Why You Should Snatch – And What You Need To Know Before You Do
Ok, ok; first let’s get one thing clear: The Snatch is an exercise – a badass one at that.
By definition “to snatch” implies:
- To grasp
- To seize hastily
- To steal with a quick, and/or sudden movement
From a “sport” perspective:
- To raise (a weight) in one quick, uninterrupted motion from the floor to a position over the lifters head
The Olympic weightlifting snatch and the kettlebell snatch are two completely different movements.
While both movements finish with the bar or bell over your head, the path both implements travel and the skills required to do so successfully are far different.
The lifter needs to be aware of his/her:
- Foot position
… To name a few. Not to mention have a razor sharp focus – cause you are throwing weight over your head!
Sounds pretty complicated if you ask me. So, why should you want to snatch in the first place?
What It’ll Cost You
Learning how to properly snatch a kettlebell can be a very frustrating task.
- You’re going to tear your hands up (likely)
- You’ll probably ask yourself; “Why am I doing this?”
- You’re more than likely to wind up with some bruises on the back of your wrist
On top of all that though you’ll need a solid mindset.
You’ll want to have a light at the end of the tunnel to keep you motivated and a strong goal as to why you’d like to do said movement – which let’s be honest, you should have that regardless what exercise you’re trying to learn.
This is perhaps one of the reasons why I now love snatching – the process was painful for me – literally painful, my hands hated me.
But as many of you have probably heard before – nothing worthwhile comes easy.
Getting your mind right and knowing that you will inevitably be challenged – more mentally than physically – in learning how to snatch can spare you some frustration as the process unfolds. Additionally it will also spare your hands, wrists, and spirits.
What You’ll Get In Return
Snatching is the pinnacle in the kettlebell world.
On the outside snatching appears intimidating, which is what makes it such a badass lift!
But at its core, the snatch is nothing more than a swing that finishes overhead – It really is that simple.
Chances are you’ll need a little more convincing before you embark on your journey to master the snatch, so here’s what you can expect…
Ignite Your Metabolism – In a Serious Way
I’m a simple man. I love efficiency and I love simplicity even more.
In my twenties I competed in the Ironman triathlon – swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, run 26.2 miles – brag for the rest of your life.
Needless to say my conditioning level was pretty high during that 3-year span – arguably the best ever. However while my conditioning level was the highest it had ever been, it took a lot of hours to achieve such high level condition.
Hours, and hours, and hours – I had no life, training was literally my life, which is no way to live in my opinion.
Let’s transition over to the snatch.
Snatching is perhaps the most demanding, most time efficient exercise you can do.
Research has proven that snatching burns a whopping 20.2 calories/minute!!!
That’s the equivalent of running a 6 minute mile – without having to run as much as a yard! – Pretty efficient if you ask me.
And that doesn’t even account for the EPOC (excess post exercise oxygen consumption) as well as that metabolic “burn” people chase, which can leave your body churning through calories hours after a mere 5-15 minutes session – yes 5-15 minutes!
You’ll Lose Weight/Get Ripped
It should only make sense, right?
If you’re training at an intensity that’s equivalent to running a 6-minute mile and burning calories hours after you finish your session – your body chemistry is going to change, there’s no doubt about it.
You’ll Be A Certified Badass
You won’t receive a piece of paper stating so, but when people start glancing your weight in the weight room just know that they’re thinking – you’re a badass.
And let’s face it, you are!
First things, First
Hopefully I’ve peaked your interest, but first things first – there are a lot of things that need to happen before you can actually attempt your first snatch.
Training with kettlebells, when done properly is an art form – it’s a beautiful thing to watch and a mindful act to perform.
You don’t just decide, “I’m going to learn how to snatch today” and then go and do it – at least successfully.
Successful kettlebell training is built much like a pyramid:
- First you learn the hinge – this is your foundation
- Then you learn the deadlift
- Then you can swing with 2-hands
- Then you learn to swing using 1-hand – this will essentially be your snatch
Then comes the “complicated” stuff
- Clean and press
- High Pull
- And finally, you can snatch
So again, a lot has to happen before you snatch your first kettlebell, so where should you begin?
Well, start at the top and work your way down.
Here are a few exercises to help you learn the hinge, deadlift, and the 2H swing:
Once you’re 2-hand swinging, spend a considerable amount of time here!
The swing is the foundation of everything to come.
If your swing sucks, your clean will suck, which means your press will suck, which also means you’ll have an ugly snatch – keep your mind out of the gutter!
- Simple and Sinister – 100 swings and 10 getups 3-6 days a week
Transitioning from the 2-handed swing to the 1-handed swing is relatively easy. Once you’re 1-hand swinging, follow the above recommendation.
Now you’re ready to start learning the snatch.
This is the sequence I was taught. It works well for most people:
- 1H Swing
- High Pull
You’ve got this covered already, move onto the High Pull
The easiest way to describe the High Pull is this:
There’s a float you should feel in your 1H swing. The high pull is a move that simply guides the float in towards your body, somewhere above your chest and below your head.
There’s no concentric action here.
You’re simply guiding the bell back into position, then guiding it back down between your legs as you would for a normal 1H swing.
It sounds complex, but really it isn’t. However, this is why I suggest doing simple and sinister for some time.
Remember, a great 1H swing will lead to a great snatch. An ugly 1H swing will lead to an ugly snatch – no one wants an ugly snatch!
Snatching tears your hands not on the way up, but on the way down.
So, to help prevent tearing your hands the best way to learn how to bring the bell down is well, from the top-down.
Notice the bell leaves my hands – I essentially “drop” the bell from overhead.
I “float” it up, and “drop” it down.
Over-gripping the bell on the way down is where the pain, blisters, and tears happen. Loosen-up your grip and much like your High Pull think of guiding the bell down into your 1H swing position.
To practice this simply get the bell overhead anyway you’d like – in a safe manner. I recommend pressing the bell over your head.
Practice a drop and guide it back into a swing.
You then have 4 options:
- Park it
- Swing it
- Clean it
- Snatch it
I’d recommend parking it first.
Then drop it and go immediately into a few swings (this drives home the point that the snatch is still a swing that merely finishes overhead).
There are many, many more subtleties behind the snatch, but for all intensive purposes once you’ve successful learned the 1H swing, the High Pull, and can properly drop the bell, you’re ready to start snatching.
Putting It All Together
I like the following circuit to put everything you’ve learned up to this point into a training session:
- 1H Swing
- High Pull
I’d start by doing 1 swing, 1 high pull, and 1 snatch. Do this on the right, then repeat on the left. Practice fast n’loose in between sets and add another rep: 2 swings, 2 high pulls, 2 snatches.
You can do this up to 5 or practice with more volume in a moving target session where you focus on 1 of the 3 in 3 separate circuits: That would look something like this:
Where the swing is the target
Where the high pull is the target
Where the snatch is the target
Either way, the best way to get good as snatching, is to spend time with the bell – there’s simply no better way.
Once you feel comfortable with the snatch, I like using a combination of OTM (On-The-Minute) work and volume sessions with a bell 1-2 sizes lighter than the bell you train with.
Working at it works – it’s simple, not easy.
Practice persistence with each of these steps and you should be well on your way to a great-looking snatch –and a great-looking body to go along with it.