01 Apr How To Smash The Kettlebell Snatch Test (And Keep Calm And Cool Under Pressure)
I vividly remember my first “official” kettlebell snatch test with Pavel (and the previous RKC) back in 2010.
Many times before I had performed a snatch test, but not when it counted – as it did at the certification.
I’ll be honest, I had some jitters before stepping up to snatch that bell.
No doubt, there’s pressure when you’re being timed (and judged) to snatch 100 reps with a 24 kilo kettlebell in 5 minutes.
The backstory was that I had been well prepared and had nailed the snatch test countless times prior to doing it at the RKC.
No doubt, I was ready to go.
Yet, why was I anxious about it? Why do so many others seem to get “freaked out” when it comes time for the vaunted snatch test?
Well, there’s a stigma to it – even though it’s only a very small part of the kettlebell certification experience.
The kettlebell snatch test is one of those physical challenges that can massively stress people out.
Since I’m asked about the snatch test so often, I wanted to provide more insight, in addition to the great collaborative article that was written some time ago.
Let me give you an update for strategy, then quickly discuss the psychology behind it and how to keep calm and cool under pressure.
Before I tell you how to smash the snatch, let me just quickly summarize what exactly the current requirements are:
Here are the requirements according to the latest StrongFirst kettlebell certification standards (*all performing 100 snatches in 5 minutes or less):
- Men’s open, up to 132 pounds – 20 kg
- Men’s open, over 132 pounds – 24 kg
- Men’s Masters (age 50-64) – 20 kg
- Women’s open, up to 123.5 – 12 kg
- Women’s over 123.5 – 16 kg
- Women’s Masters (age 50-64) – 12 kg
Now you know exactly with the kettlebell snatch test is. It’s a high-level strength-endurance test that challenges all three of your energy systems (ATP-CR, glycolytic, and aerobic energy systems).
These are the short and long term energy systems and you need to have all 3 properly trained to succeed.
I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of the kettlebell snatch test although I know it’s something that’s beneficial for many reasons.
It also happens to be part of the requirements for maintaining the StrongFirst certification.
Through recent years, I’ve lost count as to how many snatch tests I’ve actually done, but I much prefer lifting heavy things compared to doing high rep conditioning (strength endurance or work capacity type training) but it all depends on current goals.
No matter how many snatch tests I do, I honestly can’t say that I enjoy it.
I love snatching (both the kettlebell and the barbell, although they are completely different animals), just not for 5 minutes continuously, you know what I mean?
According to some of my genetic profiling, it seems my body is more type II fast twitch. Maybe that helps to partially explain why the short duration, explosive lifts are what I REALLY enjoy the most, but that’s another story.
Let’s move on and talk about some of the ways to assess and progress the kettlebell snatch test, then I’ll discuss the psychology behind it.
Here are 2 outstanding examples that Dan John shared with me during a recent podcast interview. I think people may have missed this, so I wanted to outline the great programming he discussed in that session.
A big thanks to Dan for openly sharing his training approaches during that show.
EXAMPLE #1 – The “100” Snatch Protocol
Here’s the first example, which also goes under the name “lungs, guns, or buns” – you’ll see why soon.
For males, grab a 16 kg kettlebell (for females, 1 to 2 bell sizes down from your snatch size bell).
You will perform 100 snatches as fast as you can.
The rep sequence is as follows:
After you’ve completed this, ask yourself what was most challenging?
Was it conditioning? (Lungs)
Was it upper body fatigue? (Guns)
Was it the hips and glutes? (Buns)
This is Dan’s lungs, guns, and buns self-assessment.
Call it what you want, I’ll call it a simple assessment and effective strategy.
If you’ve identified the problem area, then you’ll know what it is you’re going to build your programming around.
I’ll talk more about this in a minute.
EXAMPLE #2 – The “200” Snatch Protocol
In the next example, you’ll perform 200 snatches. Yeah, I know.
Take as much time as you need and you will use your snatch size kettlebell. For example, I’d use the 24 kg kettlebell.
The first thing you might notice is that this test is much more aggressive than the first one in terms of volume, but it will give you very valuable feedback and also challenge you in a different way.
Let’s take a look at the rep sequence in this example.
Keep in mind that you will take the time you need to complete the repetitions, but it would be valuable to time yourself to see how long it takes you to complete them.
- 20/20/20/20 (80 total)
- 15/15/15/15 (60 total)
- 10/10/10/10 (40 total)
Then, with the final round of reps (*this is important) you will use a heavier kettlebell (yikes!).
As Dan explained, you will now be more challenged under fatigue. This will also help to solve the issue of “guns and buns” (upper body strength and hip power).
Your rep sequence with the heavier bell will be:
- 5/5/5/5 (20 total)
As you can see, this is quite a physical challenge since you’re performing 200 repetitions.
But it will also give you valuable information about where you are, in terms of your overall strength and certainly your conditioning.
PSYCHOLOGY OF THE SNATCH
Alright, you’ve got 2 strategies to work with right now.
What about the psychology to stay calm and cool?
Some people don’t get too stressed about it at all.
While others are completely “freaked out.”
If you happen to be one of those who gets a little freaked, here’s 2 ideas that can help (and I’m going to keep this simple for you).
In my opinion, if you actually do this, it will work amazing.
Deep breathing (or diaphragmatic breathing) techniques work exceptionally well.
Right now, place your hands on the sides of your stomach.
Now inhale through your nose so that your belly expands into your hands.
When you exhale through your mouth, your belly will sink inward and your hands will come back in.
Your chest should not be rising as the breathing is coming from belly (your diaphragm) to pull air into your lungs and then relax into exhalation where the belly returns inward.
This simple technique is diaphragmatic breathing and is the key to athletic performance.
Again, inhale though your nose, exhale through your mouth.
“Breath in through nose, out the mouth.”
If you have practiced this technique, it can be amazing to put you in a calm and cool state for peak performance.
2-MENTAL IMAGERY (MI)
Hardly anyone really talks about the power of mental imagery (or mental rehearsal) yet it’s so effective.
The evidence behind using MI is well documented in relation to sport performance and if you ask any Sports Psychologist, it’s a technique that’s widely implemented.
Just as an example, a recent study demonstrated that MI improved the force production and muscle activation in athletes who performed isometric exercise.
Another study demonstrated that mental training improved hand and elbow strength over 12 weeks compared to a control group who did not employ the mental training techniques.
Studies aside, I can tell you MI works when you take the time to mentally prepare and visualize your lift, exercise, or in this case, the snatch test.
The key to this is using and practicing this technique before your “official” snatch test.
In other words, mentally “see, feel, and experience” completing the snatch test BEFORE you do the snatch test.
See yourself completing the snatch test and setting that kettelbell down after rep number 100.
If you use MI, you’ll be much more calm and confident in smashing the snatch, guaranteed.
To summarize the information, here’s all you do.
- As always, know your goals (in this case it’s the snatch test)
- Get your baseline (know where you are with one of the 2 approaches)
- Know your deficient area:
- upper body strength?
- explosive hip power?
Then, pick your strategy.
- Conditioning = more conditioning work
- Upper body strength = more presses, get ups, static holds, etc.
- Hip power = focus on heavy swings and higher volume one handed swings
Then get to work, practice, and prepare.
Work on the area identified above.
And consider the 2 simple strategies for your “mental game” in approaching the snatch test.
Listen, it’s never easy.
But it’s all about preparation, physically and mentally.
If you prepare, then don’t worry so much about the snatch test.
There you go.
A simple plan of attack to smash the snatch. Go to it.
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