Fresh, or fresh enough back from another break, we were introduced (or rather re-introduced, since most everyone had prepared for the initial RKC snatch test) to the kettlebell snatch by RKC Team Leader Franz Snideman. The snatch is often referred to in the RKC as the “Czar of the kettlebell lifts” – mainly because practicing this intense exercise can lead to amazing strength and endurance gains. The snatch and swing have done so much for me personally that its nearly hard to describe – the effect on other activities like running (people, having seen what I can do have said “I didn’t know you were a runner!” I reply “uummm I’m NOT!”), jumping higher, and over all general athleticism. Things are just… easier.. in general. Besides, doing high rep snatches over long periods of time, like with the training protocols set forth in Viking Warrior Conditioning, will allow you to destroy those silly elliptical machines, should you feel the need to (more on that later).
Like the swing, the kettlebell snatch is very much a ballistic/explosive full body exercise – effecting everything right down to the grip strength of your individual fingers. Visualization is key in teaching the snatch to someone – as the movement can sometimes be very unusual at first. We were encouraged to teach the snatch almost from a negative standpoint – having the client press a kettlebell overhead, adjusting this locked out position (shoulder down, please) and becoming comfortable with it. This is also a good way to screen for flexibility issues – sometimes people will have a hard time keeping the kettlebell slightly behind themselves at the lock out position – some people simply will not be ready to learn the snatch without extra training and drills. With a combination of demonstration and breaking down the component parts of the snatch movement we were further taught to teach the snatch version of the “hike pass” and several remedial drills to drive home the concept of the drop and subsequent hike pass. It is hard sometimes, having practiced the movement so much ourselves to imagine potential problems or common errors someone completely new to kettlebell exercises would have – so one of the many great benefits of attending the RKC workshop is to hear of these common problems and the quick “aha drills” which can make all the difference when teaching and coaching. A very common problem with the snatch is the management of acceleration and deceleration during the swing portion of the movement – we were told a rather (to be tried OUTSIDE ONLY and at a safe location) extreme way to quickly teach this concept would be to have a student attempt a light kettlebell snatch with a soapy slippery hand! In this way, the student acutely sees when and where the motion changes and when to manage gripping. Speaking of grip – if you really want to challenge yours, be sure to try snatches by hooking just your fingers around the handle of the kettlebell. Always be safe and aware of your surroundings of course.
After breaks and practice with our teams, Franz Snideman delivered a really cool and personal lecture titled “What is RKC?” Which touched on the subjects of what we do in the RKC, why we do it and what we are. The RKC is a school of strength, and a school of thought – an ever growing, evolving and changing think tank, a community of people concerned with improving themselves, their clients, and the fitness industry. These are bold statements, but the RKC community and program is so much more than just slinging a metal thing around in a certain way. Similar to martial arts training, we focus on where/how our force is generated, where it goes, and instead of working out, we practice. The RKC teaches principles of biomechanics, injury prevention, anatomical considerations. Most importantly, the Russian Kettlebell Challenge has, as an interactive system, broken down the steps of healthy proper movement into manageable bite size pieces which are teachable. As members of this School of Strength, we adhere to a code of conduct and do our best to support and encourage each other.
Following all this inspiration, we began the final workout of the day, the VO2Max snatch workout as lead by Cortez Hull. I will admit, there wasn’t much left of me by this time. Being once again very grateful that I’d weighed in under 123.5, we were instructed to get a kettlebell at or one size below the snatch test kettlebell we had used. I have never been so glad to see an 8Kilo kettlebell in my life. 🙂 This workout was essentially the Viking Warrior Conditioning 15:15 protocol – 15 seconds of work, 15 seconds of rest – and trying to keep with our repetition goal for the 15 seconds of work – trying to remember, I think my goal was 8 reps. Which was met fairly easily as we started. Towards the end of course it was a struggle to keep up, but I did, because I was there for a reason, I had trained all year to do this and was not going to stop now… (wait until you read about Sunday). We had no idea how many rounds of this 15:15 program we would do – and I wasn’t about to speculate – having learned earlier that no matter what you speculate, go ahead and add half again onto that! Just keep going, and focus on the form/quality would yet again be the order of the day. My fingers were on fire, and the dampness of my palms was nearly causing the skin on my hands and minor callusing to liquify. During the day I had to keep letting them dry out – by removing the Tracy Reifkind inspired sock-sleeves (I used children’s socks and added a stabilizing thumb whole – which kept them in place and gave a sort of punk rock appearance) from time to time. A strange feeling to look forward to letting your hands “dry out” overnight. I eventually lost count of how many rounds we did, so I have no idea, and since time was getting slippery as well, there is no way to estimate how long this workout lasted – other than maybe a half hour or so? We walked back to the bus a bit slowly after this, and had our big banquet meal to look forward to – I was mentally picturing the steak dinner that had been chosen some months prior.
After standing in the shower for quite a while going “buuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhh” I managed to make myself presentable enough to be seen in public by respectable people. Eschewing the cash bar, I immediately zeroed in on the gigantic punchbowl of guacamole on the snack bar. For those of you who are not familiar with me in person, in my world, guacamole is actually a food group all by itself. For what are probably reasons of self preservation, I often crave foods with high potassium and certain saturated fats – no idea, but it seems to work. The chips.. merely an afterthought/delivery device as I try to maintain civil human dignity while quickly eating as much guacamole as possible, even though I kind of wanted to just pick up the bowl and stick my head in it. Somehow I managed to have some very cool conversations with the Dragon Door crowd and my fellow RKC candidates – most of which I can remember between recurring thoughts of… guacamole. We all eventually sat down at tables which were decorated with pictures taken so far at the event. I sat with new and old friends, my strength coach, Tim Shuman, and his star pupils – Alicia Streger and Carrie Kukuda. Franz Snideman entertained all of us with some great adventure tales of the early days of the RKC certification and training with Pavel going back to 2001! Finally the steak arrived, and in a breach of etiquette, Carrie and I swapped steaks – hers being “too rare” (there’s such a thing?) and mine being rather well done. Following dinner, we all socialized a little more, but it was obvious everyone was rather tired. Did manage to be in this great photo though!
Left to Right: Tim Shuman, Pavel Tsatsouline, Me, Franz Snideman, Thayne Shatah
After this, everyone headed back to their rooms for some much needed rest. I didn’t even bother to check out facebook that night (!!?!!) and opted to “just lay down for a sec” before getting organized for Sunday. Four hours later I woke up, still wearing what I had on for the banquet and lying face down, diagonally across the hotel bed, having left a perfectly identifiable makeup print on the sheet and embarrassingly a bit of drool. Thankfully I woke up in time to set the three alarm clocks and finish the grab and go staging area I had been setting up on a little table by the door. Then it was time for some much needed Real Sleep, as the final and extremely crucial Sunday awaited – technique testing, instructing others testing and the formidable GRAD WORKOUT!