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The Alternative to the Kettlbell Snatch

After my recent appearance on Joe Rogan's podcast, where I expressed little enthusiasm for the kettlebell Snatch exercise, I received a lot of emails like this:

Q: Hey Steve, I heard you say on Joe Rogan's podcast the KB Snatch isn't all that. I wonder about this because the Snatch has always bugged my shoulder. What's a good substitute?

A: I recommend the kettlebell High-Pull exercise, because with the High-Pull movement, you're still getting the pulling action at the top -- you're still bringing the KB overhead, so it requires almost as much energy as the Snatch -- but without the negative impact forces on the shoulder and elbow.

Check out my So You Wanna Be a Kettlebell Star and Hybrid Training Workouts videos for more great kettlebell movements and information

At one time, I did a fair share of the KB Snatch, but I noticed that even with good form, it was pretty hard on the hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders. Further, I noticed that from a conditioning point of view, I got just as much out of KB Swings as Snatches, nor could I discern any particular benefit the Snatch conferred over the Swing -- especially with high Swings.

I get around quite a bit; I travel the world and visit with people of all kinds in the fitness and martial arts worlds. The injury problems I've observed in KB people from all over are predominantly associated with the Kettlebell Snatch. This commonality has made me begin to question the risk-to-benefit ratio in performing such a ballistic, high-force, momentum-based lift.

Let me put it this way: it's a well-known fact in sports and training that repetitive movements can cause tissue trauma and injury. Case in point: one of the most gentle sports is swimming -- you're virtually weightless in water. Yet, swimmers suffer all the time from "swimmer's shoulder" -- and they're just pushing water! So what do you think is happening when you throw a 16-32kg ball of steel at arm's length -- then catch it on the joint -- for high reps?

For people already involved in combat sports, with continual stresses to the joints, they simply don't need more stress on the joints than they are already getting. Proper training prevents injuries -- doesn't cause them. There are other, better ways to strengthen and condition the body, with far less trauma, than the Kettlebell Snatch.

You hear guys talking about how doing the KB Snatch transfers -- and improves upon other, non-related activities. Well, any exercise will do that -- provided it's making you stronger! A lot of these guys (in the same paragraph!) will talk about their injuries and surgeries. If you're getting injured in your supplementary training, then you're going about it wrong and you should question your training methodology.