Monday, May 21, 2012

Unsnagging the Kettlebell Snatch (Part 2)

Continued from last post, Unsnagging the Kettlebell Snatch (Part 1):

First, let us review a couple key points of the kettlebell snatch – during the snatch:
  1. The body movement (excluding the arms) should look just like the swing:  your body should lower into a functional squat; it should explode into a Locked Out position; your spine should be straightened and extended in bias; your shoulder should be loose and relaxed during movement.
  2. The arc of travel should only exist in the motion of the Pre-Swing.
  3. Once you initiate movement with your Lock Out, you should pull the kettlebell as close to your body as possible making the path of vertical travel as close to the body as possible (much like a Kettlebell Clean)
  4. The height of vertical travel should stop BEFORE the moment of snatch completion to allow for proper deceleration of the kettlebell via technique, NOT gripping.
  5. Your upper extremity should move from a starting Pre-Swing position of Pronation, Internal Rotation into Supination, External Rotation and terminal Shoulder Elevation and Elbow Extension.
  6. At the top of the snatch, be sure your wrist is neutral by keeping your knuckles pointed to the sky.  
  7. (6a) This is where a properly designed kettlebell is in order.  If your kettlebell is bearing weight against your carpals, the handle is not long enough for your body’s needs.  If the bell is too long, it begins to smack the proximal half of your forearm, and, is now too long for your body.  The ideal landing zone for the kettlebell to bear weight at the end of a snatch is the distal half of the forearm in the interosseous muscular space.
Please refer to Unsnagging the Kettlebell Snatch (Part 1) for details of my preferred snatch technique.

So now let’s talk about common problems, hang-ups,  and mistakes – followed by some solutions and practical drilled to perfecting the snatch (in follow up posts).

Perhaps two most common snagging points with the snatch are these:
1. Uncontrolled Arc of Travel, and,
2. Uncontrolled Height of Travel

Uncontrolled Arc of Travel
The Uncontrolled Arc of Travel usually yields a kettlebell traveling at high velocity toward the end of the snatch which remains uncontrolled.  It also makes the kettlebell flop over the top of your wrist, rather than your wrist moving around the center of mass of the kettlebell to control deceleration.  This leads to painful beatings of your wrist extensors.  Many individuals learning kettlebells who do not receive detailed instruction regarding this common snag come home with terribly bruised forearms.

Picture Sequence of Uncontrolled Arc, versus,
Picture Sequence of proper technique.

For the Uncontrolled Height of Travel, two common compensatory strategies naturally emerge. The first common snagging point is an Excessive Height of Travel.  The second compensatory expression is Insufficient Height of Travel.

Excessive Height of Travel
Desperate to create enough vertical height for the snatch technique, an individual creates too much vertical momentum making the kettlebell, once again, flop over the top of the wrist.  The excess of vertical momentum translates to angular momentum creating too much velocity for an individual to decelerate through the means of proper technique.  Therefore, to prevent the forearm from getting banged up, most individuals will grip intently to prevent the kettlebell from flipping over the top of the wrist leading to an almost drooping finish to the kettlebell snatch.  The key difference between an Uncontrolled, Excessive Height of Travel and the Uncontrolled Arc of Travel is that with the Excessive Height of Travel, the individual is successfully bringing the kettlebell close to their body creating a vertical lift.  The Uncontrolled Arc of Travel has no vertical lift component – it is as if the individual is doing kettlebell swing too high and accidentally turned it into a bad kettlebell snatch.

Picture Sequence of Uncontrolled Arc, versus,
Picture Sequence of proper technique.

Insufficient Height of Travel
Having whacked themselves on the wrist/forearm one too many times, an individual will not bring the kettlebell height up to bear and will use a Partial Snatch, Clean and Press compensation to seemingly make the required height of the snatch technique.  This one is fairly easy to spot.  The problem with this compensatory movement is that not only is the total benefit of the snatch technique now robbed from the individual, now each repetition done incorrectly yields excessive stress forces on the wrist, forearm, elbow, and shoulder complex. As always, excessive stress forces are ALWAYS BAD.  For this reason, when demonstrating poor technique, I ALWAYS use a small kettlebell to avoid excessive stress and injury.  This is highly advised if you are an instructor.  There is nothing more embarrassing than an instructor demonstrating poor technique and getting hurt in the process.

There are many other common snagging points for the kettlebell to discuss. Also, there are some nice drills and key points of focus which aide in perfecting the snatch technique. More coming up in Unsnagging the Kettlebell Snatch (Part 3)!

Stay tuned!

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