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.

Just doing a wee video for the blog on the Kettlebell Snatch vs the Dumbell Snatch Do you have a favourite? If so, why? And does anyone have an official answer to the spelling of Dumbell? Is it 1 B or 2? #wgfamily #irishfitfamily #snatch #kettlebellsnatch #dumbellsnatch #dumbbellsnatch #kettlebell #dumbell #dumbbell

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 snippet from the Snatch tutorial in my online video library. Controlling the flight path of the kettlebell is key to getting the bell up efficiently. The swing propels the bell horizontally, so we lean back and rotate just enough to change this to a vertical flight path. This increases the speed of the rep while also decreasing the grip requirements. Which means that we will be able to get more work done. I’ll be discussing details such as this in the upcoming Kettlebells for Coaches workshops, details here: #wgfamily #irishfitfam #kettlebell #kettlebellswing #kettlebellsnatch #snatch #strength #mobility #endurance #bjj #kettlebellsport #fitness

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.