Kettlebell Snatch: Muscles Worked, Technique And Tips

 Written by 

Mauro Castillo

 Last updated on 

We may receive a commission from our affiliate links at no additional cost to you. See disclosures page.


The kettlebell snatch is one of the greatest movements to develop power, speed, and explosiveness. It doesn’t matter your fitness level or training goals; this exercise will make you strong, fast, and mobile. Plus, it’s easy to learn and has a low-injury risk!

This article will help you master the kettlebell snatch, learn the muscles worked, technique, and more! We also added a workout to help you get started right away!

A man doing the kettlebell snatch exercise at the gym
  • Save

What Is A Kettlebell Snatch?

Put into simple words, the kettlebell snatch is a variation of the traditional snatch used in Olympic Weightlifting. This movement uses an explosive hip snap to push the kettlebell overhead while locking the knees, hips, and elbows at the end of each rep.

You can do it unilaterally (1 KB) or bilaterally (2 KBs); either way, it is a fantastic exercise to improve overhead shoulder mobility, strengthen the posterior chain, and increase cardiovascular endurance.

Benefits

The KB snatch has many benefits relating to shoulder health, power development, and minimal injury risk, even for beginners. This movement almost feels intuitive from the get-go, and it keeps a flowing pattern that will give your heart rate a run for its money.

Yes4All Solid Cast Iron Kettlebel
Based on our testing, this is the best kettlebell for beginners. For about 45$, this greatly-designed, sturdy kettlebell will last you for years. It also comes with a 1 year warranty.

Take a look at some of the benefits you’ll get from this exercise! 

Increase Power And Explosiveness

Much of our power comes from our lower body (quadriceps) and translates to the rest of our body through the hips and core. The snatch is an explosive movement by nature. The entire body, from head to toe is responsible for creating that power and unleashing it with explosiveness for different purposes. 

As you progress and begin to increase the kettlebell weight, you’ll notice how this energy is translatable to other compound movements like jumping, throwing, and swinging. That is one of the reasons why this movement is often included in a wide range of sports and conditioning programs.

A woman doing a kettlebell snatch workout at the gym
  • Save

Low-injury Risk

Despite being a full-body exercise, the snatch is considered a low-impact movement mainly because the feet don’t move most of the time. The majority of the action happens on the sagittal plane so forget about displacing your body in multiple directions during the movement. 

Even if you’re sedentary, choosing a light kettlebell can do wonders for your muscles and cardiovascular endurance.

Improve Your Posture

The kettlebell snatch is a magnificent movement that can improve your overall posture. This exercise will challenge your shoulder’s ability to rotate externally while increasing thoracic extension with every rep. 

Many of the muscles responsible for maintaining a neutral spine are located in the upper body which are constantly targeted in every kettlebell snatch exercise. After a few weeks of progressive overload (increasing the weight every week), you should feel more comfortable standing up or sitting down.

The posterior chain muscles are also involved in improving your posture, which comes in handy with the snatch due to the strengthening of the hip and low-back musculature.  

Muscles Worked

The kettlebell snatch will work almost every muscle from head to toes. The entire movement requires both upper and lower body muscles to work in synchrony to keep the natural flow of the exercise. 

Trapezius

The trapezius (upper, medial, lower sections) is partly responsible for getting the kettlebell to the overhead position. It’s also involved in securing that overhead lockout position. These muscles help with maintaining shoulder stability and minimize the load on the shoulder joints. After a few reps with each arm, you’ll notice your traps burning.

Shoulders

The shoulder muscles (front, medial, posterior deltoids) are crucial to allow a healthy range of motion (especially flexion) during the KB snatch. Somewhere within the second and third rounds of snatches, these muscles will be firing. This is a great movement to bring functionality to the shoulder girdle and build endurance in the shoulder muscles.

Glutes And Low-Back

One of the main characteristics of the snatch is the hip hinge and the following snap. The muscles responsible for these two movements are the glutes (Maximus, medius, and minimus) and the low-back (spinal erector and multifidus.) To get the most out of these muscles, it’s important to master the correct hip position and complete range of motion. Remember to contract them at the end of every rep fully.

Core

Maintaining core stability during the snatches it’s vital to secure a solid overhead position. If you fail to activate these muscles, you’ll notice a lumbar hyperextension that could contribute to low-back pain. The core muscles responsible for controlling the midline are the rectus anterior, internal/external obliques, spinal erectors, and quadratus lumborum. 

Although there are more, these are the ones you’ll feel the most during your kettlebell snatch training.

A woman during her kettlebell snatch workout
  • Save

Technique

Mastering any movement technique is the best way to ensure efficiency, low-injury risk, and positive results. To help you learn the proper form for the one-arm kettlebell snatch, follow this short and concise step-by-step guide.

1) Place your feet wider than your hip stance.

2) Hold the kettlebell with the handles using a powerful grip with both hands.

3) Initiate the movement by sending your hips back and your torso forward while keeping the kettlebell close to your inner thighs. 

4) Maintaining a neutral neck, bring your hips forward and up, following with a high elbow pull to send the kettlebell overhead. 

5) With the KB over your head, lock your knees, hips, and elbows to secure a solid position.

Voilá! 

Before increasing the weight, make sure to get comfortable with these technique steps using a lighter weight.

Common Mistakes

Once you learn the classic one-arm snatch, you never forget it. It is that simple. However, this doesn’t mean there’s no room for errors. Although most of them are easy to fix, making the commitment to address them on time can minimize the risk of injury and maximize results. 

Let’s review some common mistakes and direct fixes to put you back on the right track! 

No Hip-hinging

The power and explosiveness of this movement depend solely on the hip’s ability to flex and immediately extend. When learning the movement, focus on the hip hinge position. Think of sending the back instead of down. This will put the body in the right place to use the hips for power. 

Yes4All Solid Cast Iron Kettlebel
Based on our testing, this is the best kettlebell for beginners. For about 45$, this greatly-designed, sturdy kettlebell will last you for years. It also comes with a 1 year warranty.

Many people confuse hip-hinging with sending them down (like you would in a squat), but that’s a mistake. In a typical rep, the hips travel back and upward, creating the momentum for connecting consecutive reps efficiently.

A woman at the gym doing the kettlebell snatch exercise
  • Save

Avoiding Full Extension

Without a proper extended position of the joints (knees, hips, elbows), there is no power nor explosiveness in the kettlebell snatch. It is only through a complete range of motion that our body can transfer the most energy to external objects.

“Muted hips,” “bent knees,” and “halfway elbows”  are seen quite often during the snatch. To fix this, spend more time in a fully-extended overhead position, and contract your quadriceps, glutes, and triceps.

That will help to get comfortable with the full extension. Then try lowering the weight. It will give you more confidence and control of the movement. 

Weight Too Heavy

Because the snatch is easy to learn and do, many people make the mistake of increasing their weight too fast and too soon, which raises the risk of injury, especially for beginners and the elderly. Choosing the incorrect weight can prevent you from learning the proper technique and enforce inefficient movement patterns that are later hard to forget.

To avoid this mistake, focus on light weights until you feel comfortable with the technique and flow of the movement. 

Progressions To Master The Kettlebell Snatch

Although it is easy to learn, some people may have trouble mastering the basic steps consecutively. To help with that, practice these three progressions (in order) to ease the transition to the traditional exercise.

Kettlebell Windmills

The windmills are a terrific progression to get comfortable with moving while having the KB overhead. This progression will strengthen your shoulder and trapezius muscles to increase shoulder stability. Make sure to start with light weights, or even body weight, before adding intensity.

High Pull

The kettlebell high pull will teach you how to hinge and extend your hips. It’s a fantastic progression to help you feel the power from the hips and how it carries over to the kettlebell. With this progression, you can try heavier weights, but be careful with your shoulder joints if you’re a beginner. Some individuals with a limited range of motion can cause mild pain.

Kettlebell Clean (And Press)

The clean and press will help you build timing and momentum from getting the KB from your hips to overhead. It’s also crucial for building strength in your upper body before attempting heavy and long training sessions.

Kettlebell Snatch Variations

If you like having more fun and breaking your training routine, try these variations and live a little!

Dumbbell Snatch

Double Kettlebell Snatch

Kettlebell Snatch + Overhead Squat

Kettlebell Snatch + Reverse Lunges

Dumbbell Snatch + Windmill

You can include any of these variations to your workout program to help you expand your exercise library or to explore different movement patterns. Have fun!

Practice What You Learned With This Kettlebell Workout

Now that you have mastered all the theory components, it’s time to put all the pieces together and enjoy this kettlebell workout.

We’re doing 10 rounds or 20 minutes (whichever comes first) of five movements at a moderate intensity. Choose a weight you’re comfortable with and prioritize technique before intensity. 

Enjoy!

10 Rounds or 20 Minutes
MovementRepsDescription
Left-arm Kettlebell Snatch10Only use your left arm.
Kettlebell Goblet Squat15Same kettlebell.
Right-arm Kettlebell Snatch10Only use your right arm.
Russian Kettlebell Swing15Be aggressive with the hip snap.
Kettlebell Deadlift15Keep a neutral spine and neck.

What Muscles Does The Kettlebell Snatch Work?

The KB snatch is a full-body exercise that targets muscles like the trapezius, shoulders, core, glutes, and low back. 

What Are The Benefits Of A Kettlebell Snatch?

The benefits of the snatch include developing power and explosiveness that comes from the hip. It can also improve your posture due to upper-body muscle recruitment. Another benefit is its low injury risk. The movement is low-impact, making it safe for most individuals independent of their fitness levels.

Related articles

About

I've been in the world of CrossFit since 2016. Started as a client, later became a coach, and eventually bought an affiliate with two friends from January 2020 to January 2022. In 2018 I won 1st place at a local competition in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. After I sold my shares in January 2022 I moved then to another city to run as the general manager of another affiliate STI CrossFit.

Item added to cart.
0 items - $0.00
Share via
Copy link