My reflections on my first experience brought me to some interesting realizations. First, although I had not reattempted the Snatch Test in a few years, I had completed about two dozen different workouts of various “100 reps for time”-like protocols - from Burpees to Swings to Get Ups. And secondly, that I really despised all of those workouts! I hated 100 of any one thing. And I began to see that number was a big part of my problem with the Snatch Test - 100 gets in your head, before, during and even after the pain is over. So while at a time I found the instructions to be quite simple; “Do 100 Reps for Time”, the implications were anything but.

 
 Joe and Ben on their way to 100 reps.

Joe and Ben on their way to 100 reps.

 

PROBLEMS

For those reading, there are really two so-called problems with Snatch Test Prep that I hope to help you with:

Problem #1

One-hundred. A scary number of hard reps to see in any workout that generally results in one of two outcomes. The worse is getting in your own head, worrying that you're going out too fast and therefore not going out hard enough and knowing you could have done better. The other, is what I have more experience with personally - and that's blowing up and dying on the table.

Problem #2

Durability. Staying healthy while training is always the number 1 objective in any training program, but when it comes to preparation for the Snatch Test, it's especially important. A lot of folks think to train for the Snatch Test they need to sleep with a 24kg bell and swing it 1000 times a day - wrong. 

SOLUTIONS

Solution #1

Add one workout per week to your training that involves doing 100 hard reps straight of one exercise against time. I generally alternate weeks of 2-Arm Swings and “Something Else” that beats me up a little worse than Swings do. The gold standard “Something Else” is 1-Arm Snatches, but the Double Bell Clean and Press is also a miracle-worker.

I break these alternating weekly sessions down further by alternating how I am approaching the 100 reps. One week attack all 100 reps straight through against time, the next, ensure absolutely 100% perfect form for all reps by placing a brief recovery period at the 50-rep mark. If you’re a novice to Snatch Test prep, add up to a 3-minute recovery period that shrinks down to :30s over time. (Pro Tip: The song “People of the Sun” by Rage Against the Machineis exactly 2 minutes and 30 seconds long. So if you’re prepping for the Snatch Test it’s a great pacer for the 50-rep split, and just slap it on “Repeat” if you’re pacing for 100 straight.)

Sample Program:

Week 1

100 reps for time, 1-Arm Snatches at 85-90% effort.

Week 2

100 reps,  2-Arm Swings at Snatch Test load.

Week 3

2 Sets of 50 Double Bell Clean and Presses at 95% effort with 90 seconds recovery.

Week 4

100 reps,  2-Arm Swings at Snatch Test load.

Week 5

100 reps for time, Double Bell Clean and Presses at 85-90%

Week 6

100 reps,  2-Arm Swings at Snatch Test load.

Week 7

2 Sets of 50 Snatches for time at 95% effort with 90 seconds recovery.

Week 8

100 reps,  2-Arm Swings at Snatch Test load.

Solution #2

Opt for volume over intensity. I believe at least 70% of Snatch Test Prep training volume for almost any male athlete, but definitely those under 170lbs, should be with 12 and 16kg bells. For females, regardless of weight, 8kg or 12kg bells should comprise your 70%.

While maintaining scope of “Problem #1”, aim to dominate the 100-Rep mark using light bells every time you train. I found an average of 3 sets on most days (Some days 0 or 1 set, other days up to 5 sets) of 100 Snatches, partitioned as desired, with a light bell will do wonders for your durability. It also builds confidence and mental and physical immunity to the 100-rep scheme. The advised strategy here, is that if you’re doing 3 sets on a few days a week as part of your movement prep, replace one set of the three at a time, over time, with a progressively heavier bell. Eventually you may choose to transition this out of your movement prep and into your actual workout as you add load and near your Test/Re-Test.

Sample Male and Female programs (note they progress differently):

Sample program:

Week 1

Set 1: 12kg male / 8kg female
Set 2: 12kg male / 8kg female
Set 3: 12kg male / 8kg female

Week 3

Set 1: 16kg male / 8kg female
Set 2: 12kg male / 8kg female
Set 3: 12kg male / 8kg female

Week 5

Set 1: 16kg male / 12kg female
Set 2: 16kg male / 8kg female
Set 3: 12kg male / 8kg female

Week 7

Set 1: 16kg male / 12kg female
Set 2: 16kg male / 12kg female
Set 2: 16kg male / 8kg female

Week 9

Set 1: 16kg male / 12kg female
Set 2: 16kg male / 12kg female
Set 3: 20kg male / 8kg female

Week 11

Set 1: 16kg male / 12kg female
Set 2: 20kg male / 12kg female
Set 3: 20kg male / 12kg female

Week 13 (Sweetspot rep scheme)

Set 1: 20kg male / 12kg female
Set 2: 20kg male / 12kg female
Set 3: 20kg male / 12kg female

TEST / RETEST SNATCH TEST

As the Navy SEALS say, you must win in the mind before entering the battle ground: Enter The Art of 100. The key to dominating your hardest workouts or the Kettlebell Snatch Test may come down to tactfully varying your intensity, methodically planning your attacks and prioritizing volume over intensity.

Swing responsibility my friends.

- DI

This article was reposted with permission from Kettlebell Kings.

Team RUNGA