‘To a complete man belongs the power of thought, the power of will, and the power of heart.’
This quote by Ludwig Feuerbach describes well what it takes to be a complete ‘kettlebeller’. It is the kettlebell snatch that demands the power of thought, the power of will, and the power of heart during training.
When I got to know the kettlebell snatch I immediately wanted to be able to do it. When I could do it I wanted to forget it immediately.
I’m not alone with this. You will learn the reason soon.
Kettlebell training has the property of being intensive. The body has to work a lot while you are moving the kettlebell through a three-dimensional plane. The snatch takes it to the extreme.
What is the kettlebell snatch exactly?
The snatch is one of six basic exercises in the RKC (Russian Kettlebell Challenge) kettlebell training. Alongside the turkish get up, swing, clean, press, and squat, the snatch is an exercise in which you move the kettlebell explosively from the floor to a position above your head. The foundation of the snatch is a perfect kettlebell swing. In addition, a stable lockout position (stretched arm above the head) is needed. This makes the snatch the definitive exercise for advanced trainees.
In addition to the physical and technical abilities you will also need a certain mental ability. A strong will, commitment, and endurance. All things that will benefit an intensive workout with the snatch.
The advantages of the snatch
As with the swing or clean, the snatch accelerates the training weight (kettlebell) with an explosive hip extension. During the snatch, however, the kettlebell has to travel the longest distance. From the floor up above your head.
The snatch demands you to extend your hip as explosive and forceful as possible. This will result in the corresponding process of adaptation in your body and musculature.
- Reflexive stability:
With the drop (pulling down the kettlebell from a position above your head) you will improve your reflexive core stability (your body will lean to stabilize reflexively against the tensile force of the kettlebell). The same happens when the kettlebell reaches the lockout position. Again, the core stabilizing musculature is extremely challenged.
- Improved maximum oxygen intake (VO2max):
The maximum oxygen intake capacity of the blood is the most accurate clinical indicator for endurance capacity. This means that a targeted increase of the VO2Max ability results in a significant increase of the endurance performance.
In order to achieve an increase of the capacity the organism needs highly intensive loads with 90-95% of the maximum heart rate. These supra-threshold impulses lead to adaptations of the oxygen intake mechanism, the transport, and processing in the target tissue. The kettlebell snatch, implemented correctly, is the ideal exercise to meet these requirements.
- Mental toughness:
In the process of kettlebell certification of the RKC, a series of tests is required in order to become a kettlebell trainer. Alongside the perfect form for the six above-mentioned basic exercises and a demonstration lesson you are also required to complete the (by now legendary) snatch test.
The goal is to perform 100 technically correct snatches with your working weight (24kg for men and 16kg for women) in a time frame of 5 minutes.
This is the reason why some trainees get the creeps the moment they hear the term ‘kettlebell snatch’. I had the pleasure to do this test several times. The good news is that it becomes easier each time. Provided that you keep at it and train regularly.
How should you implement the kettlebell snatch into your training?
There are several possibilities to integrate the snatch into your workouts. It all depends on your training goals. Here are three goals and what you should take into consideration:
- Explosiveness and strength:
If you want to improve your strength and explosiveness, heavy kettlebell snatches should be the main focus in the beginning of your training session. 1-5 repetitions per arm with longer breaks are the weapon of choice here. High intensity with low volume (5-25 repetitions per unit are more than enough). The motto is: fresh in – fresh out. Feeling like you could have done one or two more reps when you finish is ideal.
- Improved VO2Max:
To improve the maximum oxygen intake capacity of the blood you will need many repetitions with only short breaks. 6-10 repetitions per arm with breaks no longer than 15-20 seconds. Choose low weight with a high volume (150-600 repetitions per unit are ideal). Regarding exhaustion and complex movement patterns: should you notice that the pace is starting to lower (you are getting slower) the training is over. The same applies when you feel like your form is getting bad or doesn’t feel as stable anymore. Here is the ultimate book on this topic: Viking Warrior Conditioning by Kenneth Jay.
- Mental toughness:
If you want to improve your endurance or strengthen your will, a hefty finisher at the end of your workout is ideal. A medium-heavy kettlebell with moderate volume and short breaks is a good choice (50-100 repetitions). A snatch test with a kettlebell that is one or two sizes smaller than your working weight will be just fine.
IMPORTANT: No matter how you implement the snatch, quality must always come before quantity. ALWAYS! A perfect form in all exercises and in every repetition is the fundamental requirement for a long-term, successful, and injury-free training with the kettlebell.
Conclusion: If you use it correctly, the snatch is one of the best exercises that you can do with the kettlebell.