How To Do The Kettlebell Snatch Like A Pro Athlete

kettlebell snatch
kettlebell snatch

When executed to perfection, the kettlebell snatch can make you look and feel every’ bit a powerhouse athlete. And while the move may look easy-peasy to an outsider (it’s just lifting a weight off the ground and bringing it above your head, right?), that idea couldn’t be further from the truth. “The snatch is probably the most complicated and nuanced kettlebell exercise,” says Kelly Matthews, an ACE-certified personal trainer and Russian Kettlebell Certified and Kettlebell Athletics Level 2 coach.

Translation: It takes quite a bit of practice to nail down the kettlebell snatch. To help make learning the move a bit less challenging, Shape tapped Matthews to demonstrate how to do a kettlebell snatch with proper technique and share the form mistakes people commonly make. Plus, she shares the biggest benefits of the kettlebell snatch that will convince you to try the movement in the first place.

How to do a kettlebell snatch

Essentially, the kettlebell snatch is a power-focused movement that involves quickly moving a kettlebell from the floor to above your head via a hip hinge, says Matthews. “It teaches you to generate a ton of power through your hips and transfer load from your lower to your upper body,” she explains.

Due to its complexity, the kettlebell snatch is considered an advanced exercise; you’ll generally need to nail down the single-arm swing, kettlebell clean, and high pull before trying your hand at the snatch, says Matthews. But if you feel confident enough to give the movement a shot, follow along with Matthews’ demonstration of the kettlebell snatch below.

A. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, hands at sides, and a kettlebell on the floor about one foot in front of toes. Bend knees slightly and hinge at hips to lower arms toward the floor. Grab the kettlebell handle lightly with right hand and tilt it toward body. Bend left arm to a 90-degree angle, left hand hovering in front of chest and left elbow tucked at side.

B. Engage core and draw shoulders down and back. Then, hike the kettlebell back and up between thighs, keeping knees bent and back flat.

C. Quickly press feet into the floor, squeeze glutes, and drive through hips to stand up explosively swing the kettlebell forward and up to chest height. Keep the weight close to body and right elbow slightly bent.

D. When the kettlebell passes chest height, allow the weight to float above your hand so the bottom of the bell is pointed toward the ceiling.

E. As the side of the bell hits the outside of right wrist, punch the weight toward the ceiling. The bottom of the bell should be facing the floor and the handle should be pointed toward the ceiling.

F. Continue pressing the kettlebell upward until right arm is completely straight and locked out over right shoulder. Squeeze glutes as you come to standing.

G. Keeping core engaged, shoulders down and back, and the kettlebell close to body, reverse the movement by lowering right arm toward the floor, allowing the kettlebell to hover below hand. As the bell floats down from chest height, the bottom of the bell should point toward the floor. Swing the kettlebell back and up between the thighs to start the next rep.

The key kettlebell snatch benefits

By mixing the kettlebell snatch into your fitness routine, you’ll take your strength, stability, and performance to the next level. And while the complex exercise isn’t the only way you can score these perks, “it’s super fun,” says Matthews. “If you’re someone who has a kettlebell at home and you want to learn some advanced stuff, a snatch is a great one to try.”

Boosts performance in weightlifting and sports

To drive the kettlebell from the floor up toward the ceiling, you’ll need to generate and transfer power through your hips by completing a hip hinge, says Matthews. “Getting the hip-hinge pattern down and being able to generate power through your hips will not only make you a healthier mover in general, but it can also help you improve a lot of other lifts or athletic movements,” she explains.

Think of a deadlift, for example, during which you drive through your hips to come to a standing position and pull the barbell you’re holding off the ground. But if your deadlift technique is more squat-driven, practising the kettlebell snatch may help you build up the power necessary to perfect your technique. The exercise can also help athletes such as softball pitchers. “You’re having to generate that power from your legs and then bring it up to your upper body to throw the ball,” says Matthews. “[The sntach] is a similar concept, and being able to control that [power] will translate well to sports.”

Tests shoulder stability

You’ll need a healthy amount of existing shoulder stability (aka the shoulder joint’s ability to control its movement or position) to perform the kettlebell snatch successfully. But practising the exercise can take that stability up a notch and help you develop “very high-performing shoulders,” says Matthews. As the kettlebell floats toward the ceiling, you’ll call on your shoulder strength and stability to decelerate the weight, ensuring it lands above your head and stacked with your shoulder joint. Then, you’ll need to recruit your shoulder stability to keep the kettlebell in that position, she explains.

“Stabilising overhead and being able to control the load with your shoulder girdle is pretty challenging, but if you do the kettlebell snatch along with other shoulder health exercises, it can be really beneficial,” says Matthews. After all, when one of your joints has limited mobility and stability, you might compensate for your movement patterns, which can increase the risk of injury and cause muscle imbalances, according to the American Council on Exercise.

Improves mind-body connection

The kettlebell snatch not only offers physical benefits, but it can also give you a mental boost by fostering your mind-muscle connection and proprioception (aka your ability to perceive the location and movement of your body). “Training IQ is one of the valuable perks of a snatch,” says Matthews. “It is so nuanced that you have to be super aware of your body and where everything is in space at all times, so you really can level up your body awareness by learning the snatch.”

Kettlebell snatch muscles worked

The kettlebell snatch is a full-body exercise, recruiting your hamstrings, quads, and glutes to generate power, your core to control and protect your spine as you move, and your shoulders to bring the weight up above your head. Plus, the kettlebell snatch challenges your grip strength, as the muscles in your fingers, hands, and forearms will engage to hold onto the bell’s handle, says Matthews.

Kettlebell snatch variations

If the traditional kettlebell snatch feels too challenging for your current fitness level or feels like a walk in the park, you can use a variation that scales down or levels up the exercise so it works best for you.

Modification: Segmented Kettlebell Snatch

To pinpoint any sticking points, Matthews recommends breaking up your kettlebell snatch into chunks (as demonstrated below). Rather than flying through the motion, try snatching it up to your shoulder, taking a brief pause, then pressing the kettlebell up above your head, she suggests. As you perform each portion, take note of any form slip-ups that are affecting your technique.

You can also modify the kettlebell snatch by placing the lightweight kettlebell on a box behind your butt (rather than on the floor in front of you) and nixing the backward swing component, which can help you practice building up speed during the hip extension. Look for a box that’s about knee height to allow you to move easily.

Progression: Kettlebell split snatch

To level up your kettlebell snatch, jump one foot forward and one foot back into a split stance as the weight floats up to your chest, which will surely challenge your balance, says Matthews. For a serious strength and coordination test, try a double snatch, in which you perform the kettlebell snatch with both arms simultaneously, she suggests.

Common kettlebell snatch mistakes

The key to a successful — and pain-free — kettlebell snatch is keeping the weight close to your body throughout the movement, says Matthews. Allowing your arm to extend too far out in front of your body will affect your balance and increase the odds that the kettlebell will slap the back of your wrist at the top of the movement, she explains. The fix: Practice your snatch with a wall a few feet in front of you, a visual that encourages you to keep the bell close to your body, she suggests.

You’ll also want to keep the bell close on the descent, avoid shrugging your shoulders up to your ears, and fight the urge to wiggle your hips rather than extending them to get the weight up above your shoulder, she says. That said, don’t try to fix all your technique slip-ups at once. “If you have these little form issues, it’s super normal,” says Matthews. “You’re never going to get it right off the bat, and you can start to put out those little fires as you go along. Just take it one step at a time.”

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How to add the kettlebell snatch to your routine

Before you pick up a kettlebell and start snatching, check with your healthcare provider first if you have had or are currently dealing with shoulder issues (think: tears, surgeries, etc.), says Matthews. You may also want to chat with your provider if you have chronic lower-back problems, as the swinging motion may exacerbate them, she adds.

If you’re given the all-clear, try performing just six reps or fewer of the kettlebell snatch, and place it at the top of your workout after your warm-up, suggests Matthews. Once you perfect your form, you can start jacking up the reps and performing the exercise at the end of your workout as a cardiovascular conditioning finisher, she says. (You’ll want to use a lighter weight in order to pick up the speed of your reps for the cardio burst.)

Most importantly, remember to enjoy yourself. “There could be a lot of critiques to programming a kettlebell snatch because there are other ways to get all those benefits, but I think people tend to underestimate how important it is to have fun training,” says Matthews. “The reason I love working out with kettlebells is because I have so much fun, so I’m much more inclined to do it, which at the end of the day is what we all need if we want to keep getting stronger.”

This story first appeared on www.shape.com

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