My Love Affair with the Dumbbell Snatch

“Most beautiful dumb girls think they are smart and get away with it, because other people, on the whole, aren’t much smarter.”

~ Louise Brooks

From a very cool collection by solarixx

From a very cool collection by solarixx

The snatch.  The dumbbell snatch.  Yeah, I’m 44 years old and I still get a little chuckle when the talk turns to this exercise.  Just try to say “dumbbell snatch split jerk” without cracking a smile, I dare you.  Say it to the hottie at work and check her reaction.  See how long it takes for HR to give you a call.  And when they do call, just tell them you were trying to let  the little miss in on a juicy  secret: that what the deadlift, in all its various mutations, is to the building of overall strength, the snatch, in its various mutations, is to the acquisition of overall power.  Yeah, in my opinion, the snatch is the money exercise for building overall bodily power.  Believe it.  And as an added plus, it just gives you a warm tingly  feeling all over to say it.  My personal best snatch.  I hit the snatch so hard my knees were weak the rest of the day. Believe me, I’ve been in the game quite a while, and this never gets old.  Never fails to make me feel like I’m back in junior high.

Check out this page from Exercise and Sport Science, by William E. Garrett, Donald T. Kirkendall.  Now, as regulars readers of this blog know, I’m all for properly conducted and properly interpreted and reported science.  To me though (and practically speaking), scientific findings are only as useful as to that degree by which they can be employed in a real-world setting.  Now,empirically speaking I can tell you this: a good bout of snatching — any form of snatching — will put a serious hurtin’ on you.  In a good way, that is.  Your central nervous system will be pushed to its limit and your post-workout metabolism will be jacked beyond belief.  I don’t have any science to present to you to back that statement up — nor do I need any — no more so than I need to say (and feel confident in the statement) that the deadlift is the truest test of overall bodily strength, involving every muscle you’ve got, and even a few that you never knew existed.

Barbell Snatch or Dumbbell Snatch?

Both have their particular benefits and really, you can’t go wrong with either choice.  I will say this: I would prefer to do much more barbell snatching than I currently do.  Why don’t I do more?  (1)Because my gym is not set-up for (unfortunately) Oly-lifting, and (2) I’m usually pressed for time and, therefore, don’t have enough to properly warm-up and hit this version of the exercise the way it needs to be hit — lots and lots of singles and doubles — really pushing the weight envelope (which means a miss or two here and there) — with plenty of between-set rest.

But I console myself by adding variations to the dumbbell version that would otherwise be impractical in the barbell version.  I use the DB version of the snatch as a lead-in for  various combos — adding a press, push-press, or some form of jerk (and sometimes all three) to the mix.  Talk about a metcon combo extraordinaire!  The DB snatch versions are the crown jewel.  Let’s take a quick look at a workout I did earlier this week:

6:30 AM, empty stomach, following an approximate 15-minute, progressive-intensity warm-up —

  1. 5xDB Snatch + 1xPress + 1xPush Press + 2x (each leg, i.e., 4 total) Split-Jerk combo.  One full round through with each arm.
  2. Feet elevated, Ballistic Pushups x 8.  Get as much “air” on each rep as possible.  Pretend that the floor is griddle-hot, so spend as little time as possible in the catch/reset stage between reps.  Catch/reset at lowest point possible, i.e., just prior to chin-planting into the floor.

Four total rounds of this, at working weight, in 30 minutes.  Quite taxing, to say the least.

So, how did I come about that particular DB snatch combo?  Well, for me, the most limiting portion of this particular combo is the strict press portion.  I’ve found, empirically, that I can rip-off about 5 really good DB Snatches with a weight that I can, using the same arm, strict press once (following the snatch portion — which, by itself is quite taxing).  So there you have it — the art of blending good science and real-world practicality to achieve solid results — or “horse training”, as I call it.

By the way, I really, really like this kind of methodology, as brought to us from Chris, at Conditioning Research.  In fact, this looks very similar to the way I construct the bulk  of (bulk of not all of) my weight training workouts.  And, It is in my humble opinion, the best workout methodology to pair with the TTP manner of hunter-gatherer eating modality.

In Health,


8 responses to “My Love Affair with the Dumbbell Snatch

  1. Keith,

    I’m curious as to what, if any, are your opinions, experiences with the KB snatch. I exclusively did kettlebells before I started incorporating Crossfit (and all it’s awesome intricacies) into my training. I do far less KB stuff now, but the KB Press, TGU, and KB Snatch still hold a special place in my training. I feel the Snatch with Kettlebells, though obviously different from the Dumbbell snatch, is an amazing component to any power endurance circuit. The ease with which one can do high reps in quick succession make it possible to easily and quickly approach and sustain near maximal heart rate.

    What are your thoughts on it? Do you do any work w/ KB’s?


  2. Bryce,
    I can say that I do prefer the DB version over the KB version — but that’s just personal preference with no slight at all intended toward the kettle bell. I grew up doing these movements using barbells and DB’s & I guess some habits are hard to change. In the end, I really don’t think it matters one way or the other — DBs, KBs, barbells — or hell, I’ve even been known to employ the a full propane tank from a gas grill. My posterior chain was challenged just the same.

  3. Keith,

    Great points. I myself have a love affair with kettlebell snatches as I am an RKC but I really also love the basic Russian Swing for the posterior chain.

    Thanks, Sandy

  4. Great post. The DB snatch is a fantastic exercise. I used to try and teach all my clients to do KB snatches, but a lot of them couldn’t quite get the hang of it, and barbell snatches just aren’t practical in most commercial gyms, so it’s DBs all the way for me now.

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