Category Archives: 5000 Rep Challenge


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The Easy Way to 5000 Kettlebell Snatches

(I originally wrote about the 5000 rep challenge in several posts in September and October.  As it’s gotten the most hits on this blog, I decided to put them all together in one post to make it easier to read.  Jim)

Why 5000 Snatches?

This past September I discovered a fellow kettlebell blogger who issued a challenge to complete 5000 kettlebell snatches in a month.  The bad thing was I discovered it two weeks into the challenge.  I wanted to participate, but I was already two weeks behind.  At first glance it seemed like I had a lot of ground to make up.

However, once I broke the numbers down, it wasn’t as difficult as I originally thought.  5000 divided by 25 days equaled 200 snatches every day.  That seemed like a number I could easily hit.

Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance

Due to the extremely high volume of kettlebell work in this challenge, I decided to use my AKC Pro-Style 16 kilogram kettlebell.  The handle is more comfortable to me than the other style of kettlebells, and I hadn’t been snatching regularly, so I figured the 16 kilo would challenge me without killing me. 

I first thought to use 10 minute sets, as that’s the time limit used in Girevoy Sport (kettlebell) competitions.  I started on September 20th and completed my first 200 rep set, alternating 10 reps right with 10 reps left, until I hit 200.  On the 23rd, I completed 200 more.  Only 4600 reps to go!

On Thursday afternoon (the 25th), I went outside and snatched my 16 kilo kettlebell for 200 more reps towards my 5000 rep total. 

After snatches, I did five Turkish get-ups, alternating right and left, and the pushed 3 sets of 5 reps of the kettlebell floor press, using my 24 kg kettlebell for both exercises.  I finished with 20 Janda sit-ups. 

On Saturday (27th) I did another 10-minute kettlebell snatch workout. It was 92 degrees, but I still managed to finish the 200 reps in exactly 10 minutes.  200 snatches in 10 minutes in 92 degree heat is a butt kicker.  Only 4200 reps to go…  I began to think that I might have misjudged how easy this would be, and after a little math realized that I was quite a bit behind in my count.  I was certainly nowhere near the 200 snatches a day goal I originally planned on doing.

GTG- Lather, Rinse, Repeat

If you’ve spent any time researching or using kettlebells, you’re familiar with the name Pavel Tsatsouline.  Pavel almost single-handedly brought kettlebells into the mainstream of American fitness training.  One of Pavel’s training principles is called “Grease the Groove”(GTG).  In essence, you perform short sets of a particular exercise throughout the day or whatever time period you choose. 

I realized that if I wanted to meet my goal of completing 5000 snatches, I needed to “Grease the Groove” with my snatch training.

For my next workout (on October 4th), I did sets of 40 kettlebell snatches throughout the day.  Anywhere from every 30 minutes, to every 15 minutes.  I even did a couple sets of 100 and waited an hour between sets.  Overall, I completed 500 snatches for the day and whittled my 5000 snatch total down to 3700. 

On Monday (October 6th), I knocked off 400 kettlebell snatches doing sets of 30 reps, followed by sets of 15, and finishing with sets of 10.

I started off by doing 30 right, resting for 30 minutes, then doing 30 left, resting, etc., up until the 180 mark.  At that point my hands were really getting to the point where I thought I was going to rip a callus or two, so I switched to sets of 15 right/15 left like the previous day.

I continued with those until I hit 180 again, whereupon I finished with 10 right/10 left/10 right/10 left for 40 and an even 400 reps.

Which left me with 3000 reps to go to reach my 5000 rep goal.  I checked the calendar and saw that I had only 11 days to do 3000 snatches. 

Time to Re-evaluate

The GTG principle seemed to be working, as I hit 400 reps without the fatigue of one 10-minute 200 rep set.  I decided that multiple sets of 10s would be the easiest on my hands.  I was using chalk sporadically, and chalked the bell only twice during my 400 reps, so my plan was to try chalking more often to alleviate some of the wear and tear on my hands and calluses.

As far as form goes, I’ve tried to remember to emphasize the pull back between my legs, and the straight elbow in the lockout. 

I also realized that, while I was not training specifically for Girevoy Sport, the more numbers I put up, the easier the 24kg kettlebell will be when I begin my transition to GS style training for the winter months.  The focus on the snatch has really improved my “corkscrew” technique, which is mandatory for hitting high reps.

By October 11th, I was able to do 560 snatches, bringing my total down to 2440.  On October 13th, I was down to 1840 reps after completing another 600 reps over the weekend.

Since my last post I’ve been able to knock the reps down to 700.  That’s 1140 reps in two days!  I should add that I did those while at work, too.  How, you ask?  GTG!  And no sets under 50 reps, while switching hands every 10 reps.  Every half hour or so I would do 50 or 60 reps and put the bell down.  I kept going until did 500 reps on the 14th and 640 reps on the 15th.

With only two days to go, I was really focused on making the 5000 rep goal.  With 700 reps to go to meet that goal, I knew that I could easily hit 350 reps a day.  And I did.  At 9:32 p.m. on the 17th of October, I did my 5000th kettlebell snatch in 25 days.

Lessons Learned

What a relief!  Since I started the challenge, I’d averaged between 200 and 600 snatches per workout.  I started a couple weeks late and had to make up ground quickly.  After trying large sets of 100, I settled on sets of 20-25 done throughout the day. 

I soon realized, however, that other things like work and family time disrupted my snatching (or my snatching was disrupting my family time), so I went to sets of 50 to build up the numbers.  Once I settled on 50, I tried to do two sets per hour until I got several hundred reps under my belt or I felt my technique deteriorating.

If I had the full month to do it, I think I’d try the challenge with my 24 kilo bell instead, and really work at daily snatching for timed sets, the Girevoy Sport way.  Being more consistent with my day-to-day training would probably have yielded better results. 

In addition, the extra time would probably have prevented a bit of pain I developed in my inner right elbow.  I’m chalking that up to overuse and poor form as well as neglecting any kind of joint mobility work.   I also noticed that when I concentrated on snatching the bell up my centerline, the elbow pain went away.  If I let the bell drift out a bit, the pain would come back.  And for whatever reason, I had no pain at all on my left side.

The Good and the Bad

The plus side?  My “wind” is better and my shoulders are certainly a bit bigger.  I’ve learned to smooth out my snatch form, and realize what I have to concentrate on while snatching.  I’ve also learned how to settle my breathing down and get into a rhythm while snatching.

In addition, I definitely need to improve my grip strength to be able to go for high reps per side (50 or more) as in Girevoy Sport training.  Nevertheless, the big numbers don’t seem impossible to get anymore after totaling 5000. 

The down side?  My hands hurt when I was done.  I didn’t have any problems with ripping calluses, as I took extra care to use Cornhuskers lotion to keep my skin soft as well as regular use of a callus file to keep the hard spots to a minimum.  I also really focused on using the “corkscrew” technique and the proper “hook” grip of the index finger and forefinger around the horn of the kettlebell. 

Goal Setting Works

All-in-all, periodic use of goals like this one help to focus on technique while also building endurance and breaking through mental barriers.  Ultimately though, it’s more about the journey than the destination.  Regular and consistent training will build the fitness foundation upon which a healthy lifestyle rests.


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