The great thing about the 1-arm kettlebell snatch is that it is easy to learn and does not require as much coordination as the much more difficult Olympic barbell snatch. I have taught several people how to do kettlebell snatches properly in a short amount of time. That said, I highly recommend Pavel Tsatsouline's "Russian Kettlebell Challenge" video for learning the proper execution of the snatch. If you do not have a kettlebell, feel free to do snatches with dumbbells.
The 1-Arm Kettlebell Snatch
To get in the proper position to do a kettlebell snatch, stand up straight and push your butt out as you bend over. Make sure to bend your knees slightly and keep your back flat. If you are familiar with the barbell bent-over row, that is the position you want to be in as you pick up the kettlebell. Look forward and grip the kettlebell really hard and keep your body tight. Flex your butt and abs as hard as you can.
Now with one smooth motion, swing the kettlebell back between your legs and quickly reverse the swing forward. As the bell swings forward snap your hips and keep the kettlebell close to your body. Use the momentum to drive the kettlebell overhead.
As the kettlebell goes up, focus on getting your hand around the kettlebell rather than letting it flip over your hand and bang against your wrist. Just as your hand is getting around the kettlebell, dip your knees slightly and get under the weight. This will help you absorb the impact safely and allow you to do more repetitions.
Breathe in as you snatch the kettlebell off of the floor and breathe out as you lower the weight back to the floor. Make sure you get into a natural breathing pattern or you may find yourself passed out on the floor! When you lower the weight to the floor, don't fight the downward momentum. This is not a bodybuilding exercise and we are not trying to work the negative. Use a tight grip as the kettlebell lowers to the ground. Another important point to keep in mind is a motto that I conceived called "tight-loose-tight." What does this mean? When you snatch the kettlebell off of the ground, use a tight grip. However when the kettlebell gets close to the overhead position, use a loose grip to get around the kettlebell, and then use a tight grip to "catch" the kettlebell in the top position. This will help you get into a rhythm, give your grip a break, and prevent the kettlebell from crashing into your forearm at the top position.
Two Kettlebell Snatch
Recently while training with my good friends John Allstadt and Andrea Rippe, we decided to give the 2-arm kettlebell snatch a shot. All of us immediately fell in love with the exercise and I have incorporated it into my routine ever since. Beginners be warned: this exercise is much more difficult than the 1-arm kettlebell snatch. Do not attempt it until you have mastered the one arm kettlebell snatch. However, if you are proficient at the 1-arm kettlebell snatch and you are looking for a new challenge, give the 2-arm kettlebell snatch a shot. Again, if you do not have kettlebells, feel free to use two dumbbells. To do the exercise, get into the snatch position with a wide stance. Swing the kettlebells between your legs and then quickly reverse the swing and explode the weights up. Make sure to snap your hips as hard as you can and drive the kettlebells overhead with the momentum. As the kettlebells get close to being overhead, dip you knees and get under the kettlebells.
In the beginning when you are learning kettlebell snatches, try doing sets of five or lower. This will allow you to improve your form before going all out with higher repetitions. Once you get the technique down try the following routines:
With the 1-arm snatches move from one arm to the other immediately. In order to improve your muscular endurance and cardio, work on decreasing the breaks between sets. Make sure to do snatches as a workout by themselves or place them at the end of your other workouts as a finisher. Kettlebell snatches are a great addition to any athlete's workout regimen, especially if you practice any martial arts.
In a recent interview that I did with 5-time UFC champion Frank Shamrock, Frank stated the following regarding 1-arm dumbbell snatches: "It builds explosiveness from your toes up and that is really where we are starting from in MMA. Everything starts from the toes and extends to the point of the hands. It is more of a continuity thing, if you can get your body to go rip and blow that energy up, you can focus that energy in other places. Your body will remember that and be strong through that motion."
For more information on Kettlebell lifting and functional strength training, check out the following books and videos available at Dragon Door:
"The Russian Kettlebell Challenge," By Pavel Tsatsouline
"Steve Maxwell's Cruel and Unusual Kettlebell Exercises For Real Men," By Steve Maxwell
"Dinosaur Training," by Brooks Kubick
Until next time, train with Intensity and please email me with your progress