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3 Snatch Variations That Will Get You Strong AF

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snatchesMaybe you laugh when you think about Olympic Lifts — the snatch, the clean & jerk — because, well, the names sound dirty.

But then you think, what the hell even is a snatch? 

For years, you’ve seen men and women doing them in the Olympics; a snatch is one of the most complicated movements that can be done with a barbell.

People have dedicated their entire lives to training and understanding it. 

There are thousands of videos on YouTube of six and 10-year-olds in Asia and Europe learning and executing the movement perfectly; I’ve had actual dreams of being able to snatch like they do. Starting young develops motor patterns that are increasingly harder to learn you become an adult.

Now, these kids on YouTube are being trained to compete competitively, while you’re more than likely going to the gym to look and feel awesome.

So, this begs the question: if it takes years of training to develop proficiency, why should you even bother with it? 

And that’s a valid point, but bear with me. 

Is Snatching the Answer?

If you’ve ever taken a basic physics class, you remember that Power = (Force x Distance)/Time.

This is the basic measure of work output. The more work we can accomplish in a shorter amount of time, the more power is generated.

If you finish a mile run in 10 minutes and a few weeks later are able to finish it in eight minutes, you’re generating more power. If it used to take you two minutes to walk up the stairs in your office, but now it takes one minute, you’re generating more power. 

Similarly, snatches, by design, are meant to develop power. They specifically create power beginning in your feet and extending to your fingertips, efficiently and quickly.

So How Does This Apply to Me?

Snatches are the single best power-generating exercise you can do in the gym.

Does that mean you should drop everything, load the plates on, and start snatching now?

Absolutely not.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the undisputed king of power’s benefits with these three bad-ass (non-barbell) variations.

#1 – Kettlebell Snatch

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How to do it:

  • As in the Kettlebell swing, the movement starts with the bell between the legs.
  • As it comes out, pull the bell up vertically with your arm close and parallel to the body. The pull is from the elbow, meaning you lead the bell up with the elbow.
  • At the top of the elbow extension, bend the knees, lock the elbow out, and stand up straight to full hip extension.

Why use it:

  • Build a crazy strong and stable core.
  • Strengthen overhead stability without the pain (less shoulder pain than a barbell).
  • Build explosive and powerful hips.

Will it help me burn fat?: Hell YEAH.

Even a moderate weight adds up to a significant workload very quickly. If you did ten snatches every minute for 10 minutes with a 24kg bell, that adds up to 2400 kg of load overhead in ten minutes.

There are not many activities you can do that will allow you to work this hard and put your body in the fat burning zone.

The American Council on Exercise, a non-profit fitness watchdog group, tested the effectiveness of the kettlebell snatch and found that participants, on average, burned over 20 calories per minute.

To put that in perspective, that is the same calorie burn as running roughly a six-minute mile.

#2 – Dumbbell Snatch

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A dumbbell snatch and kettlebell snatch are designed to do the same thing. Dumbbells are typically more available, cheaper, and easier to grip.

How to do it:

  • As in the Kettlebell snatch, the movement starts with the dumbbell between the legs.
  • As it comes out, pull the dumbbell up vertically with your arm close and parallel to the body. The pull is from the elbow, meaning you lead the bell up with the elbow.
  • At the top of the elbow extension, bend the knees, lock the elbow out, and stand up straight to full hip extension.

Why use it:

  • Build a crazy strong and stable core.
  • Strengthen overhead stability without the pain.
  • Build explosive and powerful hips.
  • Dumbbells are available in every gym, hotel gym, and cheap to buy
  • Less grip intensive and more wrist-ergonomic than kettlebell snatches.

Will it help me burn fat?: Absolutely.

Like the kettlebell snatch, even a moderate weight adds up to a significant workload very quickly. Being that a dumbbell is readily accessible and common, it is easy to perform anywhere from an Equinox to your living room.

Multiple sets of 10 reps or more at moderate weights are ideal for fat burning.

#3 – Sandbag Snatch

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The Sandbag snatch can be a less intimidating version for people that fear holding so much heavy iron over their heads. It’s also a great option for people who are bashing their forearms with the kettlebell or having wrist issues with the dumbbell.

Note: the bag must have handles for this to be effective.

How to do it:

  • The movement starts with the sandbag in between the feet. The body is positioned in a traditional Olympic Weightlifting power position. (Upright torso, engaged hips, knees over toes)
  • Pull the bag slowly off the ground and accelerate the speed the entire movement. As it comes up, pull the bag up vertically with your arms close and elbows breaking high and outside. This means the hand and elbow should be in the same plane.
  • At the top of the elbow extension, bend the knees, lock the elbows out, and stand up straight to full hip extension.

Why use it:

  • Build a crazy strong core and stability.
  • Strengthen overhead stability without the pain.
  • Build explosive and powerful hips.
  • Because sand moves, this will be especially taxing on the core and shoulders.
  • Less grip intensive than kettlebell or dumbbell snatches.
  • Most wrist ergonomic of the three movements we’ve discussed.

Will it help me burn fat?: Fuck yeah.

Like the kettlebell and dumbbell snatch, even a moderate weight adds up to a significant workload very quickly. The sandbag is great for outdoor workouts on a track or in your backyard. They are typically very durable and easy to transport.

Multiple sets of 10 reps or more at moderate weights are ideal for fat burning.

Bringing it Home

Snatching is no longer just for the Olympians.

You can absolutely reap the same benefits without a barbell. These variations will help you build lean muscle while giving you a killer workout that you don’t have to spend months, years, or even decades learning how to do. 

About the Author

Joe Nissim is the founder and CEO of Strengthlete. After leaving a lucrative career on Wall St, Joe spent three years creating and developing the Strengthlete Nutribuild system and flagship products Repair and Complete. If you’re interested in leaving dieting behind for good, join Joe at www.strengthlete.com.