Saturday, January 17, 2009


Once you can hit more than 20 reps on each hand with a legit weight, it's time for the final step!

By this point, you should have your snatch technique pretty down. It's impossible to do workouts like 10 sets of 10 on each hand with poor form. At least not twice.

At this point, you're finally in the realm of snatching for cardio. It's time to adopt Valery Fedorenko's way of training the Girevoy sport events:
Long Cycle
Double Jerks
All of these events are completed with either a 24kg or 32kg bell, for ten minutes, with only one hand switch allowed. You are not allowed to rest the bell in any position except the rack or locked out overhead. You are not allowed to put the bell down or release it in any other way either. Most people who first try to do this don't even come close. Even an RKC can get pass with 60-100 snatches, meaning typically 30-40 reps on each hand completed in approximately 3-4 minutes. That is nowhere near the performance delivered by Fedorenko in 1992, where in the 80kg weight class he completed 188 snatches with a 32kg bell, a record that stood for well over a decade.

A brief foray into mathematical territory can tell us an awful lot about how he got there.
Valery averages about 19 reps a minute. It's about 1 repetition every 3.2 seconds. As you can see in his video, it takes just under a second, perhaps just a little longer to actually complete the snatch itself. The remaining 1.5-2.5 seconds is taken up with a relative rest in the overhead lockout position. This could be true for any pace less than about 45 reps a minute. In reality, I know no one that can maintain a pace above 20 reps a minute for more than a minute or two. That isn't to say that they aren't out there, it's just that those who aren't specifically training for KB snatch based events competitively rarely ever reach this sort of level of performance. So we should more realistically be talking about rates like 10,12 or 16 reps a minute. These correspond to repetitions every 6, 5 and 4 seconds (roughly) each, respectively.

Valery recommends attempting to complete 16 reps a minute for three minutes on each hand straight through, and suggests using a bell light enough to accomplish this. This is 16 RPM for 6 minutes.

I attempted this for the first time with a 16kg bell about 3 years ago, when I could already do about 12-13 reps on my left hand with the 24kg bell. It was exhilirating and excrutiating. I actually completed all 72 repetitions, exceeding my previous longest set by about 40 reps. I did it like this:
Chalked the hell out of my hands and my bell
Set a stop watch
hit the first rep, locking it out overhead
counted in my head: 3, 2, 1 drop
hit the next snatch
repeat Ad Nauseum
I got through about the first 15-20 reps like this pretty good. Then my forearms started to burn. Fuck they really started to burn. I can't tell you how relieved my right hand was to be giving the bell to the left by the time I finally passed it off. But of course my stomach, heart, lungs and legs weren't so excited about the prospect of being only half way done. Hence it truly was a test.

This style of training is not for the faint of heart, those lacking perseverence or those with a short attention span. Iron Kate once said(paraphrasing), "As a computer programmer I excell at mindless repetitive tasks. It was only natural that I be drawn to Girevoy Sport."

The prescription in this school of medecine is first raise the total time. If successfull at one pace for one time, add a minute. Until you reach ten minutes. Then increase the pace a little, starting back at 6 minutes. So next you're going for 18RPM for 6 minutes, then 7 and so on. Finally, once you reach 20 RPM, it's time to increase the weight of the bell and start all over again.

Remember, competition is with a 32kg bell. Few ever snatch this bell much. It's heavy. Enjoy the process beginning with whatever bell you must. You'll be amazed at what happens to your cardio, grip endurance and focus along the way.

This pattern of training is at the heart of Girevoy Sport preparation, and a cycle or two of this work will give you wonderful confidence in your snatching for whatever purpose you may also use it. Athletes who engage in this method of training tend to supplement these pace works with accessory lifts, such as strict press, romanian deadlifts and squats, as well as huge volumes of Swings, and the other GS lifts.


Catherine Imes said...

Nice posts on upping Snatch numbers :) Technique is paramount. Anyone that tears their hands often, will stop trying to snatch. I often hesitate to use the word corskscrew. What I tell folks is to lead the drop with the pinky and cast out the bell so that you catch it mostly in the fingers (Locking thumb over index finger) Of course, this assumes your handles aren't huge and I didn't do it for the longest time, but the goal is to try to achieve it.

Will be interested to see how many people step up and focus on this. I certainly understand if it's not a long term modality, but I think the challenge is a good one for someone to tackle for 6 months provided they get some instruction.


Jason M Struck, RKC said...

I have my students bring their elbows towards the mid-line first, kind of like leading with the hips in the squat.

If you can't do say 15-20 reps on the 24 or the 16 (M/F) you're not using KBs.

Sorry. Just the way it is.

Catherine Imes said...

Something to consider...

Following the bell is also a grip saver because the bell doesn't "jolt" the arm going down. Initiating the drop with the pinky cast gets it to land in the hand to avoid the friction. I think people have seen to many Eastern European videos with an excessive corkscrew. If you watch Valery or myself for that matter, it is not necessarily initiated with the elbow, that is not to say the elbow doesn't end up where you say (in the midline). What you want to avoid is removing the arc on the drop. The arc will actually help reduce the pressure on the grip and the hands. Just my opinion.


Jason M Struck, RKC said...

i know exactly what you mean. I watch Valery follow the bell back, and I can tell there's never any 'thud' when the bell reaches a point near it's lowest height.