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The Party Line for Passing the RKC Snatch Test

April 18, 2008 05:47 PM

Comrades, if you are worried about passing the Russian Kettlebell Challenge (RKC) instructor Snatch Test, this article is for you ? a solid, simple plan with four "levels" to help you achieve your snatch numbers when you arrive at the RKC. Is it guaranteed? No. Is every last detail spelled out for you? No. Work hard, ask on the forum if you are unsure about anything, and success should be yours.

Do not skip any Level! If you cannot complete Level I, do not go on to Level II, and so on. If your RKC is coming up in a month and you're panic-stricken then, as former SRKC Rob Lawrence says, it's your fault. Plan better next time.

The Plan in Brief

Level 1: Short Sets, Full Recovery, Perfect Technique

Level 2: Increase Volume

Level 3: Shorten the Rests

Level 4: Long Sets

The Plan in Detail

Level 1: Short Sets, Full Recovery, Perfect Technique.

Master the kettlebell snatch in the Party-approved way ? do not start a set unless you are sure you can finish in it good form, period. I repeat ? do not start the set you cannot finish in good form. Do not "push the envelope," do not workout until you are ready to puke, and do not do anything even vaguely resembling extreme fatigue or discomfort. In Level 1, you will become the calm, focused Master of the one-armed kettlebell snatch. Rest assured that you will suffer later on in the plan.

Get help with your snatch technique, the details of which are discussed amply elsewhere, if you need it. Read Enter The Kettlebell! read Russian Kettlebell Challenge, have someone give you feedback on what you're doing. You may join a kettlebell club if one is near you (start one if not!), you may hire an RKC to watch you and give you feedback, or you may record your efforts on video and post a link on the Dragon Door forum, asking for comments.

The following milestones in Level 1 must be performed with first one hand then the other, using a single short swing to switch (you may not put the kettlebell down) ? start with your weaker side, please. Long rests between sets are required in first two Levels ? at least 3 minutes but you may take 5 minutes, 20 minutes, or half an hour or longer, going so far as to spread your volume out across the day if you wish. The important word is that your recovery is "full" before you start the next set.

Level I Milestones:

24 kg, 1 rep

24 kg, 3 reps

24 kg, 5 reps

24 kg, 3 reps, multiple sets on long rests ? work up to 5 sets

24 kg, 7-10 reps ? just a single set as a test of your progress

24 kg, 5 reps, multiple sets on long rests ? again work up to 5 sets

When you can do 5 sets of 5 reps on long rests, you are ready for Level 2.

Level 2: Increase Volume

Start using a timer. Aim to increase your training volume to 10 sets of 5 reps with 3-5 minute rest periods. A good sample workout ? every 5 minutes, start a new set of snatches. The 5+5 reps will take you about 30 seconds, giving you about 4:30 rest between sets.

Your first workout will be 5 sets of 5 snatches with each arm, done "on the clock," using the above-mentioned 3-5 minutes rest between sets. If you completed Level 1 properly, this will be well within your abilities.

Now focus on increasing your volume. Let's take a real-world example - your next workout, you try for 6 or 7 sets but find after 5 sets that you are pretty tired. You have two choices. The first is to take longer than 5 minutes to recover before your 6th and 7th sets. Next workout, keep the same volume but try to complete the entire workout using your chosen rest interval. Another alternative for a workout when you've planned more than you can accomplish in good form is to elect to complete the additional sets in the required time but drop the reps to 3 or 4 instead of 5. Both approaches are solid You must figure out how to do this for yourself ? remember that volume and rest periods are both good things to change and that you needn't focus exclusively on one or the other. Remember also that training yourself intelligently is important if you expect to train others.

Be smart, never overdo it. Back off periodically. A good rule of thumb ? if you cannot complete a planned workout, rest for an extra day if necessary, then repeat the workout. If it doesn't go well the second time, examine your plan and regroup. Perhaps you need to back off before you push forward again; perhaps your plan was simply too ambitious for the amount of time you gave yourself.

When you can do 10 sets of 5 on five minutes or less rest between sets, you are ready for Level 3.

Level 3: Shorten the Rests

You have a foundation of skill and strength. Now use that foundation to move towards your goal by accomplishing the same amount of work in less time. Start by cutting the volume per session in half to allow increased intensity without overreaching.

Your format will be 5+5 snatches "on the minute." Find a clock with a second hand (or a digital clock that counts seconds). Every time a new minute comes around, start another set of 5 snatches with each arm. When you're finished each set, put the kettlebell on the ground and wait for the next minute. Stay standing but not still - move around a little, shake out any tension in your hips, shoulders, neck, and grip.

Having started with 5 minutes, work up to 15-20 minutes.

The suggestions for progressing in Level 2 also apply here ? mix increases in volume with decreases in time, and if you find you are unduly fatigued toward the end, take extra rest time or drop a few reps in the final sets, and next workout try to complete the planned volume in the planned time.

20:00 of 5+5 on the minute is 100 snatches per arm, 200 total reps, and you'll be in great condition as well. (If your upcoming RKC weekend only allows you to work up to 15 minutes worth, that is probably OK, but 20 minutes is better.) When you have completely 15-20 minutes of 5+5 snatches on the minute, you are ready to tackle Level 4, which you will start with a max reps test.

Level 4: Long Sets

Start with a few days off followed by a test of your maximum reps. I can almost guarantee you that if you can do 5+5 on the minute for 20 minutes, you'll be able to do 20-25 reps per arm in a single set the first time you try it. Enlist the aid of a friend or training partner to count your reps during your max test ? you have enough to think about. Instruct them not to count the rep out loud until the kettlebell is parked motionless at the top position. Do a few reps to warm up but save most of your energy for the test.

Enjoy your success, and take another few days off before continuing.

Depending on your age and weight, men are required to perform between 24 and 74 total snatches, typically divided more or less equally between arms, which means you will need a single set of between 12 and 37 reps per side.

Your instructions for achieving this number are simple. Use between 50 and 80 percent of the number you achieved on your just-completed max test as your guideline, and try to perform 3-4 sets per workout on long rests, e.g., if you achieved 20 reps in your max test, you will now train 3-4 sets of 10-16 reps in your workouts. A good goal is double your desired one-set max as your total training volume, e.g., if you need 26 per arm at the RKC, then aim for 50-75 total snatches per arm per workout. 4 sets ? 16, 15, 14, 12 ? is one way to do it.

In Level 4, you must periodically retest and raise the length of your sets to reflect your new best performance, but do not think you need to achieve your RKC snatch number in practice. Get close ? 85% of your required number is a good guide - and allow the excitement of the RKC weekend and the cheering of your fellow students to help you get those last few reps. Then again, with the solid training you have put in, your RKC snatch number may already be easy for you by the time you arrive at the certification weekend.

Here is a set of five of my own 24 kg snatch workouts over a two week period. I did these shortly after the first version of this article appeared, posted them on the Dragon Door forum, and the suggestion was made to add them to the article itself. All sets were followed by rest periods approximately equal to the work time, e.g., a three-minute set was followed by three minutes of rest.

Week 1

Tuesday: 9L+9R in 1:00 x 5 sets. Total: 90 reps in 9:00, max set = 9.

Thursday: 10L+10R in 1:00 x 5 sets, 8L+8R x 1. Total: 116 reps in 11:00, max set = 10.

Saturday: 15L+15R in 2:00 x 3 sets, 10L+10R in 1:30 x 2 sets. Total: 130 reps in 16:30, max set = 15.

Week 2

Thursday: 20L+20R in 3:30, 15+15 in 2:20. Total: 70 reps in 8:00, max set = 20.

Sunday: 25L+25R in 4:10, 15+15 in 2:00, 10+10 in 1:15 x 3 sets. Total: 140 reps in about 21:00, max set = 25.

Note that both the training volume and the length of the longest set increased although not always together, and that the pace slowed down as the sets got longer - the sets of 10+10 were done at 20 reps/minute but the sets of 25+25 were done at 12 reps/minute. I also added more rest days as the workouts got harder.

Following the above schedule, you'd take Week 3 off or easy then test at the end of it. That means you would start this cycle three weeks before a snatch test.

NB: I've been doing this for several years and can work through Level 4 pretty quickly. (When I'm not training snatches, I do swings every day.) You may wish more time and/or workouts in a single Level 4 cycle, and you may wish to go through more than one cycle after Level 3 is completed and before your snatch test.

That's it.

Other Considerations

You may supplement your snatch training with overhead holds, one-arm jerks, and swings ? these will all help your snatch.

You may also do whatever other training you wish, just be intelligent about the big picture ? are you trying to improve, e.g., your squat, or are you trying to pass the RKC snatch test? Keep your priorities in order.

Most people will find training the snatch three times per week is about right; less often is better than more often for this, twice a week can still work, and even once a week is possible with a steady diet of swings although once a week won't work for you for long.

Snatching a lighter weight for a lot of reps will teach you may things ? most people are surprised by how little their total rep count increases when they switch to a lighter weight - we get used to stopping at a certain point. Using a lighter weight can help break through this largely mental plateau. When snatching the 16 kg bell, aim for double or more your required number of 24 kg snatches, and do not train short sets or even longer training sets with a lighter weight, just periodically test yourself with the lighter weight to see how you do.

Snatching with a heavier weight will help your technique but again, don't do it too much. It can be a nice "variety" activity ? try it once in a while to remind yourself of how strong and explosive you can be, and enjoy how light your 24 kg will feel the next time you try it. Snatching a heavier weight or a lighter weight should not constitute the bulk of your training but some such work can help.

Remember to back off periodically. If you're smart, you'll start this plan four to six months before your RKC weekend to give yourself plenty of time to get stronger.


There you have it, four steps: First, you master the skill. Second, you increase the volume. Third, you shorten the rest periods. Fourth, you train in long sets to get practice in the format of your test. Note that we have focused on building a solid foundation through training technique, high volume, and reduced rest, and have trusted this foundation for the bulk of your preparation. It works ? the Party says so and therefore you must agree!

I wish you success on your RKC snatch test and in all your future endeavors.

Steve Freides, Current AAU Raw Deadlift world record holder in the Men's 50-54, 148 lb class, is Level 2 RKC instructor. See for more information about Steve including his kettlebell classes at Ridgewood, NJ YMCA.