How to Do the Kettlebell Snatch to Feel Totally Powerful (SHAPE)

Posted: Jan 23, 2023 in In the News

This article originally appeared in SHAPE on January 23, 2023.


How to Do the Kettlebell Snatch to Feel Totally Powerful

By Megan Falk

When executed to perfection, the kettlebell snatch can make you look and feel like 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 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, practicing 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 practicing 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. 

“Stabilizing 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 your movement patterns, which can increase the risk of injury and cause muscle imbalances, according to the American Council on Exercise.

Read the full article here.

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