18 May 5 Ways To Improve Your Kettlebell Snatch
I remember a few years ago when I discovered the kettlebell snatch.
That was around the time I had decided I was going to train to become an RKC certified kettlebell instructor.
So, looking over the requirements for certification, one of the requirements was to perform 100 kettebell snatches with a 24kg (53lb) kettlebell in 5 minutes or less.
When I made my 1st attempt at this, it wasn’t pretty and I definitely had my work cut for me to get to that level of strength and conditioning.
After a lot of practice rounds, technique work, and relentless conditioning, I finally made the ‘snatch test’ a staple in my conditioning training.
Even today, the snatch test is never easy, but it is always achievable and an insanely effective 5 minute “all-out” conditioning experience.
With all the kettlebell snatches I’ve done through the years now, I know that the kettlebell snatch is ridiculous.
It’s so effective it’s ridiculous.
There’s no doubt, the kettlebell snatch is definitely one of the most physically demanding kettlebell exercises there is.
You could easily make an argument that the snatch is the king of the kettlebell exercises, but I have to say that’s a title that rightfully belongs to the kettlebell swing.
When people learn about kettlebells, they want to quickly find out how to snatch it.
But, when is it appropriate to start and how can you best optimize your technique?
The purpose of this article is to provide some common tips and guidelines for effectively learning the kettlebell snatch and then refinining and progressing your skills with this insane total body exercise.
The single arm kettlebell snatch involves taking the kettlbell from the ground, back between your legs, and then exploding forcefully with the hips to elevate the kettelbell up above your head in a clean, safe, effecient trajectory to a full “lockout” postion.
Once the kettebell is overhead, the kettlebell comes back down in a controlled drop between your legs (in the same manner as if you were performing a kettlebell swing and hiking the kettlebell back).
When done properly, it’s an intense cardiovascular conditioning exercise and outstanding for full body explosive strength.
Here’s the deal though.
Before you even attempt a snatch, the requirement is you MUST have your swing down rock solid.
It’s said that the swing is the foundation for kettlebell training and it is.
The swing sets the stage for proper programming of the kettlebell snatch with the “hip hinge” pattern and explosive hip drive.
By far, the biggest challenge with beginners is really getting down the motor control pattern of the hip hinge and the hip drive that’s needed for snatch power.
Here’s 5 key tips to improve your kettlebell snatch.
1-BUILD THE FOUNDATION WITH THE SWING
As I just mentioned, you must have your swing down 1st. Let me tell you something I always say about my own training.
I’m still working on my swing.
Yes, I continue to practice and improve getting better with my swing.
I know that the better, more efficient, and powerful my swing is, the better my other kettlebell exercises will be.
This is the truth.
If your swing is NOT good and solid (safe and efficient), your snatch certainly will NOT be.
Remember this, if you want to go from average to elite, then continually work to master the fundamentals.
2-ALWAYS FOCUS ON HIP POWER
This is an important tip.
If you continue to get better with the swing, this will help you with the snatch, but you can’t ever forget to use the explosive hip drive with the snatch.
I’ve seen where someone has had a nice, clean, powerful swing, but then when it comes to the snatch, somehow the “explosiveness” in the hips is lost.
I’ve even experienced this.
The point is you must consciously be aware of powering your hips for maximal efficiency and optimizing kettlebell snatch performance.
If you want to develop a beautiful kettlebell snatch, then always be thinking about exploding forward with the kettebell to elevate the bell.
Don’t forget the terrible syndrome I mentioned before called “gluteal amnesia.”
The glutes and the hip drive are important components to an effective snatch.
Embed this into your brain.
3-KEEP THE BELL PATH CLOSE TO YOUR BODY
The most efficient trajectory of the kettlebell during the kettelbell snatch is keeping the bell close to your body (vertical as opposed to horizontal as with a swing).
As the hips drive forward, the kettlebell is pulled right up the body and not projected way out in front, as is the case with a swing.
The explosive hip drive should help you feel like the kettlebell “floats” up your body to a certain point and then it require an upper body “pull” to finish off and get the bell overhead in the full lockout postion.
From the backswing, once you initiate the snatch with with the powerful hip drive, the movement should be seamless in a clean trajectory closer to your body.
When the bell goes out too far in an inefficient path, it’s more work and it requires “muscle-ing” the bell up in a more “sloppy” technique.
For maximum efficiency, keep the bell close to your body.
4-AVOID “OVER GRIPPING” THE KETTLEBELL
Over-gripping the kettlebell is a common error when learning how to snatch.
This can be a disaster on your hands, especially with high rep snatches.
You want to make sure that you keep a nice, safe grip on the kettlebell, but be careful not to “over-grip.”
For example, when you perform a kettlebell press, one of the tricks is to squeeze the daylights out of the kettlebell to increase muscular tension for a stronger press.
The snatch is not done this way.
You need a “softer” grip because the kettebell will be changing position in your hand during different points in the snatch.
You are “repositioning” the kettlebell in your hand and it’s a technique that needs some practice (like everything else) to get in down properly.
The idea is to move your hand so that your hand comes around the kettlebell and it does not “flip” or bang your wrist as it comes overhead.
This is very important and the best way to explain this is visually, so I’ll have a video on this technique soon.
Again, understand that the grip is different with the kettelbell snatch and you want a secure, but looser grip here.
Over-gripping will cause more friction and more problems in the hand, so this is important to remember and work on the technique.
5-MOVE FAST AND FURIOUS!
Let me explain this one.
The kettlebell snatch is a ballistic, meaning it is a fast, explosive exercise.
You cannot do a barbell power clean slowly.
It’s fast and explosive.
The kettlebell snatch is similar in that respect, because you lose the efficiency and effectiveness of the exercise when you move through slower.
So, always think about moving ‘fast and furious’ through the snatch.
Of course, it should go without saying, this is not ‘jerky and sloppy.’
There’s a huge difference.
When I say fast, I mean fast and efficienct with proper technique.
If you know anything about me, you know I am all about safety and efficiency, so understand that ‘fast and furious’ is done with your best technique.
When you learn the nuances of the snatch, the speed and efficiency needs to be there to get the most from the mighty kettlebell snatch.
Hoping you understand my point here.
Learn to use that explosive hip drive and get the kettlebell up in a safe, efficient, fast, and seamless lift.
Move fast. Move efficient. This is ‘fast and furious.’
Now, of course there’s more to the kettlebell snatch than these 5 tips, but these are some things that I’ve found to be very valuable to enhance performance.
Let’s quickly recap the 5 tips:
- Build from the foundation of the swing
- Explode with your hips
- Keep the bell close
- Do NOT overgrip
- Move ‘fast & furious’ with movement efficiency
Keep these things in mind, no matter where you are in your training journey.
These will help us all improve our snatch technique and achieve a better result.
LiorPosted at 16:15h, 18 May
Scott, I learn a lot from your blog and I think you’re amazing, but this time I would like to provide a somewhat different perspective.
I, too, think that the snatch is a great exercise. I am able to snatch (on a good day) 28kg a hundred times with no breaks and recently started to snatch 32kg (maximal number of sets of 3 in 15 minutes).
However, my swinging is terrible. I don’t like to swing and my form at the swing is really bad. For someone like me, who does not have the capacity to focus on proper technique, the snatch is much easier than the swing.
ScottPosted at 06:53h, 19 May
Thanks Lior. Good to hear your different perspective.
I do think that for most, having the foundation of the swing is key for the hip drive. There’s no one that I’ve worked with that didn’t have a solid swing down 1st, but I think it could “depend” and it looks like that’s the case with you. You may be the 1 out of 100 that this would work for.
I would be REALLY interested to see your swing because it may not be as bad as you think, at least parts of it. And, I’d also be interested to see your snatch technique to compare the mechanics.
This was a point that I was making in the article, as well. That the hip drive, even with a good swing, sometimes gets lost when doing to the snatch.
Good stuff and thanks for sharing! Scott
(And, Awesome strength with the snatch by the way! Very strong)
LiorPosted at 18:43h, 26 May
Thank you Scott for your reply and sorry for the delay in my response. He’s a link to a video I just took of me swinging and snatching:
shneurPosted at 10:01h, 19 May
Are you swinging the kettlebell during your snatch, or doing a “dead snatch” pulling the kettlebell straight up?
shneurPosted at 16:19h, 18 May
One thing I have learned in regards to teaching my clients the snatch is hand movement. The biggest issue I have found that someone, trying the snatch for the first time, has is the kettlebell smashing into their wrist to the point that they become scared to try anymore. I have found that telling them to turn their hand when they swing back so the thumb goes first and then turning their hand in as the kettlebell gets above the shoulder really help for a soft landing. Essentially getting your hand around the kettlebell as opposed to letting the kettlebell flip over your hand.
ScottPosted at 06:56h, 19 May
Yes, you are right on about the hand movement around the bell vs. the bell ‘flip’ over the hand and bang the wrist.
The term I used in the article (flipping) may not be the right word to describe the hand position and the technique, because it’s simply a repositioning of your hand around the bell to avoid that smack on the wrist.
I totally agree and this is a KEY to a successful snatch!
Thanks for sharing your experience!
Bruce KolinskiPosted at 17:53h, 29 March
Great article. Thank you. It’s taken me two years to get a handle on my hip hinge. I’m 69-years young and kept trying to squat instead of hinge. I hinged nose to the wall fo weeks trying to move my hips back instead of down.
Anyway, I’m one of those who crashed the bell on my wrist during snatches, though had no problem with that during simple clean and press movements. I knew to move my hand around the bell, not the bell around my hand, but it crashed anyway.
Long story a bit shorter – I stopped the bell crash issue in two ways: 1st, as you mention in the article, the snatch movement is more vertical with a pull up as opposed to a horizontal movement outward as when swinging. By “TAMING THE ARC”, keeping the bell closer to my body, snatching improved 100%. The 2nd thing, less important I imagine, was by starting my hand rotation around face level instead of closer to the top of the movement, the rotation came along much smoother. This may just be my own geometry, but when I push my hand around the bell at about face level while taming the arc, my snatches are no longer a punishment.
Thanks so much for your tutorials,
ScottPosted at 14:01h, 04 April
Great to hear Bruce! “Taming the Arc” can take some time and practice, but once learned it becomes automatic (you just do it and don’t have to think about it).
Glad to hear you stayed with it!
Thanks for sharing your 2 tips about how you learned the proper technique – good stuff!