Before I get to the heart of the matter, I need to clear the air on something. It is a kettleBELL, not kettleBALL! Aside from its mispronunciation, its misuse as a fitness tool cannot be understated either.
In fact, of all the gym equipment available to mankind, I’d say the kettlebell is the most improperly used, which is a shame. It has the ability to do wondrous things to the body that no other training tool can match.
It’s really a compact mobile gym that you can take with you wherever you go.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
Once you learn a handful of exercises, you can literally target every major muscle in your body. Plus you get the advantage of improved flexibility, balance, mental acuity and cardiovascular function.
The catch is, none of those benefits will be achieved to full extent without the use of proper technique. If you were to gaze around the gym floor at people doing kettlebell exercises, there’s a very good chance they are not doing them right.
I always say, there are those who use kettlebells and those who KNOW how to use kettlebells.
Not only do I know how to use them, but I’m going to share my knowledge with you today and describe one of my favorite exercises—the snatch. Let me first start by saying this.
If you have never done kettlebell exercises before, do not try to do the snatch!
This is an advanced drill and you need to “earn” your way up to it. Find a certified kettlebell instructor to work with who will take you through the lifts preceding the snatch, which would be the deadlift, swing, and high pull.
I’m not trying to be cruel, I just don’t want you to get hurt. Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get to the snatch. The first thing you want to do is take off your shoes and socks.
If you are barefoot, you will be able to root your feet into the ground and improve your balance and force production. This is absolutely critical when doing all kettlebell drills.
If for someone reason you are opposed to being barefoot, wear flat shoes that have hard rubber soles like Converse All Stars.
Position the bell an arm’s reach in front of your body with your feet about shoulder-width apart and parallel to each other. Hinge your hips as you push your butt backward and pretend you are trying to sit on a box.
Look straight ahead and make sure you have a straight line from the back of your head to your tailbone. If you were to place a wand on your posterior side, it should contact the back of your head, upper thoracic spine and lower lumbar region.
Maintain this position as you reach forward and grasp the bell with your hand. It doesn’t matter which hand you use either. As soon as you grip it, tip the handle backward and sit a little deeper in your stance.
Tighten your latissimus dorsi, or “lat” muscle, on the side of the body that you are holding the bell. By keeping your lat tight, you will pull your shoulder blade down and inward. This is referred to as “packing your shoulder.”
By packing your shoulder, you will keep it out of threat and reduce the risk of injury. Now you are ready to start the exercise. Rip the kettlebell off the floor violently and swing it back between your legs.
Stay in that low position only for this first launch and let your arm collapse against the front of your body. There should be no space between the bell and your crotch. If you are male, just be conscious of your genitals.
And yes, I’m serious! Once your arm has gone all the way back, you are ready to begin the upward phase of the snatch. Act like your hips are the drawstring of a bow and forcefully fire them forward.
This is called a hip snap or hip pop and is vitally important with every rep. As you do this, pull the bell up with an arcing motion and at a slight angle above your shoulder.
Let the bell float over the top of your hand and time it so it rests softly on the back of your forearm. As you do this, punch your fist straight up in the air and fully extend your arm. Be sure that you loosen your grip as the bell is rolling over your hand so you don’t tear your skin to shreds.
Once your arm is fully extended, hold the lockout for a full second. Your upper arm should be in line with or slightly behind your ear at this point. Reverse the movement by pulling the bell straight down in front of your body.
Aim toward your midline as you do this and coach the bell to go right back between your legs. Time it perfectly on the downswing so your arm contacts your body as soon as you push the bell back and go into your hip hinge.
Once your arm is as far back as possible, fire your hips back up and repeat the entire exercise. Finish a set of reps, do a swing exchange to the other side and repeat.
After you finish a series of reps with both arms, allow one more back swing, bend your knees deeper this time and use this as a braking system.
Sit back a little farther and once the bell comes to a stop, carefully place it on the ground.
Here are some very important tips to take into consideration when doing snatches.
As soon as you lock out, forcefully contract your quads, glutes, abs and lat on the side you are snatching. This is called a maximum voluntary contraction. Out in the field we often refer to this as a hardstyle lockout.
This method will keep your back safe and help with proper posture. Make sure you breathe properly. Ideally, you take a big inhale on the downswing and exhale forcefully when you do your hardstyle lockout. This is known as the biological breathing match and it helps your timing.
Do not make the mistake of casting. This occurs when your arm is straight on the upswing and downswing. If you like to rip holes in your hands the size of silver dollars, then be my guest and cast. If you don’t, then keep the bell closer to your body on the way up and down. You should bend your elbow in both directions.
On the way up, act like you are elbowing someone in the face, then spear your hand threw quickly. On the way down, follow the exact same path and be ready to transition your grip from the middle of your palm to more of the front.
Always act like there is a wall right in front of your body that you never want to hit. When you are locking out, you also have the option of opening your fingers and letting the handle of the bell rest across your palm with your thumb and fingers extended. This insures that you do not over grip the bell.
Just make sure to wrap your fingers back around the handle as you do the descent. In closing, the snatch is one of the gold standard kettlebell exercises.
It is intense, and it takes a lot of practice to master. But when it’s all said and done, you would be hard pressed to find another exercise comparable to its benefits to the body.
Be mentally prepared for its intensity and never do too much too soon. It’s always better to start off with light weight and low reps and work your way up. As usual, if you have any questions or need further assistance, give me a holler.