StrongFirst SFG Kettlebell Certification Prep Guide

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 this truly transformative “watershed” moment for me.

Fast forward eleven years and I have been teaching with Pavel for over ten 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 kettlebells but have only been lifting the 16kgs).

There will be a snatch test of 100 reps in five 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 time frame, 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 put too many things into the mix. Getting injured while training for your first marathon at the same time as prepping for 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.

SFG Certification Prep 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 kettlebell for your snatch test and double 24kg kettlebells for your other testing, but have never lifted any bell heavier than a 16kg, you need to begin at the 16kg kettlebell and progress as appropriate. Adjust reps and rest periods as appropriate and be smart.

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

Superset:

  • Get-up: 24kg x 2+2 x 2 sets
  • 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 kettlebell (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 kettlebell adding reps each week until 10+10 for 10 minutes
  • (Reduce the two-arm swings as you add reps to the one arm swings – i.e. 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 kettlebell 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 Kettlebell 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 Kettlebell Work

Movement Prep

Circuits of:

  • Double 24kg kettlebells
  • 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 kettlebell 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 kettlebell 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 kettlebells
  • 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 kettlebell 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 kettlebell drills
  • Adjust weights, reps, rest, etc. as needed. Quality is the priority!

Fast and Loose Drills and Recovery Work

SFG Prep Day 3

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 Kettlebell Work Circuit

  • Get-up x 1+1 (adjust weight or reduce steps of the get-up as needed)
  • Double swing x 10
  • Double military press x 5
  • Double front squat 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 kettlebell (single or double) and progress over weeks to a 20kg to 24kg, etc.
  • Women might start the suggested with an 8kg kettlebell (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 kettlebell (20kg for men or 12kg for ladies) for a week every four to six weeks of prep is a great idea.

Remember 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 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.

Brett Jones
Chief SFG
Brett Jones is StrongFirst’s Chief SFG Instructor. He is also a Certified Athletic Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Specialist based in Pittsburgh, PA. Mr. Jones holds a Bachelor of Science in Sports Medicine from High Point University, a Master of Science in Rehabilitative Sciences from Clarion University of Pennsylvania, and is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).

With over twenty years of experience, Brett has been sought out to consult with professional teams and athletes, as well as present throughout the United States and internationally.

As an athletic trainer who has transitioned into the fitness industry, Brett has taught kettlebell techniques and principles since 2003. He has taught for Functional Movement Systems (FMS) since 2006, and has created multiple DVDs and manuals with world-renowned physical therapist Gray Cook, including the widely-praised “Secrets of…” series.

Brett continues to evolve his approach to training and teaching, and is passionate about improving the quality of education for the fitness industry. He is available for consultations and distance coaching by e-mailing him at appliedstrength@gmail.com.

Follow him on Twitter at @BrettEJones.
Brett Jones on EmailBrett Jones on Twitter

54 thoughts on “StrongFirst SFG Kettlebell Certification Prep Guide

  • What should an ideal number be for the volume work on snatch prep day 2? I’m working on purchasing more kettlebells as I only have a 16 and 24kg at the moment. I got 270 in the 15 minutes on my first attempt this far. I should be getting a 20kg Bell soon, so I wasn’t sure if I should aim for a much higher number before I move up in weight or move up in weight for a smaller number? Thanks!

  • I am enjoying using this program, but can you clear up a question about SFG Prep Day 2?

    I should be doing 1-2 sets of the first circuit, then resting and doing 1-2 sets of the second circuit?

    Thanks!

    Jim

  • Hi there! I’ve began training with this program – it’s AMAZING. I am approaching SFG Prep Day 3, and I just wanted to makes sure I knew what “MP” meant in this portion of the program:

    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

    Can anyone answer that for me? Is it “movement prep”? Not sure how to dissect that! Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  • ‘Get-up: 24kg x 2+2 x 2 sets’
    ‘Two arm swings x 10 reps x 10 minutes’
    I know everything there is to know about sets, reps and rest intervals but I am sorry to say that the above way of expressing exercise routines is rather new to me. Could you kindly explain them to me as I am eager to start preparing myself to take an SFG course ?
    NB – I do know what a TGU and a 2 arm swing is.

  • Thank you for posting this training plan! Can you tell me, for the clean and press work (or the clean and front squat, etc.), do you suggest to clean the kettlebell with each rep? Or, clean, then press for reps or squat for reps, etc.? Thanks!

  • I have both “standard” cast-iron and steel competition kettlebells. For certification, what should I be practicing on?

    • I would also like some ideas/examples of what I can do here. I was thinking jump rope, burpees, jumping jacks, high knees, mobility etc. Is that correct?

      • Fast & Loose: anything that keeps you moving, promotes relaxation, serves as active rest and shakes out the “exhaust fumes” from the muscles between sets.
        Nothing tiring. Easy jump rope, easy jogging, easy shadow boxing, etc

  • 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)

  • 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

  • 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?

  • 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!

  • 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.

    • 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!

  • Could someone clear up a quick question for me please about the cleans..

    Do I re clean after every front squat or press or is it a clean and then press/squat the kettlebell for 3/5 reps?

  • Great information! Thanks Brett! Currently in my third week and things are progressing nicely, and also seeing some nice results. Will have to play with a deload week shortly and see how things go from there. Thank you again for the terrific information!

  • @Brian and @ Phil the article above states the following: ” It is a physically demanding weekend that requires preparation. Three months is a minimum and six months prep is wise for this undertaking”

  • Hey I love this program and the ideas, but I miss one info:

    If I start with double 20s and a 20 for the snatches when is the right time to switch to 24s??? As I stay with sets of five in the MP, squat… It is more likely that I do not reach the 3 reps for starting point at the next cycle, or am I wrong???

  • Brett, this is great stuff. Yesterday I completed my first week of the program. The assessment value is extraordinary. I now have a very clear picture of my strengths and weaknesses and a clear “road map” of what is needed in preparation for SFG 1. Your program and Mark’s videos are invaluable. Thanks to you both.

  • Brett, I have the same concern as far as when to start the prep for the certification. I would like to go to the certification in January 2014.

  • Brett, how far out from a Certification exam should you start this? Once my hip is healed up I want to prep for an exam next year, but want to start deadlifting again. Once the SF lvl 1 is done I want to possibly go on from there.

  • This is a great post, by a great coach at a great time….. Just what I needed…. 3 and a half months to my Sfg level 1 cert

  • Wow, that 2nd day of SFG prep (double KB work) looks like a bear.
    I’ve basically been doing that as 2 separate days (as per RKC prep article), but with double KB’s for everything.

    Would it be unwise to alter my training this close to the Philly cert?

    Going to post this question on the forum too…

  • Thanks Brett,

    I agree with a previous comment in that this article will quickly become written gold like its predecessor. I too followed the original for my initial cert and revisited it for my recert with much success.

  • Great article! Lots of helpful info. Regarding the guideline for confidence with the appropriate weight KB in the snatch test, what does the “plus two minutes” mean? 100 snatches in 3 minutes? Keep up a 20/min rate x 7 minutes? Something else? Thanks!

    • Hey Dave – Think of it like an enhanced version of the Snatch Test. So in other words the SFG Snatch test is 100 reps in 5 minutes right? So the idea in the program is to go to a cert weekend knowing that you won’t just “pass” the test but you will freaking “OWN” the test.

      So what that last level of snatching looks like would really come out to 140 snatches in 7 minutes. Some people also look at it like 20 reps per minute x 5 minutes = You passed the test.

      The extra 2 minutes on the end will make sure you have the gas in the tank and the ability to get through the 5 minute test with ease.

      Sorry for the long winded answer but hope it helps my friend!

      Mike

  • That is GREAT information!! I was working off of your old program in the RKC Book of Strength as well as Geoff Neupert’s Strong ONE program. I will absolutely start subbing in these workouts! Thanks so much for putting this together and posting for all of us! Philly SFG I, here I come!

  • I followed the original version of this for my certification. My hands were perfectly fine for the weekend volume without the use of socks/tape or chalk. I found myself well prepared for all the workouts/practice of the weekend.
    Thanks Brett!!

    James

  • Awesome Brett. Long needed, this is most organized, logical and comprehensive approach to getting ready for the three day Cert weekend I have seen. I will using it as the template for all my clients getting ready for SFG1 Thanks 🙂

  • Could you please explain a program design question:
    when you say: Get-up: 24kg x 2+2 x 2 sets, what does the “+2” refer to?
    Same with: Single leg Deadlift 24kg x 5+5 x 2 sets, what does “+5” refer to?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Sample Deadlift Training Cycles of StrongFirst Athletes