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All About the Kettlebell Snatch

The kettlebell snatch falls under the category of a full body exercise with a pulling aspect to its movement, and it is generally considered an elite exercise throughout the world. It involves swinging the weight above the head, essentially absorbing the weight before a reverse descent, and then changing the movement and direction again at the bottom. So, it has all of the cardiovascular benefits of a kettlebell swing with extra strength and finesse added into the works – which is why many enthusiasts refer to the snatch as the “King of Kettlebell Exercises.”

kettlebell snatch photo
Photo by kl.fitness

Those new to the snatch will likely fumble through the exercise with a great degree of trepidation about whizzing a heavy weight above the head and emerge from the experience with some bruising on the wrists from haphazard timing. Unfortunately, this is part of the process to learn proper form and why I recommend always using a lighter kettlebell in the beginning stages of the snatch-learning process.

Precursors to the Kettlebell Snatch:

220px-Russian_stamps_no_534_—_Dumb-bell_liftingBefore you even attempt learning how to execute the kettlebell snatch, there are a couple of other exercises that help to build the skill, confidence, and strength needed. The snatch is not a beginner’s move, and you should be proficient in other areas of kettlebell work before even considering working on snatches.

Sufficient Shoulder Mobility: Since you must be able to hold the kettlebell straight over your head, the snatch requires a good deal of shoulder and thoracic mobility. To test your mobility, take your back flush against a wall and try raising your arms up in line with your ears. If you cannot do this without maintaining contact with the wall or there is discomfort in your shoulders, add mobility work with shoulder rotation to your workout warmups or cooldowns before you attempt kettlebell snatch training.

One-Arm Kettlebell Swing: The first part of a kettlebell snatch is essentially a one-arm swing. Swings develop the hip drive needed to execute virtually every other kettlebell exercise properly. As I frequently tell my students: Swings are all about the bootie; if it doesn’t feel obscene, you are not using your hips enough!

Kettlebell Clean and Press: Mastering the clean and press before attempting snatches is also recommended because the exercise develops the shoulder strength needed during the pressing portion. The clean helps to develop proper timing and use of the fingerlock grip (thumb over index finger with the remaining fingers loose), which will save a lot of wear and tear on your wrists.

Breakdown of the Kettlebell Snatch:

  • Using a fingerlock grip, hold the kettlebell handle in the inside corner.
  • Begin the movement like a one-arm kettlebell swing, using a slightly wider than shoulder width stance with a little bend in the legs. Use the forward movement of the hips to drive the bell up.
  • When you feel a moment of weightlessness to the bell around chest height, pull the kettlebell in toward the body and push your hand up as if pushing through the bell.
  • Rest if needed in the top position. Continue by flipping the kettlebell over and dropping down in a reverse motion, leading with the elbow and keeping the kettlebell close to the body.

Benefits of the Kettlebell Snatch:

  • Effective fat burner without heavy impact to joints
  • Improves strength, working virtually every muscle
  • Maintains and develops shoulder and thoracic mobility
  • Keeps the mind fresh with the use of complex movement patterns

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