No matter if you’re a newbie or an experienced muscle-builder, this simple move is perfect for honing your full-body strength, balance, and muscle coordination. The best part? It requires nothing but an ordinary dumbbell or kettlebell and a little bit of stretching space — the perfect at-home exercise.
The idea here is to exercise just one side of your body at a time, keeping your movements smooth and continuous. Throughout, try to engage your core, relax your neck, and keep your back straight while looking forward.
The standard dumbbell snatch
- Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and the dumbbell positioned on the floor directly below you. Bend knees, push hips back, and grab the weight with one hand.
- Lift the dumbbell directly upward by extending your legs, making sure not to bend your arm (yet). Remember to lift with your legs and back until you reach an upright position.
- Once you’ve extended your legs and hips, rapidly shrug the shoulder of the arm holding the dumbbell as you pull the weight up to shoulder height, bending and pointing your elbow out to the side.
- Slightly bend knees to gather some momentum as you extend your arm directly over your shoulder, flinging the weight toward the ceiling and locking out elbow and knees simultaneously.
- In one smooth motion, engage shoulders, breathe out, and push the weight upward until elbow has locked and the dumbbell is directly above your head.
- Bend knees slightly to absorb the weight, then extend your legs to stand tall.
- Breathe in as you lower the dumbbell and return to the starting position.
- Continue for 10–12 reps on the same side before switching arms and doing 10–12 reps on the other side.
Once you feel comfortable with the exercise, you can alternate arms as well.
If the standard dumbbell snatch isn’t what you’re going for, here are four alternative moves that can yield similar gains.
Dumbbell clean and press
- Start similarly to the standard snatch, with the dumbbell directly below you and feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Grab the weight with one hand.
- As you breathe out and bring the weight upward, shrug your weight-bearing shoulder and use the momentum to bring your elbow under the weight.
- Instead of bringing the weight all the way up, hold the dumbbell at shoulder level, with elbow directly underneath. Bend knees to absorb the weight. Breathe in.
- Breathe out as you extend your legs and push the dumbbell upward until your elbow locks and the weight is directly above you. Breathe in again.
- Breathe out as you lower the dumbbell to the floor. Repeat for several reps with one hand before switching to the other side.
Barbell clean and press
Tired of lifting one weight at a time? Get yourself a bar and some weights for an even workout. The key is to keep that continuous motion going, just like in the standard dumbbell snatch.
- Start with the bar on the floor and your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Bend knees and grab the bar with both hands. Lift by extending your legs and keeping your back straight until you can go no higher.
- Using your momentum, get your elbows under the bar. Make sure elbows don’t dip during this step.
- In one smooth, continuous motion, exhale and punch both arms upward, ending in a fully extended upright position.
- Breathe out and lower the bar. Repeat for several reps.
If you’re looking for a bit of extra heat in your abdominal wall, try doing the standard dumbbell snatch with a kettlebell.
Although the movements are the same, the kettlebell weight will end up behind your body instead of directly above it. The result is a force that pushes down and back instead of straight down. This engages your abs in order to maintain balance.
However, you should use a kettlebell only once you’re confident in the movement of the dumbbell snatch, since it can be more difficult to control a kettlebell — and thus easier to injure yourself.
- Start with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and two kettlebells on the floor directly beneath you. As before, bend knees, grab both weights, and lift with your legs until they’re fully extended.
- Use the upward momentum to proceed with the snatch movement for one dumbbell, leaving the other hanging below. Breathe out as you explode upward.
- When you bring the weight down, use the momentum to swing your hips backward. Breathe in.
- When your hips swing forward again, use that energy to lift and bring your elbow underneath the opposite weight. In one continuous motion, lift it directly overhead.
- Continue alternating lifts for the rest of your set.
This is a great move to use as a warmup for your lifting routine. Try using a lighter weight than you normally would, and go for 2–4 sets of 10–15 reps. Repeat this 2 or 3 times a week, or however often you do your lifting workouts.
You can also do the snatch as a daily exercise. Pick a weight you’re comfortable with and do 5 sets of 5 reps on each side. Each set should take about 30 seconds to complete.
The dumbbell snatch is a perfect example of why you don’t need fancy equipment to get a good workout. If you’re just starting out or are new to the technique, start with lighter weights than you’d normally use. This will allow you to perfect your form and will reduce the risk of injury.
When you feel confident in the movement, you can gradually increase the weight to your comfort level. Just remember to take the weight progression slow.