What is “strong” really?

Hope you had a great weekend.

Wish I could say I did – had to get some extra sleep from burning the candle at both ends for too long. Shame on me – I know better.

One of the things that got me thinking and set my alarm bells off was when some lighter weights – weight that should be really easy – wasn’t.

It was slow and felt heavy.

Always a tell-tale sign that there are problems in HQ, if you know what I mean.

But it got me to thinking –

What is “strong” anyway?

How do we define it?

Is it a set of arbitrary numbers or standards?

Or is it “an attitude” as my buddy Mark Reifkind likes to say?

Or what?

At it’s essence – it’s both in my book.

I like to say strength is the ability to overcome.

Overcome what?

Anything you want to or have to.

So in essence, it’s both of the definitions I used earlier.
It can be subjecting yourself to arbitrary standards:

– Pressing a certain sized KB
– Snatching 100 reps in 5 minutes
– Getting up when you’ve been knocked down… again
– Keeping on keeping on… even when you don’t want to

It can be so many things.

I think another term for strength could be “growth.”

Growth is reaching beyond your current limitations.

Sure seems like a form of strength to me – especially when you don’t have to grow. No one is forcing you to do it.

Here are some examples:

– It’s the mom or dad who finally acknowledges that being 30 pounds overweight isn’t helping their health or setting a good example for his or her kids and, quietly, without letting anyone know, gets up 30 minutes earlier each day to swing a kettlebell and makes smarter food choices…

– It’s the guy who’s been chasing that 1/2 bodyweight one arm KB press for 4 years and has finally gotten it…

– It’s the woman who’s transformed herself from 100 pounds overweight and self-absorbed to a lean, mean, fighting machine and is now helping others do the same…

Ok, enough of the “touchy-feely” stuff – what about some “hard” numbers?

What about some physical goals to shoot for?

Some standards?

Here are some off the top of my head, by category – and I’m just spit-balling here, based on my experience:

1) Rank Novice: 100 swings in 10 minutes. 16kg women, 24kg men.

2) Beginner: 100 swings in 5 minutes. 16kg women, 24kg men.

3) Intermediate (conditioning): SFG Snatch Test. 100 snatches in 5 minutes. 16kg women, 24kg men.

4) Intermediate (strength): Press – Men – 33% of bodyweight   x 5 reps. 1 arm. Women – 25% of bodyweight. 1 arm.

5) Advanced (conditioning): Secret Service Snatch Test.  200 snatches (or better) in 10 minutes.

6) Advanced (strength): Press – Men – 75% of bodyweight x 5 reps. 2 arms. Women – 50% of bodyweight x 5. 2 arms.

7) “Advanced” advanced: Clean + Jerk (or Clean + Push Press) 2x 24kg x 100.

How do you train for any of those standards?


Start where you are.

Find a program that respects progressive overload – doing a more work over the course of time – and get cracking.

I will say one thing – once you’ve passed the beginner’s stage, the more you train with doubles (a pair of kettlebells), the faster you’ll achieve your results.

In fact, failure to train with doubles – to adequately provide enough stimulus to your body to get it stronger – is one of the main reasons people don’t progress.

Here’s where you learn how to train with a pair of KBs correctly.

Talk soon.


P.S. Feel free to make your own “strength standards.”

The ones I presented here are based on training people with KBs for the last 14 years.

I think they are achievable by just about every person given some time and the right training.

How long would it take?


Hard to say.

Depends on how committed you are and what kind of obstacles you have to overcome.

If you are really committed to getting physically stronger, this is for you.

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