Does the Snatch Test Really Matter?

by William Sturgeon on February 1, 2017

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Every RKC instructor has gone through the rigorous snatch test. This is five minutes of full effort—snatching a kettlebell for 100 repetitions. Ask anyone who has done it and they will tell you the joys of the test. Many RKC candidates are nervous and frightened when it comes to the snatch test. They end up putting so much effort and stress about test that they miss the big picture of what the weekend is really about—learning.

William Sturgeon Kettlebell SnatchesThe RKC is known as the School of Strength because we educate candidates on how to teach strength to others. As we all know the title of RKC instructor is not given, it’s earned. One of the requirements is the snatch test and it’s part of the right of passage to earn your title as an RKC instructor. But, I want to bring this to everyone’s attention: your ability to safely instruct kettlebell training is not related to how fast you finish your snatch test.

The biggest test that many people underestimate and under-prepare for is the coaching aspect of the certification. I can say that I fell into this when I first got certified. I put so much effort in preparing for the snatch test that I didn’t want to focus on anything else. I passed my RKC that weekend, but I wish I would have put more effort and focus on the coaching part of the weekend. As candidates, you are surrounded by other fitness professionals with years of experience—many people also undervalue this aspect of the weekend. Taking in all the cues and corrections the instructors have to offer is so important for growth as teacher of strength.

One year after my certification, I was able to attend another RKC as a volunteer. The candidate coached me though the swing and the plank. And while he used good cues and good progressions, he ultimately did not pass the snatch test. But, he wasn’t bothered by that, his focus was on passing the other two tests—the coaching test and the technique test. This was a good candidate who had his priorities straight. A year later I was able to assist at an RKC Workshop, and this was my opportunity to share with the candidates the importance of coaching. I assured them that the focus for the weekend was to learn how to teach and perform proper kettlebell technique, not to finish the five minute snatch test in four minutes. Knowing how to properly progress and regress a client means you are competent in coaching while keeping your clients safe.

William Sturgeon Get-Ups

Safety is our number one goal when we working with clients. Making sure that you put a bigger focus on the learning aspect of the weekend will lead you to a successful career in coaching. The RKC is more than just a certification, it’s a system that has principles that apply to all areas of fitness. If you place priority on passing your snatch test and not your ability to coach, you are doing yourself a disservice. Focus on reading your manual and taking notes, I have had the opportunity to assist at an RKC and an HKC, both times I advised the candidates to grab their manuals and write notes. The master instructors have been teaching for years, they will often give cues or corrections that are no in the manual that will be beneficial to remember, so make sure to take notes.

Passing your certification comes with three big tests, your ability to perform the exercises with proper technique, your ability to coach, and your snatch test. This should be the order of importance when you are preparing for your RKC. You will become a teacher of strength, and will show your clients what you learned with proper coaching. Take time to understand that the snatch test is not the most important part of becoming an RKC instructor.

Here are some of my favorite coaching cues to correct the swing:

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William Sturgeon, RKC II trains clients at his gym, Restored Strength. Contact him through his website at RestoredStrength.com or follow him on Facebook: facebook.com/restoredstrength

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  • Paul Britt

    Really good perspective on what is important.

  • Mike Krajnik

    I sincerely appreciate your line of thought. At the same time you can not achieve the certification without completing the snatch test. You rightfully point out passing the snatch test does not make one a good teacher/instructor.
    I attended a RKC in 2014. I was self taught in all the movements as there are no RKC/HKC within hours of me. I am in my 50’s. I did not pass the snatch test for a couple reasons in looking back. (1) I think the required weight was a load for me. In preparing I had done 130+ snatches in 9-10 minutes with the test weight and believed I could just speed up. (2) I have had shoulder injuries, and the preparation and long days at the cert caught up with me – during my test by rep 70 it felt like my shoulder was coming apart, and I did not want another injury so stopped at 75.
    In fairness this was not the only area I fell short. At the same time it was what I had focused on the most, so was a huge disappointment.
    If passing this does not make one a better teacher, then why is it emphasized so much? Why cant the weight of the test bell be somewhat lower or the time limit a bit longer? If the goal is to be able to teach this movement correctly, then isn’t proper form more important than weight or time?
    I respect the standards. Gotta have them. But maybe some of them obscure the point of training and the point of the cert.
    This past year I certified HKC. In some ways it was a let down, and in many ways a joy. I continue to work the snatch as it was my first favorite movement. But I respect some of the limits of my body.
    Both the RKC and HKC were wonderful experiences. After attending both, I feel the HKC is more in line with the idea of being able to properly and safely teach the kettlebell. I have the utmost respect for the folks who instructed/led, both certs. All were professional and clearly knew what they were doing. And I have the utmost respect for those who attended and those who met the standards.
    I listened to a online interview with Steve Maxwell and Mike Mahler from a couple years ago. One thing Steve said struck me (among many, sounds like a neat guy). He said back in the day the hard style kettlebell follks sort of looked down on the girevoy sport style, yet they adopted a girevoy sport type event (the snatch test) as what became sort of the gold standard for certification. Maybe its time to rethink that. Or not.
    Thanks for a insightful post. Regards, Mike Krajnik

    • Michael Krivka

      Great insights Mike and many that I agree with as well. The focus of both certifications (HKC and RKC) is to produce people that have an exemplary understanding of all of the components. They should be able to teach them inside and out (progressions and regressions) as well as when to substitute or load/unload a technique. All important skills if you are going to be working with individuals and/or groups.

      Regarding the Snatch Test… I have a love/hate relationship with it myself. I have done it more times than I want to admit since certifying over fifteen years ago. For me it is not a lot of work to ramp up to it; my training regimen is pretty intense and I am relatively injury free (thankfully). Others are not so fortunate and have struggled with the test. I feel, much like what you stated, that the test of more GS (girevoy sport) than HS (hard style) oriented. I think the first time I took the Test it was 76 Snatch with one hand change and no set-downs. Very different than today’s Test. Is today’s Test an improvement? Nope… just a little different. Do I feel that we can evolve to a better Test, one more reflecting the whole of the RKC? Absolutely. I have been proposing this for a number of years and will continue to do so.

      Let me say that I’m not against a rigorous physical test to pass the RKC; one that balances out the technical and teaching aspects. On the contrary, I think you need to demonstrate a certain tenacity and willingness to put some long hours in getting strong enough to complete the weekend.

      There’s more that I can say about this but will leave this and allow others to speak…

  • Excellent advice, William! Before my first RKC certification in 2010, I was very lucky to have a coach who let me practice teaching in his small group kettlebell class, that experience was priceless to have going into the workshop!

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