There’s an underrated piece of kit that can be found in practically every gym — the humble kettlebell. This bell-shaped weight, which comes in various sizes and weights (typically starting at 4kg up to 30+ kg in increments of 4kg) is an absolute superstar piece of kit for working every muscle in the core and for improving cardio fitness and general strength. Still working out from home? Check out the best kettlebells to buy here.
A popular kettlebell exercise that I incorporate into my workout routine regularly is a classic kettlebell snatch. This is a move that tests balance, stability, strength, and endurance, plus, it’s easy to progress the move by adding weight or reps.
To master the kettlebell snatch, and learn more about the benefits of the move, I decided to do five minutes of them every day for a week. Read on to find out what happened.
The benefits of a kettlebell snatch
When done properly a kettlebell snatch is great at working the core, as you need to engage your core muscles to keep your body stable as you lift the kettlebell off the ground, directly up into the air. Plus, as the kettlebell is held in just one hand, your core muscles are working hard to maintain stability in the body so that you don’t lean to one side. Research has shown how training with kettlebells has a positive impact on core strength, dynamic balance, and aerobic capacity.
A kettlebell snatch is also great for working the upper body; after all, it’s your arm that’s driving the kettlebell upwards overhead so the shoulders are working hard here. Naturally, the heavier your kettlebell, the greater the load on your muscles and the harder they have to work.
Another great benefit of a kettlebell snatch is that it is a full-body move, so it’s going to set your heart and lungs on fire, giving your cardio system a boost too.
How to do a kettlebell snatch
- Start with the kettlebell on the floor in between your feet. Your feet should be about hip-width apart (but not wider). Sit back and bend your knees. Grab the kettlebell with your left hand. Pick up the kettlebell and swing it back between your legs slightly as you begin to stand.
- Keeping your arm fairly close to your body, swing the kettlebell up to your shoulder, stand upright, and drive the kettlebell up overhead, extending your arm up straight.
- As the kettlebell smoothly comes up, you’ll need to flip it over to the outside of your wrist, so that you can comfortably press it upwards.
- Pause here, then bring the kettlebell back down by flipping the kettlebell to the other side of your wrist and dropping it to the floor, maintaining a flat back, pushing your hips back, and bending your knees as you drop down.
- Once on the floor, grab the kettlebell with the opposite hand and repeat the move. Keep alternating sides throughout.
I did five minutes of kettlebell snatches a day for a week — here's what happened
I developed pretty bad calluses
Seriously, my poor hands. Gripping onto a kettlebell for five minutes is never going to do the palms of your hands any favors. All that friction and force is bound to have an effect and with my naturally soft hands, I develop calluses easily. To counteract this, I opted to use some chalk to help soften the blow of kettlebell handles but still, my hands felt rough after a week of snatches.
I was left out of breath
As I mentioned, kettlebell snatches are a full-body movement that also works the heart and lungs. This means that they can leave you panting a little as you work your way through the reps, especially if the weight you choose is a challenging one. I stopped to catch my breath a fair few times (I was grateful for the rest, I won’t lie), but a move that targets muscle strength and cardio fitness is a move that I can get on board with.
Five minutes goes on forever
Time flies when you’re having fun. Sadly, it does not fly when you’re doing five minutes of kettlebell snatches. Seriously, this time went on forever and it’s safe to say I took a fair few breaks to give my fingers a wiggle and catch my breath.
These tested my balance
Kettlebells are renowned for being fantastic at working the core and testing balance and stability. Working with one kettlebell in one hand, meant my core was working hard to keep me stable. I did wobble a couple of times and had to re-engage with my core muscles to try and keep myself rooted to the spot. But, I do like a challenge and I’m hoping that over time I see improvements and my balance improves.
I mixed up my weights
At the beginning of the week, I thought sticking to a 12kg kettlebell throughout my five minutes of kettlebell snatches seemed like a doddle. However, about half way through I dropped to 8kg which felt like a feather compared to the 12kg. I would always rather drop my weight and maintain good form, rather than destroy my back and joints by trying to go heavier.
My Apple Watch was nearly smashed
Because of the way the kettlebell has to flip over to the outer side of your wrist during the move, it’s easy to see how many watch faces might face the wrath of a heavy kettlebell. I forgot about my Apple Watch which sits on my left wrist and on the first kettlebell snatch, I flipped it over and heard a loud smashing sound. Thankfully my watch survived, but I did remove it immediately. This meant I couldn’t track my heart rate or calories but I was happy to scrap that for the sake of saving my precious Apple Watch 9.
The shoulder burn was intense
Oh wow, did my shoulders burn out thanks to the continuous pressing movement overhead. As always, time under tension is vital for growing and maintaining muscle, so I imagine this did my shoulder muscles a world of good in the strengthening department.
I did 5 minutes of kettlebell snatches a day — here’s my verdict
I have always loved a kettlebell snatch, for the many reasons I listed earlier, along with the fact that they just make me feel strong and I am forced to control my body to remain stable. But, five minutes of them, using a challenging weight, did take its toll. It’s manageable, but I felt it in my back and shoulders a fair amount.
Would I recommend doing five minutes of kettlebell snatches? I would say, try it once just to see how you feel, but ultimately, as with any resistance-based exercise, quality over quantity is the key, so stop when your form deteriorates, as you could only end up injuring yourself.
I would recommend including kettlebell snatches into your routine however, they’re an excellent full-body move that offers so many benefits.
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Lucy is a freelance health and fitness journalist as well as a pre and post-natal personal trainer. Although a sweaty gym session (skipping rope is a must) is her favorite way to ‘relax’, she’s also a fan of bingeing on The Office, snacking on chocolate-coated raisins, and fizz-filled brunches with friends.