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Dr. Cooper Meets the USSS Snatch Test

March 31, 2009 08:28 AM

In June of last year I passed the RKC II, and am very proud of it. Great information was presented by the different senior RKC's. Kenneth Jay (the Dane of pain) made a great presentation on VO2-max-training, which was made from tests he had conducted at the University of Copenhagen. Go to the RKC II and learn it, it has all my recommendations.

I wrote this article because I have had some experience with "cardio"-training in the Danish army. As an ex-Sergeant First Class, I have used the Coopers' running test on several victims, and based on their results trained them to be better runners. This is not about running, but about KB's. But as Kenneth pointed out at the RKC II, and stated be presenting results from his study, there is an equal transfer on the VO2- max tests when comparing max-bicycle test with max-KB snatches. And having seen several live tests comparing cycling and running, I know these tests present roughly the same result in VO2-max. Runners do better on the running test because they train specifically for running, but perform close enough on the bike. In my mind it is obvious the same correlation exist, between running to the max and KB snatching.

The Cooper's running test is simple: run as far as you can in 12 minutes. It takes a little adaptation to achieve a max score. Pacing is essential, to run as far as your body allows in those 12 minutes. Usually beginners run too fast in the beginning of the test, accumulating fatigue, and limiting their performance.

So where does snatching fit in. The USSS snatch test. Do as many snatches as you can in 10 minutes, as if spoken from Mr. Cooper's own mouth. And the funny thing I have heard some Gireviks say, "I do not understand why I can not reach 200 reps in 10 minutes. I reach 100 in 4 minutes 10 seconds". Sounds to me like some of these guys are "running" to fast in the beginning.

The program here is "translated" from the Danish Army training manual on cardio training for running. The principles are a few years old (5-8), but they were designed by professors and scientist at the University of Copenhagen, and as far as running goes, they deliver. In the army, the new recruits did a Cooper's test in their 3rd week of service. The average distance for each unit was almost always measured to something around 2500 m (Pardon me for the metric system. I am from that part of Europe). By training 3-4 times a week for 6-8 weeks the average distance moved to around 2800 m. A gain of 12 %, which, translated to the USSS snatch test, means: If you are able to do 180 reps, and add 12 % you will end at 201. It places you as a man among men, as Pavel calls it in "Enter the Kettlebell".

How does this program look? Well, you have to establish a baseline, something very simple. Do the USSS snatch test. The numbers equals 100 %. That number is what the training is based on. There are 6 work-rest combinations in the program:

Combination no. Work/rest time Intensity No. of sets
1 3 min / 1½ min 100 % 4 – 8
2 4 min / 3 min 95 % 3 – 6
3 4 min / 2 min 100 % 3 – 6
4 70 sec / 60 sec 113 % 6 – 8
5 70 sec / 20 sec 113 % 6 – 8
6 15 sec / 15 sec 115 % 8 - 10

The two first combinations are great for adapting to interval training, or recovery on days when you are not up to the max effort work.

No. 3 and 4 are the cornerstones of the program. At least two thirds of your training should be sets within this range.

The two last combinations are not fun, but great for your ability to work with lactic acid in your system. I warn you, fatigue might build up, either making your technique poor, or the risk of loosing grip of the bell. (Just think about where you practice, as always) At least you should be able to taste something. That would be breakfast (again) or the sensation of blood and iron in your mouth. These combinations are made to build lactic acid.

And in this program, you will work with the same size KB as you use for your USSS snatch test.

Some examples:

Snatch test max 150 reps Work/rest time Intensity No. of sets Snatch test max 180 reps
Reps/min: 15 3 min / 1½ min 100 % 4 – 8 Reps/min: 18
Reps/min: 14 4 min / 3 min 95 % 3 – 6 Reps/min: 17
Reps/min: 15 4 min / 2 min 100 % 3 – 6 Reps/min: 18
Reps/min: 17 * 70 sec / 60 sec 113 % 6 – 8 Reps/min: 20 *
Reps/min: 17 * 70 sec / 20 sec 113 % 6 – 8 Reps/min: 20 *
Reps/min: 17 * 15 sec / 15 sec 115 % 8 - 10 Reps/min: 21 *

*) note the work time is NOT in whole minutes, do the math!

My experience from my own running and the soldiers I have trained: It is important to work equally hard throughout the entire work period. This means you will have to pause in the lockout position from time to time, to avoid accumulated fatigue. On other subjects I think Pavel would call this something like spread the load. As you can see, it is possible to cycle load and intensity, according to your motivation on a given day. Just do it!

All the usual stuff applies. Proper technique on the snatches, active recovery in the breaks, taper before the retest, and what else comes to mind. As in the test, you are free to change hands when you find it necessary.

When you retest, set the pace from the beginning according to your goal. If you shot for 200 reps, maintain 20 reps/minute, and throw all in the last 90 seconds. Spare time can be used for rechalking, or a breath of air. If you build fatigue in the beginning, you will not be able to recover. And if you are able to do 210 reps on the retest, you should have started at a pace of 21 reps/minute. Then you might have cranked out 215.

Having done several running test in my service time, I have never found them amusing. But the more I did, the more I became familiar with my own performance level. As with the Coopers running test, the USSS snatch test takes a few tries to hit a true peak performance. Fail a few times, learn and be better next time. And for the KB-bites on your calluses: Though luck.

Now go snatch that KB!

Stefan Madsen, RKCII spent 12 years in the Danish Army with final rank of SFC, specialized as a small-arms and PT instructor. He is currently a physio-therapy student, at the University of Copenhagen. He is working on introducing KB's to as many branches of physio-therapy as possible. His e-mail is