Kettlebells are a great weight lifting tool to work with. They can be used in almost every exercise that you would use a pair of dumbbells for, and they also have their own specific movements. By design, kettlebells work multiple muscle groups at once and can get you a great workout in a short amount of time.
The kettlebell snatch is one of the most fundamental exercises, and when done properly, will work almost all major muscle groups in the body while also getting the heart rate up. When first learning the kettlebell snatch, I recommend learning the half snatch, in which you drop the kettlebell down to the chest in what’s called the rack position instead of dropping it from the top back into the backswing. The half snatch is more user friendly and allows less experienced lifters to work this full body exercise without having to think about as many technique pointers as the full snatch.
The kettlebell half snatch can be broken up into 3 components: it begins with a one-handed swing, the kettlebell comes up into a high pull, and finishes by landing in the top lockout position. Here’s a look at each piece individually, and then how you put them all together to complete the movement.
One handed swing
Begin with the kettlebell about a foot in front of you and your feet about shoulder width apart. Send your butt backward and hinge at the hips as if you were going to get set up for a deadlift. Grab the handle of the kettlebell with one hand and tilt the handle back toward you about 45 degrees.
Before you initiate the swing, make sure that your lat muscle (right underneath your armpit) is engaged, you have a nice arch in the back, and you are hinging at the hips. Hike the kettlebell back behind you, and then allow the bell to come forward and slightly up in front of the body while still keeping your elbow connected to your midsection. If you were going to complete just the one arm swing on its own, you would allow the bell to come up in front of the body to chest height with the arm fully extended. However, because we are working to complete the kettlebell half snatch and ultimately need the bell to travel upward in one fluid motion, we want to practice keeping the kettlebell close to the body in order to have it travel in one straight line to the lockout position. As the bell comes forward, immediately squeeze your glute and ab muscles, and then hinge back into the backswing and engage the lat muscle again. Repeat this drill 5-10 times each arm.
One handed high pull
The next piece of the kettlebell half snatch is a high pull, in which the bell comes out from the swing up to about shoulder height in a high pull. To work the high pull, simply use the momentum from your glutes and hips to pull that kettlebell higher up, about shoulder height, and if you can, try to lightly release your grip on the kettlebell. Ultimately during the full movement, you’ll want to release your grip and punch your hand through the handle of the kettlebell at about chest height to shoulder height in order to have the kettlebell land smoothly at the top in the lockout position. Work this high pull with a slight release at the top 5-10 times with each arm.
To finish the movement, we need to get the kettlebell into the lockout position by using the first two components together.
Start by using the momentum from the one handed swing and bringing the bell up to shoulder height like we did during the high pull, and then as you release your grip on the handle, drive your hand through the handle of the kettlebell and punch it out quickly into the lockout position.
At the top, the handle of the kettlebell should be resting between the thumb and the first finger and sloping downward toward the outside of the wrist and the butt of the kettlebell should be resting alongside the front of your forearm. Your bicep should be perfectly in line with your ear and your elbow should be locked out. Your lat muscle, abdominal muscles, and glutes should all be engaged.
To transition to the next half snatch, simply drop the kettlebell down to chest height in what’s called the rack position, and then swing it back behind the body to initiate the next half snatch.
Here’s a video of the half snatch in slow motion so that you can see all the components coming together!
Try out this great movement in order to work most of the major muscles groups in the body while simultaneously getting the heart rate up. Those first starting out with the movement should work sets of 8-10 at a time; once you feel more confident with the movement, try incorporating it into an interval based workout for a quick and efficient sweat session!
Lauren Weiss is a personal trainer and group fitness instructor based out of Long Beach, CA. She specializes in kettlebell training and unconventional workouts and has been working with both types of fitness for over a year. Lauren has her BOLT Kettlebell Sport Certification through the USA Kettlebell League and has expertise working with kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells and several unconventional fitness tools. Lauren received her BA in Journalism and uses her writing expertise to craft thought-provoking articles about trending fitness, health & wellness topics. Follow Lauren on her website, Facebook, and Instagram.
Main Photo Credit & Third Photo Credit : Jacob Lund/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: Kzenon/shutterstock.com