Kettlebell Kings Hard Style Series: Kettlebell Snatch
By Doug Fioranelli
On to another dynamic and fun kettlebell exercise: the Kettlebell Snatch. Our Kettlebell Kings Hardstyle Series has built up nicely to this point starting with: the deadlift, squat, overhead press and all of the kettlebell swing variations. In the last installment we learned a great dynamic movement called the clean where you bring the swing into the rack position and from there decide what movement you go to next. Another great dynamic kettlebell exercise is the Snatch and we are going to cover that here in this article and video.
Proper Set Up and Patterning:
The kettlebell snatch has the lifter transitioning from the swing directly into the overhead lockout position. This is a great exercise for power development, grip strength and cardiovascular enhancement. To perform a successful Hardstyle Kettlebell Snatch it is necessary to have a strong 1-arm kettlebell swing and good shoulder mobility and strength that come from training your overhead press.
The Hardstyle version of the kettlebell snatch uses a powerful and rigid pattern, where the trajectory of the 1-arm swing and kettlebell stays nearly straight up and down in the sagittal plane. Like I mentioned earlier; to perform a proper kettlebell snatch it’s important to have a good 1-arm swing and overhead press along with these technical points below:
Set up for a 1-arm swing where the bell is in front of you in a triangle in reference to your feet
Hike the kettlebell into a backswing where the bell is close to your body and above the knees
As you begin the upward portion of the swing: squeeze your glutes to generate power so the kettlebell will travel upward beyond parallel to the floor
As the kettlebell travels upward, slightly retract your shoulder blade and elbow as if you wanted to pull the bell behind your head. This will change the trajectory of the bell so it does not pull your arm backwards in an arc
It is important that you do not have a tight grip on the handle throughout the movement. After the slight high pull, when the bell is near your head, punch through the handle with an open hand to bring the bell to the top position. If you do it right the kettlebell will rest smoothly on the back of your forearm and you will be settled in the top of a press position
When bringing the bell back down to perform another snatch repetition: keep the kettlebell close to your body by dropping the wrist forward (like shooting a basketball free-throw) and letting the upper arm and elbow collapse into the backswing. You to not want to cast the kettlebell forward and away from your body or else the kettlebell will be too low (below the knees) in the backswing which can potentially wrench your low back
Don’t get discouraged if the description sounds a bit too daunting. Like all the other Hardstyle tutorials I have done, there are a few drills to help make you a kettlebell snatch expert in no time.
Doug trains with his Kettlebell Kings Powder Coat Kettlebells
As mentioned in the tutorial, the high pull is essential to change the trajectory of the kettlebell, so it doesn’t knock you backward and pull the arm and kettlebell behind you from the arc of the swing. I must admit that the high pull is initially not a very intuitive drill because it really doesn’t find its way into other exercises. The barbell high pull, used as an Olympic lifting drill, occurs in a more vertical plane whereas the kettlebell counterpart is more in a high horizontal direction and that is why it takes some time to learn and why I also like to use it sparingly.
Walk Up Insertion
The desire to grip the handle firmly is something newbie lifters tend to do. Grip strength does equate to more strength, but it will also not make the movement smooth and the back of your forearm will be bruised up bad. Learning to open the hand while inserting it through the handle is essential for making your technique seamless.
With this drill perform a 1-arm swing and insert the hand through the handle at various points of the swing until the handle is resting on the webbing of thumb and middle of your palm. You can walk your way up the arch of the bell swing by inserting your hand higher and higher until you reach the top of the movement directly overhead and in-line with the hips.
Swing High Pull Snatch
A good way to be successful is to combine the drills and make sure that they build off each other fluidly. One of my favorite drills is performing one swing followed by one high pull and then one snatch. You can bring the bell down and reset your body and try it again.
Once you have the high pull down and the movement is getting smooth it still may be difficult to string multiple snatch repetitions in a row. One way you can achieve this is by doing multiple swings and then, when you are ready, throw in a snatch. Start with sets of three swings then a snatch, then two swings and a snatch, one to one until you can perform multiple snatch repetitions.
One last thing about the drop of the kettlebell snatch; since it is descending from the highest point you can get the bell, it will be coming down fast and the timing for an appropriate backswing might not be there initially. You do not want too many poorly timed backswings or it can ruin your weekend. One way to get comfortable with the technique is to perform a snatch and then bring it down into the rack position (like we learned in the clean) and then perform the backswing from this lower position and perform another snatch. Do this until you are comfortable enough to drop from the top of the snatch.
You now have all the tools needed to perform a proper kettlebell snatch. Stay tuned for more Hardstyle articles and videos to come from Kettlebell Kings.
Please check out the video below for all the complete details discussed above.
Doug Fioranelli is the owner of Rise Above Performance Training® where he uses personal, progressive programming to increase his athletes’ performance and reduce their risk for injury. Since 2001, he has assisted many people with their strength training, conditioning and athletic rehabilitation including: adult clients, police, fire, military professionals, and athletes from middle school to the Professional level.
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