High-rep kettlebell snatches

Photo by Taco Fleur on Pexels.com

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.  

Milestones

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 

Training

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’. 

What gets measured gets managed

“What gets measured gets managed — even when it’s pointless to measure and manage it, and even if it harms the purpose of the organization to do so.

Peter Drucker

And…

Goodheart’s Law: When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.

Because…

Campbell’s Law: The more a metric counts for real decisions, the greater the pressure for corruption, the more it distorts the situation it’s intended to monitor.

And…

“Quantitative measures of performance are tools, and are undoubtedly useful. But research indicates that indiscriminate use and undue confidence and reliance in them result from insufficient knowledge of the full effects and consequences. Judicious use of a tool requires awareness of possible side effects and reactions. Otherwise, indiscriminate use may result in side effects and reactions outweighing the benefits (…) The cure is sometimes worse than the disease.”

V. F. Ridgway

So…

“It’s Not About the Result, It’s About Awareness.

The trick is to realize that counting, measuring, and tracking is not about the result. It’s about the system, not the goal.

Measure from a place of curiosity. Measure to discover, to find out, to understand.

Measure from a place of self-awareness. Measure to get to know yourself better.

Measure to see if you are showing up. Measure to see if you’re actually spending time on the things that are important to you. (Make sure to measure backward, not forward.)”

James Clear

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.

How many hours will you work in your career?

The website 80,000 hours, created by academics at Oxford University, provides a rough estimate of the average number of hours people will work in their lives:

80,000 hours of work in your career = 40 years x 50 weeks x 40 hours

But how does this relate to the reality for someone in the UK?

92,684 hours of work in a UK career = 47 years x 46.4 weeks x 42.5 hours

This number is considerable, but the equation is highly variable based on your work. If you take an academic working at an English university, the working years, weeks and hours contracted will be less, but actual hours might be greater. 

If you started paying into a pension before 2011, it might be possible to retire at 60, and you likely stayed in education through to a PhD so graduated at 26, giving just 34 years of ‘work’. A full-time academic ‘contracted’ hours might be 37 per week, and work 44.4 weeks with 38 days of leave, including bank holidays. 

This fictional academic could work just 55,855.2 hours in their career based on contracted hours. However, this is a romantic bare minimum, and self-reporting on working hours is much higher. 

The question is, what will you do with the hours you have left? 

Fundamentals of accounting

I have been working on the fundamentals of accounting for my first MBA exam today. Like most employees or a large organisation, I have not had to deal with balance sheets in my work before, so the practice application of double-entry bookkeeping is new to me.

You may be aware that businesses, companies, and organisations (entities in accounting speak) must follow a set of financial reporting standards called the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) or the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) in the US. An entities finances are kept separate from its owner’s finances (Entity concept) even when the entity is a proprietorship, where the entity has a sole owner/investor.

The reporting centres around the balance sheet that displays the health and composition of an organisation. The balance sheet has three main elements, assets, liabilities, and equity, all recorded in monetary amounts in a single currency.

Balance Sheet equation: assets = liabilities + equity

Assets are items owned and controlled by the company and acquired at a measurable financial cost and are split into current assets and noncurrent assets. Current assets are short term items that are likely to be used or converted to cash within the financial year; these include cash, accounts receivable (money owed for goods/services), inventory, and prepaid expenses like insurance. Noncurrent assets are long term items that are unlikely to be used or converted to cash within the financial year; these include property, plant and equipment such as factories, equipment and land.

Liabilities are debts owed to creditors in return for goods and services and are similarly slit into current and long-term categories based on the current financial year. Current liabilities include bank loans, accounts payable (money owed for goods and services) and estimated tax liabilities (estimate before filing reports at the end of the year). Equity is the capital supplied by investors (Paid-In Capital) and profits from the business that are then reinvested into the company (Retained Earnings).

The balance sheet displays all assets, liabilities, and equity of a company, with assets on the left and liabilities and equity on the right. The Double-entry bookkeeping principle requires that any transaction, such as a purchase of inventory or equipment, results in two entries, an increase in PP&E or inventory, could mean a reduction in cash or increase in accounts payable if they are purchased on credit, for example.

I hope you enjoyed a brief introduction to accounting and the balance sheet.

Searching (2018)

Today I rewatched the 2018 film ‘Searching’ directed by Aneesh Chaganty. The movie is worth a watch just for the way it is filmed. All the shorts are through the desktop of the main character’s computer, with the story told through video calls, text messages, web searches, and the occasional TV news report. It sounds like it would not work, but it does, partly down to the excellent editing.

The exciting thing about this film is how much you can do with your computer if you set up a link between your phone and laptop. The main character approaches the investigation into his daughter’s disappearance like a ninja project manager. He starts by creating a table with questions that he then goes through each of his daughters 96 Facebook friends completing a row for each. He goes through search history, social media accounts, text messages, and email, meticulously logging everything he learns and gradually finding clues to create a timeline of the days running up to the disappearance. 

The situation in the film is extreme, but it showcases how much of the world’s information is online and how a computer can aid a systematic approach to solve a problem. It raises the question about how much more productive you might be if you learned to use your computer better and how methodical you are in your approach and documentation when problem-solving.

Two tasks for me this week:

  1. Become a power user with my computer
  2. Be deliberate in my approach and documentation in my problem-solving.

Are your employees satisfied at work?

As a manager, the job satisfaction of the people in my team is important. If I am honest, it is more to do with the psychological need to get one with people and my in-built desire as a teacher to develop those whose careers I am responsible for than it is about productivity. But employee satisfaction is closely correlated with positive business outcomes; data between 1984 and 2009 suggests that companies on the ‘100 best companies to for work in America’ earned 2.1% higher stock returns than the industry averages.

A 2019 Siad Business School study using Gallop data coving nearly two million employees across seventy-three countries showed a significant, strong link between employee satisfaction and corporate performance. The study measured four business outcomes; customer loyalty, employee productivity, profitability, and staff turnover. The researchers found that the higher the satisfaction of staff, the lower the staff turnover and higher customer loyalty. The correlation was weaker with productivity and profitability, but they were still linked.

Ultimately, higher wellbeing at work is positively correlated with more business-unit level profitability.

Krekel et al.

How to improve employee satisfaction

The basics matter, like job security, opportunities for development and progression, and fair compensation and benefits all need to be present. If these things are in place, one of the simplest ways to make employees happier is to produce a well-run company where staff are treated as people. Keep employees consulted and informed about company plans, provide them with clear goals and objectives, foster psychological safety, and follow periods of intense work and long hours by quieter times for recovery. 

One quick activity to take from Biz Stone that makes a big difference to my teams work satisfaction is emailing a short weekly update. Writing around 350-450 words or producing a three-minute video at the end of the week summarising things people should know keeps them informed and connected to what is going on. Give it a go, set up a read counter, and get some feedback.

If in doubt, follow the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Learning as a habit

I have signed up for an MBA. After a three year break, I am ready to get back to formal study. An executive MBA seemed to be the logical option at 37 and for the current stage in my career. Since graduating, I have enjoyed unstructured learning, reading around my interests and focusing my intellectual energy on work. I have made significant progress on my journey to expertise, and I am building something at work to create disruptive change. To take my output to the next level, I need to learn more.

A part-time Masters degree is a big commitment, and making the most of the opportunity can take up to fifteen hours per week. Formal courses are designing to help students find this time with the accountability of regular deadlines, the curated path through content, and a community of peers for support. However, Fifteen hours is a significant addition on top of working forty to fifty-hour per week, training for at least 10, and spending an hour publishing 500 words per day. Finding those fifteen hours is going to require a conscious effort to make learning a daily habit. 

I read an article today from John Coleman on the Harvard Business Review website that suggested five ways in which you can cultivate a learning habit

  1. Have a clear outcome
  2. Set goals to achieve your outcome
  3. Build a community around your learning
  4. Develop your ability to focus
  5. Use technology to support your learning

I have a clear outcome of improving my performance at work by completing an MBA and applying what I learn to my career. I have a realistic goal of committing fifteen hours per week or around two hours per day to study, writing, and apply what I learn to work. The time commitment is made more accessible while I am not commuting to and from work, and I have built up a habit of writing each day. 

The MBA as a format is unique because it is built around community learning, making my role contributing to the pre-made community rather than having to create my own. The skill to focus for two hours per day over eighteen months will be the biggest challenge, but it is something that I have been working on for a while with daily blogging and in elements of my work. Finally, working in EdTech, the use of technology to support my learning should be easy.

I will dedicate a future post to each of these habits but is a formal course something you are interested in doing? Are you able to cultivate your learning habit using Coleman’s five suggestions? 

Contact me on Twitter if you want to discuss building a learning habit or starting a new course of formal study.

Have a plan to get lean, to get fast

Getting to a healthy race weight is a crucial part of performing well in endurance events. You need to have a target weight, a plan to get there, and then weigh yourself each day, adjusting the programme when required based on your weekly average weight. A simple strategy is to eat better and move more, but what if you need more guidance?

Researchers at the University of Oxford have created a list of 53 weight loss actions as part of their PREVAIL programme to help people make daily action plans. The weight loss actions are divided into seven categories:

  1. Eat in a structured way
  2. Avoiding or swapping specific foods
  3. Changing what you drink
  4. Creating a healthier diet
  5. Meal-time tactics
  6. Burn more calories
  7. Be more active as part of your daily life

The Oxford researchers carried out a study measuring the effectiveness of self-regulation on weight loss, allow individuals to weigh themselves daily in the morning and then create an action plan from the list for the day based on the result. At the end of the week, they evaluated the effectiveness of the actions chosen and their effect on weight change. Over an eight week study, participants, all starting with a BMI of over 30, lost an average of 4.18kg, 3.2kg less than the control group.

How to create a self-regulation intervention plan for weight loss

  1. Find your A: Weight yourself first thing in the morning
  2. Find your B: Set a target weight
  3. Weigh yourself first thing each morning
  4. Choose one or more actions from the list for the day
  5. Perform the planned action(s)
  6. Reflect on the effectiveness of the actions weekly
  7. Repeat until you reach your target weight

Aim for no more than 0.5kg per week, increase your protein intake, and do regular resistance training to avoid muscle loss. If you are continuing to train hard while losing weight, make sure you have a clear plan for fueling pre, during, and post workouts to ensure you have the energy to perform the planned activity and feed your body with what it needs to recover. This fueling plan should be differentiated for the various intensities and durations of your workout; fuel long and intense workouts but perhaps do some of the shorter, less intense workouts fasted.     

My plan

My current average weekly weight 83.7kg, according to my Withings Body+ scale weekly email. I have a target race weight this season of 78kg based on the Stillman height/weight ratio table and my current body fat percentage. I have signed up for the Maderia Skyrun, so I aim to hit my race weight for the 8th of October. This goal gives me just under 24 weeks to lose 5.7kg or 0.24kg per week. 

Each day this week, I will weigh myself immediately after waking up and pick at least one action from the PREVAIL study to focus on that day. My Witherings email summarising my weekly weight is sent on Mondays, so I will use that day to evaluate my progress. I prefer the positive actions where you add things rather than remove them. I will focus on these actions first, including burning more calories, drinking at least a litre of water a day or a pint of water before each meal, and using fruit and veg or a protein shake as snacks.

When to stop

I love productivity; I read books about it, watch Youtube videos about it, and follow the feeds of productivity ‘gurus’ on Twitter. It is important to get things done and use your time wisely, but when we are tired, should we rest and push through?

I am tired this evening writing this. I have got a reasonable amount done today; I trained, completed a full day at work, and had an Aubergine Katsu curry prepared for my wife shortly after returning home. But I still have to take the garden waste bin out, and I have to put away some clean washing. I have to sort out my messy gym gear draw, and tidy the kitchen and clear my desk. I had a big post planned for this evening on some teaching theory, and I have to send some links to my cousin and have a few missed calls during my run to return.

As an adult, I know I need to do these things, but where is the line that you stop and start again tomorrow? The bin must be done as they come early in the morning, a messy kitchen will irritate me, and I am committed to writing posts each day. The rest will have to wait.

I can’t help but think that I would feel better if I get my head down and do all of it, I might start doing the first few items and then get a second wind, but equally, I could fall asleep on the sofa where I sit and start again tomorrow. We shall see.