Deconstructing Kettlebells: Snatch With Success

Over the past five weeks, b3 wellness has broken down several of the essential movements of kettlebell training. Today's installment will take a look at the kettlebell snatch - which is very different from a barbell snatch. The kettlebell snatch is a ballistic movement that takes the bell from the ground to overhead in a continuous flow.

For those interested in learning more about kettlebells, there are two primary certification groups out there - Dragondoor's RKC and Strongfirst's SFG. Both of which are rigorous hands on experiences in working through many different techniques to clean up the basic patterns of kettlebell training. One of the testing protocols is the 5 Minute Snatch Test. 100 reps in five minutes. Men use the 24kg (53lbs) kettlebell and women use a 16kg (35lbs) kettlebell. This is NO JOKE. Having done the test for both my level one and two RKC certifications and teaching several of my trainers as prep - this is a good test of anaerobic power, VO2 max training, strength, and power throughout the body.

To learn the kettlebell snatch you must first be adept at single arm swings, cleans, overhead presses, and maybe explore the high pull before snatching. 

This fun, yet challenging exercise has a wonderful carry over effect to many activities (i.e. running, jumping, fighting, sports, etc.).


snatch start.png

1. Hike the kettlebell behind you, while driving your hips back, with one arm.

snatch hike.png

2. Snap your hips forward while quickly raising your hand up with a slight bend

    in your elbow (Called a "J")

high pull elbow break.png

3.  Punch through the kettlebell until it is completely over your head. During the punch, loosen your grip slightly to allow the kettlebell to move around your hand.

snatch punch thru.png

4. The bell should softly touch your forearm without banging (this can take some

    practice - so have some patience).

5. Make sure your elbow is completely locked out. Notice how the bell is behind the ear and the torso has a slight lean forward.

snatch finish.png

6. Lower the kettlebell back down in between your legs, with a slight bend in your

    elbow, to complete another repetition.

Alternatives - double kettlebell snatches, high pulls, snatch up to press downs


Now, the snatch may be something to work up to. The high pull is a nice transition movement that gets the bell higher than a swing but not quite to the overhead finish of the snatch. This movement is not used as much but has a ton of value in getting tempo down for higher volume snatch work. So without further ado....the high pull.




1. Hike the kettlebell behind you, while driving your hips back, with one arm.

high pull start.png
high pull hike.png

2. Snap your hips forward hard while quickly raising your hand up with a bend

    in your elbow. Your grip should remain firm on the handle.

high pull elbow break.png

4. Drive the elbow back behind the ear and absorb the momentum of the bell to complete the rep.

high pull finish.png

5. Lower the kettlebell back down in between your legs, and begin to straighten the arm, to complete another repetition.


If you have been reading from the first blog, we have discussed the bell, history, the holding positions, and the major movements associated with kettlebell training. We have not addressed some basic safety thoughts when training.


1. Training Area

a.       Open area that allows ample room for movements. 

b.      Make sure the surface you are training on is flat and not slippery.  If you are on a slippery surface make sure you are exercising on a mat. Rubber flooring is idea.

c.       Do not look directly at the sun or lighting when performing exercises that require you to keep an eye on the kettlebell over your head.  Turn your body away from the light if that is the case.

No....away from the light, my friend.

No....away from the light, my friend.

2. Proper Foot Wear:

a.       Barefoot training strengthens feet stabilizer muscles and ankles.  Shoes that work well are flat-soled shoes (i.e. Converse chucks, Vans, minimalist shoes, and most wrestling shoes). 

b.      Running shoes are the worst to train with due to the thick heel at the sole. A close second is high heels (even if that is your thing).



3. Practice Safety at all times:

a.       Always respect the kettlebell and never allow yourself to get sloppy. Act as if the bell is 60kg/132lbs and commands your attention! When feeling tired it’s easy for your form to deteriorate so stop the exercise immediately. Stay focused on the lift. There is plenty of time to rest or hit up the phone ;-)

b.      After completing a high intensity drill do not stop cold with your heart beating out of your chest. Make sure to keep moving by jogging or walking around so that your heart rate can push the blood back to the heart.  Lying down or sitting are the worst things you can do because they force the heart to work too hard. Keep your joints loose and shake it out in between rounds as well.

4. Common Sense Training:

a.       Gradually increase to a heavier weight and higher rep numbers and sets. If you are working within a program with detailed rep/set/rest intervals - do not deviate. When just starting out be very conservative.  If you can’t walk the next day then you over did it and you only have yourself to blame.  There is a learning curve to starting anything new. Respect your body and ease your way into any program.

5. Protect your back:

a.       Kettlebell training will strengthen your back and open your hips, therefore protecting you and limiting your likelihood from future back problems.  Using abdominal pressure and tightening your glutes will not only provide some safety for your back, but will help brace your entire core. Always be sure you are squeezing your glutes at the top of all your hip snaps.  Your back and butt will thank you (maybe even some people after a few weeks)!

6. What if.....?

a.     What is the bell slips out of your hand?

b.     What is the bell is too heavy?

c.      What if  somebody walks in front of me?

Plan ahead for most situations that could happen and this should limit what will happen to you.


Now that you have seen the basic movements associated with kettlebell training, there are limitless variations and corrective patterns to help maximize your benefits and minimize your risk of injury.

If you are ready to take the next step in your training, visit our homepage and sign up for our FREE newsletter and also take a look at our 100% customized training for you at b3 wellness!


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