I've had more discussions with folks on this topic recently, so it seemed appropriate for me to once again address this subject with my opinions ;)
Do you need more strength?(2008)
This seems like a stupid question still in 2011 :)
Since 2008, I've been teaching alongside Valery Fedorenko at our World Kettlebell Club Coaches Certification and taught quite a few one day World Kettlebell Club Fitness Trainer Certifications. We routinely get asked the following types of questions? Where do squats, deadlifts, and presses fit into the mix? Should we do supplemental grip work, i.e. Grippers for snatches.
Lots has happened since 2008, but not much has changed in regards to the view on this topic. One related topic of discussion is why women typically do better than men even though women are working heavier now than they were in 2008. One of the reasons is that the lifts with 2 bells are harder. It's true; they are. I worked through a cycle of them in 2008 and worked my way to 10 min and near 70 reps with 20s and did 7 min with the 24s. It was a great challenge, and I did it so I could use it as an excuse for not bettering my snatch haha. However, I think this difference or difficulty has been somewhat blown out of proportion when trying to explain the success of the men in this country vs. the women. Let's face it, all of the men I have coached save one can exceed the Jerk numbers they need for their desired rank. The snatch is always the limiting factor and that's pretty typical with women as well.
What you mean you don't need no presses?
Have you ever seen the Ice Chamber women like Master of Sport, Sara Nelson do Jerks? Folks, I got news for you, her fixation is as good as any I've seen. She's powerful. I judged her set when she achieved the 28kg Strongsport rank in Long Cycle weighing less than 60kg. She has hit WKC MSWC long cycle numbers in training with a 24kg. Master of Sport, Emily Friedel has exceeded MSWC Snatch numbers with 75/75 in late 2010 and has hit or exceeded the required number of jerks as well. Without much 24kg training, she attained CMS IUKL Snatch rank with the 24kg recently. Neither Sara nor Emily do presses. I know for fact that Sara would not be able to press a 20kg, yet she has jerked a 36kg. These women are not the exception. There are other great examples in the USA and abroad.
Women pick up on jerks and to some degree snatches more quickly than men because they don't have the strength baggage (baggage meaning flexibility issues from benching or other grinds and reliance on strength to do the lifts). This seems to also be true of Girls and Boys. They are forced to adapt and learn the techniques or it simply won't work for them. Of course, I was the exception to this rule.
A message for the already bad ass strong folks.....
When I started the sport in 2004, I was relatively strong. I've been lifting weights for 26 years and up until 2004, my training consisted of mainly powerlifting type exercises and sets. By 2005-2006, I could press the 32kg for 4-5 reps per hand, and remember doing double 28s for 5 reps and pressing a pair of 24s was nothing for me. I was ok with snatching. But, I had a very difficult time learning the jerk. By 2007, I decided that I had to stop pressing. It was interfering with my ability to develop the speed and power that I would need for the Jerk.
That journey definitely gave me the ability to empathize with men who have a hard time learning the jerk (most specifically developing the first bump and flexibility). Moreover, it clarified the role of strength and training for this sport.
As I said in 2008, your strength will serve you well initially. If you came from a strength background, the bells don't feel heavy and that does help in terms of making it less overwhelming. Still, the issue is that many don't develop the qualities that they need to be better lifters whether that be speed, power, endurance or flexibility.
Maybe lifting Kettlebells doesn't stroke your ego like lifting a barbell!
Would I ever say that squats, pressing or deadlifts have no value? Absolutely not. However, if your goal is to become a better Kettlebell Lifter and achieve a significant rank, then you have to ask yourself whether or not you really need these things to achieve your goals, especially in the beginning when you have yet to develop technical proficiency with the lifts.
Let's face it, some folks really don't want to give up their strength training regimens. They like lifting heavy shit. So, for those individuals, it may take them longer to achieve a significant rank, or it may never happen. It's all about priorities.
If you are at your wits end in terms of improving your numbers, and you are sure your technique is just fabulous, your program is the best on the planet and not your limiting factor, then taking a break from the lifts for a few months and focusing on strength work may be worthwhile. However, if technical improvements seem very hard to achieve and you are doing heavy pressing or deadlifting, you may want to rethink your strategy.