The 5 Most Common Kettlebell Snatch Mistakes and How to Fix Them

Here are the 5 most common kettlebell snatch mistakes with a few tips and tricks on how to fix them…

  • Lifting instead of pulling.

kb-sumo-liftLike in the kettlebell swing it’s important to load the lower posterior chain (hamstrings, butt and lower back) by driving the butt back and creasing at the hips, this will ensure that the necessary ballistic energy is built up during the backswing to launch the bell forward.

It’s at this point where the snatch and the swing part ways…

Instead of letting the bell go forward as in the swing, the bell is pulled up to redirect it overhead (as in a vertical leap). This takes place as the arm comes off the torso during the explosive hip extension.

If the loading and unloading phase is out of sync, or if the bell is redirected too late, what generally occurs is that instead of redirecting the bell with a pull upwards, it turns into more of a lifting movement, because of the lack of ballistic energy available to overcome gravity, activating primarily, the arms, lats and shoulders vs. being the explosive, cardiovascular, strength exercise that it is.

If your snatch feels more like a lift, here are two things that you can do…

  1. Go back and refocus on the loading and unloading phase, the best way to do this is to practice half swings until they feel fluid and natural.
  2. Focus on the acceleration or pull phase (you can do this with the half swing). As you drive your hips forward, just as the forearm comes off your torso give the bell a pull upwards. Do so until it feels weightless and effortless.

The snatch like a vertical leap uses loaded, ballistic energy to overcome gravity, we just take that energy and transfer it over to the bell.

  • The kung fu grip.

kung-fu-gripThis is something that is very common when learning how to properly snatch a kettlebell.

The reasons why you may hold onto the handle with that “kung fu grip” may stem from “lifting instead of pulling” or it might be just from the subconscious fear of dropping or losing control of the bell.

Either or, holding on for dear life has several detrimental side effects that need to be addressed, toot sweet, such as… Torn hands and bruised forearms, which just horn in and take all of the fun out of it.

The only time that you should give the bell any kind of grip is during the re-grip on the drop into the backswing and during the acceleration hip drive into the pull, any thing other than that, the hand should follow and direct the bell into a smooth overhead fixation.

Too heavy of a grip causes the bell to grind instead of float in the hand, creating and tearing calluses, the bell is also likely to bang hard against the forearm during fixation (lock out).

Here are two things that you can do…

  1. If possible, use an “OK” grip by engaging only the index finger and thumb (the thumb locks on top of the finger) floating the other fingers. If during the set your grip starts to fail, then start to fire the others one at a time. This technique might not be doable for everyone, due to hand size, strength, etc. The important part is to only engage the minimum number of fingers flexors that you need, no more, no less.
  2. Trust yourself. If you’re dialed in and pulling instead of lifting and the bell is floating up, relax, loosen your grip, let your hand go along for the ride and shadow the bell… It’s liberating.

In the end, you’ll save your hand, your grip and your forearm.

  • Inserting your hand into the handle too early or too late.

insertionThis is a very common mistake and one of the hardest things to master as you learn the snatch.

Inserting your hand too early or too late in the fixation phase creates inefficiencies in the movement and unnecessary griping and grinding of the hand.

Knowing that the hand follows the bell overhead and helps in it’s navigation, a smooth, unobtrusive transition into fixation is optimal for efficiency and effectiveness of movement.

One of the best ways to fix this is to imagine that your feet are at 6:00 and that your head is at 12:00, as the bell rises, you should focus on inserting, sometimes referred to as punching your hand into the window (handle) at the 11:00 position.

This is the ideal position to ensure that there is very little effort or grip required to position and stop the bell into a smooth fixation overhead.

  • Not filling the window.

working-on-techniqueNot filling the window (handle) during the insertion & fixation phase can create a couple issues…

  1. The finger flexors and forearm are fired and tensed to maintain stability because the wrist is loaded and bent. This will create premature tiring and early ending of your set.
  2. Bone stacking and relaxation aren’t possible. Once the window is filled in fixation it is then possible to relax because the bell weight is then supported by the skeletal structure vs carried by the musculature. This is also considered one of the major rest points during a rep.

Filling the window allows you to lift more, lift heaver thus spending more time under tension.

  • Dropping out instead of down.

the-dropFrom fixation, we want to get the bell back down to repeat the process, as the saying goes; “What goes up, must come down.”

Here’s where gravity becomes a friend, and for two reasons…

  1. We no longer need to overcome gravity to get the bell up, it’s gravity’s turn to work for us and get the bell back down.
  2. While gravity is doing it’s thing, we can sit back and do ours by taking the time to relax and breath.

The most common mistakes people make are that they muscle or slow the bell down during the drop or they throw it outward and away.

Here are two ways to fix these…

  1. Just drop it! That’s right, let gravity do its thing, and R-E-L-A-X!
  2. Give it a path! To avoid throwing it out and away, give it a clear path down. The easy way to do this is to turn your pinky finger on your fixated hand in, towards your center of mass and at the same time move your upper torso back by slightly flexing at the knees, this will in turn rotate the bell in and give it a clean, non-obstructive path down.

Re-gripping into the back swing phase happens as the bell reaches the apex, which is right around your belly button level.

Remember to use the “OK” grip, less is always more, also don’t forget to stay relaxed and breathe.

  • In conclusion

The snatch is considered by many to be the mother of all kettlebell movements, it has everything you need for optimum fitness and conditioning, from the novice fitness goer to the professional athlete…

Its ballistic and explosive, it gets your posterior chain firing on all cylinders, it keeps your core engaged, improves shoulder health and stability all while burning up to 20 calories per minute.

The snatch… A simple movement with many complex benefits.

Happy Snatch’n!

By: Coach Tim


One Response

  1. […] The 5 Most Common Kettlebell Snatch Mistakes and How to Fix Them […]

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