If you don’t already know, the 5-minute kettlebell snatch test involves men using a 24kg(53lb) kettlebell and snatching it overhead 100 times in 5-minutes.  Women use a 12kg or 16kg bell. Individuals over 50 years of age or under a certain weight class are allowed to use a lighter bell.  If you’ve never experienced it before it’s a real eye opener.
 I remember the first time I attempted it back in 2007. I had read somewhere that to be considered a man among men you should be able to pass the 10-minute snatch test and achieve 200 or more reps in with a 24kg bell. Challenge accepted. I bought a kettlebell, practiced for a few weeks and took the test. A few minutes into the test, my lungs and forearms were on fire, I felt dizzy, light-headed and noticed my heart rate monitor was beeping at me. I decided to set the bell down and check my heart rate… it was 214 bpm.

I casually walked over to the EAD and performed some fast & loose relaxation exercises while waited for my heart rate to come down.  Needless to say I  didn’t finish my snatch test on that particular day.

If I would have stopped there, I would probably be terrified of the snatch test to this day. Instead I simply found a proven plan, followed it for a few months and rocked the snatch test.  Since then I’ve passed it many times and have achieved 220+ reps in the 10-minutes snatch and 94 reps in 5 minutes with a 32kg.There are a lot of things that go into successfully passing the 5-minute snatch test and lots of great articles and books already exist on the subject. However, what I don’t see or hear enough of is advice on the mental approach to passing the snatch test. The reason I say this is that so many people especially kettlebell instructor candidates seem to place a disproportionate emphasis on the snatch and waste a lot of energy worrying about it.

“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.” – Albert Einstein

Confidence can only be earned through experience.
In other words, to confidently pass the snatch test you must intelligently and systematically make your training harder than the test.

I’m absolutely not implying that you head off and start doing something crazy like a 15-minute snatch test once a week. Instead, break the snatch test down into its most difficult elements and strategically tackle the elements that challenge you the most.
Start off tackling one element of the snatch test with a relatively easy effort and gradually build  up to a point that slightly exceeds what the snatch test requires. For example, build up to 200 snatches in a single workout, or learning to snatch a heavier bell for 5 to 10 reps. Once you know that what you’ve experienced and conquered before is equal to or greater in difficulty than what you are about to do, then you’re going to walk in with confidence and overcome.

“Cry in the dojo. Laugh on the battlefield.” — Samurai Maxim

4-Points to Consider When Preparing to Pass the 5-Minute Snatch Test

  1. Getting comfortable with heavier weight overhead
    This goes back to getting stronger, and surprisingly it is often overlooked. Nothing will make you feel relaxed with your snatch test bell overhead like knowing you can snatch a bell 1/3rd heavier or better for several reps or control a bell twice the size overhead with a movement like a getup. The whole idea is to put heavier weight overhead and hold it there, so that holding your snatch test bell overhead feels relatively easy by comparison.

  2. Getting comfortable with higher reps
    The standard approach to passing the snatch test is to perform 10 reps, switch hands and repeat for a total of 100 reps.

    If this is your strategy for passing the test, then your training should involve doing more than 10 reps per hand for a grand total of more than 100 reps, I recommend 150… so that by comparison 10 reps per hand switch for 100 reps feels relatively easy.

  3. Get comfortable with snatching for more than 5-minutes at a time
    This theme shows up in the Rite of Passage by Pavel Tsatsouline as well as Brett Jone’s snatch density training in his SFG Prep article. In the Rite of Passage a pair of dice is rolled to determine how many minutes of snatches you perform on snatch day, so an unfortunate roll of the dice may result in you doing 12-minutes of snatches. In Brett Jone’s Snatch Density Training a candidate will be performing anywhere from 7 to 14 minutes of snatches.

    If the five-minute snatch test is your goal, then your training should consist of snatch for more than 5-minutes so that the snatch test feels relatively easy by comparison.

  4. It’s a minimum standard
    The 5-minute snatch test was never intended as the end all be all of kettlebell prowess. It is an entry-level minimum standard for instructor candidates. The stronger you get and the more experience you get under your belt, the easier it should become.  While many say that the 5-minute snatch test never feels easy and I believe this is true to some extent… I argue that it’s all relative. If you’ve completed something much harder in training, like the 10-minute Snatch Test or SSST, then the snatch test will feel easy by comparison.
One day a week perform each of the following:
  • swing variations and even snatches with a bell heavier than you intend to use for your snatch test.
  • Getups with a bell heavier than you intend to snatch.
  • Take several weeks to build up to snatching your snatch test size bell for up to 150% of the reps required in the snatch test and using up to 150% or more of the reps per hand you intend to us during the snatch test.
  • I’ve personally found that when it comes to conditioning, going all out one day per week is enough to elicit and adaptation. The other days of the week I recommend  focusing on high quality strong/powerful reps with plenty of rest in between, sort of an aggressive playfulness. To the outside observer you should look calm and never tired.
Routine A: The Relatively Heavy Warm-Up
Perform either one getup per arm with a bell 1/3 or heavier than your snatch test bell – OR – Perform 3 to 5 snatches per arm with a heavier bell rest a few minutes Destroy your snatch test.

Routine B: Chunking the Snatch Test If you’re the type of person that struggles at 60-80 reps or the 3-minute mark then this method is for you. Warm-up as stated above in routine A then perform your snatch test like so 2 minutes  all out, 1 minute rest, 2 minutes all out. Done. Most people can get 50 to 60 reps done in the first two-minute sprint and nearly recover entirely in the 3rd minute. Once you realized how little remains, the last two minutes feel like a breeze and typically end in a Personal best.

StrongFirst Instructors and Candidates

StrongFirst Instructors and Candidates from the April 2014 SFG I & SFG II Certification in Chicago where I had the honor of serving as an assistant instructor . I’m the only guy in the front row looking the wrong way. ;]

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