Once upon a time I went to Mark Fisher Fitness (which is like Disney meets Charlie and The Chocolate Factory but with a bunch of beautiful, sexy, fit, people) and sat down in the Snatchery with the MFF Personal Training staff to discuss pull-ups, pressing, unicorns, and how to make your snatch sexy.
Sexy people must have sexy snatches. This is a no brainer.
Now, for those of you who understand kettlebell snatch humor, you understand when I ask, “Do You Have a Sexy Snatch?” because snatches are sexy.
For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, your mind is probably still in the gutter, “Snatch? What??” :)
Yes, everyone likes to joke about the snatch.
In the world of Kettlebell Training, the Kettlebell Snatch is considered the “Tsar” of kettlebell lifts. It is a fantastic movement for total body conditioning and for learning force production. Those who know the kettlebell snatch, and can execute the snatch well, LOVE the snatch.
Before you learn the kettlebell snatch you want to make sure that you master the kettlebell swing, both two handed and one handed, and the kettlebell clean first. I will teach the following kettlebell lifts, in the following order before teaching the snatch:
- Kettlebell Two Handed Swing
- Kettlebell One Handed Swing
- Kettlebell Hand to Hand Swings
- Kettlebell Clean
- Kettlebell High Pull
- Kettlebell Snatch
I go into this in more detail in my post Improve Your Double Kettlebell Snatch and I provide a training drill that you can apply to both single and double kettlebell snatches in order to improve your kettlebell snatch.
When people are learning the snatch, often they can struggle with the movement and beat their arms and hands up in the process. In these cases, it can look ugly, sloppy, and scary to watch. It doesn’t look good, it doesn’t feel good.
The Sexy Snatch
A sexy snatch has a balance of a clean, powerful hip finish, (timed with the exhale of the breath), that causes the bell to float up, while the arm helps to execute the finish of the snatch by “punching” the bell straight up into the finish position of the snatch like you are punching the ceiling.
A sexy snatch will not only tame the arc of the snatch on the way up by “punching” the ceiling, but it will also tame the arc on the way down with a drop straight down to the floor, through the legs, while the kettlebell slides gently in the hand, from the hook of the fingers to the finish position in the heel of the hand, back to the hook of the fingers on the drop and the back swing.
The Scary Snatch
The scary snatch will not tame the arc of the kettlebell on the way up, so it will swing out in front of the person in a big arc and slam on the person’s forearm while the person applies a vulcan death grip (yes, I know this does not translate exactly, but this is what I call it :) ) to the kettlebell only to cause the iron handle of the kettlebell to grate on the person’s skin and calluses therefore risking a hand tear.
Often in the case of a scary snatch you will also see the upper body leading the movement and doing more of the work rather than the hips leading the movement.
In this case, often the timing of the breath and the hip finish is completely off and the person will hold their breath until the kettlebell lands in the finish position of the snatch, when they will exhale while thinking, “Oh yes, I forgot to breath so I should probably breath now…”.
On the descent of the scary snatch, the person will cast the kettlebell out in front of them, while still holding onto the kettlebell with a vulcan death grip, which on the eccentric of the snatch will cause a worse grating on the hands than on the way up.
Below are 10 tips that help you to ensure that you have a sexy snatch, not a scary one…
- Master The Kettlebell Swing And Clean, And Use The High-pull As A teaching tool.
- As I mentioned earlier in this post, it’s imperative that you master the kettlebell swing, two and one hand, and the kettlebell clean, before you start to learn the kettlebell snatch. The more time you take to master these movements, the easier it will be to learn the kettlebell snatch.
- After you master these movements then you will have the confidence, strength, and skill to begin to learn the kettlebell snatch. The kettlebell high-pull is a great teaching tool for the kettlebell snatch, and intermediary movement to practice on its own, before venturing into sexy snatch territory. I provide some guidance as to how to incorporate the high pull into training drills in my post Improve Your Double Kettlebell Snatch. You can replace the kettlebell snatch with the kettlebell clean in the drills that I describe in that post, until you are ready to add in the snatch.
- Hook Grip. You should use a loose, hook grip, not a vulcan death grip, with the kettlebell snatch, as with the kettlebell clean, and sometimes the one-arm swing. When it comes to kettlebell training, a good rule of thumb is to use a loose hook grip with kettlebell ballistics, and a death grip (“make the bell bleed” I say) with kettlebell grinds such as the kettlebell press. With the hook grip, the kettlebell will sit in the hook of your second knuckles on the back swing then it can slide easily down your hand to land and sit snugly in the heel of your hand on the finish of the snatch. On the descent of the snatch, the kettlebell should transition back into the hook grip on the drop. You will know that you are using a hook grip regularly if you have calluses across the inside of your fingers on your second knuckles.
- Hip Power. The kettlebell needs to go higher than it does with a swing so you need to generate more hip power to get it to the finish position. Yes, your upper body is doing some work by applying force on the back swing and by controlling the kettlebell on the way up by breaking or taming the arc, but your hips are doing the majority of the work. Which leads me to my next point…
- Lead With Your Hips. As you return from the back swing, keep your arm tight to your torso and do not release it until you finish your hips so that your arm and the bell float up as a result of your hip power.
- Punch The Ceiling. As your hips finish you need to tame the arc, or break the arc of the kettlebell. I say “break the arc” because if you take video of yourself snatching correctly and then watch it in slow motion, you will see that as you punch the ceiling, you will bend your elbow to cut the arc short and break it before punching the ceiling to the finish position of the snatch.
- Timing Of The Breath. Exhale when your hips finish not when the kettlebell lands in the finish position. If you wait until when the kettlebell lands in the finish position to exhale, then you have been holding your breath through the whole movement and you are not letting that breath help you to groove through the movement. You will find that you have a much smoother, (and sexier :) ) snatch when you exhale as your hips finish. Your hips will finish and you will exhale, then the kettlebell will float up as you finish your exhale and then it will land softly in the finish position; or at least it should.
- Pause At The Top. Relish in your hard work and enjoy that brief moment of the finish of the snatch, when your hips finish, the kettlebell lands softly and smoothly (yes, it IS possible), and your shoulder settles into the correct place.
- The “Drop” On The Way Down. When you bring the kettlebell back down from the finish of the snatch to go into the back swing for the next repetition, don’t cast the kettlebell out in a big arc. Instead, drop the kettlebell straight down to the floor and then apply a solid backswing. My friend and colleague Coach Steve Holiner from Mark Fisher Fitness says, “Punch the floor.”
- Breathe Behind The Brace. Use your power breath to brace on the way up AND brace on the way down during the eccentric. Don’t forget to breathe behind the brace by using your power breath and exhaling when your hips finish (see #6).
- Swing, High Pull, Snatch Chains Are Great For Snatch Practice. Use the high-pull as a learning/practice tool and practice swing, high-pull, snatch chains to improve your kettlebell snatch. Refer to my post “Improve Your Double Kettlebell Snatch” for detail on how to incorporate these movements.
No go off and make your snatch sexy!
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