Thursday, July 30, 2009

200 Kettlebell Snatches in 10 Minutes: Mission Accomplished

And not in the USS Abraham Lincoln sense. I actually did it this morning.

The Enter the Kettlebell! program suggests conducting a test of pressing strength and snatching ability every four weeks. The parameters for the snatch test are simple: as many reps as possible in 10 minutes. The goal is to be able to complete 200 reps in that time.

When I first attempted it four weeks ago, I made it to 170 reps and was quite pleased. Since then I've managed to pick up my cadence a bit and increase my efficiency by doing a better job of controlling my backswing. I still have considerable room for improvement, but that's actually good because it means that on my next test day I will be able to get more reps in the 10 minute period. This is why test days are important: they show you more clearly than anything else where you've made improvements, and where you still have room to grow and get even better. (Note the phrasing of that last sentence: I have declared a moratorium on negative self-talk. My Inner Coach and Inner Ballet Mistress are no longer allowed to tell me I suck, only how I can improve.)

Anyhoo, the big takeaway message for me from my last test day was: the first 120 snatches aren't so awful, but after that it gets tough, particularly on my left side where my shoulder is weaker. As I fatigue it becomes very hard for me to maintain control on that side, resulting in a less efficient snatch and even greater fatigue due to wasted effort. I've also got a wee bit of tendinitis in the left elbow, and my grip on that side is weaker, both of which problems stem from the dysfunction in the shoulder. These are very minor concerns, but when you're attempting something like a 10 minute snatch test there IS no such thing as a minor concern. The good news is, as long as I stop short of complete fatigue, those stabilizing muscles in my left shoulder recover fast. So, the key to me getting more reps in the last few minutes, when I'm tired, is to switch hands more frequently.

Here's what I actually did: I used a continuous 30 second interval track from Workout Muse to keep track of my time, and I set a goal for myself of doing 10 snatches every 30 seconds. For the first six minutes it was no problem to do all 10 snatches on the same side. In minute 7 fatigue started to set in early on the left side, so in minutes 8 and 9 I allowed myself one hand switch every 30 seconds, performing 5 reps on each side instead of doing all 10 on one side. That kept me from ever going to failure on the left. Then in minute 10 I went back to doing 10 reps per side because I was almost done and if I hit failure on my last rep it wouldn't matter. It wouldn't be desirable, because going to failure is not part of the RKC system. But it wouldn't be a disaster either.

As it happened, I didn't hit failure. I could have kept going all the way to eleven (if you'll forgive a Spinal Tap reference :) if I'd had to. But I must say, I'm glad I didn't have to.

Make no mistake: this was hard. If you've ever done Tabata intervals, it was kind of like that. Times 2.5. Think about it for a sec: my cadence for snatches is about 10 every 20 seconds, leaving 10 seconds to rest every 30 seconds. So by the end of minute 4 I'd completed one full Tabata cycle. If people are following the Tabata protocol they take a break at that point. I didn't. I kept going for another 6 minutes.

I do Tabatas a lot. I include them in my spin classes to the point where they're practically my signature drill. I've never done them for more than 4 minutes, though.

But I'm going to start. I could see it being great cross training for something like the 10 minute snatch test ... which I encourage all of you to attempt, at least if it fits with your personal goals and/or you are insane.

Seriously, if I could do it anyone can. I am 47 years old, or close enough that it doesn't matter. I weigh all of 117 pounds. I work in the fitness industry now, but that's a relatively recent development; for years I never lifted anything heavier than a volume of Corpus Juris Secundum. A year ago I didn't even know what a kettlebell was. I'm not what you'd call genetically gifted above the norm; like most people I'm good at some things and not so good at others. I don't mind pushing myself, but neither do you or you wouldn't be reading this blog.

If you have the desire, you can do it.