The Kettlebell Snatch: Master A Foundational Movement

The kettlebell snatch is a dynamic and powerful exercise that has gained immense popularity in recent years, largely through the Crossfit community, as well as social media.  But it’s main staying power has definitely been the benefits it provides. With more and more people realizing the benefits of this exercise, it’s no wonder why the kettlebell snatch has gained momentum. Think about it.  Once you get fairly proficient at the kettlebell swing, the next natural thought is to wonder, “what else can I do with this thing?”.  This typically leads budding kettlebell enthusiasts to the kettlebell clean and the kettlebell snatch.  In this tutorial, we will go briefly over  the history of the kettlebell snatch, explore its many benefits, and provide a step-by-step guide to help you master this excellent exercise.

Kettlebell Snatch: A Brief History

The kettlebell (also known as the “girya” in Russian) has been a staple of Russian strength training for centuries. Originally used as counterweights for weighing crops, these cannonball-shaped weights eventually found their way into the training routines of Russian strongmen and athletes.

The kettlebell snatch, in particular, has a rich history. It was developed as part of the Girevoy Sport (kettlebell lifting sport) in Russia during the 19th century. Competitors aimed to lift kettlebells overhead as many times as possible within a specific time frame. In search of the best way to get more reps in less time, eventually they found that bringing the kettlebell directly from the ground (or the bottom of the swing position) to overhead worked better for the demands than utilizing the “rack” position of the clean.  Not that either exercise is better or worse, each has their own merits and challenges. Overtime, demanding sport evolved into the modern kettlebell snatch we know today.

In the 21st century, kettlebell training has gained widespread recognition, thanks to its effectiveness in improving overall fitness, strength, and mobility. The kettlebell snatch, with its unique combination of cardiovascular benefits and full-body conditioning, has become a staple in the fitness world.

Kettlebell Snatch Benefits

Before we dive into the tutorial, let’s explore the numerous advantages of incorporating the kettlebell snatch into your fitness routine:

1. Full-Body Conditioning: The kettlebell snatch engages multiple muscle groups, including the legs, core, back, shoulders, and arms. It’s a comprehensive workout that targets both strength and endurance.

2. Cardiovascular Fitness: Performing high-intensity kettlebell snatches can elevate your heart rate, making it an effective cardio exercise. It improves lung capacity and helps burn calories efficiently.

3. mproved Mobility: Snatching requires flexibility and mobility in the hips, shoulders, and wrists. Regular practice can enhance your range of motion and prevent injuries.

4. Explosive Power: Bringing a kettlebell directly from a hang position requires more force than simply lifting the kettlebell.  As a result, The kettlebell snatch develops explosive power in the hips and legs, making it beneficial for athletes in sports such as sprinting, jumping, and martial arts.

5. Coordination Benefits: Since the kettlebell sntach must be done with a certain degree of speed.  It requires your muscles to lift and “catch” and stabilize the kettlebell overhead in a coordinated pattern, pimproving overall reaction times, stability, and coordination.

6. Improved Shoulder Strength: The kettlebell snatch trains the often neglected rotational strength of the shoulders.  It essentially combines the movement patterns of and upright row with part of an overhead press, and demands additional effort from the shoulder muscles to decelerate the bell at the top of the snatch.

So we know how the kettlebell snatch came to be.  We know the benefits.  So how do we do it?

How to Perform the Kettlebell Snatch

We’ll divide the instructions for the kettlebell snatch into 3 simple steps (Swing, High Pull, Turnover) so it’s easy to remember as you practice:

Step 0: Setting Up

Not really a step, but good to know just to be sure:

1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly turned out.

2. Place the kettlebell between your feet, ensuring it’s centered.

3. Bend at the hips and knees to reach down and grasp the kettlebell handle with one hand. Your back should be straight, and your chest up.

Step 1: The Swing

You’ll start the snatch with a single arm kettlebell swing:

4.Push your hips back and swing the kettlebell back between your legs.

5. As the kettlebell swings back, keep your arm extended and your weight on your heels.

6. Allow the kettlebell to swing through your legs while maintaining a strong, neutral spine. This is called the “hike pass.”

Step 2: The High Pull

You’ll perform a high pull to generate height and force after your initial swing:

7. To start the high pul, explosively thrust your hips forward.

8. Simultaneously, pull the kettlebell up and slightly backwith your arm, aiming to keep it close to your body.

9. Aim to get the kettlebell to a little above chest height (right around the height of your delts).

Step 3: The Turnover

At this point, you’re almost at the top of the movement:

As the kettlebell rises, rotate your hand so that your elbow begins to face backwards (rather than up) when it reaches about shoulder height.

When the kettlebell has the moment of weightlessness (once it reaches terminal velocity- right before it starts to come back down), rotate your arm under, so the weight geins to turnover from the front of your handto behind your wrist. 

Now think about “punching up” directly overhead to get the kettlebell to lockout position.

10. Continue driving the kettlebell upward until your arm is fully extended overhead.

11. At the top of the movement, your arm should be straight, and the kettlebell should be balanced directly over your shoulder.

Step 4: The Reversal

Completing the snatch involves safely lowering the kettlebell:

12. To lower the kettlebell, initiate the movement by bending your hips and knees slightly.

Reverse the steps, slightly bending the elbow and bring the kettlebell forwards to lower it back down into a swing.

13. Allow the kettlebell to swing down between your legs, returning to the swing position.

14. Repeat the snatch motion for reps

Helpful Tips

– Maintain a neutral spine throughout the entire movement to prevent injury.

– Keep your core engaged to stabilize your torso.

– Focus on your hip thrust for power; it’s the engine of the snatch.

– Use your non-working arm for balance and counterbalance as needed.

– Start with a light kettlebell to master the technique before increasing weight.

Common Mistakes to Avoid:

1. Overarching the Back: Keep your back straight and avoid excessive arching during the snatch to protect your spine.

2. Not Swinging the Kettlebell High Enough: Make sure the kettlebell reaches shoulder height during the high pull and turnover to perform a proper snatch.

3. Using the Arm Too Much: The power should come from your hips and legs. Avoid relying solely on your arm strength.

4. Neglecting Breathing: Don’t forget to coordinate your breath with the movement to maintain stability and control.

5. Lack of Control: Maintain control throughout the exercise to prevent injury or loss of balance.

The Next Step Towards Kettlebell Mastery

The kettlebell snatch is a challenging but highly rewarding exercise that offers numerous benefits, from full-body conditioning to improved cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength.  It is also the beginning of your journey towards more advanced kettlebell exercises, as it emphasizes explosiveness and coordination. There’s not really a way to do the snatch slowly. Either you make it through the movement with some force, or it doesn’t happen.

While mastering the kettlebell snatch may take time and practice, the journey is well worth it. Once you gain proficiency in the snatch, your cleans and swings will improve as well.  Overall, the snatch is a staple kettlebell exercise, and is well worth your time.  Till next time…

Happy Kettlebelling,


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