Sunday, June 17, 2012

Unsnagging the Kettlebell Snatch (Part 4)

Continued from last post, Unsnagging the Kettlebell Snatch (Part 3)

We’re about to go over a few of my favorite drills to correct for the common snagging points during the kettlebell snatch.  First, let’s finish up the discussion on the last few common mistakes seen during the snatch.

1. Missing Pre-Swing:  The pre-swing is a critical aspect for the version of the snatch I subscribe to.  This is because the pre-swing allows for preserved momentum through a form of plyometrics which eliminates aberrant movements during technique.  Additionally, with a pre-swing integrated during every snatch repetition, the only time the kettlebell is motionless is at the top of the snatch.  This is the very purpose of centripetal ballistics with kettlebell – continuous preservation of motion and momentum during high intensity exercise.  The missing pre-swing can lead to jerky motions at the bottom of the snatch during movement initiation and may lead to excess stress at the wrist, elbow, shoulder, and/or neck.  Again – excessive stress forces are ALWAYS BAD.

2. Controlling the Descent:  The key behind kettlebell centripetal ballistics is that one does not control the momentum of the kettlebell during mid-swing. In fact, trying to control the descent of the kettlebell utilizes the muscles of the arms and shoulders, primarily the anterior deltoids and the wrist extensors.  The centripetal decent accelerated by gravity sums a significant amount of force.  I’ve been told from engineers that it can be as high as 4-6x the weight of the kettlebell due to gravitational acceleration. Trying to control this descent with small muscle groups such as the wrist extensors can be too much for your tissues and can cause irritation or injury.  Fortunately, with correct technique, the prime movers which control the height and descent of the kettlebell originate from the lower quarter and the core – muscle groups with generous amounts of power to disperse the stress forces.

3. Missing Rotational Dynamics:  This is related to the concept of preserving momentum.  This is a very subtle dynamic during the kettlebell snatch.  Ideally, during the pre-swing, the wrist is pronated and shoulder is internally rotated.  Once initiation of the lock-out is underway, the wrist moves into supination and the shoulder into external rotation.  For those of you Physical Therapists who are big fans of Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) – can we say D2 pattern? Pretty neat, huh?  This dynamic of moving into shoulder flexion, external rotation with wrist supination at the top of the snatch matched with the shoulder extension, internation rotation and wrist pronation at the bottom of the snatch completes the nuance of momentum preservation and plyometrics throughout the upper extremity kinetic chain.  If you are not properly engaging in this movement, you are likely to also feel a jerky motion during the initiation of the “lock-out”, or, you may feel difficulty in  decelerating the kettlebell at the top of the snatch. For many individuals, this is the missing link for kettlebell deceleration.

Let’s take a look at these common mistakes in this compilation video:

Remember, the Swing family of kettlebell ballistics utilizes the exact same mechanics and technique from the ground up and throughout the rest of the body. The only variations are found in the grip of the kettlebell, and, the arc and height of travel.  If you record yourself performing the snatch, clean, high pull, and snatch – you should notice that the feet, legs, hips, core, and scapulae play the exact same role in each exercise.  The position of the arm, the grip, and the path of travel for the kettlebell are the only changes for each exercise.  If you are able to master this concept, the Swing family is yours to own!

Now – let’s talk about a few drills I like to utilize to solve the issues of trying to control the descent, uncontrolled arc of travel, uncontrolled height of travel, and poor lock-out movement patterns.

Towel Swing: Trying to control the descent
Let’s start with the basics.  Since the snatch is one of the highest level forms of the Swing family, it is beneficial to revisit the swing mechanics with the Towel Swing.  This is a common and ingenious way to force individuals to use their bodies rather than their arms during swing mechanics.  Since an additional kinetic chain is added to the equation, and, the chain is loose and muscularly disconnected to the body – individuals are forced to recognize the drooping bell as poor mechanics.

Wall Snatch: Solving for an uncontrolled arc of travel
The Wall Snatch drill is a clever two person drill to solve for uncontrolled arc of travel.  One person uses a barrier as a “wall” which gives a visual and physical cue for the person struggling with the arc of travel to avoid.  By placing a vertical wall close to the individual, one must force themselves to perform a vertical lift rather than a long, circular arc of travel which can cause poor deceleration at the top of the snatch.

High Pull Snatch Drill: Solving for an uncontrolled height of travel
This drill is a great way of progressing to the snatch as well as controlling for height of travel. By using the High Pull exercise, one can progress the pull higher and higher, one quickly gets to a point where the technique must simply morph into a snatch since the pull can only get so high.  If the individual is still struggling with an excessive or insufficient height of travel, the kettlebell is likely too light or heavy, respectively.  The other possibility is that the individual is not performing the snatch technique with the proper lock out technique which would yield poor momentum to complete the technique.

Lock Out Hop Drill: Solving for poor lock out mechanics during initiation
Completing the lock out is essential to reach and preserve the levels of momentum for kettlebell centripetal ballistics.  Sometimes, it’s just a plain struggle to master this movement pattern.  A nice drill to accentuate this movement is the Lock Out Hop Drill.  This drill is simply hopping up off the group using all lower quarter muscles groups EXCEPT for those of the ankle/foot.  By launching off the ground from the heels, one must utilize knee extension and hip extension as the primary movement patterns to “catch air”.  Take a look!

The Kettlebell Snatch is considered by many as the highest form of kettlebell centripetal ballistics, requiring the most control, power, and energy to perform over time.  Hopefully this series of Unsnagging the Kettlebell Snatch (Parts 1 – 4) were helpful in helping you master your kettlebell snatch.

Lastly, my kettlebell health-fitness-wellness program, “Kettlebell and PhysioKinetic Fitness” was nominated as Best Health-Fitness Studio in San Diego for 2012.  I deeply appreciate your continual support here at Kettlebell Therapy™, and, if you have the time – I would appreciate you make a log-in & making daily votes at: Best of San Diego 2012: Health-Fitness Club

Until Next Time!

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