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Maria on The Heel Lift in the Snatch

On Monday I posted an “Ask Dave” article answering a question I got regarding the Kettlebell Snatch and why people would lift the heel.

Today, we continue on the same subject. The following post is from WG-FIT client and 2 x Kettlebell Snatch World Champion Maria Moran.

If Maria is talking about Snatch, it’sa hood idea to listen:


Now, you listen to me you little yellow bastard….

My take away from your article. In simple terms: you want your bell arm in contact with the body for as long as possible each rep. This way it is supported and assisted by the body. Since the arm is not working the weight by itself, it can relax (as much as is possible), fatigues less quickly, and you can get ALL THE REPS.

To achieve this, from the overhead position – as the arms unlocks and the bell drops, hike your hip up with the intention of getting the elbow to the body ASAP. When you do this, your heel naturally lifts. Ta –Dah! On the way back up, the hip sticks with the elbow as long as possible, for the same reason, resulting in a heel lift. Ta-Dah-Dah! Alternatively, you can think of driving into the toes, lifting the heel, letting that drive up through the hip (which lifts) and the elbow has a shorter distance to travel to the body.

Personally, I found the best way to make the heel lift really work was to think only of the leg that wasn’t lifting. So, instead of ‘lift the heel/hip’ on my bell arm side, I thought ‘load/shift/pour into’ the opposite side. It may seem like the same thing, on the surface, but for me it made a huge difference, and was the missing link that made the heel lift a working and beneficial part of my technique.

The partially lifted leg, to my brain, is unstable. My brain doesn’t like unstable. Unstable makes my brain panic. It goes like this – 2 legs on the ground – oooh lookit meee, im soooo balanced on my 2 legs, like a 2 leg show off, I could stand here aaaaalllllll day OH YEAH!!! Heel lift – argh! WTF!! I’m falling over! It’s all gone wobbly. Where’s my leg gone? Did it fall off? I can’t see! When did that happen? Oh the sadness!!! (None of these thoughts are helpful when snatching)


My brain likes solid. In all aspects of life, it likes to know where the edges are, where the support is, what structures are safe to lean into if things are changing – in the case of snatch: a weight distribution through the feet shifting from 50/50 to around 90/10.

Focussing on my standing leg, which is straight, knee locked but relaxed, allows my brain to say – that’s cool – we can stand on this one super strong, stable leg for a second. No probs.

I was taught the heel/hip rock at a seminar with Eddie Sheehan and Abigail Johnson. It involved the heel lift on the same side leg at the start of the drop, and as the bell went from in front to behind, the same side heel dropped and the opposite side heel lifted (the process reverses as the bell swings back up to overhead).

Again, this worked best for me if I put all my attention on whichever leg had a flat foot. That was stable and strong. It lead me to centre my weight over it, which made it feel like the force of the bell was simply running through my body into the ground.

I was now simply a conduit. I was working with the natural gravity and momentum that was occurring. It felt lovely. I was hitting the same reps (or more), with less effort and less damage to my body. I no longer fought the bell, I worked with it.

I didn’t use a visible heel lift for my last few weeks of training prior to the Worlds last year, or in the actual competition. My weight is shifting front to back in my feet, but I’m finding the high heel lift removes that feeling of standing solid on the floor. I like that feeling.

My snatch technique has gone through a lot of changes in the last 2 years – heel lifting to various degrees, and with varying success. I think try it, if it feels good, keep it, if not, don’t worry – I got 213 reps in Seoul and my feet were flat on the floor the whole time. If you don’t like it initially, or veer away from it for a time, always go back and try again. As your technique and mindset evolve, it might find a home!

Maria teaches Animal Flow on Thursday mornings and Indian Clubs on Saturday mornings in WG-FIT, both of which are open for anyone to drop into.

Maria will also be present at the upcoming Kettlebells for Coaches workshop should you have questions that you’d rather her answer than me. Get on the here:


Dave Hedges

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