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Ask Dave: Why do People Lift Their Heel During the Kettlebell Snatch?

This was a question asked on facebook just the other day.

It’s a common enough point that gets raised,  so let’s look into it.

The Kettlebell Snatch is one of the great lifts,  not essential by any means,  but it is fantastic.

It is, at least in the early stages, less technical than it’s barbell big brother, and while this is debatable, more worthwhile than it’s even less technical Dumbbell brother.

A post shared by Dave Hedges (@dave_hedges) on Jun 9, 2017 at 3:00am PDT


Dumbbell snatch is a great exercises, but it falls behind the kettlebell version because of the backswing. The kettlebell backswing, the time it spends behind you, is in my opinion the reason this tool is so valuable.


But I digress.

The question was about the heel lift.

Many lifters, and almost all Kettlebell sport lifters will raise the same side heel both as the bell rises and on the drop.

Why do they do this?

The short answer is to get greater hip drive.

A good kettlebell snatch has the arm in contact with the body for as long as physically possible. From the terminus of the backswing, through the hip extension until the hip is as extended as it can be, the arm is against the body meaning we get as much drive as possible into the kettlebell.

The arm only breaks from the body because of the momentum generated during the swing phase. As soon as the arm breaks from the body we enter what is termed the acceleration phase or second pull.

The second pull is usually performed by a both leaning back and rotating the waist to change the trajectory of the Kettlebell from a front to back action to a vertical action.

A post shared by Dave Hedges (@dave_hedges) on May 16, 2017 at 4:09am PDT

A good second pull shouldn’t require much effort if you have come from a good swing phase and have a well timed lean away.

But if the timing is off or the swing phase hasn’t provided enough oomph,  the second pull can become highly fatiguing.

By lifting the heel we can extend our swing phase.  The heel raise will push the hip further forwards and up,  keeping the arm in contact with the body longer and giving extra power.

It also initiates the lean back and away,  solving to a large degree,  the timing issue many have when either they get tired or experiment with a larger Kettlebell than they’re used to.

And finally,  as we begin to initiate our lockout,  our raised heel can be plonked firmly into the floor,  pulling us out of that lean and bringing our head under the bell,  giving us an effortless lockout without any pressing action.

On the drop,  the same points all apply, just in reverse order.

The heel lifts to push us backwards allowing the bell to simply drop from it’s lockout,  the hip is brought forwards and upwards to meet the arm,  thereby allowing the whole body to act as a shock absorber,  taking the force of the falling weight and directing it smoothly into our backswing to get a good stretch load ready to launch the next rep.

A post shared by Dave Hedges (@dave_hedges) on Oct 1, 2016 at 8:40am PDT

Now,  is all this essential?

Of course not.

It is the accepted best practice.  If you look at the people who are putting up the biggest numbers in Kettlebell snatch or snatching the biggest Kettlebell,  you’re very likely to see the heel lift.

But you will always find exceptions who don’t use it yet still perform at a very high level.

In terms of your own practice,  do you need to lift your heel?

Only if it adds to the lift,  in terms of giving you higher reps or allowing you to lift a greater load.  This is of course determined by your goals.

Here’s me Snatching the 40kg bell for 10 reps each hand:

Day 5 – Snatch10 reps each hand of 12, 16, 20, 24, 32, 36, 40, 36, 32, 24, 20, 16, 12Minimal rest between weights.This is the 40 in action.Must have been inspired by Matt Wiggins t-shirt logo. Posted by Dave Hedges on Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Ie it detracts from your lift,  IE less reps,  inability to lift as heavy,  then no,  don’t use it on your main sets,  but I would recommend you play with it in warm up and practice sets.

The snatch can be a complex lift,  especially as you get fitter, stronger and look to get the most out of it.  So it’s well worth taking the time to get good at it.

I wrote a series of articles on the snatch a while ago,  here’s a link that will allow you access to all of them:

It’s also one of the topics that comes up regularly in the Kettlebells for Coaches workshop,  details of which an be found here:


Dave Hedges

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