Exercise of the Week: Kettlebell Snatch

Learn the many benefits of and correct form for the Kettlebell Snatch, and avoid common mistakes with STACK's illustrated guide.

Kettlebell Snatch

Every Wednesday, STACK brings you a new Exercise of the Week to challenge your strength, speed, conditioning or flexibility—or all of the above.

The Exercise

The Kettlebell Snatch forces your body to quickly propel a heavy weight over a large distance. It improve your muscles' ability to fire quickly and produce max strength, which is essential for improving as an athlete.

In particular, the movement engages the glutes, the largest and most powerful muscles in your body. Powerful glutes help you run faster, jump higher and improve virtually any athletic skill performed while standing. In addition to helping you become more powerful, the move also improves:

Core Strength. Your core muscles engage and stabilize to transfer energy from your lower body to the kettlebell. A stronger and more stable core eliminates wasted energy, maximizes power and even helps you conserve energy.

Shoulder Stability. Catching the kettlebell overhead with your arm extended engages your shoulder stabilizer muscles, improves joint integrity and prevents overuse injuries. Note: Pitchers, quarterbacks and tennis players should perform this exercise only during the off-season to prevent an overuse injury.

Mental Toughness. This exercise can crush you. Your lower body will be torched, your shoulders will be on fire and your heart will beat through your chest. If you do it wrong, you might develop black and blues splotches on your wrists.

How To 

Master the Kettlebell Swing and Kettlebell Clean before attempting the Snatch. If you don't learn the proper technique and develop the necessary strength, you're more likely to muscle the weight up and hurt your back or shoulder.

1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart holding a kettlebell in one hand between your knees.

2. Hinge at the hips and swing the kettlebell between your legs.

Kettlebell Snatch Step 1

3. Drive your hips forward to propel the kettlebell up, keeping it close to your body by bending your elbow.

4. Allow momentum to carry the kettlebell up and over your shoulder.

Kettlebell Snatch Step 2

5. Extend your arm and punch your hand toward the ceiling to flip the kettlebell over your hand to your wrist. Hold this position for one count.

Kettlebell Snatch Step 3

6.  Lower the kettlebell through the same movement in reverse and repeat immediately.

Common Mistakes and Fixes

Mistake: Muscling the weight up with your arm. If you do this, you'll notice that your traps and shoulders burn and fatigue before your lower body.

Fix: Use your hips to propel the kettlebell up. This is not a shoulder exercise.

Mistake: Allowing your knees to come forward, especially if they move ahead of your toes.

Fix: Bend your knees slightly as you swing the kettlebell between your legs, but concentrate on hinging at the hips. The exercise should primarily work your glutes, not your quads.

Mistake: Maintaining a straight arm as the kettlebell travels up your body. You'll know you're committing this mistake if it feels like you're performing a Kettlebell Swing, only finishing overhead instead of at chin height.

Fix: Keep the kettlebell close to your body by relaxing your arm. This is a vertical exercise. Your goal is to propel the kettlebell up, not through an arc.

Mistake: Allowing the kettlebell to painfully smash against your wrist when it flips over your hand as your arm moves overhead.

Fix: Aggressively punch up with your hand as the kettlebell travels overhead.

Applying It to Your Workout

The Kettlebell Snatch is an extremely versatile exercise because it addresses several performance goals, depending on how you perform it. To work on your explosive power, perform it at the beginning of your workout (when your muscles are fresh and energy levels are high) with a heavy weight for only a few reps. If you want to burn fat and improve your muscular endurance, turn it into a heart-thumping finisher by using a light weight and performing a high number of reps, or add it to an interval-training circuit, such as a Tabata.

  • Power - Sets/Reps: 3-5x4-6 with a heavy kettlebell
  • Endurance - Sets/Reps:  2-3x15-20 with a light kettlebell

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock