09 May The Escalating Snatch Protocol: How To Crush The Kettlebell Snatch Test

Snatch TestThe kettlebell snatch has been called “the czar” of kettlebell exercises.

Full body explosive strength, a high level of conditioning, tremendous upper body strength, and outstanding mobility are some of the key benefits.

The kettlebell snatch test is one of the ultimate tests in strength and conditioning.

As a reminder, the snatch test is completing 100 kettlebell snatches (with safe, appropriate technique) in 5 minutes or less.

Men typically use a 24 kg kettlebell, while women will use a 16 kg or 12 kg kettlebell, depending on bodyweight.

Here’s a strategy to progressively improve your kettlebell snatch volume and ultimately conquer the kettlebell snatch test.

I call this the Escalating Snatch Protocol or ESP.

Here’s how it works.

First and foremost, you have to own your technique with kettlebell snatches.

Then, you need to know how may reps you can safely, effectively, and efficiently perform in a 5 minute time period.

It’s a lot of reps, but the main thing is to have your form and technique really dialed in before giving this a go.

I would not do this if you’re not rock solid with your snatch technique.

Back to protocol.

Let me show you what it looks like, then I’ll explain how to use it.



As you can see, there’s 8 sessions that you would do once a week (more about this below).

Each minute, you perform the prescribed number of reps.

I’ve outlining 2 different options for the ESP.

Actually, there’s many ways to use it, but I’m going to make this really simple.

There’s 2 prerequisites you must have for the ESP:

  1. Own your technique (as I’ve already stated)
  2. Be able to perform approximately 70 reps in 5 minutes

And, of course, take care of your hands.

You might be wondering why 70 reps?

Right around 70 reps is usually the threshold that really gets people.

Beyond 70 is the “guts and glory,” so to speak, and that’s what usually needs to be progressively conditioned to reach the 100 rep requirement in the snatch test.

Let’s look at the 2 options with the ESP.

OPTION 1. (Steady progression)

Assuming you’re able to complete 70 reps or so in 5 minutes, you’ll begin at session 1.

Progress from session 1 through session 8.

Start with 72 reps, in the sequence as you see above.

So, 10 reps each side (right and left) during the 1st minute, then 8 reps the 2nd minute, then 6 reps for the remaining 3 minutes for a total of 72 reps.

Assuming you complete the 72 reps, the next session (session 2) you’ll now shoot for 76 reps in the sequence as above.

Work your way through each session completing the prescribed number of reps.

As you can see, if you progress from session 1 to session 8, you’re only adding 4 reps each session, so it’s a progressive increase towards the 100 reps.

IMPORTANT: Do not advance to the next session until you complete the prescribed number of reps.

OPTION 2. (Advanced progression)

Another option would be to approach this more aggressively.  (*The red arrows above indicate this option)

Here’s how this would work.

Start with session 2 (76 reps).

The next session would be session 4 (84 reps), the next session is session 6 (92 reps), and the final session is session 8 (100 reps).

It’s a faster, more aggressive progression advancing your numbers through 4 sessions, as opposed to 8 sessions.

This will depend on where you are and how fast you think you can advance.


Do you rest or do you push through without setting the bell down?

The way the ESP is written is to perform the number of reps every 30 seconds for 5 minutes.

For example, in session 1, minute 1, you would perform 10 reps on the right, then place the bell down and rest for the remainder of the 30 seconds.

Then snatch another 10 reps on the left, which completes the first minute.

So, every 30 seconds snatch the prescribed number of reps on one side.

Another way to do this is to perform the total number of reps in 1 minute, then set the bell down after you’ve done 10 reps on each side.

And, of course, you could complete the rep sequences without setting the bell down at all during the 5 minutes.

It’s a matter of preference and your level of conditioning.

Just make sure you follow the indicated number of reps in descending order.

Remember, there’s many different ways to approach this.

How frequently should you do the sessions?

You could do this once a week or possibly twice a week, depending on your goals.

I think it may be better to perform this once a week and do other volume work throughout the week (swings and get ups, for example).

It really depends on goals, how aggressive you want to be, and where you are in your performance and conditioning.

For most people, once a week is a great progression without overtaxing our bodies.

Hand condition is a factor, as well.

What’s the easiest way to keep track of the reps during a session?

I figured this question may come up, so thought I’d proactively answer it.

It’s simple.

Write down the rep sequence and have it in front of you on a board, note card, or piece of paper so that you know exactly how many reps you’re doing without confusion.

Have your rep sequence in front of you before each session so there’s no guess work.

Know your rep counts for each session.

Test out the ESP and let me know what you think.

Have other questions about it?

Post below.

Scott Iardella writes about strength training methods to optimize health and performance. If you enjoyed this article, join a strong and growing community of passionate fitness enthusiasts and subscribe below to get a ton of cool, free stuff!

  • Maureen
    Posted at 11:21h, 10 May Reply

    Hey Scott, nice looking program! Quick question–what if we are still getting comfortable with our snatch test sized bell but feel pretty good snatching a lighter bell? Do you think there is value doing this program with the lighter weight to get the conditioning benefits of this program OR do you think it’d be smarter to just focus on getting comfortable with the snatch test sized bell first before trying this out?

    • Scott
      Posted at 22:12h, 10 May Reply

      Hey Maureen,
      Great question!
      I think the follow up question would be, can you cruise through 100 reps with the lighter bell??

      If so, it’s not a conditioning issue, so you’d want to work more on strength. Double KB work would help that A LOT.
      Let’s say it was difficult to get 100 reps with the lighter bell, then I would spend more time working on conditioning to be able to ease through 100 with the lighter size bell.
      Make sense?

      So, to answer the question, it depends on whether it’s a strength issue or a conditioning issue.

      Hope that helps.

      • Maureen
        Posted at 21:14h, 12 May Reply

        Awesome, thanks! Makes a lot of sense!

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