Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Snatch Test

A few weeks ago, the lovely Amanda Salas of Dragon Door TV asked me to record a 1-2 minute clip for a Fit Tip on the upcoming Dragon Door TV episode, and specifically wanted it to be for the incoming RKC candidates at any of this year's coming RKC certifications.  I thought a while about what advice I should give them, and ultimately decided to dole out some advice on the wheat-from-chaff entrance exam that the RKC is (in)famous for: The Snatch Test.  Check out the video here.

(For those of you not in the know, the snatch test (age and weight permitting) is 100 snatches with the 53 lb kettlebell for men or the 35 lb kettlebell for women)

Here are my top four recommendations for acing your test.  From experience I can tell you these will help because I didn't apply any of these often enough.  And as a result, though I passed on day one and with 15 seconds to spare, my snatch test was as awful as a lot of people probably imagine theirs will be.  That sort of thing is usually a self-fulfilling prophecy, which is why you must do what I didn't in order to make sure that you don't feel like dying once the test is over.

1. Swing heavy, swing often
You can, without a doubt, pass the RKC by following Pavel's Rite of Passage in his book "Enter The Kettlebell".  In it, he has you practicing your snatches only one day a week - on your light day - and swinging for the rest of the week.  This should emphasize the importance of practicing your swings often, and swinging heavy will really help you to summon an otherworldly hip drive that will have massive carry-over into your snatches.  Snatching more than you need to really won't help you much and swinging more than you need to is...well, impossible.  Everyone needs more swings.

2. Own your technique
The Hardstyle snatch technique is a thing of vicious, heart-racing beauty.  However, it's called "Hardstyle" for a reason.  It's hard enough as it is.  Power leakages, inefficient movement and immobility are all gleeful contributors to turning you into an also-ran faster than you can say "no count".  Making your last rep look like your first ain't easy at first, but with practice it is.  And as is written above, swings will charitably donate more to your snatch technique than just having a lot of heart.  If you can't swing well, you sure as hell can't snatch.

3. Pace yourself
My coach, Comrade Scott Stevens, RKC, CK-FMS, completed his 100 reps in just 3:30 at the CK-FMS.  He did 30/30, 20/20.  I have little doubt that he used his extra minute and a half to kick back and relax as he watched those around him suffer for a little while longer.  The point?  You have five minutes.  That's obviously more than enough time to do 100.  Relax, pace yourself, and don't bother setting the bell down.  Unless, that is, you want to mash your body's proverbial pedal to the floor to make up for lost time.

4.  At least once a week, work with a heavier bell overhead. 
For the gentlemen, that means using a 70 lb bell (ideally) and ladies, a 44 lb or 53 lb bell.  To put it simply, it'll make holding the weight you need overhead a much easier affair.

That's it!  These four things will take your Snatch Test from gut check to no sweat.  Why train harder when you can train both harder AND smarter?  The latter will elicit epic results, the former will put you alongside the average gym goer, and if you're interested in being average, you're in the wrong business.

Until next time, lift heavy and eat clean!


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Caution to the wind

Correctives suck.  They may cure what ails ya, but they're nowhere nearly as fun as hoisting heavy iron overhead or launching it out in front of you repeatedly.  I don't think anyone would argue with that.  I've been doing a lot of correctives to try to fix my strained hamstrings for the past few months, and I've made a ton of progress.  I'm not 100% fixed up yet, but I'm closer to that percentage than I was in March (it helps that my knees don't feel like they want to fly out behind me anymore).  As a result of not feeling 100%, I have mostly avoided two of my favorite things: swings and squats.

But lately, the words of my friend and one-time champion powerlifter Mike have started ringing more and more loudly in my head: "you're a little too cautious."  So I decided to say "f*** it" and throw caution to the wind.

Well, mostly.

Monday I cautiously approached my practice with a few of my favorite lifts: pullups (on "rings"), clean and press, and goblet squat, with some swings for desert and, of course, some grip work afterward.  Here's what it looked like:

Pullup - 5                         
C&P - 5R/5L (24 kg)      
Goblet squat - 5 (24 kg)  

(the above were done in circuit format for three rounds and with plenty of rest between each set)

Swings (24 kg) - 5 x 10 with plenty of rest between each set.

The main thing I was focusing on was keeping the volume low enough to better ease into practice again after a hiatus that has kept me from lifting the way I once did, and, more importantly, to simply practice.  Clearing my head and focusing on the movements led me back to a few of my old a-ha moments.

1) Tension is king, but once you can peel some of it away, do.  As Brett Jones said in a recent post on the RKC forum regarding tension, it's like porridge: too hot, too cold - just right.  You can't know what's "necessary" until you've had too much and too little.  I found this to be especially true on my C&P, as I dialed back the tension little by little and found the bell going overhead just as easily. 

2) Visualizations help.  For example, the past few times I have practiced pullups, I focused mostly on pulling myself up.  This time, I focused on pushing my elbows into my obliques, and it made things much, much easier. 

3) The little things count.  I placed extra focus on glute tension in my squats and swings, as my gluteal amnesia seems to be a side effect of my hamstring strain.  As a result, my knees actually didn't feel as sore the next morning and this morning they felt great! 

I'm hoping this means I'll be back on track to reclaiming my badassery in no time.

* * *

I've been a follower of the Warrior Diet for three years now and I've felt that it's helped me immensely in leading a healthier, stronger life.  Here's what I've had for dinner the past few nights.

Two big ahi tuna steaks cooked in olive oil
6-7 cups of cooked veggies mixed in with a can of kidney beans
A bunch of almonds

7 egg whites and 3 egg yolks mixed with one can of tuna and about 5-6 cups of chopped veggies.
1 1/2 cups of lentils
1 serving of guacamole a la Neghar Fonooni's recipe (one avocado, some chopped cilantro, pico de gallo, salt, and lime juice)
A number of handfuls of almonds


Until next time, lift heavy and eat clean!