February 9, 2021

If You Would Have To Pick One Tool And One Movement To Enhancing Your Over-all Performance, What Would You Pick?

»If you offer me one million euros and ask me to move to the mountain, to be a shepherd, and not to lift weights again, I would negotiate, to take only half and I would be allowed to take a barbell with me. And the only exercise I would do is power Snatch« said Mikhail Koklyaev at a seminar we hosted at my gym.


No, please, don't tell me you don't know who famous Russian Misha is? Eight timesRussian Olympic weightlifting Champion, powerlifter, strongman and now he is into boxing. All-around athlete for sure. He would gave up half million euros for a barbell and the power snatch. If someone asked me the same question, my answer would be almost the same. I would also give up half of the money and keep the snatch movement, but I would change the tool, adding one more capacity, endurance!




Kettlebell is all around tool. There is no serious strength & conditioning gym in the world that doesn't possess a few kettlebells of some shape and size. The variety of movements we can do with them is countless. But not everything that can be performed with a particular tool is also good for you, your sport or your body. Remember we at Younix are all about pursuing optimal performance without jeopardising longevity. 


Besides all the lifts we can do with kettlebells similar to dumbbell movements and even some barbell movements, we can only perform a few unique moves and get specific benefits with a kettlebell. Those are the ones that are swung between our legs and fall under the ballistic movements category. If we are strict, there are only three movements in this group; swing, clean and snatch. 


Swing is not a "complete" movement, it is done as an assistance exercise, like high pull in Olympic lifting, so this one is count-out. Clean is a great movement, but one part is missing, the overhead part. Sure, you could press, push press or jerk the kettlebell overhead after the clean, but, we are only allowed to pick one movement, remember?


So, there are not many options left. The good thing is, we are left with the best choice in my opinion! If we needed to pick one movement, I would choose the kettlebell snatch. 




Snatch is known as the most complex athletic movements for the posterior chain. With this movement, you will build speed, power and if done for multiple reps also endurance. Snatch consist of two fundamental stages: lifting the kettlebell above the head to overhead position and "economic" drop into back-swing. The base of this movement is the use of centripetal forces of pendulum-like trajectory of the kettlebell. It requires great coordination, timing and balance to execute this movement perfectly, and all these qualities are essential for optimal athletic performance. Now you can see why the kettlebell snatch was my pick for the million-euro movement. 


Main elements of the snatch are correct grip, the optimal position of the body during the drop and back-swing, powerful acceleration at the right time, proper hand insertion and good lockout position.





Kettlebell snatch is a part of competitive Kettlebell lifting. It is done for 10 minutes, and with 32kg in a professional division. Trust me, posterior chain and quads(when done correctly) will do most of the work: shoulders, upper back, even biceps and triceps are also involved. The only »important« muscle that is not working here is the pecs - but how important are they if you are in the mountains and surrounded with sheep?


Sounds great, BUT, there is a downside of competitive style Snatch (and no, it's not soft or hard style discussion again). In official competition, you are only allowed to change hands once. Which in ideal conditions means you will be snatching 32kg overhead for 5 minutes with one hand only! It is not possible without great technique, and before you even get out of breath, your grip will let you down, and you will not even reach all the promising benefits ofKettlebell lifting. 


But,Russians, being Russian, have thought of a way that makes it more balanced, and, what's even more important, more beneficial. In their army they have a test, where soldiers have to snatch for 12 minutes, but are allowed to switch hands as many times as they want to! Now, that's more like it!


If you are allowed to switch hands more often, you will challenge your cardiovascular system even more than it would be following competitive rules. Still, even more important, it's also healthier. You see, even if you are good enough to go for5 minutes with one hand, you have to compensate a little. You have to adjust the technique, so the grip doesn't do too much work. You have to think of the following 5 minutes after the hand switch, so you position your body differently. You do everything to do as many reps according to the rules. But, doing that isn't always healthy. If you go for 5 minutes with one hand, and then switch, one side of the body will already be very tired, legs will start feeling it, and after about 6 minutes, your legs won't generate as much force as before. Meaning you will use your back more, shifting side to side more and twisting, to get that extra power from other parts of the body. And you will do that for 4 minutes only on one side. Yes, that's the cost of the competitive sport. You will do anything to win, even if it doesn't mean best for your body in the long run. 


We are back to multiple hands switch, where you can stand more straight, change hands more ofter, at about 30-45 seconds is best, since lactates won't start to accumulate in forearms in that time. 


But why did the Russian army pick 12 minutes for the test? Do you know doctor KennethCooper? No? Well, then you have surely heard about Coopers (running) test. If the answer here is also no, you are on the wrong page. I am just kidding. Joke aside, Kenneth H. Cooper (born March 4, 1931, Oklahoma City) is a doctor of medicine and former Air ForceColonel from Oklahoma, who pioneered the benefits of aerobic exercise to maintain and improve health. He is the author of the 1968 book Aerobics, which emphasised a point system for improving the cardiovascular system. The popular mass market version was The New Aerobics, published ten years later (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_H._Cooper).


Dr Cooper developed the 12-minute run test as an easy way to measure aerobic fitness and provide an estimate of VO2max for military personnel. Now, can you see the similarity? The Russian army borrowed that test from Americans - can you believe this?


But, since the Russian army uses kettlebells regularly, they figured that there is another way to measure aerobic fitness and estimate VO2max for their military personnel, which also includes some iron. They have decided that they will test aerobic power endurance with the kettlebell snatch. Suppose it's good enough for the army, then it must be good enough for you. There is no certain calculator (and in this case it's a good thing) that will tell you how fit you are when you do this test. 


My suggestion is to start with minimum pace suggested for snatch (between 16 and18 reps per minute) and work your way up to 12 minutes with constant pace. Once you can do 10 minutes straight, switching hands every 30 seconds, you are ready to increase the weight. 




We have talked about triple progression in another blog post, so that is one way to do it. But, if you are more structured and would like to know what is waiting for you in the next workout, you can use more linear or step progression, where the sum of all minutes is 12, but the time is broken down to shorter sets.


For developing VO2max and lactate tolerance it is known, that ratio between work and rest should be between 1:1 and 3:1. We also know, that to start experiencing true cardiovascular fatigue, sets should not be shorter than 2minutes if we want to do more than just one set, no longer than 4 minutes. That is arguable of course, but if you have ever lifted kettlebells, you understand.If you didn't, you will once you try this plan. 


For best results, it is suggested to train three times per week, resting one day between training days and two days after the week's hardest workout. So the program looks like this. Find a kettlebell that you can snatch for 12 minutes at pace between 16 and 18 reps per minute. If you can snatch with the tempo of 16 RPM, you will increase the pace to 18 RPM, and if you can snatch at 18 RPM, you will ideally increase weight by 1-2kg.







Snatch 12sets, 1-minute work, 1-minute rest (that is to build the volume).



Snatch; 6sets, 2-minute work, 2-minute rest.



Snatch; 4sets, 3-minute work, 3-minute rest.





Snatch; 6sets, 2 minutes work, 1-minute rest.



Snatch; 4sets, 3-minute work, 2-minutes rest.



Snatch; 3sets, 4-minutes work, 4-minutes rest.




Snatch4-sets, 3 minutes work, 1-minute rest.



Snatch; 3sets, 4-minutes work, 3-minutes rest.



TEST 12minutes


There are many tests out there, even ranking tables, but let's forget about those for a moment. We challenge you to try our unique strength endurance test.

For men, take 24kg kettlebell and try to make it over 200 reps in 12 minutes (that is just over 16 reps per minute), and for women, try to do it with 16kg. You can change hands as many times as you want, but you cannot set the kettlebell down anytime during the 12 minutes. If you drop the kettlebell, it is over. You can rest in the lockout position. Enjoy!



Gregor Sobočan

Gregor Sobočan

Gregor is a former professional handball player and Girevoy sport athlete. During his Girevoy sports career, Gregor achieved Master of Sports International Class at the world championship in 2015 and is Master Trainer in Kettlebell Lifting since 2015 (Russian rank). In 2013 he received a Degree from Endurance Specialization from OMSK University in Russia. Currently, Gregor is head strength & conditioning coach for Slovenian Handball National Team and Pro Volleyball National Champions Club. Since 2009 he is also a gym owner and is specialized in helping individuals, and professional athletes perform at the highest level possible.

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