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November 06, 2019 10 min read

The dumbbell snatch is the ultimate exercise for building up your core, lower body, and upper body and getting it done fast. It is a unilateral exercise in weightlifting that exercises one side of the body at a time. This triple extension movement is useful in training for many different sports where that explosiveness is an absolute must. If you haven’t started doing the dumbbell snatch yet, you’re in the right place because you really need to rep this workout at least twice a week if you’re looking for real results

Benefits To Your Body: Beyond Shredding

Have you ever had difficulty with the ability to wink one eye but not the other? Raise one eyebrow but not the other? This is because one-sided muscle imbalances are a natural occurrence in the body. They are the reason there are “right-handed” and “left-handed” people in the world. There are also right-brained and left-brained people in the world. You may have heard this before. The right brain has to do with logical, scientific conclusions, while the left brain fields creativity and artistic thought. Different sides of the brain also propel different body movements as well. 

Research shows that certain exercises in the body can strengthen one or the other side of your brain, which can even out the imbalances and create a more well-rounded individual. One of these exercises are the dumbbell snatches. Because they target one side of the body at a time, they also work to even out imbalances between your right and left brain. 

With the strength training that comes from the arm dumbbell snatch, you will achieve greater levels of balance, stability, and coordination of the body and the mind. Dumbbell snatches generate faster reaction forces, and can even double the speed of your body’s reaction time. 

It’s not good to let your body get too comfortable with the same exercises over and over again. Of course, a routine is important, such as going to the gym three times a week and establishing a healthy eating and sleeping regimen. However, when your body gets used to repeating the same movements, it gets used to the action and that slows down your muscle growth and metabolism. Since the body sees faster results with sudden changes to the routine, the asymmetry of this exercise can help your body react to the sudden movements in a positive way. Most people see results faster when they start incorporating dumbbell reaches to their workouts.

How to Do the Dumbbell Snatch the Right Way


As with all weightlifting exercises, you have to be sure you are doing them correctly, or you could end up with serious injuries that either happen suddenly or somewhere later down the road. If you’re new to this movement, always start with a lighter weight than you think you’ll need. It’s a much better strategy to master the proper movements first, and then to add in the challenge of a heavier weight. 

Another important point to remember is that the movement should go quickly. Execute with speed and concentrate on making a coordinated, continuous movement. That means it is unlike some other weightlifting movements, which require heavier weights and slower movements. Dumbbell snatches are meant for strength building and cardio, so keep the weight light enough that you can still do the movements quickly. Otherwise, you may as well not bother with the exercise at all. It’s that important. 

Step 1Arch your back. Grab the dumbbell with one hand, while your feet are shoulder-width apart. Lower your hips to the floor until your knees are bent 90 degrees and the dumbbell touches the floor. 

Step 2Quickly raise the dumbbell up toward the sky (a.k.a. jump), while extending your knees and hips and raising your body on the balls of your feet. 

Step 3Shrug your shoulders and raise the dumbbell upward to its highest point, with your arm fully extended above your head. Pull your body under the dumbbell.  It will sit directly above your shoulder and your other palm will be extended away from the body. 

Step 4Return the dumbbell under your shoulder, then down to the original position in front of your thigh. 

More Tips for Better Results 

During the exercise, make sure you keep your core tight. It’s a common mistake for people to use the force of their body to lift the weight rather than activating the muscles in their core and glutes. So stay aware and focus on your core muscles to lift the weight rather than your back. It helps to think about keeping your posture totally straight. If you are bending your back or shoulders into the exercise, you’re probably doing it wrong. If your back is straight and your eyes are focused forward, you’ll be able to feel the core muscles and know you’re doing it correctly. 

Keep the weight close to your body the whole time. Not doing this is a common mistake most beginners make. Make the weight travel in a straight line. Since the motion is fast, it can be tempting to swing the weight away from your body while you raise it above your head, but you should really be keeping the movement tight and concise for the best results.

Other Ways to Do the Dumbell Snatch

If you are having trouble with a dumbbell, kettlebell, or barbell, a sandbag is a good alternative for this exercise. The weight is easily adjustable and steel or metal is less intimidating or even less harmful. Holding a dumbbell overhead is a frightening (and reasonably so) concept for some. Others have problems with blisters from the metal or even get wrist issues from the bars and bells. 

The only downside to the sandbag snatch is it’s basically impossible to do it with one hand, so you do not get the benefit of strengthening one side of the body at a time. Of course, doing it with both hands still greatly benefits many of the same muscles (core, lower back, hamstrings, lower back, and upper body), so it is well worth the change. After all, our bodies are adaptable to life conditions, so if one thing doesn’t work out, there is always a sufficient alternative. On the upside, however, sand constantly moves, so in order to perform this workout, your shoulders will be taxed. That means you will strengthen your shoulders even more than with the traditional dumbbell snatches. 

How do you do it? Start by holding the sandbag between your legs, in the same body position as the original version. Keep your torso upright, engage your hips, and position your knees above your toes. Pull the bag up vertically with your arms, keeping your arms close to your body. As you reach the top of your elbow extension, bend your knees, lock your elbows, and stand up for a full hip extension. 

Kettlebell Snatch: Using Kettlebells for a Total Body Workout 

You may have also heard about the kettlebell snatch, and are wondering what the difference is between these two types of exercises. Basically, they are the same workout but use different tools. The kettlebell swing needs higher precision and control than the barbell. You have to hold it just right when you do the swing or else it could swing back and forth. This causes a high risk that your grip will loosen and you could hit your forearm, causing injury. Even worse, you could lose the kettlebell altogether, which would be a disaster. 

Ultimately, you will want to work your way up to the kettlebell snatch, since it requires more muscle use than the barbell and is, in the end, a more sure-fire way to strengthen your posterior chain to a higher level. 

Incorporating Dumbbell Snatches Into Your CrossFit Routine

Many people ask questions like, “Where and how should I incorporate dumbbell snatches into my routine?” The answer is, it depends on your experience level. If you have been lifting weights for any time at all, you know it is dangerous to go from zero to one-hundred too quickly. So, the safest way to add this exercise to the rest is to start gradually and let it work its way up to something more intense. 

To start out, you can use dumbbell snatches as a warmup for the rest of your workout. Since it targets all the main muscle groups in your body, it’s a great way to quickly loosen up your muscles for something more intense. At the same time, it does involve cardio, so it gets your heart pumping and blood moving faster as well. 

Once you get the hang of it better, you will find it a great addition to your CrossFit routine, as it supports muscle conditioning and increases endurance levels. It’s good to mix and match exercises that use weightlifting and exercises that are purely body lifting. For example, you can start with dumbbell snatches, and then do pullups. Then you can do deadlifts, and move on to pushups. This back-and-forth schedule is an excellent way to break up the muscle movements just enough to keep that sudden rhythm going and eliminate complacency from repeating the same movements. 

Crucial Target Areas for an All-Over Workout

It can be difficult to make a routine for yourself that covers all the target points you want to hit. If you’re new to weightlifting, you may not even know all the crucial spots you need to get the body you want. The advantage of doing the dumbbell or kettlebell snatch is you hit all these major areas

Hamstrings: These are some of your body’s biggest muscles and they help your glutes with the hip extension. It is important to target your hamstrings for overall physical health and balance. This posterior muscle group (semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris) 

The biceps femoris work to extend the thigh at the hip and laterally rotate the hip and knee. The semimembranosus is the flat and broad part of the hamstrings, located at the knee joint. It medially rotates the thigh and is directly related to the sciatic nerve. The semitendinosus is a tendon-like muscle that helps the other hamstrings with over-all rotation. 

So, you see that isolated muscle strengthening exercises can be much less helpful than compound movements. They can contribute to uneven muscle development, whereas exercises like the dumbbell snatch hit them all pretty evenly.  

Glutes: These posterior muscles help your body stay upright and are the main instigator of a powerful hip lunge. You constantly use your glutes, even just for standing and walking. This is another one of the largest muscle groups in your body, so when you engage the glutes, you burn serious calories. 

They are some of the most resilient muscles, so you need to keep them strong. For example, if your glutes are weak, that puts extra pressure on your hamstrings, which are longer and thinner and more prone to injury. So, maintaining balance throughout your muscle structures is crucial. 

QuadsQuadriceps are four muscles that exist in the front of the thigh and work to extend the knees. They are some of the most powerful muscles that propel the legs toward movement and strength. The rectus femoris flexes the hip, while the Vastus Medialis extends the thigh and rotates the knee. Day to day movements that the quads propel are simple but used whenever you straighten a bent knee. They’re used for walking, running, climbing, cycling, and especially in dumbbell snatches.  

Lower back: As you know, the spine holds the body upright. It allows the trunk of your body to turn and move. Dumbbell snatches strengthen the spine and increase stability. In turn, this helps with your overall posture, preventing a lot of diseases like scoliosis or spinal muscular atrophy. 

Upper body: The shoulders pull the weight off the floor and raise it above your head. Sometimes people overlook the shoulders in their workout, heading straight for curls to get the biceps. Shoulders are just as important and help with all-over exercises, rather than using up all your precious strength (and time!) on isolated regions. Triceps provide strength and support in pulling the weight and locking it in overhead positions. Spinal erectors are activated in stabilization and balance during the movement. 

Strength Training Regimen to Reach Your Fitness Goals 

If you don’t want to be one of those people who make a New Year’s resolution to go to the gym more and then give up after just a few weeks, you will need to establish a workable routine with a solid plan for adding it to your daily life. If you do this, you will have a much better chance of sticking with your resolutions and forming life-changing habits. 

The first thing you have to do is identify very specific goals for yourself. Psychologically, if your brain has a solid end-point, your body will follow suit. An easy way to make this happen is by deciding on a specific number. Let’s say you decide you want to lift a specific amount of weight. Then, you can begin incrementing a steadily growing amount each time, until you reach that goal. Make sure the amount is not too easy to reach since you will find yourself at the end before you have time to properly develop good habits. Don’t make it too challenging to make it seem impossible. 

Find happiness in your perspective. Too many people view going to the gym as a chore and they have a hard time motivating themselves to leave the house. It is immensely gratifying to feel a surge of adrenaline when you lift something heavier than you have ever done before. You can feel your body getting stronger and your muscles propelling you further than they did in the past. If you change your mindset to think positively about the mental and physical benefits of meeting your fitness goals, you will enjoy the routine and be more likely to keep it up.  

Get Others Involved 

Whatever you do, don’t forget to create accountability. Be honest with yourself and evaluate whether asking a friend to keep you accountable will do the trick. Many friends will not actually follow through with reminding you to work at your training.

A personal trainer is an effective option since they will be firm at encouraging you to better yourself. Plus, if you have spent money on the service, you will be more likely to work to get your money’s worth.

If you are on a tight budget, you can take group classes instead. Be sure to meet others in the group to make sure you have someone to communicate with and keep your attendance strong. If you disappear into a large group of people, you will have an excuse not to continue!