The Complete Kettlebell Exercise
The snatch is a powerful full-body exercise that can be done with a variety of tools. Purists will say you can only do them with barbells, but if the goal isn’t to get onto an Olympic weightlifting team then your body and performance will enjoy the variety that can be achieved with the kettlebell as well. Enter the complete kettlebell exercise, the kettlebell snatch.
Kettlebells offer a safer alternative to the barbell since you’ll be using a fraction of the weight as well as the benefit of being able to work unilaterally. With that freedom you’ll be able to incorporate different stances, add rotation, and work on coordination through hand to hand transitions. One key difference to other tools is the fact that the kettlebell has to rotate within your hand to reach its final destination. This means you need to have a more dynamic grip to allow the bell to rotate freely within the hand while creating enough tension to not let the weight go flying. This adds a layer of grip strength that you won’t get with other tools.
The kettlebell does offer a uniqueness to it based on the anatomy of the bell. The added off-set position of the handle to the bell creates an added level of technique to safely pull the bell to the top position and find the appropriate landing place in the overhead position. With all that said, here are 22 kettlebell snatch variations that you can put into your programming!
#1 Deadstart Low Kettlebell Catch Snatch
This is where I like to start to get my client to understand how to take the bell higher than the rack, but still maintain the same pathway of the kettlebell as the clean. What makes the kettlebell unique to other tools in the snatch is the added “joint” of the handle in your hand means the weight doesn’t end in your hand as it does with a dumbbell. It ends with the bell so coordinating the added rotation or timing of the “punch through” can be scary for some especially as it goes overhead. This adds a stepping stone that is great for new clients to get comfortable with the trajectory and landing of the bell.
#2 Low Catch Kettlebell Snatch
With this variation you’ll be adding an explosive hip extension which can lead to too much forward momentum. This typically results in way too much power and a bruised forearm. Similar to the deadstart low catch, but now you’ll be adding the timing of your hip extension with the upper body pull while still adding the lower level catch.
#3 Half Kneeling Deadstart Kettlebell Snatch
Half kneeling pulling is a great way to lessen the range of motion while increasing the intensity on your back and shoulders. With the deadstart variation you’ll have a clear starting and end without having to coordinate through as much hip flexion/extension.
#4 Half Kneeling Kettlebell Snatch
Similar to the half kneeling deadstart variation, but now you’ll be adding some more momentum. As long as you keep the same pathway on the pull, the bell won’t slam on your forearm. You’ll be adding some hip drive, but it will still be limited which makes this a great upper body movement.
#5 Deadstart Kettlebell Snatch
With the deadstart snatch you’ll be moving through a greater ROM, but by keeping the bell closer to your body. You’ll also slow down the movement in that from the overhead position to the ground you’ll be bringing it to the rack and then finishing the movement on the ground to reset. This will require more force on the initial pull.
#6 Hang Kettlebell Snatch
This variation will lessen the ROM from the deadstart putting more emphasis on the traps and back. This is a great way to build power from a weak position. I like this variation to intensify lighter weights to prepare for bigger ROM.
#7 Power Kettlebell Snatch
This movement will help create timing and most emulate a traditional snatch with a barbell. This is more advanced since you’ll have to coordinate the landing position of the kettlebell with the depth of the partial squat. You won’t have to pull as hard since you’ll be squatting under the bell so this variation should allow you to move a little heavier weight.
#8 Half Kettlebell Snatch
This is a kettlebell snatch, but instead of dropping the weight from the top you’ll be bringin the bell down to the rack position. This will give you more control and allow you to lessen the amount of force on your back and shoulders. This is great for beginners to focus on the pull from the hinge.
#9 Deadstop Kettlebell Snatch
This will be the snatch from start to finish. With the bell placed in front of you you’ll perform a hike, snatch the weight and pause. Perform the drop into the hike, and then place the bell back on the ground. This is a great way to practice the movement one rep at a time. Since you won’t have the downswing this will intensify the weight as you’ll be forced to create that power each and every rep.
#10 Kettlebell Snatch
It’s time to full on snatch this weighted cannonball The snatch is the coordination of an explosive hip extension with a forceful enough pull to bring the bell to its final position overhead. Make sure your timing is exceptional to avoid any slamming on the forearm. As the bell approaches lockout you’ll coordinate the last piece of the movement to get the timing of the landing with the packing of your shoulder. Don’t let the bell find a place on your arm. It rarely places nice.
#11 Deadstart Rotational Kettlebell Snatch
This is where we get to start having some fun. Adding rotational work is what makes kettlebell training so great. As with any progression you’ll be starting with less ROM and a smaller degree of rotation. This will allow you to understand the mechanics of the movement without putting yourself in harm’s way. You can rotate until facing forward or perform a full 180 degree rotation based on your level of comfort.
#12 Half Rotational Kettlebell Snatch
You’ll be adding a little more momentum on this variation as you’ll be coordinating the drop from the rack, the pivot, the hip extension and the pull. The key here is to avoid letting the bell drop and jerk your shoulder causing a chain reaction. Learn to use the pendulum and the pivot while creating a slight hip hinge to clear a pathway for the bell.
#13 High to Low Rotational Kettlebell Snatch
This is one of my favorites as it creates a strong rotational drive while learning how to accelerate and decelerate through rotation. The change of direction is directly applicable to many sports and will strengthen your entire trunk and shoulder.
#14 Staggered Kettlebell Snatch
Adding a staggered position is a great way to add some instability and help you focus on one leg while still having the support of your back leg. Using your contralateral arm will add more trunk engagement.
#15 Staggered Rotational Kettlebell Snatch
Piggy-backing off the staggered snatch, but adding the rotation will add a level of athleticism to this movement. This is by far one of my favorite variations with kettlebell ballistic hinge exercises. Staggered rotational movements are the epitome of athleticism and power. Just about every sport will require you to create power from an offset/staggered position.
#16 360 Kettlebell Snatch
This variation doesn’t make it into my programming, but it does find its way into my flows. The ability to maintain stability while ballistically loading the shoulder through such a wide range will serve you well. When we think of a “packed” shoulder most think of simply depression and retraction like you’re about to bench press, but being able to maintain a packed shoulder under load from every angle will strengthen the stabilizers and connective tissue of the joint complex.
#17 Outside Leg Kettlebell Snatch
This variation is a little different in that the weight will be staying outside the body on the down and up swing. This will require even more stability through your torso as the bell will want to pull you towards it. This will force you to go a little lighter.
#18 Staggered Outside Leg Kettlebell Snatch
Similar to the staggered snatch this will add to the instability of the movement forcing you to create more tension through your trunk as you hinge and pull. Lessen the degree of instability by placing your back foot closer to the front foot until you feel comfortable with this variation.
#19 Double Kettlebell Snatch
It’s time to add another bell to the mix. As you double the kettlebell load this will obviously increase the overall weight on your body. Combined with the acceleration of the bells from the overhead position even light bells will feel significantly heavier. Start with a wider stance than you think and bring the bells back to the rack if you need to not have to worry about the drop from overhead. This will give you more control.
#20 Double Outside Leg Kettlebell Snatch
This variation tends to be a little easier on the lower back as you’ll have more stability through your hips with a closer stance. It lends itself to more upper body work if you don’t maintain the same level of hip hinge so make sure you keep the mechanics the same. Similar to the double snatch, start the drop from the rack position until you feel comfortable then take it from overhead.
#21 Double Staggered Kettlebell Snatch
This is a fantastic movement to build strength and power with light bells. Taking the staggered stance and working double bells will force you to root even harder to maintain a strong foundation and connection. Stick to one side. Once you feel comfortable you can alternate legs each rep.
#22 Switch Kettlebell Snatch
Time To Start Snatching
The anatomy of the kettlebell and offset nature lend itself to hand to hand movements and flow. This is a fun variation to build conditioning while working coordination and timing. Make sure you can safely perform alternating swings, alternating cleans before attempting this. The key here is to switch before the peak as the bell is weightless so you maintain control. Don’t wait until the bell is ready to come up and over the wrist to switch.
Even with these 22 progressions there’s still lots of room for variation. Make sure to master the fundamentals while learning how to enjoy the process of strengthening your ability to move through multi-directional kettlebell exercises. Stick to a program that will help you progress while giving you the freedom to incorporate variety that will help build a stronger, more athletic, more versatile athlete!
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About The Author
Marcus Martinez – Since 2001 Marcus has been helping people get stronger, more athletic and pain-free with kettlebell training. From owning his own facility in Southern California to traveling the world teaching his kettlebell certifications and programs, Marcus brings experience, innovation and excitement to this age old training tool. Along the wayside, Marcus has trained clients from all walks of life including professional mixed martial arts athletes and everyday people looking to achieve athletic longevity. He currently built and runs the Kettlebell Kings Kettlebell Certification as well creates and publishes the kettlebell information on Living.Fit
This post originally appeared on dr John Rusin.