I often describe that my personal training career took a fortunate turn in the road when I attended my very first kettlebell level 1 certification back in 2009. I had already been training for a number of years, held several nationally accredited certifications, and was three years out of grad school with a master’s degree in exercise science. I felt like I had seen a few things and had a firm grasp on how to help people with solid principles. When I was taught how to leverage all that kettlebells had to offer, I found that a whole new world opened up which skyrocketed my personal training business and my own strength/conditioning results. When I attended Strong EnduranceTM in 2017, I felt like my career took another significant fork resulting in astounding results for me and my personal training clients.
I have tried several programs from the Strong EnduranceTM manual for myself and led groups of clients and other StrongFirst instructors through a number of the protocols, but the protocol known as 044 is by far my favorite. Pavel references this program in his latest book, The Quick and the Dead. This snatch protocol, in my experience, is the absolute king in minimalist training.
I am drawn to minimalism training both personally and through necessity with the training most of my clientele require. I live in a busy metropolitan area and train working professionals who have demanding jobs, families, and hectic schedules. I have found that offering a minimalistic program where individuals can accomplish strength, vitality (energy improvement), and body composition change in one program, has been a solid answer for my business.
Below describes a typical 6-week minimalism program using the 044 protocol. This assumes my small group or individual client has a base level of strength. For this program, we use completion of multiple sets of ten one-arm swings with an appropriately sized kettlebell. They must also have competent snatch technique.
Most weeks I train twice a week, with two of the six weeks adding a third training day.
Many coaches use dice to program series, but I prefer a progressive plan. The focus as always, is power development and constant improvement of skill acquisition. I change up both load and volume and many of my students respond well to progressing both of these variables.
A series consists of 20 reps on one hand, comprised of either two sets of ten or four sets of five. So, in training session one of week one below, it’s just a total of 40 snatches, one 20-rep series left-handed, one series right. On training session two in week one, it’s 60 snatches, 20 left, 20 right, and then 20 left again.
On training session two in week two, we introduce heavier snatching. Where strict adhesion to 044 would use the same bell size on days with either sets of 5 or sets of 10, I like using a heavier bell for some days when sets of five are on the menu. In this example, the series with sets of five would be five reps every 30 seconds for a total of four rounds completing a series of 20 reps. That makes a total of 60 reps with a heavier bell: left, right, left.
I prefer using ten reps over five for a couple reasons. The main reason is that using the five rep protocol demands a higher skill for people to get the most from the full power expression. Many students need the sets of ten to establish a work rhythm. Still, it’s important to introduce a heavier load and reducing the reps is a great way for students to begin to understand that they can do this. I only use the five rep scheme three times in the 6-week program. So just once every two weeks or so, and with a heavier bell to “force” the hips to really have to work.
As I mentioned, this is a minimalistic approach to programming. I train (as do many of my students) just 3 x week. I try to have these sessions last under 45 minutes from start to finish. After a brief warm-up, we focus on power first, then strength lifts twice a week, and then a steady state cardio day for a third day which I will detail in a follow-up article soon.
Given so many busy professionals are ruled by sedentary lives, I encourage my students to be as active as they can. Walks in the evening go a long way for total health. If I can see students twice a week consistently following the above program and they do the third day on their own (some get-ups, the 044 protocol when applicable, and some cardiovascular variation work), then by the end of a short six week period, they become drastically stronger, leaner, and healthier.