Early on in my strength training days I came across kettlebells, the DragonDoor forum, and several RKCs which was formative in how I approach strength training. At the time the RKC was arguably the premier kettlebell training and certification organization and while I didn’t agree with all of their dogma (and still don’t, but much of it has softened and become less rigid) at that time it still very much influenced my thinking for the better.
As such the certification requirements and of the 5 minute snatch test, the half-bodyweight press, pistol test, and so on are things that are so embedded in my strength codex that I couldn’t forget them if I tried.
But the one test seems to have been elevated to mythical proportions, the RKC snatch test. This is the one that prospective RKC attendees build up in their minds and work themselves into a frenzy over only to ultimately just barely pass it or bomb out because they got too worked up.
Guys and gals I am here to tell you that it is not that hard.
Let’s reframe this before we go any further. Whoever told you the RKC snatch test was extremely difficult wasn’t giving you their subjective analysis of their experience, they were continuing a tradition of hazing that made this simple rite of passage out to be bigger than it is. Sure, it’s challenging, but anyone with sound technique and moderate strength and work capacity is more than capable of not only passing the RKC snatch test but making it look easy.
So let’s talk about the practicalities of how to train for this test.
It goes without saying that you need sound technique. I’m going to assume that you have that, but if not then dial it in with drills and practice.
The test is 100 snatches in 5 minutes, with a 24kg for most men and 16kg for most women. See the official requirements for breaks for body weight and age group. In any case the same principles apply.
If you had all the time in the world, the test would be trivial so it’s the time limit that causes problems for people. At a normal but quick pace 5 minutes is enough time for about 140 snatches. Conversely it only takes about 3:45 to do 100 reps if you don’t rest.
So where does the time go?
Hand switches and resting eat up that time very quickly. A single hand switch costs you about 3 seconds where a snatch only takes about a second, maybe a second and a half, not to mention you have to do an swing which means you’re doing most of the work of a snatch without getting credit for it. Setting the bell down and resting costs you even more time and work to get going again.
Thus, we can conclude that we want to minimize the number of times we have to switch hands, as well as not set the bell down to rest at all.
So the first thing you want to work on is the ability to withstand that fatigue in the forearms. A popular rep scheme for people barely making 100 is 15+10+10+10+5 (per hand) but this involves 9 hand switches. Imagine if you could do 25 per hand before switching (without creating too much forearm fatigue) you’d be half-way done with the test before costing yourself any extra time.
The best way to do this is to work on long single-sets pushing as far as you can, past the point where you can easily get back to doing another set. Gradually moving that wall further and further out.
This approach tackles the end of the spectrum of fatigue that forces you to switch hands.
Coming from the opposite end is dealing with the need to put the bell down to rest because you simply can’t keep moving due to “lung” capacity. Look, I put lung in quotes because this is a woefully imprecise way to describe it, but you and I both know the feeling of not having enough breath to continue working.
To solve that problem, work solely on building up the capacity to keep moving for the full 5 minutes switching as often as necessary with a smaller bell. If you can’t snatch for 5 minutes even with a smaller bell, start with doing swings instead until you can do them at a rapid pace with no rest for the full time period. Then go back to snatching switching as often as necessary. Once you can snatch for the full 5 minutes, even if you have to switch hands every 5 reps, go up a bell size.
Integrate to Dominate
These are literally the only two things you need to work on to easily smoke the RKC snatch test. By the time you show up on testing day, you will be able to confidently finish your 100 reps and put the bell down in time to drink an espresso.
Now these are the principles. They are here for your taking. However, if you are in need of a specific plan then I must shamelessly plug a program I’ve created. You will find no better preparatory tool than the Dellanavich Kettlebell Regime. If a $20 bill is worth it to you to pass the RKC snatch test with ease then pick it up. Not only will you breeze through the test, but you’ll gain training principles that you can use for a lifetime.