Friday, February 1, 2008

Elements of the snatch- Pt. 1

The below is Pt. 1 of some bits and pieces I have picked up regarding the kettlebell snatch. I put this together at the request of a blog reader. This is not meant to be the end all be all of snatching, they are just things I have discovered by trial and error, and work for me.
Also, I just received my copy of the February crossfit journal and almost fell out of my chair reading the title of one of the articles "You can't lift what you can't hold on to." If you saw the end of my towel swings and pull-ups video you know why. :)
BTW, there's good kettlebell article in this one. Overall it looks like they really outdid themselves with this issue. If you aren't subscribed to the crossfit journal, I mean, seriously people...


Elements of the snatch
Pt. 1

1. Snappy hips are happy hips- The hips are the center of most athletic movements. If your hips are not the primary mover during your snatches, you have a problem. If you find your upper body is becoming worn out quickly, there is a good chance that you are pulling primarily with the upper body and not properly employing the hips. You must also be careful not to treat the hip drive as almost a ‘decorative’ movement, and remember that it has a very distinct purpose. Those of you who properly employ you’re hips in the snatch may wonder how someone can treat the movement as ‘decorative’, but it happens all the time. This may be displayed as the hips lacking explosive power and just sort of being ‘put’ out there, or being deployed too late. If you are throwing your hips out when the kettlebell is already halfway up the body, you are not using them as the primary force by which the bell is propelled upward. If you realize you do not have the explosive power element, go back to swings and develop it. Snatching is cool, all the cool kids do it. Based upon this reality we have a tendency to want to jump right to snatching. In this instance as in most, patience is a virtue. Return to the swing and develop explosive power directly from the hips. After that, work on your one handed high pulls. After that, snatch away.

2. The Pull- The kettlebell snatch is not a stiff armed endeavor. If your arm is straight and you are effectively performing an ‘explosive swing’, you can hardly help but bang up your forearm. You want a slight bend in your elbow somewhat similar to a high pull so that you have room to ‘punch through’ at the top of the movement. On the way down you will want this as well in order to avoid ‘casting’ the bell out. Casting is poor form and can cause unnecessary strain on the shoulder, as well as pull you away from your foundation. You can also avoid casting by leaning back slightly as you descend. Where you might ordinarily fall back, you are counterbalanced by the bell and this will help clean up your descent, and make your long snatch sets easier as you are not employing as much muscular resistance to the downward force.

3. The open hand- If you find you have trouble stabilizing the bell at the top, are death-gripping it, or are getting excessive friction in your palm on the way up, try opening your hand. Right after I punch through I open my hand. This also solves the problem of hyper-extending the wrist for most people. If you hyper-extend too far with an open hand, the bell will fall out of your hand. By keeping my hand open I also relax my forearm flexors, so I am less likely to burn my grip out quickly.

4. Chalk Up- Use chalk. It will help with your grip and also puts an extra layer between the handle and your hand, which will reduce friction. It will also suck up some of the sweat coming off of you, which will help the grip. Chalking up also makes you a better person. If possible don't just chalk your hands, but chalk the kettlebell handle as well. Painted or treated handles don't hold chalk as well as the raw iron or steel. You can also score your handles to hold the chalk. Along the same lines, also degrease your bells. Hand oils and other assorted non-sense can make the slippery. Per Jared Savik's suggestion I use rubbing alcohol first on the handles, then wash them off and dry them before chalking them.


  1. thanks for the pointers. Since I already do pointers 2, 3, and 4. I am going to focus on my hip-snapping and see if my arm fatigue can be minimized.

    As far as technique: on all videos I have seen, GS competitors do an RKC-style punch-through snatch on the way up but cork-screw on the way down.

    I've been training by cork-screwing on the way up and the way down. Do you think there is any disadvantage to this snatch choice?

  2. The hips snap is a big one. Once you get that down I think you will see a big jump in your numbers. In martial arts most throws and punches come from the hips, as they are a powerful force generator. This is true in most other sports regarding athletic movement. Some people (such as cyclists) have a very hard time getting the hang of the hip drive.
    Regarding the corkscrew, when I come down in that manner I tend to come back up in the same way. I've never tried mixing the two, as to me it would be confusing. It also depends on the speed with which your snatching. My Max VO2 snatch cadence is pretty damn fast (18 snatches per 36 seconds), and I don't think I can pull off a clean corkscrew on those, so I go over the top. If I'm doing a timed set I am snatching slower and will corkscrew. I would try to be proficient in bot styles. I am always punching through at the top though, if you are talking about the bell going around the side in some way.

  3. Jordan, thanks as always. Today, after a week of being sick, I focused on my hip snap. With my timed sets (with a 1 pood) and my cardio work (with a 1.5 pood), my snatches were very energetic. I even had to pull one or two of them down lest they just fly by me. So I think my hips had become lazy.

    In reference to my corkscrew on the ascension of the snatch (my, there's a phrase)..anyway, I just raise my arm with my hand open and the kettlebell wraps around all my itself. So it does travel around the side and never over the top.