Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My Issues With the Kettlebell Snatch Technique

The kettlebell snatch is a very popular kettlebell exercise and it has many positive training effects. I have been practicing the kettlebell snatch over the last year and a half, and have also observed many clients perform snatches over the past two months of the 3:00 Kettlebell Snatch Challenge. While I always tried to have clients maintain good technique, some people just don't tolerate it well. The most common complaint is low-back tightness/pain during or after the exercise. This is usually in spite of them performing the snatches with, what appears to be, good technique.

This issue seems to be the repeated flexion ( bending) and extension (straightening) of the spine. This is even more likely to happen when: a trainee has tight hip extensor muscles, weaker back extensor muscles, uses a technique where the arm stays fairly straight as it comes up, and with fatigue. I had always compared the kettlebell snatch technique with the barbell snatch version. There has always been a difference, but I attributed it to the different shapes of the weights. But, after a while I realized, when teaching the barbell snatch, that I am telling my clients not to 'jump' the bar up until their back is straight. If they do 'jump' too early, then the bar is more likely to swing back or they will jump forward. Ironically, the standard kettlebell snatch technique has trainees 'swing' the bell up with their back inclined forward instead of 'jumping' it up with their back straight. (See first video)

32kg Kettlebell Snatch from Dan Hubbard on Vimeo.

I now prefer the kettlebell snatch from a dead-hang position (hanging down, between legs, with no swing). Why? Well the back can stay straight and not incline forward much. The back can stay straight when you lower it down, too. Similar to its barbell cousin, you explosively 'jump' the weight vertically. It is actually a little harder to do, so you don't need to use as much weight.

Now, I have come to conclusion, the snatch technique should be the same, whether you are using a kettlebell, barbell, or dumbell. You need to limit flexion/extension of the spine, which is easier to do if you don't incline the back much (beyond a 75 degree angle).

Kettlebell Hang Snatch from Dan Hubbard on Vimeo.

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