Monday, May 7, 2012

Unsnagging the Kettlebell Snatch (Part 1)

The kettlebell snatch is one of the more advanced techniques belonging to the “Swing” family of centripetal ballistics.  Touted as the most explosive kettlebell exercise, requiring the highest cardiorespiratory demand, the snatch is a skill worth learning and mastering.

There are many key points of focus to master for proper execution of this fluid yet explosive technique. Not only are there many points of focus, there are also various opinions as to how to perform the kettlebell snatch correctly.  Despite the range of preferences, techniques, forms, etc. - many will agree if done improperly, one can easily experience back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, a wincingly bruised forearm, tendonitis, or worse!

This series of posts will examine some of the common mistakes which may be snagging up your snatching style, and, provide some guidance and hopefully some solutions to unsnagging your kettlebell snatch.

In order to discuss “what is bad form”, you must first define “what is good”.  The version of the snatch I’ve personally adopted was chosen because of its biomechanical compatibility with the human body.  Biomechanics is important for a wide array of rationales. However, it all boils down to one thing: excessive stress forces are ALWAYS bad. Good biomechanics means less stress forces – which is good!

The version of the snatch I’ve adopted is comprised of the following components:
  • A Pre-Swing with Wrist/Forearm Pronation and Humeral Internal Rotation
  • A Minimal Arc of Travel coinciding with the “Lock Out” Initiation (knee extension & hip extension)
  • During Vertical Lift: Smooth transition to Neutral Wrist/Forearm with Humeral External Rotation (remind anyone of PNF D2 Pattern?)
  • A loose grip as the kettlebell approaches the Vertical Limit
  • As the Vertical Limit is approached: Terminal Shoulder Elevation, Elbow Extension, Wrist Neutral is performed coinciding with kettlebell rotation over metacarpals. Notice the most slight altitude change once initial contact is made at the Vertical Limit which coincides with first contact of the kettlebell with the forearm.  This is necessary for controlled deceleration of the kettlebell without use of gripping.
  • At the Vertical Limit: the kettlebell lands gently upon the forearm at the interosseous muscular space (between the ulna and radius). From this view, you will notice that the deceleration of the kettlebell again is not done through grip. You can also see deceleration is performed from the shoulder girdle and core engagement. This is evident due to the fact the elbow is fully extended to prevent a micro-press substitution for deceleration.
  • At the Vertical Limit: there can be a slight pause, however, do not wait too long and lose the rhythmical cadence essential to the Swing family.
  • The release of the snatch for the next repetition is done by bringing the kettlebell forward through shoulder extension. The kettlebell will begin to fall downward and will be eccentrically controlled at the bottom of the arc of travel into wrist/forearm pronation and humeral internal rotation to initiate a quick stretch/plyometric effect.
  • Immediately explode into the Lock Out position with a Vertical Lift for another repetition.

Did all of that sound more or less familiar? All right then. Let’s take a look at a snatch video.

So that my favored version of the kettlebell snatch.  There are definitely variations of the snatch, each with their own purpose and intent. Again, I chose this version as my staple because it incurs minimal stress forces and preserves best biomechanics during exercise.

Stay tuned for the upcoming posts which will cover the common mistakes, substitutions, and solutions to unsnagging the kettlebell snatch. Until next time!

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