3 Ways to Vary The Kettlebell Snatch Test for All Around Fitness
Contributor - Physical Culture and Acrobatics
The kettlebell snatch is fairly technical, but not nearly as much as the Olympic lifting counterpart. If you know how to swing a kettlebell, then the snatch is all built off of that foundation. But this article is not so much about how to do the kettlebell snatch but what to do with it.
Specifically, I’m going to talk about the kettlebell snatch test and the possible versions you could incorporate into your training.
The Kettlebell Snatch Test
There are many variations on this test, but they typically use a single kettlebell and just this one exercise, done for a certain time period or number of reps. In Pavel Tsatsouline’s book Enter the Kettlebell, what he calls the Rite of Passage requires men to snatch a 24kg kettlebell 200 times in ten minutes.
As I really enjoy the snatch test, I decided to take this further. This video shows 301 snatches in 10 minutes with the 24kg kettlebell, over fifty percent more than that fairly elite goal.
Now, before you say anything - I know some people criticize me for not completely locking out each rep. That’s fine with me, because in no way does that take away from the conditioning it took to achieve this number. But let’s explore some other options for the snatch test.
Variation #1: Timeframes
The ten-minute timeframe is often used for a snatch test, but it’s not the only timeframe you can do. Five minutes is a great starting point. But you can use any length of time really.
Want to build more endurance? Go for twelve, fifteen, or twenty minutes.
Want to build more power? Do a single-minute sprint set.
Or you could combine these two ideas together along with some rest to build up the ability to keep going with maximum power.
That also brings us to our next point…
Variation #2: Different Kettlebell Weights
Snatches can be done with any size and weight. Use something lighter and you can go longer and perform more reps. Use something heavier and you’ll obviously see those numbers go down.
My new goal is to snatch the beast, a 48kg or 106lb kettlebell, one hundred times in ten minutes. This is over half my body weight, since I typically tip the scales at 185lbs. I think this test is going to be harder than the 300 snatches I did in the first video - which is saying something!
Here’s an example of doing half of that with fifty snatches done in 5 minutes:
You’ll notice that I do this with a bit different form. Instead of dropping the bell all the way from the top, I drop it to the shoulder before going back to the swing. The reason I do this is to help spare my back. With the extreme fatigue of doing this many reps and since the kettlebell weighs more than half of me, this technique lowers the risk of me getting pulled out of good position and thus getting injured.
Variation #3: One Hand Switch
In Girevoy Sport style kettlebell training, a snatch test is also done, but only one switch of the hands is allowed. This changes up the game significantly. Here’s a short example of that doing 35 reps on each arm with the 32kg bell.
I haven’t practiced this style nearly as much. When doing this, you need to focus your technique on sparing your energy and especially your grip. The grip is almost always the weak point in this test. Thus, you’ll notice a much more relaxed style from Girevoy Sport practitioners
I generally recommend a multiple hand switch snatch test as it allows you to work more on endurance, with less of a limit on grip strength (although that can still be the weak part for people). But mixing it up is always a good thing to do. And if you want to compete in kettlebell sport, then this will have to be your main style.
If you enjoy using kettlebells, give the snatch test a try in a variation that is suitable to you. Post your results and what the experience was like to the comments below.
Photo courtesy of CrossFit Impulse.