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BREAK IT DOWN: The Kettlebell Snatch

Take control of this dynamic move to burn fat and build strength.

Kettlebell snatch how-to progression

The kettlebell snatch harnesses the ballistic power of a kettlebell swing to punch an iron weight overhead. The challenging move works muscles in the forearms, back, abs, hips, glutes, and hamstrings. It improves strength, power, endurance, and coordination.

A good-form snatch is smooth. The kettlebell is hiked between the legs, collects momentum, and follows a gentle arc up the front side of the body until it is overhead, landing gently against the wrist. Power comes from the hips, and the elbow of the working arm maintains a soft bend as the hand guides the kettlebell upward.

This is easier said than done, however. Signs of poor form include locking out the working arm on the out-swing, allowing the kettlebell to bang on the wrist, and using arm strength to muscle the weight overhead.

Before snatching, fine-tune your single-arm swing and get comfortable pressing a kettlebell overhead with your wrist straight and elbow locked. (Learn more at “The 20-Minute Kettlebell Workout.”)

Begin with a light weight and increase the load as your technique improves.

Kettlebell snatch techniquePhotos: Kelly Loverud; Styling: Pam Brand; Fitness Model: Jennifer Blake
1) With a kettlebell in front of you, hinge your hips back with soft knees and grasp the kettlebell with one hand.

2) Hike the kettlebell up between your legs, then quickly stand up, explosively extending your hips. Use the power of your hips to float the kettlebell up.

3) As the kettlebell rises, extend your arm to punch the kettlebell overhead. It should gently come to rest on your forearm.

4) To reverse the movement, lightly flick the kettlebell forward and actively draw it down in front of your body to again hike it between your legs before returning it to the floor.

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Two Steps to a Snappy Kettlebell Snatch

As you begin to practice the move, it’s common for your form to require some fine-tuning. Try these two drills:

Top-Down Snatch Drill

Top down kettlebell snatch drillPhotos: Kelly Loverud; Styling: Pam Brand; Fitness Model: Jennifer Blake

Begin by pressing a light kettlebell into a fully locked-out overhead position, with the weight resting on the back of your wrist. Flick the kettlebell forward, and as it arcs in front of you, hinge your hips back to catch the momentum and push the kettlebell high between your legs — this “down” portion of the snatch will help you get a feel for an arc you can control. Once the kettlebell reaches its apex behind your hips, park it about 1 foot in front of your feet. Repeat to practice on both sides.

Bottom-Up Snatch Drill

Bottom-up kettlebell snatchPhotos: Kelly Loverud; Styling: Pam Brand; Fitness Model: Jennifer Blake

Begin with a dumbbell directly between your feet. Without a backswing, explosively snap your hips forward and guide the weight straight up the front side of your body. Punch your hand overhead to finish with your elbow locked out and the dumbbell straight overhead resting on the back of your wrist. While this doesn’t mimic the “up” portion of the snatch, it can help prevent or break the habit of trying to lift the dumbbell overhead with a straight arm and wide swing-arc.

RKC, MFT-1, is an Experience Life senior editor.

Photo by: Kelly Loverud; Styling: Pam Brand; Fitness Model: Jennifer Blake

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