Nail the SFG II Press Test with this Six-Week Plan

So, you’ve decided to train for the StrongFirst SFG II Kettlebell Instructor Certification. Prepare to get stronger, go deeper into the skill of strength, and learn a lot about yourself. Like any goal worth chasing, earning your SFG II requires perseverance, grit, and coaching. In addition to retesting your SFG I skills and five-minute snatch test, you will also be tested on the level two skills and the strength test (a 1/2-bodyweight military press for men and a 1/3-bodyweight press for women).

This press strength test is the toughest challenge for attendees so your programming leading up to the certification weekend needs to be on point. If your pressing technique is not dialed in, you will end up doing a lot of pressing with suboptimal form. You’ll eventually hit a plateau, and worse, instill bad habits that you’ll then have to overwrite. I’ve been there myself, and I’ve also experienced this as an instructor.

The 30,000 Foot View

My coach, StrongFirst Certified Master Instructor Andrea U-Shi Chang, created this training plan to fix my bad habits and increase my max press so I would show up to the SFG II ready to rock.

This plan is designed to be used as a six-week “break” from a more pressing-focused SFG II plan. It will flank the press from all angles, allowing you to shore up your technique, and plug the holes in your leaky bucket of strength before returning to a plan with more pressing. In addition to increasing your max press, this program will also train the SFG II skills, the SFG I skills, and the snatch test. After six weeks of focused skill practice, you’ll find that you’ve built a bulletproof foundation from which you can launch a heavy kettlebell overhead.

You’ll be training five days per week with two days of rest and active recovery. You choose which days you train. Pay attention to your form. If it starts to deteriorate, make a note and end your training session for the day.

Ready to get after it? Let’s do this!

StrongFirst Kettlebell Fundamentals online course

The Program

Day 1:

Heavy One-Arm Swing EMOM (Every Minute On the Minute)

  • Use a kettlebell 6-8kg heavier than your SFG II strength test size.
  • Do five one-arm swings on the minute followed by one hardstyle pushup at a 3-1-3-1 tempo (3-count descent, 1-count hold in the bottom, 3-count ascent, 1-count at the top).
  • Alternate arms every minute.
  • Swing RPE should be around 9.
  • Do 30 minutes total (150 swings, 30 pushups).

Heavy Negatives

  • Get the heaviest kettlebell you can confidently get overhead (via push press or some other assist) and pull it slowly down into the rack with a 5-second active negative.
  • Remember to practice a solid clean with each rep.
  • Do ten single reps, alternating sides every rep.

Day 2:

Skill Work (Start with your snatch test size kettlebells. As you get stronger, you can increase the weight.)

  • Double kettlebell front squat x5
  • Double kettlebell clean x5
  • Bent press x2 (per side)
  • Windmill x3 (per side)
  • Five rounds (Rest enough between rounds to maintain impeccable form.)

10-minute Heavy Get-up Protocol

  • Do this with the heaviest kettlebell possible while maintaining good form. (I used the 28kg.)
  • Get-up to elbow: hold for ten seconds.
  • Get-up to palm: hold for ten seconds.
  • Back down to elbow: hold for ten seconds.
  • Switch sides and repeat.
  • Try for five times on both right and left sides in ten minutes.
Catherine Buck Le performing the kettlebell get-up

Day 3:

Partial Press

  • Start light.
  • Option 1: Press the kettlebell to your sticking point and pause for 5-10 seconds, then finish the press. 
  • Option 2: Press the kettlebell in a stair step pattern. (Starting in the rack, press the kettlebell up to eye level, then pull it down to chin level, then press it up to head level, then pull it down to eye level. Repeat this “up two steps, down one step” pattern five times before finishing in the lockout.) Do 5-6 stair steps in each press before finishing in the lockout.
  • Pick one option or alternate between both in one training session. Do 10 single reps per side.

Snatch (This is a variation on Strong EnduranceTM protocol 044.)

  • Use your snatch test size kettlebell.
  • Snatch EMOM. Do three rounds for a total of 18 minutes and 120 snatches.
    • Minute 1: 10 snatches Left
    • Minute 2: 10 snatches Left
    • Minute 3: 10 snatches Right
    • Minute 4: 10 snatches Right
    • Minute 5: Rest
    • Minute 6: Rest
  • Use box breathing, as taught at Second Wind, to control your breathing between sets. Keep moving between sets as well.
Catherine Buck Le performing the double kettlebell jerk

Day 4:

SFG II Skills (Start with your test size kettlebells and move up in weight when you feel stronger, always maintaining excellent form.)

  • Double push press x5
  • Double snatch x5
  • Double front squat x5
  • Double jerk x5
  • Five rounds (Rest enough between rounds to maintain impeccable form.)

Day 5:

Heavy Cleans and Rack Holds

  • Grab the same kettlebell that you used for swings in the EMOM on Day 1. (I used the 28kg.)
  • Clean the kettlebell into the rack and hold it there for 10 seconds. Power breathe.
  • Do 10 single reps per side, alternating sides.
Catherine Buck Le performing the rack hold with a heavy kettlebell

10-minute heavy Get-up protocol

  • Same as Day 2.

Additional Considerations                                                    

Before you start this program, test your one rep max press and film it. At the end of the six weeks, retest your press, film it, and compare the videos. My results were dramatic. When I started the program, the 24kg went up a third of the time, and I could consistently press the 22kg. However, I was not able to hold enough tension in my core with either kettlebell, resulting in excessive side-lean—a fail, according to the SFG II standards. After completing the program, the 24kg went up 100% of the time, and the 22kg practically rocketed skywards with minimal lean—a clean pass.

Catherine Buck Le performing the kettlebell bent press

Experienced eyes are essential. We all need coaches to improve our skills, so hire an SFG II certified coach. The bent press, windmill, and jerk can be especially tricky if you’re new to them. Don’t show up to the SFG II without having had a coach’s eyes on you several times.

This is a demanding plan with a lot of time overhead. Make sure you’re doing enough mobility work to keep yourself moving well. I used the Ground Force Exploration as my warmup and stretched at least three times per week.

Note that this plan is not meant to be used as a standalone training plan for the SFG II because it does not incorporate enough pressing volume.

Final Thoughts

There you have it. A well-rounded plan to improve every skill needed for SFG I and II as well as strength gains for the biggest challenge of the SFG II weekend. I hope you’ll try this plan and share your results and questions in the comments and in the StrongFirst forum. Have a fantastic weekend of learning, camaraderie, and strength at the SFG II.

Enjoy the journey!

Catherine Buck Le
Catherine Buck Le started training with kettlebells in 2014. She earned her SFG I in 2015, completed the SFB in 2016, the SFG II in 2017, and the SFL in 2018. Since then, she has regularly helped as an assistant at StrongFirst certifications and courses in the Seattle area. Through learning from her coaches and mentors, immersing herself in the StrongFirst system, and building real strength, she discovered the power of dedicated, disciplined training. Her goal as a coach is to lead others to live happier, more fulfilled lives through working towards strength goals, and overcoming self-limiting beliefs. Through the discipline of strength training, we can learn and master all the skills necessary to become our most powerful, confident selves. In addition to being a certified instructor under StrongFirst, TRX, and Ground Force Method, she is also a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. When Catherine is not at the gym, she likes traveling, hiking, paddle boarding, and simply enjoying the outdoors with her husband Chau and their Rhodesian Ridgeback Gracie. You can train with Catherine online at KMS On Demand ( www.kmseattle.com).

3 thoughts on “Nail the SFG II Press Test with this Six-Week Plan

  • Thank you for this! My half bodyweight is a 40KG press, and I am at the point where I am comfortable in the rack with it, and I can push press it as well. I am 2 months out and wondering if I should get a 44KG bell to carry overhead/do negatives with, or will the 40KG suffice for that part of this program? As far as holding in the rack position, I can clean and hold the 48KG bell so that feels fine for that portion.

    Super nervous about this, what a timely post. Thank you!

    • Hi Alcides,

      I’m glad the article was helpful!

      For the active negatives, I think it depends on how slow and controlled your active negative is with the 40kg. If a 5-second active negative with the 40kg is challenging, like a 7 or 8 out of 10 on the RPE scale, then the 40kg is a good size. If a 5-second active negative with the 40kg is easy, like a 5 out of 10 on the RPE scale, then you may need to get your hands on a 44kg so you can reap the benefits of the slow active negative.

      Alternatively, instead of getting a 44kg bell, you can do an even slower active negative with the 40kg — like a 10-second active negative. That will increase the time under tension and the difficulty.

      Some nerves are totally normal. You’ll do great! Don’t forget to learn a lot and have fun!

      Keep up the strong work and LMK if any other questions pop up! 💪

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