5 Snatch Kettlebell Mistakes and How to Fix Them

 

The kettlebell snatch is a phenomenal movement at building strength, power, endurance and coordination. It’s a fairly complicated movement that can create a lot of pain and strife if done incorrectly so a focus on technique is crucial for success. Leaning on solid technique will allow you to do more, go heavier, and get a better overall session in. 

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The snatch is a powerful move with any implement, but a kettlebell allows for a couple main benefits. With a kettlebell you can work unilaterally as opposed to both hands on a barbell. This builds single arm strength, rotational power, and balance. The single arm snatch creates an  anti-rotational component that will create more stress on the trunk.

Typically with snatches the bar is dropped from the overhead position taking the eccentric out of the equation. The kettlebell snatch (single or double) creates added stress on the body by imposing a ballistic eccentric where you’re decelerating the bell on the downswing, redirecting the load and repeating the motion. This not only builds strength and power from the weight itself as the speed increases the load and requires more force, but since it can be done repeatedly it will help increase your work capacity.

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Dumbbells can be done with one arm, but the weight of the dumbbell increases as the size goes up whereas kettlebells remain fairly compact. At a certain point it will get fairly awkward performing repeated snatches without touching the ground.

When performing the snatch here are five mistakes I see or hear from people fairly regularly.

Problem #1: Slammed Forearms

The solution: Loose grip and tight upswing

This is the most common mistake. From videos it looks like that bell comes up and over, landing square on the arm, but what you can’t see is the fluctuation in the grip during the movement. Your grip needs to adjust at different points in the movement. At some points it’s tight and at others fairly loose to allow for the movement of the bell during the weightlessness right before the peak. The other issue is that the weight travels too far in front of you on the upswing. Keep the bell tighter on the way up to avoid the nasty boomerang effect. 

Problem #2: Tweaked Shoulders

The solution: Scap Pull Ups

It’s easy to keep that momentum going and overdo shoulder flexion reaching beyond what’s comfortable. The first thing I do with clients before snatching is establish overhead ROM and then practice scap pull ups. Grab a pullup bar or rings and dead hang. Pull yourself up only by depressing your scapula and engaging your lats. This “locks” your shoulder into place. By practicing this you’ll feel more comfortable overhead so when you increase the weight and speed of the movement you won't go too far.

Problem #3: Torn Hands

The solution: Loosen the grip

It’s easy to think you’ll need an incredibly tight grip on the bell during the snatch, but this only creates excessive friction that wreaks havoc on your hand. Combine a kung-fu grip with excessive weight and reps and your bloody hands are ready for the world to see how tough your workout was. In reality bloody, ripped hands aren’t a sign of a good workout. They’re a sign of too much too soon. Loosen the grip to allow for the bell to move seamlessly in your hand. At some points you’ll need more tension and at others less. I like to hook my fingers around the bell at the downswing and as the bell travels up and then bypass the callused area as much as possible so that it can sit in the palm of my hand. 

Problem #4: Sore Backs

The Solution: Master the one arm swing

Typically a sore back is a combination of too little tension and too slow of a movement. The lack of tension creates an imbalance of load distribution focusing nearly all the attention on your lower back. If there’s not enough tension then the downswing will be worse because that weight is going to be exponentially heavier due to the distance it has to travel. The other issue is not moving quickly enough. If you’re not explosive then this becomes a version of a shoulder raise with momentum. Be explosive! Practice and master the one arm swing before moving on to the snatch so as the weight goes higher (and ultimately drops from a higher level) you can apply the appropriate amount of tension needed. 

Problem #5: Elbow Pain

The solution: Time your Hinge

Even a light bell dropped from the overhead position can create a jerk that will reverberate down your shoulder into your elbow and wrist as well as back up through your neck and back. You want to decelerate the bell by allowing for the bell to travel down smoothly cascading from shoulder extension and timing your hinge as the bell travels between your legs for the bottom of the downswing. Hinge too soon and the bell will pull you down fast. Hinge too late, and well, the bell is gonna make a mark. Practice without weight to get the feel for the timing.

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Alright you’ve got some tips that will help you achieve a strong and connected snatch. Go forth and practice so that you too can reap the power of the kettlebell snatch in your training and athletic endeavors! 

Marcus Martinez

Master Kettlebell Coach

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