The kettlebell snatch is the best total body exercise and my favorite kettlebell movement. There are few exercises that simultaneously increase your muscular strength, endurance, and cardiovascular health. It requires explosive power as your hips thrust the kettlebell in the air. The movement starts as a one-arm kettlebell swing, but ends up overhead by way of swing, pull, press. Click here to see a video.
You can burn maximal calories with the snatch. The American Council of Exercise enlisted the help of John Porari Ph.D., Chad Schnettler M.S., Carl Foster Ph.D. and Mark Anders to look at the number of calories burned during a kettlebell workout as well as the how much of an aerobic workout kettlebells provide. In this study participants spent 20 minutes performing six kettlebell snatches in 15 seconds followed by a 15 second rest switching arms after each rest. After the 20-minute workout and a five-minute cool down, the number of calories burned aerobically and anaerobically was measured. It was determined that 20.2 calories were burned each minute. That is equivalent to running a 6-minute mile! And, unless you are running 6-minute miles or cross country skiing uphill at a fast pace, you won’t find an exercise to match that number of calories burned.
It is a great cardiovascular workout. The same study as above monitored heart rate of the participants as they completed the 20-minute workout. The mean percent heart rate for the participants was 93% of max heart rate.
Even a moderate weight adds up to a significant work load very quickly. Twenty snatches every minute with a 24kg (52.8lb) bell, standard for a male, adds up to 2400kg (5,280lbs) of load overhead in five minutes. In order to match this on the jerk press (another overhead movement), he would have to do 3 sets of 8 reps with 220 lbs. A 12kg (26.4 lbs) bell is a standard weight for a female performing a kettlebell snatch. If she did twenty snatches every minute with a 12kg (26.4lb) bell it would add up to 1,200kg (2,640 lbs). She would have to jerk press 110 pounds for 3 sets of 8 reps to match that total work load. As you can see the snatch can definitely make it easier to increase your work load.
It is easy on the joints. There is no pounding of the joints in a kettlebell snatch. Your feet remain on the ground the entire time. The weight is distributed over your core, arm, hips, and legs.
No time-no problem! Since the kettlebell snatch is a total body exercise and is so explosive, a quick 10 minute of snatches will leave you feeling like you got a great workout. If you burn 20.2 calories per minute with kettlebell snatches, you can finish your 10-minute workout having burned 202 calories. If you compare this to running at a pace of 5 miles per hour (12-minute mile) according to the Harvard Health Publications a 155 pound person would burn 99 calories in 10 minutes. That is less than half of the calories you would burn if you were snatching a kettlebell.
It forces your “inner athlete” to come out. Like nothing else, the snatch has proved to me that almost anybody can develop their fast twitch muscle fibers. Like its name suggests, fast twitch fibers are the ones we use to make quick movements. Moving explosively keeps you young; it keeps you active. For those who are not necessarily worried about power in respect to athletic performance, it can help with reaction time to prevent falls.
It’s a safe option for going overhead. Most people have limited overhead mobility. The snatch not only gives you a safe option to train overhead, but can also help correct poor movement patterns. When properly taught the swing, pull, push movement allows the kettlebell to go overhead without the grunting and grinding typically associated with pushing weight overhead.
As you can see there are many benefits to the kettlebell snatch. However, it does require proper technique and form. Please do not attempt to do a kettlebell snatch without instruction and supervision on good form. RKC Certified trainer Mike Klaus would be happy to teach you proper form. You can even attend his kettlebell classes where you can build muscle and burn fat doing the kettlebell snatch among other great kettlebell exercises.