StrongFirst SFG Kettlebell Certification Prep Guide

by Brett Jones, Master SFG, MS, ATC, CSCS

Eleven years ago I arrived in St. Paul to attend the second ever kettlebell certification from Pavel Tsatsouline. Throwing water balloons in freezing temperatures and having VERY sore lats are just a couple of the great memories that accompany a truly trans-formative “watershed” moment for me. Fast forward eleven years and I have been teaching with Pavel for over 10 years at more workshops and certifications than I care to count. Basically, what I am saying is that I have the time and experience necessary to provide assistance in preparing for the SFG certification.

Step 1: Read and understand the requirements.

This sounds like a no-brainer, but I have seen too many people come in still questioning what the requirements are for them. “What weight do I need to use for this exercise?” is not a question you want to be asking in the midst of a very physically challenging weekend (especially if you are required to use the 24kg KBs but have only been lifting the 16kg KBs).

There will be a snatch test of 100 reps in 5 minutes. The weight for this test establishes the weights used for testing the techniques taught during the certification. So read and understand the snatch test requirements and what weights will be required of you.

Step 2: Plan.

The SFG is not something you should just “decide to do because it looks fun.” It is a physically demanding weekend that requires preparation. Three months is a minimum and six months prep is wise for this undertaking. This article will lay out the training details so you just need to define the timeframe, etc…

Understand the requirements as stated in Step 1. (Why was Step 1 Step 1 instead of Step 2? If you are going to plan, you need to know what you are planning for.)

Find an SFG instructor, either in person or on-line, and get coaching on basic form. We all need eyes on us to see what we are doing.

Step 3: Be smart.

Focus on the goal and don’t try to mix too many things into the mix. Getting injured while training for your first marathon and the SFG Certification can ruin all of your plans for both events.

So here we go…

I have written prep programs in the past (as well as snatch test preparation programs), but in this article I will be combining those into one program. No need to leave you trying to figure out how to merge the two.

Basic Template

Monday: Rest and Recovery
Tuesday: Snatch Prep Day 1
Wednesday: Snatch Prep Day 2
Thursday: Rest and Recovery
Friday: SFG Prep Day 1
Saturday: SFG Prep Day 2
Sunday: SFG Prep Day 3

Why so structured?

The SFG weekend is three “action packed” physical days so your training should reflect those days and structure. Training three days in a row might not be your norm, but it will be required at the certification. Let’s just start doing it.

Yes (I am channeling you and your questions).
You will need to set aside other training goals and workouts.
As Dan John has said, “Keep the Goal the Goal.”

Start where you are not where you want to be…

I cannot write out specifically what weights on what days, etc., since I do not know you and where you are right now. Recommendations will be made, but you MUST adjust these recommendations to where you are right now, not where you want to be at the end of the program.

If you need to be using the 24kg KB for your snatch test and double 24kg KBs for your other testing, but have never lifted any KB heavier than a 16kg, you need to begin at the 16kg KB and progress as appropriate. Adjust reps and rest periods as appropriate and BE SMART.

Ladies will likely need to be confident with the 16kg KB (single and double) and gentlemen will likely need to be confident with the 24kg KB (single and double).

What does confident mean?

Performing the snatch test with the correct weight (plus two minutes).
Performing the techniques with the correct double KBs for multiple sets of 5 reps.

The Details.

Weights will be recommended based on a goal of 24kg snatch test and double 24kg testing weights (adjust as appropriate).

Movement Prep – Know what you need to do to prepare for the training day.

This should involve an FMS screen to identify weak links that need to be addressed etc… and might include foam roller, stretching, dynamic warm-up etc… but it should be specific to you and your needs.

The Get-up is performed without the high bridge as it will be tested.

Snatch Prep Day 1 – Heavy Swing Day

Movement Prep

  • Get-up: 24kg x 2+2 x 2 sets
  • superset with
  • Single leg Deadlift 24kg x 5+5 x 2 sets

Two arm swings x 10 reps x 10 minutes

  • Perform reps at the top of each minute – rest till next minute
  • Weight – 32-40kg KB (ladies 20-24kg)
  • Add a rep each week until you reach 20 reps per minute
  • At that point start working on {One arm swings 5+5 and finishing the 20 reps with two arm swings} with your heavy KB adding reps each week until 10+10 for 10 minutes
  • (Reduce the two arm swings as you add reps to the one arm swings – ie. 5+5 one arm + 10 two arm then 6+6 one arm + 8 two arm etc…)

Fast and Loose Drills and Recovery Work

Snatch Prep Day 2 – Volume Work

Movement Prep

  • Get-up x 32kg x 1+1 x 3 sets

Snatch Volume Work

  • 16kg or 20kg KB x 15 min
  • Perform longer sets per hand (20+20 for example) for as many sets as possible during the 15 minutes
  • NEVER to failure – adjust reps as needed and rest as needed

Fast and Loose Drills and Recovery Work

SFG Prep Day 1 – Single KB Work

Movement Prep

Circuits of:

  • Swing x 15 two arm
  • Clean and Press x 5+5
  • Swing x 5+5 one arm
  • Clean and Front Squat x 5+5
  • Swing x 20 alternating or 10+10 one arm
  • Get-up x 1+1 (adjust weight or reduce steps of the Get-up as needed)
  • Swing x 15 two arm
  • Snatch x 5+5
  • Swing x 5+5 one arm
  • Rest 15-30 seconds between exercises
  • Rest 2-3 minutes between circuits
  • Perform 2-3 circuits
  • Adjust weights, reps, rest, etc. as needed. Quality is the priority!

SFG Prep Day 2 – Double KB Work

Movement Prep

Circuits of:

  • Double 24kg KBs
  • Clean and Press x 3
  • Get-up x 1+1 (adjust weight or reduce steps of the Get-up as needed)
  • Clean and Press x 3
  • Clean and Front Squat x 3
  • Clean and Press x 3
  • Double Swing x 3
  • Clean and Press x 3
  • Single KB Snatch x 5+5
  • Clean and Press x 3
  • Rest 15-30 seconds between exercises
  • Rest 2-3 minutes between circuits
  • Perform 1-2 circuits
  • Add reps until performing sets of 5 for the Double KB drills
  • Adjust weights, reps, rest, etc. as needed. Quality is the priority!

Rest 10 min – Fast and Loose Drills, etc…

Circuits of:

  • Double 24 kg KBs
  • Clean and Front Squat x 3
  • Double Swing x 3
  • Clean and Front Squat x 3
  • Clean and Press x 3
  • Clean and Front Squat x 3
  • Get-up x 1+1 (adjust weight or reduce steps of the Get-up as needed)
  • Clean and Front Squat x 3
  • Single KB Snatch x 5+5
  • Clean and Front Squat x 3
  • Rest 15-30 seconds between exercises
  • Rest 2-3 minutes between circuits
  • Perform 1-2 circuits
  • Add reps until performing sets of 5 for the Double KB drills
  • Adjust weights, reps, rest, etc. as needed. Quality is the priority!

Fast and Loose Drills and Recovery Work

SFG Prep Day Three

Movement Prep

  • Get-up 16kg x 5+5

Snatch Test Density Training

  • 24kg snatch
  • 4+4 x 16 sets
  • Reps at top of each minute
  • See notes below for Snatch Density Training

Double 24kg KB Work Circuit

  • Get-up x 1+1 (adjust weight or reduce steps of the Get-up as needed)
  • Double Swing x 10
  • Double MP x 5
  • Double FS x 5
  • Double Clean x 5
  • Rest 15-30 seconds between exercises
  • Rest 2-3 minutes between circuits
  • Perform 2-3 circuits
  • Adjust weights, reps, rest, etc. as needed. Quality is the priority!

Fast and Loose Drills and Recovery Work

Notes on Snatch Test Density Training

You will be adding reps and reducing sets as you progress on this program

Guidelines:

  • First session was 4+4 x 16 sets (reps at top of each minute – rest till next minute)
  • You will add a rep to each arm and reduce the number of sets as you are able to complete the workout “comfortably”.
  • Example:
    • 5+5 x 15 sets
    • 6+6 x 14 sets
    • 7+7 x 12 sets
    • 8+8 x 10 sets
    • 9+9 x 8 sets
    • 10+10 x 7 sets
  • Don’t rush the reps or progress too quickly. Be willing to spend a couple of sessions at a particular rep and set level.

Conclusion

There you have it. A pretty complete program for preparing for the SFG Certification, BUT you MUST adjust the program to meet you where you are currently and progress as you can with perfect form under the stress of the training.

  • Men might start the suggested training using a 16kg KB (single or double) and progress over weeks to a 20kg to 24kg, etc…
  • Women might start the suggested with an 8kg KB (single or double) and progress over weeks to a 12kg to 16kg etc…
  • You might start with half the reps and twice the rest periods. Do whatever you need to do to fit the training to you – adjust your plan and add rest days as needed. Even including a 50% volume or using a lighter KB (20kg for men or 12kg for ladies) for a week every 4-6 weeks of prep is a great idea.

Remember that this is about practicing the drills and perfecting form while increasing the conditioning needed to have a successful SFG weekend. So be smart and arrive at your SFG weekend ready to learn and succeed, not suffer and fail!

Please post questions about this routine to the StrongFirst Forum.

I look forward to your success in achieving the SFG certification.

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33 Responses to StrongFirst SFG Kettlebell Certification Prep Guide

  1. Serge says:

    Not sure my comment got actually posted, So :

    Thank you Brett. I have struggled with your plan for 6 months but passed at the Vicenza session in June 2014. So it was worth exery sweat drop that I shed.

    Thank you though for helping numerous candidates to prepare that life changing event !

    Serge Pelletier (proud new SFG I from Paris, France)

  2. Serge says:

    Thanks you Brett. Struggled for almost 6 months with your SFG I certification program and passed during the session in Vicenza. Thank you though for your plan and helping numerous candidates

  3. Peter Brady says:

    GTG pull ups works with this

  4. shawn smith says:

    I have been following this program for about 3 weeks now. I am a high school teacher and football coach. I have followed the program to the letter with 1 exception – my rest days are Wednesday and Friday, thus I work out Sat, Sun, Mon, Tues, and Thurs. I am thinking that once my football season is over, I will switch to the program days as written with Monday and Thursday being my rest days.

    Do you think it’s ok at this point that I am using Mon/Wed as my rest days?

  5. Jarret Lewis says:

    Does anyone have any recommendations as to how long I should deload before the Certification? I was thinking 4 days max, while continuing mobility work. I have been told to take at lest 3 days off, some have mentioned that they felt this is not enough. While I understand it will vary from person to person, just wondering if anyone here had some insight or if Brett had any recommendations. Thanks!

  6. doug descant says:

    quick question for brett and anyone else who would like to chime in. how would you fit pull up practice in the mix? Pavel’s fighter pull up plan is where my mind is going but i would love to hear others thoughts on this. i have a student who would like to go to the Lv 1 in Feb but is struggling w/ the 5 pull up test. i know we can get there but i’m interested to hear others take on it. thanks and God bless.

    • Jarret Lewis says:

      During my train up over the last 12 weeks I have been mixing in weighted pull-ups on various days. Here’s what I discovered:

      Doing them on Heavy Swing Days felt great, but my grip would be a tad more fatigued on the following day during volume work.

      Doing them after volume work was a bit much for me, but I still felt ok as I kept weight and reps low…a very “Easy Strength” session. In all it was OK as the following day was a rest day.

      On the single KB and double KB days I would occasionally do a few practice sets when I felt particularly strong. The one day I consistently worked in pull-ups was on Snatch Density days with the double KB work. For me it has been a day by day call as to how I feel. I had been using Pavel’s 3RM Russian Pull-up program with great success prior to starting the Prep Work program. I just felt it was a tad too much to continue. I am interested to hear others thoughts on this. Hope that helps in some way!

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