Progressing to the Regression

Everyone wants to snatch.

Everyone wants to snatch. When that kettlebell comes out of the box, if you have even a passing familiarity with the movement odds are good that thing is getting snatched.

While everyone wants to snatch, not everyone wants to learn how to snatch. Fewer people want to learn how to swing. Brett Jones Master RKC stated "There is a big difference between swinging a kettlebell, and performing a kettlebell swing." Perfectly put. Everyone is more than happy to swing kettlebells around, but not quite as quick to do all the drills necessary to learn how to perform a kettlebell swing.

In my workshops I work with personal trainers who want to add some kettlebell skills to their repertoire. Most often this works out fine and the trainers learn how to effectively perform the six core lifts of hard-style kettlebell training. On occasion I run into trainers who are unable to swallow their pride, and deal with the fact that most of what they know simply does not apply to kettlebell training. In fact, often trainers pretty much need to go back to square one and start the learning process all over again. Some cannot cope with this and don't use kettlebells themselves. This is unfortunate as often the trainer will also be unable to swallow his pride when it comes to regressing a client.

There is a reason that the RKC program minimum is composed of the Turkish Get Up and the Swing. These two movements are the roots from which all other movements sprout. Swings, cleans, high pulls, snatches, all look pretty much the same from the hips down. If someone is unable to properly perform a swing, how are they going to perform a snatch, which is basically a more advanced swing?
 If I watch someone snatching and their hips lack any real snap, I know that if I watch their swings, the swings will be faulty as well. If they are 'stiff arming' the snatch, I know their high pull is broken.

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On occasion I will have a new client come in who has been doing kettlebells on his own for a while, and declares that he just needs some 'fine tuning'. Most often my definition of 'fine tuning' means fine tuning the swing for hundreds of repetitions before I clear you to start snatching again.

It is not the fault of the client, as he is ensconced in a culture of snatch-happy Gireviks. Let's face it; ripping out a crazy number of snatches just looks more impressive than a large number of swings. Is it more effective? Perhaps, but that is dependent upon the elevation of the technique utilized. 100 perfect swings will beat 1000 jacked up snatches every time. Those swings will also save you a few injuries.

So now is the time to be honest with yourself. How does your snatch form look? Is it far from perfect? Is it in fact flawed? If the answer is 'yes', stop training Max VO2 and try to do a SSST immediately.

Go back and root out the fundamental flaws that are limiting your progress. Sometimes the snatch can be fixed without regressing, but since many problems can be fixed by going back to swings and get ups, why not? Endlessly trying to snatch in hopes your form will correct itself, well... that actually does work. However, it takes much longer than correcting your cracked foundation. Once you have established a strong foundation, proceed to do thousands of snatches.

There is a very good reason that we do a Max VO2 snatch workout during the RKC certification. By then you have refined your snatch form, and performing many, many snatches will further refine it.

Run yourself through the checklist below. If you have one of the stated deviations, proceed to the solution, or to put it better 'progress to the regression'.

So you're most likely starting to get the message here. If you have any questions regarding the necessity of hammering on the basics so hard, refer to the quote below from Pavel Tsatsouline's 'Enter The Kettlebell'.

The only thing that separates the elite from all the rest is the fact that the elite are better at the basics than everyone else. -- Master Sergeant Duane Stanton, USAF Pararecsue -

Jordan Vezina

Jordan Vezina is a strength trainer in Palo Alto, CA and maintains a site at He enjoys Fat Tire Ale, and thinks you will too.

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