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April 08, 2022 2 Comments
Behold, the alpha of all kettlebell exercises - The Kettlebell Snatch. You may have seen an uptick in people taking about this incredibly powerful movement. Are there any reasons as to why more people should train this movement other than looking really cool? You’ll have to find out for yourself below.
Many people struggle to master the kettlebell snatch. It’s seemingly an intimidating movement pattern, launching a heavy object from the ground to an overhead position, but it is highly practical and achievable when broken down to its basic components. Kettlebell foundations are a strong must before attempting the kettlebell snatch. If you’ve built your technique in kettlebell swings, overhead presses and high pulls, you’re in the clear to learn the kettlebell snatch. This technically advanced movement is worth mastering if you seek to target the entire body in one movement pattern, develop a powerful posterior chain and challenge core integrity and stability. Although the kettlebell snatch takes time to learn and understand, there are different variations and ways of incorporating it into your routine that you can benefit from.
Learning the kettlebell snatch from the top down is easier for most. Moreover, doing single arm snatches are the best way to learn the movement pattern. Single kettlebell exercises are a lot easier to learn than double kettlebell exercises.
As such, this how-to starts with the kettlebell overhead and is lowered down to a dead snatch start position...
Starting from the overhead position:
Once you’ve built an understanding of the kettlebell pathway from the top down, try to reverse the momentum by starting in a dead snatch.
Starting from the ground:
There are two options for lowering the kettlebell down to the floor from the overhead position:
When first learning the snatch, start with one kettlebell and focus on timing and technique. When you’re ready to advance, move up to working with two kettlebells.
Contrary to the dead snatch, the hang snatch starts in the hang position where the kettlebell is off of the ground, about shin height. From the hang, the powerful initiation of the hip drive and high pull brings the kettlebell up and overhead. Resetting the kettlebell back to the hang position requires loading through the quads, hamstrings and glutes. Since the kettlebell does not make contact with the ground in the hang variation, establishing a strong load through the legs and brace through the core can help protect the lower back with heavier weight and/or high repetition work. This is a good variation to work on explosiveness and speed.
A progression to the hang snatch, the swing snatch, incorporates the foundational movement of the kettlebell swing. Both the kettlebell swing and the snatch are meshed together in one, synchronized movement. This additional component increases the intensity of the movement and increases the recruitment of a powerful hip drive. Although the trajectory of the kettlebell in the swing snatch is slightly different, the same muscles are recruited with more energy expenditure. This variation gets the entire body moving.
DOUBLE DEAD SNATCH:
Double trouble for the dead snatch! The double dead snatch recruits a snappy hip drive and upright pull to catch both kettlebells overhead. Since there is no initial momentum to help drive the kettlebells overhead, it is up to the “snappiness” of both components (hip drive and high pull) to achieve a successful snatch. Synchronizing both kettlebells through the dead snatch may be difficult at first. With practice, this variation helps improve snatch foundations.
DOUBLE HANG SNATCH:
A progression to the single arm hang snatch, the double hang snatch, loads the posterior chain with more weight while the upper body is challenged to synchronize both kettlebells through the snatch. Since the kettlebells do not touch the ground before resetting for the next repetition, loading the lower body while bracing through the core is key. The double hang snatch recruits the lower body musculature, strengthens the lower back muscles and tests core stability.
DOUBLE SWING SNATCH:
The double swing snatch allows the momentum from the kettlebell swing to propel the kettlebells up and overhead. Just like the swing snatch, a lot of the power from the hip drive is accessed through the kettlebell swing. With the double swing snatch variation, heavy kettlebells can be put to the test.
Skipping the foundations: The kettlebell snatch is a lot easier to learn if you’ve mastered the following movements:
Timing of the catch of the kettlebell: When first learning the snatch, it is common to catch the kettlebell either too early or too late, causing an unstable overhead position and unwanted contact with the bell and forearm. During the high pull portion of the snatch, drive your elbow straight back as the bell is pulled vertically. As the bell keeps the vertical trajectory, transition your arm into a vertical “punch”. This quick transition takes time to get used to but when it clicks, it’ll feel as smooth as butter.
Keeping the arm straight: Practicing the kettlebell high pull can help negate this bad habit. It is daunting when the kettlebell is moving in front of the body with speed. Remember that the high pull is one of the main components that allows the kettlebell to move in its proper pathway and to land in a safe overhead catch. The only time the arm is completely extended is at the start of the snatch and in the overhead catch phase of the snatch.
Unsynchronized breathing: It is common to hold your breath as you try a new movement for the first time. Similarly to a kettlebell clean, the inhales of the snatch occur during the loading phase and the exhales occur during the explosiveness of the movement. Synchronizing your breathing to the snatch will help you endure longer sets and maintain consistency with timing your hip drive, high pull and catch.
The snatch is categorized as a pulling exercise. Depending on your program goals, the snatch can be programmed in a few ways; solely for pull-focused workouts, full-body workouts and/or conditioning workouts. Your structure of workouts will determine what stimulus (sets, reps, weight) is appropriate for the snatch. It is ideal to start incorporating the snatch with moderate sets/reps and a weight that is confidently pressed overhead.
Note: As a beginner, give yourself time to learn the kettlebell snatch. It may not come natural at first, so stay patient with the process and break down each step of the snatch if needed. Choose a kettlebell weight that you are able to control. Starting too heavy may lead to burnout and frustration. Slowly work your way up to heavier kettlebells once your technique and timing of the snatch is established.
Related: Single Kettlebell Workout Guide & 8 Week Program
Depending on what your programming goals are, choose a general focus for the kettlebell snatch. Here are recommendations, including RPE, for each focus:
Note: If you choose skill building as your focus, make sure to get enough repetitions in for practice but stray away from too many reps where you feel fatigued and start to lose form. Prioritize your snatch technique.
The advanced movement of the kettlebell snatch doesn’t just look cool, it offers many benefits too. Other than really challenging your kettlebell skill set, it works the entire body, trains explosiveness and targets core stability which is a primary component in kettlebell training. Advance your movement skills with the kettlebell snatch, you won’t regret it.
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April 22, 2022
@JAN – You should take a rest from overhead presses and snatches. First try to remove inflammation. Give yourself some time. Then start working on isolation exercises for the forearms, triceps and biceps – like pronation/supination, pushdowns and hammer curls. Go light and high reps. Also, be sure to warm up properly if and when you get back into snatches.
April 22, 2022
Any tips on how to avoid incurring “golfer’s elbow” while performing KB snatches? I had it happen a few years ago and eliminated snatches from my KB workout. Recently I resumed performing them, and the same thing happened although in a less acute form this time.
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June 01, 2023
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