No matter how many people I train, I hear the same question over and over, especially from the men: “What is a good kettlebell test for me?” “What’s a good number for this?” Very rarely do people have goals like “Aging gracefully and maintaining as much strength as possible” or “Improving my quality of life.”
I know, those aren’t the most natural sounding terms. The questions get phrased in a lot of different ways, but the constant is always the worship of a number. That there is some magic benchmark that means you are good at something and that simply being good at a task is the purpose of strength training.
I have no problem with that. I have certainly chased numbers, and all of my current goals have numbers attached to them as well, lest I appear too hypocritical. But the problem with number worship is that too often, if the goal is hit, that is the end of the person’s progress.
If someone says I want to be able to snatch a kettlebell 200 times in ten minutes, and then they reach those numbers, they rarely say “I wonder if I could do 250?” They choose a standard for the snatch test that someone else has come up with and they rarely wonder if they might be the first one to set a different standard.
Goals are absolutely necessary for measurable progress. I have always believed that, I see it in my own training, and I don’t expect my thoughts on consistent effort to ever change. Rather than thinking of a numerical goal as a kettlebell test, I would much prefer that people saw it as an introduction to the next goal.
Kettlebells are a lot of fun to use and seeing progress is satisfying, no matter what the progress looks like or what the number is. But I would encourage you to pick numbers that serve as the prelude to greater progress down the road. Suppose you decided to climb the world’s tallest mountain. When you reach what appears to be the summit it is covered in fog. Do you go a little farther and see if it actually is the top of the mountain, or do you just say “I did it and that’s good enough?”