Kettlebell Snatches
A How-To Guide

Kettlebell snatches are brutal and beautiful. A full body powerlifting movement with a kettlebell, working your upper and lower body.

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Exciting. Results producing. And difficult. Or rather, simply not easy.

Why K-Bell Snatches? What Are They?

The kettlebell snatch is a movement taken from barbell powerlifting. You start with the barbell on the floor and, in one movement, throw it above your head and hold it there for a second.

Before dropping it back to the floor.

With a kettlebell, you don't need a full barbell and weight plates to do this exercise. Just your kettlebell and the know-how right here.

If you do sports or martial arts, snatches will help you by building explosive leg strength. And you'll learn how to keep your body tight, and manipulate the weight of the kettlebell effectively with your body.

How To Do Kettlebell Snatches

The kettlebell snatch is an powerful movement, and great for your whole body. I was first introduced to it in Pavel Tsatsouline's awesome bookThe Russian Kettlebell Challenge, which is the basis for the guidelines below.[1]

  • First, start bent over the kettlebell with your weight on your heals, feet shoulder width apart. Your back should be straight (not straight-up, just straight).
  • Begin the movement by picking up the kettlebell and slightly swinging it backward. Then whip it upward in one movement.
  • At the top of the movement, flip the kettlebell over your wrist. Don't use a big arc, or you'll slam the kettlebell into your forearm.
  • Rather, punch upward with your hand when the weight gets to shoulder altitude, while allowing the kettlebell to rotate in place. This flips the kettlebell behind the forearm without 'flipping' the kettlebell, which is much easier on your wrist.
  • Finish the movement in that position with the arm holding the kettlebell extended, straight upward.
  • After pausing for a moment at the top, drop the kettlebell back down between your feet.

How to do kettlebell snatches, photo 1. How to do kettlebell snatches, photo 2.

Want To Make It A Little Harder?

  • One way to make snatches harder is by eliminating that pre-swing, making the movement closer to the movement of a barbell snatch.[2]
  • As always, you can lift heavier kettlebells, do more repetitions, or shorten your rest time between sets.
  • Try doing this with 2 kettlebells at once if you're feeling really studly. Only do this after you've got a good handle on regular snatches (pun intended).
  • Another fun one is to do the snatches with your eyes closed.[3] Again, don't try this until you know what you're doing. Or you'll hurt yourself.

Some Notes on Safety and Form

  • Remember, the lifting movement comes primarily from your hips, not your arms. And the force goes upward, like you're jumping up and the energy goes right into the kettlebell - not forward.
  • Snatch only after you master one-arm kettlebell swings, cleans, and presses.[4] Snatches are more difficult than other kettlebell lifts. Treat them with the respect they deserve.
  • Remember to tuck your hand under the kettlebell when you flip it at the top of the lift. Do not do a large arc around your hand - don't beat yourself up!
  • Don't let the kettlebell go too far back at the top. It can pull you off balance backwards, and potentially hurt your back.

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Kettlebell Snatches: A How-To Guide

1. Tsatsouline, Pavel. 2001. The Russian Kettlebell Challenge: Xtreme Fitness For Hard Living Comrades. St. Paul, MN: Dragon Door Publications. Pp. 74-9.
2. Ibid. Pp. 77.
3. Ibid. Pp. 79.
4. Tsatsouline, Pavel. 2002. From Russia With Tough Love: Pavel's Kettlebell Workout For A Femme Fatale. Saint Paul, Minn: Dragon Door. Pp. 91.

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