Much has been written about the RKC Level 1 Certification and the infamous snatch test. It requires 100 kettlebell snatches in five minutes with a 24kg kettlebell, if you are a male over 165lb. Many people understandably obsess about this test, but to do so is to lose perspective on why the test exists. For that we need some context.
The RKC course is designed as a three-day weekend, but mine had all the content (and work) condensed into two days. The focus is to not only demonstrate kettlebell skill, strength, and stamina, but also to become a top-notch instructor of these skills. To be clear, this weekend is not just about demonstrating aptitude. If you can remain focused and present, it is an enormous opportunity to learn, grow, and mature in your understanding of training.
The Rumors Are True
My course was taught by Master RKC Andrea DuCane and Senior RKC Paul Britt. The caliber of expertise and instruction provided was on a level I’ve never experienced. The system is unbelievably thorough, the correctives comprehensive, and the programming possibilities seemingly infinite. We explored the mastery of tension, breath, and intentional muscle activation that can immediately throw dozens of pounds on your lifts.
And then there was the RKC snatch test. I can tell you, the rumors are well-founded. Everybody who signs up for the RKC knows about it, and the smart ones do their homework, find out about about the standards and failure rates, and start to pay attention to the details, like proper nutrition and hand care.
You are expected to walk in the door with a certain degree of proficiency in skills, and have the endurance to handle the volume. You will need to learn about breathing and mobility requirements, and in general, attack your training with a vigor and urgency that only a small degree of fear can incite. All training is done better under the shadow of the snatch test.
Do Your Homework
In kettlebell training, there is a necessary progression of exercises, and each requires a good deal of practice. If you are new to kettlebells, you’ll want to take at least a month getting really good at swings, front squats, presses, and the Turkish get up. For the last one, I suggest practicing with a shoe or a half-full cup.
As you improve these skills, move to one-arm swings, light weight on the Turkish get up, and more kettlebell strict presses and front squats. The clean and snatch should be added only after thousands of swings (both one- and two-handed) and a fair amount of execution and strength in the other movements.
It behooves you to follow the research of past RKCs. Better still, train with one, to ensure that you learn each movement with the proper technique and progression. This will help you become aware of the common faults that leave some people with torn up hands and bruised egos. Beginning a progression toward the snatch test should happen only after refinement and fluidity in snatch technique.
It’s Not Just the Test Itself
On the surface, the snatch test seems to be about physical endurance and resilience. But it is equally a test of technique and mental discipline. The specter of the test creates an atmosphere of baseline proficiency that eliminates most of the early awkwardness in training skill-dependent movement, and allowed for a greater understanding of the corrections and skills we were being taught.
I don’t think you could create the same urgency and understanding without the known challenge of the snatch test. To be honest, the physical endurance and mental toughness you create to be able to handle the test matter for the rest of the weekend, as well.
You practice lifts and coaching others most the day. Interspersed through this are quite a few challenging workouts. Your body will be tired, and if you don’t have the required stamina, this will become such a distraction that you will miss invaluable teaching. The RKC desires, and so should you, that the weekend is one of thriving and growing optimally, rather than surviving on the verge of breaking.
The RKC’s style and philosophy is intentional. They want you to be confronted with exhaustion and remain focused, disciplined, and enthusiastic despite it. They want anyone who passes to have earned the certification beyond any shadow of a doubt.
Progression Toward the Test
There are many methods to progress toward the snatch test, and many different strategies for completing it. Some say to practice with swings, except a few weekends where you attempt the test itself.
I needed more certainty, so I gravitated towards senior RKC Nick Lynch’s suggested progression. His plan includes one day a week of clean and press tests, striving for five minutes straight without putting down the bell. Your only rest is in the rack position.
Once you feel solid in your snatch technique, start with a two-minute snatch test, and add 30 seconds each week. This will steadily build you toward a good pace, as long as you continue your single-arm work, heavy double kettlebell work, volume, technique, and recovery.
Get Ready to Get the Most From It
Your individual strategy for the test itself will depend on your specific strengths. For instance, being right-handed, I always started with my left hand, so that the more fatigued reps would be in my dominant hand.
Some suggest taking a week off prior to the RKC, but I wanted the mental edge of feeling successful at it every Saturday, culminating with my RKC Snatch Test. With a week to go before my test, it was just something I did every Saturday, and I didn’t want to mess with the mojo.
I’m so grateful for this amazing experience. The preparation for and instruction during the RKC course spurred more enthusiasm and progress in my training than any previous period of my life. I’m certain it would have been less impactful without that wonderful, awful snatch test.