Logical Progression... The Road to Ten-Minute Sets

Due to overwhelming request, this is a revision of a previous article

Nine, ten, eleven, twelve... Put the weight down. Isn't that how a typical weight lifting set goes? Not any more. Whether for fitness, strength conditioning, or kettlebell sport, once you learn proper technique and programming, it's nothing but timed sets for real kettlebell training. This article will focus on progressing to ten minutes with one hand switch in the classic exercise known as the Snatch.

For the sake of this article, our student is a relative beginner, but is assumed to have proficiency in the Snatch and One-Arm Jerk. He's working to ten minutes sets on both moves. His workouts will typically consist of one Jerk set and one Snatch set, with the possibility of a finishing set of Swings with a slightly heavier bell than Snatch. In addition to its many benefits, Swing helps develop the all important hook-grip (see video), which is necessary to developing proficiency in Snatch technique.

While our student will progress with Jerk, Snatch and Swing, this article will only focus on Snatch progression. The following rep scheme represents a very logical way (but not the only way) to get to ten minute Snatch sets with low risk and optimal benefits. All rep totals are hypothetical, simply a basic guideline to help you establish the correct mindset in your own progression. Never extend yourself beyond your capabilities.

The overriding factor in length and pace of any set is how you feel on the day of your training. Make daily adjustments based on your instinctive sense (which will develop over time) of what you can get done that day. We'll set our start-up standard at six minutes, 12 reps per minute (RPM). If you're not yet able to make six minutes, start out with either two or four minutes, until you can get to six minutes at one hand-switch. At this point, 12 or 14 RPM should be your maximum speed. Nail this down and the real progression can begin.

Day one, our student is advised to go 6 minutes, 12 reps per minute (RPM), for a total of 72 reps with a single hand switch (3 minutes per hand or MPH) using a 16kg kettlebell (can also be gone through with an 8kg or 12kg bell). This will be the base he works from. (SHORTHAND: Snatch, 16kg, 6m, 12rpm). If this isn't possible (even with the lightest kettlebell), allow hand switches (at ten reps, at every minute, whatever it takes to get the set done), or as previously stated, cut the set down to four minutes, but work toward that six-minute, one-switch baseline set at 12 rpm.

Next, have him attempt 6 minutes at 14 RPM (or even 13 if the 12 RPM effort was extreme). Remember, these are all goals. Adjust by how the student feels that day. If the student (or coach) feel there's no way he can beat his last outing, he should stick with 6 minutes at 12 rpms. If feeling stronger, confident, he can go for 14 RPM. He can always slow down to 12 the last few minutes, but this is not ideal, better to select a goal that can be reached. He should not think about moving past this point until owning six minutes at 14 RPM.

Making it to eight minutes (4 MPH) is more important than increasing pace to 16rpm, so the next logical goal is 8 minutes at 14 RPM. It's important that he evaluates how he feels before attempting the set. It may be best to repeat the 6 minute set a couple of times, especially if barely squeezing out the reps. He should own the 8 minutes at 14rpm before moving on.

Logically, the next jump is to 15 or 16 RPM, sticking with 8 minutes. Once mastered, he's got a choice to make. He can either jump to 17 or 18 RPM and stick with 8 minutes or move to ten minutes, but dropping pace back to 12 or 14 RPM. A lot depends of the strength and goals of the student.

If wind is a major factor in limiting his sets, speed will be the toughest issue. If the actual hand and arm's ability to complete the reps is the main issue and wind is strong, then speeding will be a bit easier, but total reps (length of set) will be the limiting factor.

What's most important to the lifter's overall progress? He can purposely work his weakness, and go faster, not moving to ten minutes until 18 to 20 RPM is reached. Or he can purposely work his strength, moving to ten minute sets after 16 RPM is reached. Making this decision is really the work of an experienced coach

It's not necessary to do a 10 minute set every workout, and ideally training can take place five days per week if the body and hands are able to handle this workload. He can waffle back and forth between 8 and 10 minute sets, but pushing reps, and eventually progress to the next level kettlebell and start all over.

Is the 10 minute set a struggle at above a certain pace?

If the answer is yes, he should consider working in some 12 minute sets (if the hands can tolerate it) as a way to blow past the 10 minute barrier. If 12 and 14 RPM is doable, but he just can't get 16 or 18 at 10 minutes, I advise performing a 12 minute set at 12RPM. This has a tendency to obliterate any barriers at 10 minutes. If necessary, repeat one or two workouts at this length.

An overall reasonable goal is 18 RPM for 10 minutes and total 180 reps. Once reached, integration of the next level bell should be considered, but this is far from mandatory. Longer or faster sets are also a viable option.

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