July 02, 2021 9 min read

Kettlebells are hands-down one of the best, most versatile pieces of gym equipment. And, kettlebell snatches are one of the best kettlebell exercises that you can do.

However, like all exercises, kettlebell snatches require perfect form. Without the right form, not only will you miss out on many of the potential benefits of the exercise, but you'll also be more likely to get injured.With that said, here's our step-by-step guide on how to do kettlebell snatches with proper form!

attractive muscular and strong fit girl holding heavy kettlebell for snatch

Benefits of Kettlebell Snatches

As we mentioned above, kettlebell snatches are an amazing exercise because they have many benefits.  Here are a few of the top benefits of adding them to your regular workout routine:

  • Kettlebell snatches are a full-body workout: Are you looking for an exercise that works your entire body from head to toe... if so, then look no further. Kettlebell snatches fire up the lower, middle, and upper body muscles all at once. Hence, why they're so popular for highly intense workouts such as CrossFit.
  • The big muscle groups AND smaller stabilizer muscles get stronger: Your body has two types of muscles: primary movers and stabilizers. As you can probably guess, primary movers are the larger muscles such as the quads, hamstrings, and lats that initiate body movements. On the other hand, stabilizer muscles are smaller muscles that support the larger ones throughout movements. While they're smaller and less well-known, you need strong stabilizers just as much if not more than primary movers. Without them, you wouldn't even be able to hold your body upright.
  • You build up strength, endurance, power, and cardio fitness levels: Kettlebell snatches are a quadruple threat exercise!  In addition to helping you build muscular strength, kettlebell snatches are also great for improving muscular endurance, muscular power, cardiovascular fitness,  and endurance.Therefore, you could add them to your weightlifting routine or do them on your cardio day.
  • Balance and stability improve: Because snatches strengthen many of your stabilizer muscles, your balance naturally improves. With strong stabilizers, your body is more well-aligned. And, with better alignment, your center of gravity is more stable.
  • They're great for people of all fitness levels: Regardless of who you are or how experienced you are in the gym, you can certainly add snatches to your workout routine. They're simple to make either easier or harder - all you need to do is change the weight of your kettlebell to adjust the difficulty of the exercise. Therefore, anyone can do the exercise and get a great workout.

Muscles Worked With Kettlebell Snatches

So, kettlebell snatches work your full body. Muscles in the lower body, core, and upper body all get activated real quick. But, some get activated more than others, particularly those in the posterior chain. Here are the primary muscles that do the most amount of work in kettlebell snatches:

  • Shoulder muscles:  Starting at the top of your body, your shoulder muscles provide shoulder stability and help lift the kettlebell to the overhead lockout position. Once the kettlebell reaches your shoulder, you punch it overhead until your arm is straight. Then, you release the tension in your shoulders and drop the kettlebell back down. The primary shoulder muscles used to lift and straighten the arm are those in the rotator cuff. During the exercise, the function of the rotator cuff is to stabilize the shoulder joint as your arm lifts overhead.
  • Back muscles:  The muscles in your back are some of the largest and most important in your entire body. And, kettlebell snatches get them fired up including the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, and trapezius. As the arm swings from in between your legs and up to your shoulders, the muscles in your back help pull up the weight of the kettlebell.
  • Biceps and triceps:  Next, the biceps and triceps help maintain the straight arm in the overhead lockout position. While they don't get the same amount of work as some of the other muscles, the overhead press activates them nonetheless.
  • Core:  Having a strong core is central to having a strong and healthy body. Things like lower back pain and even more debilitating back injuries are all potential consequences of a weak core. Thankfully, kettlebell exercises give the core a great workout.In kettlebell snatches, the core muscles provide core stability. Some of the core muscles hardest at work include the pelvic floor muscles, transverse abdominis, and obliques.A strong core enables you to get stronger in all other areas of the body.
  • Glutes and hamstrings: Finally, the glutes and the hamstrings help fire the kettlebell from in-between the legs and up towards the shoulders. Similar to the motion of a deadlift, the hips hinge forward, then rapidly press forward. This rapid and sharp movement is what generates the swinging motion.

How to Do Kettlebell Snatches with Perfect Form

Ready to give kettlebell snatches a try?  Given all their benefits, we would think that any and everyone would be!  But, before getting started, make sure that you understand how to do them with proper form.  That way, you not only get all the benefits of the exercise, but you also minimize the risk of getting injured while doing them.

Here’s exactly how to do kettlebell snatches with proper form:

  1. Doing a proper warmup is essential before any workout. But, it's especially important for kettlebell snatches. That's because kettlebell snatches, like many other kettlebell exercises, include a swinging movement. And with swings, it's easier to accidentally injure tight, cold muscles. Therefore, be sure to do a combination of dynamic stretches and some light cardio before getting started.
  1. Get into starting position by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Place a kettlebell in between your feet.
  1. Hinge forward from your hips and soften your knees so that your upper body becomes almost parallel with the floor. Your back should be neutral - curving it could cause serious back injuries. Also, this is a hip hinge, not a squat. With that said, your knees shouldn't be overly bent as if you were doing a squat.
  1. Reach down and grab the kettlebell handle with your right hand.  Quickly pick it up and swing it back in-between your legs.
  1. Once the kettlebell has swung back as far as it can be between your legs, press your hips forward to generate inertia in the kettlebell and fire it forwards.
  1. Use the inertia along with your back muscles to pull the kettlebell up towards your shoulder.  As the kettlebell lifts, your arm should stay tight along your body.  Think of it like a bicep curl where your elbow stays locked along the side of your body as the dumbbell comes up to your shoulder.  Once the kettlebell is up by your shoulder, your fingers should point straight in the air.
  1. From the shoulder, press the kettlebell up with as much force as you can until your arm is completely straight in an overhead lockout.  Again, at the top of the press, your fingers should point directly upwards with the handle of the kettlebell pressing into the palm of your hand.  This movement is exactly the same as an overhead push press.
  1. From the lockout, turn your pinky finger forward and drop the kettlebell down in front of your body and back through your legs.  The palm of your hand should be facing your body.  Allow the downward pull of the kettlebell to angle your right shoulder and upper body downwards.  Also as the kettlebell drops, your hips should once again hinge forward and your knees bend slightly.
  1. Repeat and then switch sides! Keep the swinging and lifting momentum going by bringing the kettlebell between your legs then pressing it back up overhead again.

Extra Kettlebell Snatch Form Tips

Kettlebell snatches are an intricate and technical exercise.  Therefore, consider these extra form tips and tricks before getting started!

1. Create fluidity:  The goal of the exercise is to make it as fluid as possible.  With that said, there are four phases of the exercise that should flow smoothly together:

  • The kettlebell swinging between the legs
  • Pulling the kettlebell up to the shoulder
  • Pressing the kettlebell up overhead
  • Allowing the kettlebell to fall back between the legs

If you’re doing the exercise right, then you will move swiftly between all four phases of the exercise.

2. Shift your bodyweight between legs:  Because you lift the kettlebell with only one arm, that creates some imbalance in the body.  Therefore, you should shift your body weight back and forth between your legs throughout the exercise to re-establish some balance.

First off, when you swing and lift the kettlebell to your shoulder with your right arm, your body weight should press into your left leg.  Then, as you push the kettlebell overhead, your body weight can shift back into your right leg.  Lastly, when the kettlebell swings back downwards, your weight should shift back to your left leg.

Do the opposite pattern when you lift the kettlebell with your left arm.

3. Breathe properly:  Perhaps the most important tip for this exercise is to breathe properly.  Yes, breathing correctly will help you generate muscle power to swing and pull the kettlebell.  Your breathing pattern should look something like this:

  • Exhale as the kettlebell swings between the legs
  • Inhale as you pull the kettlebell up to the shoulder
  • Exhale to press the kettlebell overhead
  • Inhale to drop the kettlebell back down
  • Repeat!

The idea is to exhale on the more challenging steps of the exercise.  For kettlebell snatches, that would be the initial swing between the legs and the controlled overhead press.  It may not seem like a big deal, but proper breathing can make or break the exercise!

muscular man doing kettlebell swing in a gym

More Kettlebell Exercises for a Complete Kettlebell Workout

As you know by this point, kettlebell snatches are an amazing exercise. But, they can get old if you're never switching them up with other kettlebell variations. To break up the monotony, we're sharing our other favorite kettlebell exercises. Along with snatches, you can put these exercises together to create a complete kettlebell training workout.

1. Traditional kettlebell swing: Perhaps the most well-known kettlebell exercise is the traditional kettlebell swing. The one that started it all, swings help you develop both muscular strength and power while pumping your heart rate up into its fat-burning zone. Start standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and a kettlebell placed on the floor in front of you.

Hinge forward from the hips, soften your knees, and grab the kettlebell overhand with both hands. When you're ready, inhale and swing the kettlebell between your legs.  Then, exhale and drive your hips forward to swing the kettlebell up to shoulder height. Continue the swinging movement by powering your hips forwards and backward.

2. Kettlebell cleans:  Kettlebell cleans are unlike snatches such that they're more of a controlled lifting movement rather than a swing. We suggest adding them to your back and/or shoulder-day strength training routine to help build bigger muscles there. For more on kettlebell cleans and how to do them properly, check out our complete kettlebell clean and press guide.

3. Double kettlebell snatch: The double kettlebell snatch is a single kettlebell snatch variation. It's essentially the exact same exercise, just with one kettlebell in each hand rather than holding one between both hands. Start just like you would for a regular kettlebell snatch.

But, this time, place two kettlebells on the floor in front of you rather than one. Deadlift the kettlebells to a standing position, then extend the hips and legs while pulling the kettlebells up overhead. Drop both kettlebells back between the legs then power them back up again.

4. Kettlebell high pulls:  The high pull is a great combination of upper and lower body strength training. It puts together a squat and shoulder pull to target the glutes, hamstrings, shoulder muscles, and back muscles.Place a kettlebell on the floor in between your feet. When you're ready, squat down and grab the handle of the kettlebell with both hands.

Then, with your arms straight, stand up tall while pulling the kettlebell up the midline of your body. You should pull it up to your chin and flare your elbows outwards. Pinch your back and shoulder blades at the top, then slowly squat back down and drop the kettlebell back to the floor.

5. Kettlebell reverse lunge: Upgrade from basic lunges to kettlebell reverse lunges. They add a little extra challenge to your lower body due to the added weight of the kettlebell.Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart and holding a kettlebell up by your shoulders with both hands.

You can flip the kettlebell upside-down to hold the ball portion of the kettlebell.  Then, send your right foot backward and lunge down. Squeeze your glutes at the bottom, then return the right foot to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

6. Turkish get-ups: Last but not least, Turkish get-ups are an intricate kettlebell exercise that works you from head to toe. Literally, you start laying on the ground, move to a bridge position, then stand up with the kettlebell overhead. They're definitely for you if you're over the run-of-the-mill kettlebell exercises. For a full demo, check out this video on how to do Turkish get-ups with proper form.

Final Thoughts

Upgrade your strength (or cardio) training by integrating kettlebell snatches into your routine!  They’re one of the best full-body exercises that fire up not only your muscles but your heart rate as well.  For an easy way to build strong muscles and burn body fat at the same time, you can’t go wrong with kettlebell snatches!


Bonus tip:  Ready to start building broader shoulders?  Do kettlebell snatches along with our other favorite exercises for bigger, broader, and stronger shoulders!


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