If you are not snatching you are not kettlebell training, the kettlebell snatch is the end game of the ballistic kettlebell exercises, it will build killer conditioning, strengthen every muscle from toes to finger tips and burn up to 20+ calories per minute.
The kettlebell snatch also has the steepest learning curve in terms of technique, this however is vastly reduced if you have put in the required practice on 1 hand and 2 hand swings. Get a good couple of thousand swings under your belt first, then move onto high pulls and eventually snatches.
In this post I want to tell you how my learning curve went and hopefully you can gain some knowledge from this and apply it to your own training. This is how it went for me.
1. Timing of the punch.
When you first snatch a kettlebell over head its a little bit scary, you have little confidence in the movement and the fear of the bell hitting or landing on your head is at the forefront of your mind. This quickly passes as you realise a good strong vertical lockout at the top will ensure that this does not happen. The other issue beginners have is the bell travelling around the hand and bashing the wrist once locked out. This is happening because you are being passive and taking the bell up on a straight arm, the movement has two elements, pull and punch, the pull sets the bell up to float up to slightly above head height at which point the bell is weightless, then you are looking to punch through to the lockout position. Time the punch right and the bell will come to rest on the back of the forearm with no impact. My advice is to drop down to a lighter weight to practice the punch and get your timing spot on. Do not use a mirror, you have to feel it out.
2. Tame the arc
As mentioned in the above point, if you are getting smacked on the wrist you are probably taking the bell up on a straight arm and therefore the bell is travelling to far away from you and this is simply a waste of energy. With the ballistic exercises you always want the bell to take the shortest route, in the snatch the shortest route from point A (the back swing) to point B (the lockout) of course is straight up. To do this imagine a wall is right in front of you, as the bell comes off the back swing and is available to move upwards, redirect it by starting the pull action of drawing your elbow slightly backwards and taming the arc. If enough power was provided from the hips the bell is now floating up by your head so punch through to the lockout.
3. Use the hips not the upper body
Its very easy in this movement to rely on the your back to do most of the work but this is primarily a lower body exercise and the prime movers are the glutes and hamstrings. This is why grooving the hip hinge with lots of hardstyle two handed swings first will lead to better performance. This for me was the last piece of the puzzle and it actually took me about a year of training to really get the hips into the movement. The difference in my performance is huge! I can now easily snatch a 24kg kettlebell for 100 reps in about 4 minutes. Before I got this part of the movement down, I would always be really sore in my traps and upper back the day after a hard snatching session, now I have no soreness anywhere, maybe sometimes in the bicep.
Here is a video of me performing the RKC snatch test which is to snatch a 24kg bell 100 times in under 5 minutes. This was an early attempt and although I got the 100 reps it took me just over 5 mins.
There are lots of things wrong with my technique here, the head position is not good, the bell is travelling around my hand at the top rather than a good hard style flip, breathing is off, there is minimal power through the hips and my shoulder is disconnected and is taking a beating every time the bell lands at the lockout.
Below is my latest attempt at the RKC snatch test. This is 9/10 months on from the attempt above. Notice the difference in my technique, all of the above mistakes are no longer there, the path the bell takes is shorter, my hip snap is much more powerful and easily moves the bell over head, my breathing is improved and over all it is much cleaner and stronger.
By focusing on the above technique points I was able to shave a minute off my previous best time, that’s a considerable difference. Of course strength, shoulder stability and conditioning have improved through other kettlebell exercises during this time frame, but you will never get this type of performance without dialing in your snatch technique.
I hope this has been helpful, if you are having problems with your technique leave a comment below or contact me for some one to one instruction.