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The 200 Rep Kettlebell Snatch Workout

This is another entry in the workout of the month series. As a refresher, the goal of these workouts is providing you with a repeatable and challenging test of physical prowess that you can work on over time. Perhaps calling it a “workout of the month” is a bit of a misnomer, because you could theoretically perform these workouts for years on end. The goal, as always, is simply to get better.

We’ll get to technique in a minute, and it’s very important. For now, know that progressing on this workout requires strength, conditioning, and a lot of grit. It is the very definition of fighting strength.

The Origin Story

I first came across this particular workout while looking for more ways to challenge my conditioning with kettlebells. As I got deeper in to my garage gym, and my relatively limited equipment compared to a commercial gym, I needed ideas. I found a document by Steve Gould at Underground Strength Coach that detailed an entire program around a snatch pyramid.

The basis is simple. Select a kettlebell and begin climbing the pyramid by snatching the appropriate number, alternating each hand.

1 left, 1 right

2 left, 2 right,

3 left, 3 right

Continue until you do 10 snatches on each side. Now you reverse back down the pyramid.

9 left, 9 right,

8 left, 8 right,

2 left, 2 right,

1, left, 1 right

By the end of climbing up 10 levels and back down, you’ve completed 200 snatches in total. Coach Gould did not offer any standard you need to strive for when completing this pyramid. You can select that for yourself. The point is to have good technical execution and take as long as you need to in order to hit the target. Completing this workout as written could take 20-30 minutes, or more.

If you are a beginner, I suggest starting with the ladder going up to 5 instead of 10, and then progress up from there. Once you’ve hit your desired time goal with a particular weight, then change another variable, like using a heavier kettlebell.

Another Take

Not long after reading through Coach Gould’s program, and doing that workout a few times with a 16 kg/35 lb kettlebell, I came across the US Secret Service Snatch Test. I don’t know if this is still done, but the test has its origins in the selection process for the Secret Service Counter Assault Team. The test was simple: maximum repetitions of a 24 kg / 53 lb kettlebell snatch in 10 minutes.

There was no set number of repetitions a candidate had to achieve in 10 minutes. The rules were that they could put the bell down and rest as much as they wanted, switch hands as frequently as they needed to, but the time continued regardless. They could not leave the platform, or the test was over.

While there was no set requirement, the general goal is 200 repetitions in 10 minutes. Candidates could do more than that, sometimes far more. I’ve seen videos of serious kettlebell practitioners topping 270+ reps in 10 minutes, but that’s why they’re the elite.

So for this particular workout challenge, we’re combining the two approaches.

The 200 Rep Workout Progression

Our long-term goal is hitting 200 repetitions of one arm kettlebell snatch with a 24 kg / 53 lb kettlebell in 10 minutes or less. If you haven’t trained for this, then there’s a long way to go.

The plan is pretty simple.

Once you’ve learned proper snatching technique (and that’s not a small ask, mind you), pick a kettlebell you can do a solid 10 unbroken snatches with using perfect technique. If that kettlebell is not a 24 kg / 53 lb one, that’s fine. Again, I need to emphasize that you must work up to the proper technique. If you go for the snatch with real weight before you’ve developed the correct motor pattern, you’ll find out (as I did), that the snatch can knock you on your butt and make your shoulder very uncomfortable.

Phase 1: Base Building

Start with a pyramid of 1-5-1. That results in 25 reps per arm, or 50 total. Each week, look to add one level to the pyramid. So 1-5-1, 1-6-1, 1-7-1, 1-8-1, 1-9-1, and 1-10-1.

When doing this, work steadily but not frantically. This is the skill building phase while you build up strength and technique. Rest as needed to make sure your heart rate is under control before each round. If you have a heart rate monitor, a good check is to not begin the next set until your heart rate is below your Maffetone number (AKA 180 minus your age). That will force you into progressively longer rest periods as the workout goes on.

Don’t violate this rule. This recovery to below your Maffetone number is an important element to conditioning.

Once you’ve reached the 1-10-1, the next step depends on the kettlebell. If you’ve been using a lighter kettlebell, such as a 16 kg or 20 kg, then move up to the next weight and start over at 1-5-1. At any point if your technique starts to suffer due to fatigue, or your hands are starting to develop hot spots from friction, end the workout. Try again the next time.

Remember, play the long game. Don’t get injured for the sake of your pride- live to fight another day.

Once you achieve 1-10-1 with the 24 kg, let’s go on to phase 2.

Phase 2: Intensity

Once you’ve done 1-10-1 with the 24kg, you’ve already met the goal of 200 snatch repetitions. When you do it for the first time, take note of how long it took you to do it.

Now we’re going to stick with the 1-10-1 and 24kg, and the goal is to beat your time each session. Maybe the first time it took 25 minutes, and that’s perfectly fine. Try to do it in 23 minutes the next time. Shave of a minute here, a few seconds there, every session. Eventually you’ll keep getting it lower and lower.

As you get closer to the 10 minute mark, you will probably have to abandon the 1-10-1 pyramid. Instead, you’ll start working in timed intervals. 10 reps every 30 seconds, or 20 snatches per minute, is the pace you need to get to and sustain for 10 minutes straight in order to finish. Start slower, then build up.

One important note here is that for this intensity phase, you don’t have to maintain the Maffetone number before the next set. 200 reps in 10 minutes is a lot of work, and your aerobic system won’t be able to do that on its own. So don’t worry about getting back to your recovery heart rate here. Instead, the only rule is that you don’t start the next rep until you’re sure you can do it with good technique.

Workout Frequency

As for how frequently to work towards this goal? I suggest 1-2 times per week, depending on what else you’ve got going on.

If you’re doing it twice per week and you’re in Phase 2, I suggest alternating intensity by doing one workout for time, and the other following the Maffetone number rule. If you’re going for three workouts per week, then I suggest the third workout is going for time with a lighter kettlebell. That produces a nice heavy-light-medium format.

Heavy: 24 kg, 1-10-1 for time

Light: 16 kg, 1-10-1 for time

Medium: 24 kg, 1-10-1 (no time limit, recover to below Maffetone number before each level)

Note that three days per week of 200 snatches is a lot of snatching, and you’ll definitely want to put a lot of effort into caring for your hands.

There You Have It

To be honest, actually hitting the target of 200 reps in 10 minutes could take years of consistent work. This isn’t the kind of thing you’re going to do it just a month or two. Just hitting the 1-10-1 is quite the reward in itself. In return for all of this work, you’ll be better conditioned, have more power, and a level of mental toughness you might not have known before.

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Matt

Matt is the primary author and owner of The Everyday Marksman. He's a former military officer turned professional tech sector trainer. He's a lifelong learner, passionate outdoorsman, and steadfast supporter of firearms culture.

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Ben
Ben
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you aren’t joking. Just did this this morning and got 191 with a 35lb kettlebell. Figured I should ease into it. For reference I’ve been CrossFiting & rucking for 7+ years and this was not that easy. Doing it with the 53lb kettlebell would be real rough

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