When looking for exercises that provide the "best bang for your buck," narrowing your requirements to three general components of athleticism may help. With movement quality, strength and general conditioning in mind, one of the best all-purpose exercises available is the Kettlebell Snatch.
A few caveats
- Prior to learning the Snatch, ensure you have the necessary mobility and dynamic control of your shoulder for overhead positions.
- Like its barbell counterpart, the Kettlebell Snatch is not a beginner lift, so it should not be performed without proper coaching—at least during the early stages. Prior to attempting the Snatch, you need to develop a progressive mastery of the fundamentals: the Single-Hand Swing, the Clean and the Press.
Kettlebell training comes in many different forms. The two primary schools of kettlebell training are hardstyle (represented by associations such as the RKC and StrongFirst) and the Girevoy Sport (or "GS") style (represented by the World Kettlebell Club and the IKFF.)
In hardstyle kettlebell training, the goal is speed and power: perform as many Kettlebell Snatches as you can in a short amount of time.
- Shoulders should stay square from top to bottom.
- The drive comes from the powerful hip drive, with the snatch-arm coming underneath the arch and controlling the momentum as the hand knifes through to the catch.
- Finish with a powerful tensing of the core, hips and legs.
- After the lockout, the return comes over the top as well. The hand hooks loosely over the handle to manage the momentum and draws the kettlebell back through the legs.
- Use the hips to catch the kettlebell and drive it back for the next repetition.
GS style Kettlebell Snatches are done over an extended period of time with only a single-hand switch, necessitating a method that allows for optimal efficiency and endurance. The GS style tends to favor a more fluid control of the momentum, a more taxing method that is harder to manage over a longer duration.
- The hip hinge appears looser, with more of a rocking motion.
- The shoulders rotate more as the kettlebell goes back between the legs.
- The snatch-side heel comes off the floor, and the movement of the kettlebell is more of a corkscrew, rotating around the forearm while it goes up and down, rather than flipping over the top of the hand.
For both hardstyle and GS style, you must develop skill and competency to perform the exercise as part of your training program. Either one will improve your movement quality, strength and conditioning.
In terms of movement, the Kettlebell Snatch can be seen as a dynamic, weighted exercise during which the athlete has to manage and control a load through varied planes of motion. The swing itself is an explosive hinge movement with the driving force coming from the hips. As a single-handed move, the Kettlebell Snatch creates rotary force that must be controlled. During the Snatch, you have to learn to control the kettlebell's momentum. At the lockout, the shoulder has to find immediate dynamic stability before returning the kettlebell back down to its starting position.
When looking to incorporate the Kettlebell Snatch into a program, consider the athlete's skill level. If he or she is still mastering the Snatch, perform the exercise early in the training hour, just after the warm-up, while the athlete is fresh. If the athlete is competent with the Snatch, consider the goal of the exercise. If you want to work on technique and strength, keep the repetitions low and the weight high. If you seek to develop conditioning or endurance, place it later in the hour, but adjust the load to match the repetitions and the athlete's fatigue level. You can challenge him or her, but be sure that fatigue doesn't lead to poor form; it will inhibit motor-learning and could lead to injury.
An admitted limitation of the kettlebell is the amount of absolute strength that can be developed through its exclusive use. However, it is an ideal tool to develop another form of strength, sometimes referred to as "power endurance," or the capacity to perform repeated explosive movements near the level of single maximal exertion. Thus, although it is a deceptively simple movement once it has been mastered, stringing multiple high repetitions together can still take quite a toll on the body.
Used properly, this exercise offers well-rounded results. Check out the video above to learn how to master the Kettlebell Snatch.
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