High-rep kettlebell snatches

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Lockdowns over the last year have made kettlebell training a central element in my daily routine. I write this on a seaside holiday in the southeast of England, to which I brought a 24kg kettlebell in the car (no joke). Working from home means I risk spending all day sitting down with little reason for any meaningful movement, so I have a couple of kettlebells in my conservatory for quick access between meetings. I know that each day, with just 10 minutes, I can get 10×10 swings with a 40kg kettlebell or if I am swamped and only have 5 minutes, I can do 10×10 single hand swings with 24kg.

I think every household should build a collection of kettlebells as a home gym or a ‘Courage corner’ as the Russian Military calls it, according to Pavel in The Russian Kettlebell Challenge. Kettlebells are cheap, will outlast you, require no additional equipment, and the techniques are easy to learn from Youtube. 

Progression on Kettlebell swings

  1. Two-handed swing
  2. One-handed swing
  3. Clean
  4. Snatch

High rep kettlebell snatches are hard; they test your mental resilience, conditioning, grip strength, and shoulder strength and mobility. High rep kettlebell snatches will highlight and fix problems and asymmetries in your swing technique. As a ballistic movement, it is a great way to build a powerful hip snap that will carry over into other activities like running, and it will burn fat at the same time.

Before trying high rep or heavy kettlebell snatches, it is good to build solid technique on the push press and the more accessible swings. Once you start to train the snatch, think of it as a one-handed swing that goes all the way up and swing from the top – pauses with the kettlebell overhead and let your bell drop into the swing movement. 

Start with a 16kg Kettlebell (if you have one) and spend time learning the groove of the movement before you move to a 24kg kettlebell. Until you have mastered the movement, treat it as a practice rather than a workout, take your time building up the reps and weight. Use heavy swings, cleans, and presses for your strength and conditioning work until you feel confident with the snatch.  


The first big test is the StrongFirst snatch test that forms part of the entry-level certification. Dan Johns rep recommendations of 20/15/10/5 (per hand) starting with your weaker hand is a great way to approach the test. As Dan points out, by the end of the first set of 20, you can smile as you have completed the most challenging part.

  1. StrongFirst Certification Snatch Test: 100 snatches in 5 minutes with a 24kg kettlebell
  2. The US Secret Service 10-minute snatch test: 200 snatches in 10 minutes with a 24kg
  3. Tactical strength challenge: max snatches in 5 minutes with a 32kg kettlebell
  4. Girevoy national ranking: Snatch a 32Kg kettlebell 40 times with one arm, then 40 times with the other back to back 


High rep snatching with a kettlebell can be tough on your hands, and once the skin on your palms rips, it will take time without training to heal. Only snatch 2-3 times per week to avoid over breaking the skin and supplement with other types of swing and presses that are easier on the grip.

I like to use a combination of Pavel’s rite of passage method, including the clean and presses from Enter the Kettlebell and the progression ladder from Jason Marchall’s TSC prep plan.

Monday: 5-10 snatches per side on the minute every minute for 7 minutes with competition weight based on the milestone you are working towards.

Wednesday & Thursday: 3 sets of 1-10 snatches with the weight above your Monday workout weight followed by 3 sets of 5-10 heavy swings with 3 minutes rest between each set. 

Start with five snatches on each arm, and each week add a snatch on each arm until you get to 10 reps on each side, then start the ladder again but with a heavier kettlebell or add a minute (e.g. 5/5 for 8 minutes with 28kg). For the snatches on the mid-week workouts, start with three sets of one rep on each side and add a rep per side for each subsequent workout. Progress to a heavier kettlebell once you reach 10 per side for three sets.

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’. 

People want economic security and to be left alone

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In a recent interview, Chamath Palihapitiya said, “people just want economic security and to be left alone”. The ‘left alone’ part needs no explanation, but what exactly does economic or financial security mean? 

Economic security or financial security is the condition of having stable income or other resources to support a standard of living now and in the foreseeable future. It includes:

– probable continued solvency.

– predictability of the future cash flow of a person or other economic entity, such as a country.

– employment security or job security


To have economic security, you need to have and maintain a reasonable standard of living. Beyond the basic needs of shelter, warmth, and food, this standard tends to be heavily comparative and determined by the living standards of those around you. Someone who has a standard of living near or above the average of those they interact with will feel like they have economic security. However, this standard of living must be sustainable through continued solvency, a predictable future cash flow, and job security.

Continued solvency means that you have more assets over time than you have liabilities, so the total value of equity in your house and car and the amount you have in savings and investments is greater than the value of your mortgage, loans, and credit card debt. The predictability of cash flow means that you have a good idea of your income over the next few months to a year, either through a reasonable promise of continued employment as an employee or entrepreneur and/or a stable investment income from stocks, bonds, or a pension. Employment security refers to the confidence that if you continue to do your job, you will keep it and that you have control of your continued employment.

Anything else?

Beyond a comfortable living, what other factors are essential in living a happy life? Since early 2019, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has been identifying and tracking metrics that the government can use as a measure of prosperity separate from the financial measurement of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). 

According to this well-being study, you are happier in Britain if you have a high level of perceived health, are married, employed, own your home, and earn slightly above the average household income of £29,900 per year. You are also happier if you are female. Multiple studies show that self-reported life satisfaction is heavily age-dependent following a U shape, with a dip in happiness in your late thirties and early forties. 

So if you want a safe bet at happiness, you need to find a stable job that pays just above the national household average, live below your means, avoid unsecured debt, build security with additional income streams, stay healthy, get married and buy your home. 

If you are a government, you should focus your efforts on getting as many people as possible to the situation described above and then leave everyone alone. 

New daily exercise recommendations for healthy

The current recommended levels of physical activity to reduce the risk of early death by up to 30% is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or a combination of the two per week. Just under a third of people globally do not achieve this minimum standard and it is higher in richer countries. But a new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has found that these recommendations for activity levels are not enough to avoid chronic illnesses for those that spend most of their day sitting down. 

The study looked at the effects of various daily amounts of different intensities of exercise, lack of exercise, and sleep on early death using six previous studies covering over 130,000 adults in the UK, US, and Sweeden. The paper suggests that most of us in the UK and other wealthy countries spend up to twelve hours a day sitting and so require higher levels of movement to counteract the negative effects of a sedentary life than those that sid for just six to seven hours used to model the original recommendations. They suggest a minimum of three minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise or twelve minutes of light physical activity for every hour spent seated each day. 

For a person who sits twelve hours per day, the recommendations would mean 36 minutes of vigorous or 144 minutes of light activity each day. If we just followed this for five days per week that is 180 minutes of vigorous exercise, 2.4 times the amount previously suggested for the same level of risk reduction. If you are in bed for eight hours and working for eight to nine hours and then sitting in front of the TV in the evening it is likely that twelve hours seated is realistic and possibly low for some people. 

In addition to increased weekly exercise time to offset all the sitting, the paper also suggests using a variety of movements each week to accumulate the required vigorous or light activity. This means that if a person had previously completed three to four runs per week to get in the minimum recommended activity, then adding some strength training, a swim session, and a bike ride could bring better health benefits than more running when using the new benchmarks. For the health benefits, the important thing is to get your heart rate up each day and use a variety of movements across the week, so be creative and use what you have. 

Above the suggestion that people should create a daily exercise habit, The study also suggested that moving regularly between exercise and getting good amounts of daily also presented benefits. The UK National Health Service has some good suggestions for exercise and the Canadian government has already adopted a daily approach to movement

On this blog, there are recommendations of training goals for running starting at the beginner level, suggestions for strength and conditioning using kettlebells, and recommendations for four-minute movement breaks that can be used throughout the day.

Running to Explore

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For many of us, running is the best way to explore a new location. We take running shoes with us on holidays and business trips and make sure we pop out on our first day to navigate the local area. But how many people truly explore the roads and trails where they live?

In 2020 I set myself an ambitious annual mileage goal that significantly increased the frequency and distance I ran each week. When the first UK lockdown came in March 2020, we were stuck inside with only a single outside exercise session per day for liberation. Conveniently lockdown coincided with the release of the Routes function on Strava.

For Strava Premium members, the Routes function allows you to enter the distance you want to run, whether you want a flat or hilly route, and choose between a trail or road surface. An algorithm then calculates three routes from your starting point based on the most run paths by local runners. You can choose one of the routes or rerun the algorithm to get additional options. 

Once you have selected a route, save and star it to upload it to your Garmin GPS watch, and it will appear the next time you sync. You can load the course on your device and follow the audio instructions and map prompts for your run.

I used the Routes function for my runs each morning and discovered all the hidden trails in and around my local town. As the year went on and my routes got longer and longer, including a few 25-mile off-road test events, I began to rely on the Explore function to provide new exciting trails. During the summer, I got away for a break to the English south coast and another to Burgen, Norway and discovered some fantastic trails with the added benefit of not needing to carry a map. 

I use the Fenix 6X Pro Solar, and Strava Premium is around £70 per year, so it is not a cheap solution, but I bought the watch before the tool existed and signed up to Strava for other features, so it works for me. I have been told that Garmin has a similar function built into Garmin Connect, and there are much cheaper watches on the market if you need a more affordable option. 

Exploring the trails around my local area and running a different route most days allowed me to keep excited about running during the lockdowns and cancelled races. I guess a better option would be to join a club and learn the local trails and roads from other runnings in your area, but if you travel a lot and run at strange times (Strava had my average time at 7 am), this might be the perfect option.

Frequency training for running

I am a fan of frequency training; my body seems to respond to it. The best gains I have main in strength have been when I lift heavy often and playing with the volume to make sure I am recovered enough for the next day. The best example of frequency training is squatting every day, working up to a heavy single each day but never pushing it too hard. 

Frequency is how often you train, for example, three times a week. Frequency is increased by training a greater number of times each week. Intensity is how hard you train, for example faster, heavier, less recovery.


Frequency training is challenging, and your legs are heavy every day. Often, you don’t know how you will feel until you warm up when your body just responds. The key to this high-intensity weight training is never to go too hard, never having to get excited to lift and stressing the nervous system too much. You just get in, warm-up, work up to a heavy single and then get out. It works with strength training, but does it work for running?

Middle distance runners such as milers in the preparation and races stages of the season seem to run hard every day. This is particularly true for intermediate runners at the high school and college level, where they run on the track most days of the week, making sure that they never push so hard that they can’t complete training the next day. Greats like Herb Elliot and Emil Zatopek ran hard each day and built world record pace. Emil Zatopek training famously focused around 200, and 400-meter repeats up to 40 times each but paced off feel and never all out.   

Why should I practice running slow? I already know how to run slow. I want to learn to run fast.

Emil Zatopek

I am going to do a block of running frequency training to get faster. I am taking the rough layout from an old Frank Horwill article of training for the mile.

The weekly layout will look like this:

  • Monday: 3k pace, 2 x (1 x 400m + 1 x 800m + 1 x 300m)
  • Tuesday: Tempo, half-marathon pace
  • Wednesday: 4x 400m at mile pace
  • Thursday: Intervals, 5k pace
  • Friday: Recovery
  • Saturday: maximal sprints, 1 x 350m, 1 x 300m, 1 x 250m, 1 x 200m, 1 x 150m, w/ 400m walking rests
  • Sunday: Tempo, marathon pace

The volume and intensity for each workout will be adjusted by feel using the weekly layout as a guide. If I am not doing so well, the training will be replaced by a 35-minute recovery jog or, if really bad, some light 200 and 400m strides to just get the legs moving.

I will let you know how it goes. 

The perfect 15 minute workout

I found this quick clean and press workout by Jim Schmitz many years ago, but I can’t find it again on the internet. It is excellent for general strength and conditioning if you do not have much time but have a barbell and some bumper plates at home. You could replicate the pattern with five progressively heavier kettlebells, but you might need to adjust the timings if you have to do the reps on both sides.

Three-minute warm-up: 

  • Arm circles, body twists and circles, and a few free squats.
  • Empty bar set – 5 x Power Clean + 5 x Military Press (one Power Clean followed by one Press repeated for five total reps)

Two minutes per set, including changing weights, lifting, and a short recovery:

  • 5 x Power Clean + 5 x Military Press
  • 5 x Power Clean, 2 x Military Press and 3 x Push Press
  • 5 x Power Clean + 5 x Push Press
  • 5 x Power Clean + 2 x Push Press and 3 x Power Jerk
  • 5 x Power Clean + 5 x Power Jerk.

Start with a conservative weight for the first set and add weight for each subsequent set. The final set should be challenging, but not so hard you could not do another rep if needed. My benchmark was always to do the last set with my bodyweight on the bar, but you could adjust it for your strength levels.


  • Set 1: 40kg
  • Set 2: 50kg
  • Set 3: 60kg
  • Set 4: 70kg
  • Set 5: 80kg

Building monster fitness

There are four core elements to fitness; Strength, Stamina, Endurance, and Power & Speed. To be a monster, you need to be competent in all four aspects, along with flexibility, joint mobility, and core stability.

Strength is the ability to do hard, heavy work.

Strength is the foundation of fitness and is typically represented and trained through the slow lifts; Squat, deadliest, press, bench press, and the squat clean and clean and press. Strength is measured relative to bodyweight.

Stamina is overcoming resistance repetitively with efficiency over time.

Stamina or work capacity is carrying heavy stuff farther or doing more work in less time. It is typically represented and trained through circuit (Crossfit style) workouts or through repeating an exercise for a set amount of time, particularly bodyweight exercises such as a military PT test.

Endurance is the ability to go long and slow over distance.

Endurance or long slow distance is aerobic exercise such as running, cycling, rowing, and swimming, across the water, air, and land.

Power & speed is the ability to overcome resistance explosively.

Power is typically represented and trained through short bursts of anaerobic exercise, including Olympic lifting and sprints. Power is the outcome of being competent in the other three core elements of fitness. Increasing your speed is to minimise the cycle of repetition.

Marathon Pace

When people talk about a steady run, I think about marathon pace. Marathon pace is aerobic, so you should be able to do your whole weekly long run at this speed. It is also faster than your easy pace and so more interesting for those of us who are not running swift times. 

Marathon pace

Variety: Steady run or long repeats (e.g. 2 x 4 miles at marathon pace)

Intensity: Generally in the range 75-84% of VO2max or 80-90% of your HRmax.

Purpose: Used to experience race pace conditions for those training for a marathon or simply as an alternative to Easy pace running for beginners on long run days.

The RUN SMART project

I have been reading the Frank Howitt archive on the Serpentine running club’s website; most of the pro-level training plans he suggests, from the mile to 10k, involve running 13 miles at a pace similar to an athletes marathon speed. Jack Daniel’s advises beginner runners could use this pace as an alternative on easy runs.

Pete Magill in ‘Fast 5K‘ says that the comfortably hard marathon pace is the slowest speed for a tempo run and recommends runners targetting the 5K build up to workouts of 25 to 30 continuous minutes. Pete advises initially breaking tempo runs into 5-10 minute blocks with 2-3 minute jogs as recovery to reduce the resulting fatigue and help you to auto-regulate the pace.

Fast 5K Marathon pace progression:

  • Beginner: 10min
  • Intermediate: 2 x 10 min w/ 3 min recovery jog
  • Advanced #1: 2 x 10 min + 5 min w/ 2 min recovery jog
  • Advanced #2: 3 x 10 min w/ 3 min recovery
  • Elite: 30min

Once comfortable performing 30 minutes of continuous marathon pace as part of your weekly 13-mile long run, you could pick up a marathon training plan for progression ideas. In Daniels’ running formula, Jack Daniels recommends 40-110 minutes and under 18 miles marathon pace per workout and between 15-20% of weekly mileage. Daniel’s says to use marathon pace when training for a marathon or building confidence in sustaining longer efforts.

Daniel’s running formula marathon pace workouts:

  1. 60 min E, 30 min M, 10 min E
  2. 60 min E, 40 min M, 10 min E
  3. 60 min E, 60 min M, 10 min E
  4. 30-40 min E, 80 min M, 10 min E
  5. 40-60 min E, 70 min M, 10 min E

Marathon pace is a fun, comfortably hard pace for steady runs to build stamina and confidence. The pace provides more muscle activation and physiological benefits than the traditional long-run easy pace but can be tougher on your body. Build up slowly to including more of the long run mileage at this speed until you can perform 13 miles at the pace. This approach will introduce enjoyment to the long miles, building a solid engine and strong legs to tackle any distance you choose to race. 

Operator Fitness Standards

Special forces soldiers are fascinating. The levels of strength, conditioning, and resilience required to perform at the highest levels of the military are impressive. Operators have to be fast and agile in close quarters battle and carry large loads over long distances with little sleep. But how fit do you have to be to make it through selection?

The US Navy Seals tracked 2,208 candidates through three years of Hell Week to identify the physical standards of those that successfully passed BUD/S. The study found that the best candidates and those less likely to be dropped for medical reasons were fast runners and swimmers with high levels of lower body power. These high endurance applicants are more resistant to fatigue, less injury-prone, and less likely to make technical errors when tired. The lower body power allowed soldiers to handle the rugged terrain during selection better.

The events with the most significant impact on completing BUD/S were the three and four-mile run, the 300-yard shuttle run, and the 1,000m swim with fins. The one-rep max deadlift score showed the most negligible effect on success.

The paper provides future applicants with the best and worst passing scores on each Naval Special Warfare Human Performance Assessment (SEAL PRT) test and Naval Special Warefare Preparatory (NSW Prep) School Exit Test.

Standing Long Jump111 Inches90 Inches or more72 Inches
25lb Pull-up20 Reps13-15 Reps5 Reps
Body Weight Bench24 Reps10-14 Reps1 Reps
Deadlift 1 Rep Max2.33 x Bodyweight1.75 x Bodyweight1.5 x Bodyweight
5-10-5 Agility4.35 Seconds4.4 – 4.8 Seconds5.45 Seconds
300yd Shuttle Run56.0 Seconds60 Seconds or less67.7 Seconds
3-Mile Run15:33 Minutes18-19 Minutes22:37 Minutes
800-Meter Swim with Fins11:28 Minutes12-14 Minutes15:46 Minutes
1K-Swim with Fins14:10 Minutes17 Minutes or less19:11 Minutes
Push-up119 Reps90-99 Reps70 Reps
Sit-up109 Reps80-89 Reps61 Reps
Pull-up30 Reps19-21 Reps10 Reps
4-Mile Run21:48 Minutes27 Minutes or less30:00 Minutes
Fitness test scores of successful BUD/S candidates

A separate study of 1500 students from BUD/S classes found that ‘The leanest students completed Hell Week at a higher rate than students with more body fat.’ A body fat percentage in the range of 10-15% is recommended to improve performance and reduce the risk of injury.

How fit do you have to be to make it through BUD/S?

  1. Be able to run 3-miles in less than 19 minutes and 4-miles in less than 27 minutes.
  2. Perform a 300-yard shuttle run in less than 60 seconds
  3. Swim 1000m with fins quicker than 17 minutes
  4. Be tall and lean with a body fat percentage between 10-15%


The following is taken from the author’s foreword of Middle Distance Running by Percy Cerutty published in 1964.

I teach:
It is not important that we merely compete: that it is important that we endeavour to excel. That means, we do with all our ‘heart and soul’ that which we find at hand to do.
That we leave ‘no stone unturn’d’: no page unread: nothing frustrates us – since with the difficulty is the means of overcoming – and this once we have resolved upon a course of action.
There are much more priceless things than winning especially, if the victories be ‘unearned’ or ‘cheap’.
It is the ‘training’: the ‘way’, that is valuable. That winning is only evidence of something and may be valuable, or not.
That ‘value’ is only ‘earned’ when there has been self-discipline: exhaustive effort and the development of intelligence through experience and thought.
That without these factors preceding ‘winning’ – winning itself, rather than be an advantageous experience, can stultify the personality – not add to it.

I hold:
That suffering and dedication is the only way to understanding, compassion and courage.
That these three add up to a lovable personality, true withal, and the most priceless of all – character.

Percy Cerutty