Anatomy of an Exercise - The Hardstyle Snatch

The hardstyle snatch is a full body pull pattern exercise that develops explosive power, especially in the hips and shoulders. It can be used as a strength/power exercise or a cardio exercise. It also acts as a transition to other more complex kettlebell movements. Its origins are come from the world of Olympic lifting, where the barbell snatch is a staple lift alongside the clean and snatch (also adapted to kettlebell training). 

The Snatch is an explosive strength-endurance based exercise. Because of this, it can be a great exercise to help reduce back pain, it's excellent for endurance athletes like runners or cyclists who need more power and it's great for anyone who takes part in sports with an explosive element. But it's a very technical lift that is easily done wrong and is something that novices should build up to. You need to master basic movement patterns, establish a base of strength and stability and may need to work on improving shoulder mobility first. Here’s a break-down of the technique and suggestions on how to incorporate it into your sessions.

The Single Arm Swing

Before you can do the snatch, you must perfect the single arm swing. Like the 2-hand swing this is a hip hinge movement. There are two kinds of swing in kettlebell training, the hardstyle which is a powerful hip hinge-based movement and the sport or Girevoy style which is a less explosive, more fluid pendulum motion.

See this blog for more on the kettlebell swing (CLICK HERE).

The single arm swing is performed in a similar motion to the 2-hands swing but with the obvious difference being that you hold the kettlebell in one hand.  A good way to build up to the snatch is to practice the singe arm swing and swap hands on each swing without setting the kettlebell down.

The Snatch


Swing the kettlebell up, allow it to travel through its arc beyond that point of zero gravity. As the kettlebell reaches around chest height, engage your trapezius (the muscle at the top of your shoulder). Ideally the kettlebell will swing straight up through the arc without you consciously flexing the arm at-all. However, I find that some elbow flexion is inevitable, especially with heavier weights. You can therefore, break the motion down into Swing>>High Pull>>Overhead Press. It's important to focus on the hip hinge movement and to breath with the hip motion. The breath should be explosive, like the movement. Spit the breath out as the hips extend and let the power of the hip motion generate the momentum of the kettlebell.

To avoid the kettlebell slamming into your wrist you need to do two things.

  1. Loosen your grip – a tight grip will cause the kettlebell to flip up into the "bottoms up" position and then fall down and slam your wrist.
  2. Punch up in the final quarter of the arc – as the kettlebell travels above your shoulder and your upper arm approaches your ear, you need to punch through to intercept the kettlebell’s momentum and to slip the hand into the insertion position. Time it right and you feel the kettlebell settle against your wrist as your arm travels to lockout, rather than the kettlebell banging your forearm. If you develop bruises from doing snatches you know you are doing it wrong.

As you can see from the clip, there is a pause at the top in that lockout position before you flip the kettlebell over and allow it to swing back down into the hip hinge or hike position. I tend to lean my weight back slightly as I flip the kettlebell over and try to bring the kettlebell straight down rather than casting it away from me. Keep your weight into your heels and imagine you are standing in front of a wall and if you project the kettlebell too far forward you will smash it into the wall.

A few things to think about to improve your technique. As I said, the hip hinge portion of the movement is the the power generator, think of it as the engine. The arm and the kettlebell itself are relatively passive, think of the hips as the motor and the arm as a chain or belt that is being driven by the motor. Explode the hips and, as you exhale, squeeze your Glutes and brace your abs. This gives you stability, your arm and shoulder should be relaxed until the 'punch'. Lockout at the top, everything is tight here.

Incorporating The Snatch into your Training

The simplest way to include the snatch is to set a timer for a set amount of time and do as many reps as you can in that time. Here are a few examples of how I might do this.

  1. 1-minute continuous on each arm. Set the kettlebell down, rest and repeat for as many rounds as you see fit.
  2. 2-minutes continuous on each arm without setting the bell down between sets.
  3. As many reps as possible in 5-minutes. Swap hands every 10 reps without setting the kettlebell down. Rest in the lockout position if needs be.
  4. Using a heavy weight, simply do a set amount of reps and sets, usually 3-6 reps with good form. 

I usually include these as finishers at the end of a workout, or within a conditioning circuit. But feel free to experiment with how you include this awesome exercise into your routines.

Finally, the snatch can be used as a transition into other exercises. Snatch the kettlebell up and perform:

  • Windmills
  • Overhead squats
  • Overhead lunges
  • Overhead carries
  • Reverse Turkish getups.

Here’s an example of a dynamic warm up complex using a snatch/windmill/OH squat.

That’s it, that's my breakdown of the hardstyle snatch, why not give it a try, film it and then tag me in your post to get some feedback? If you want to learn to use kettlebells or are looking for some workout inspiration why not try my 6-week kettlebell challenge? ==>CLICK HERE

If you find my blogs useful, please consider supporting me on Patreon.


Pin It