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Ask Dave: How Does the Kettlebell Swing build my Snatch?

The Kettlebell snatch is a hell of an exercise.

It can quite literally feel like your going through hell.

Kettlebell Snatch training, it's like a day trip to Hell

Kettlebell Snatch training, it’s like a day trip to Hell

It takes no prisoners, you either snatch the bell or you don’t.

Its a phenomenal lift, but it’s also not for everyone.

In fact most people need never do the snatch, they should simply stick with its little brother, the swing.

Why shouldn’t they snatch?

Usually it’s down to limitations in their Upper Body Mobility

Which is something I’ll be presenting a workshop on later this month.

But devastatingly smooth sales pitches aside…….What about those people who do want to snatch?

Well, these guys should still use the swing a lot.

It should become their main assistance lift, and should also be re-purposed slightly to turn it into an incomplete snatch rather than an exercise in its own right.

And the main points to consider are if you’re using the swing to build your snatch are:

  1. Only use 1 handed swings

  2. Focus on the back swing

  3. Exhale at the terminal point of the back swing.

  4. Find the float point at the terminus of the up swing

  5. Relax as much as possible in this float point

Many who use the swing for fitness will use a 2 handed grip and exhale at the top of the swing while creating a “standing plank” type of tension. This is all good for general fitness.

But for advancing technique, it’s no use. If we swing in this manner, as soon as we lock up into that plank position, we’re done, our body has stopped and no more power can be made available to get the bell overhead.

But if we relax, we have room to maneuver, we can still create tension, we can lean back, add a rotation, retract the shoulder, whatever is needed to get the bell up safely.

As we’re learning to relax into the up swing, we need to focus our efforts on the back swing.

I’ve covered this before in previous posts but it bears repeating. The majority of the power, and indeed the greatest value in using a kettlebell, comes from the eccentric loading as the bell is swung back between the legs.

I call it the bow and arrow effect.


Think of your back line (hamstrings, glutes, lats) as the bow and the kettlebell being the arrow.

The main Snatch muscles

The main Snatch muscles

To shoot an arrow you must pull it backwards loading tension into the bow. When you release the arrow the tension in the bow is released which propels that arrow forwards. The arrow still flies even when it is clear of the bow and is no longer under it’s influence.

The kettlebell should do the same.

Once our hips are fully extended, the bell should continue to swing forwards and because it is attached to our body via the arm, the shoulder is now a fulcrum that will cause the bell to swing in an upwards arc.

How high up it swings is totally dependant on the power generated in the back line, most of which is a direct result of the stretch loading from the previous rep.

Once the bell has pulled out arm away from the body we are now into looking at how the upper body moves to control the flight path of the bell and get it overhead into a lockout.

Note I said “control the flightpath” I didn’t say “lift the bell”

That’s an important difference. We throw the bell via the swing section, with enough juice that it requires very little arm and shoulder interaction other than guidance to get the bell into position.

You’ll see what I mean in this video:

I hope that that answers the questions on how to best use the swing to build the snatch.

Now Snatch a lot (assuming there’s no contraindications) and Swing even more.

And about that Upper Body Mobility Workshop:


Dave Hedges

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