Rite of passage

According to the Oxford reference website, a rite of passage is ‘A ceremony or event marking an important stage in someone’s life, especially birth, initiation, marriage, and death.’ In Pavel’s book Enter the Kettlebell, he writes about a Russian rite of passage; a boy becomes a man when he can one-arm strict press a 32kg kettlebell over his head

The book provides a simple programme to prepare you for this initiation; performing clean and press ladders three days per week with a heavy, light, and medium day. The book suggests to use Saturday as your heavy day, Monday as the light day, and Wednesday as your medium day. Start with a Kettlebell you can strict press 5-8 times with your weaker arm. For better progress and balance, do pull-ups in between each rung of each ladder matching the number of presses.

Heavy day

  • Week 1: 3 sets of a 1,2,3 ladder 
  • Week 2: 4 sets of a 1,2,3 ladder
  • Week 3: 5 sets of a 1,2,3 ladder 
  • Week 4: 5 sets of a 1,2,3,4 ladder 
  • Week 5: 5 sets of a 1,2,3,4,5 ladder
  • Week 6: move to a heavier Kettlebell and start again on week 1

For the light day do five sets, but two rungs less than the heavy day. For the medium day do five sets, but one rung less than the heavy day.

So week one you would do a clean and press with the left arm, then a clean and press with the right arm and then one pull up to complete the first rung on the ladder. Then two clean and presses with the left arm and two clean and presses with the right arm, then two pull-ups to complete the second run. Then three clean and presses with the left arm and three clean and presses with the right arm, then three pull-ups to complete the first ladder. Rest before starting the second set.

Each rep is one clean and one press. The aim is to practice the clean and press as a pair to prepare you for heavier Kettlebells.

I can do eight presses with a 24kg Kettlebell, and so I am using that for the next five weeks before moving up to the 32kg. I am continuing with the swings from my earlier post and including five sets of five goblet squats with the 32kg kettlebell. The combination of heavy swings, goblet squats, clean and presses, and pull-ups is an excellent strength and conditioning routine on top of my running.

The ultimate goal described in Enter the Kettlebell is to press the Kettlebell closest to 1/2 your body weight (40kg Kettlebell for me) and do 200 kettlebell snatches in 10 minutes with 24kg. This book will provide a good six months of training to get me to that benchmark.

So, if you haven’t already, buy at least a decent 24kg kettlebell (cheaper bells can have uneven and rough handles) and work through the progression of the swings, training most days based on feel. From there, get a 32kg and then a 40kg kettlebell and build your ‘Courage corner’. 

I aim to test the 32kg press on new years eve. Let me know on Twitter what training you are up to at the moment, and any rites of passage you think are worth achieving.