Great examples of heavy kettlebell hardstyle snatches

Brett Jones

StrongFirst Director of Education
Master Certified Instructor
Beast Tamer
Alexander,
Since the "height" of the knees is dictated by the height of the lower leg and can only "lower" as much as ankle dorsiflexion will allow then the amount a knee might "lower" in the squat or hinge is minimal—if I am understanding what you are saying.
If someone "scoops" the knees on the transition from the hike to the extension it might give the appearance of the knees "lowering."

Anna
Are the two pics above the same weight and are they both snatches?
 

DaveS

Level 2 Valued Member
Alexander,
As long as the hinge has shoulders above hips, hips above knees then it is a good hinge (the main motion of the hips is "back").
If the hips drop to be level with or below the knees then it is a squatting motion (the main motion of the hips is "down").
The Perfect Kettlebell Swing: Is There Such a Thing? | StrongFirst

The degree of knee bend will vary on a few factors—individual structure, weight being used (we see a natural change in the hinge with double KBs and the direction of force during the hinge to avoid getting pulled over backwards), and "goal" of the movement (swing vs. snatch/clean).

Can you show me an example of knees not remaining at the same height?
I'm having trouble visualizing it.

Can anyone show me an example of a squatty swing or snatch?

I think because most folks do not use an athletic hinge and instead perform more of "stiff legged" hinge there is a perception that any knee bend = a squatting motion and that it not the case.
Think vertical leap and then try to jump using the stiff legged strategy....it won't be much of vertical leap.
Instead your athletic hinge should look more like a vertical leap.
Hi Brett,

Thats an good way of stating it, that some have a near ‘straight legged hinge’ and comparing that to a more athletic hinge could give the impression of a more squatty hinge. Still, Anna C’s post below this with her 2 photos of her hinge positions and the clockface analogy for how far back the hinge goes were what I was saying and using the term ‘squatty hinge’ as I could see the hinge not going as far back and so the kettle bell line of projection being a little more towards vertical and the legs being even more bent than the athletic hinge in the bottom and was asking/thinking out loud if this change was considered a poor form problem i had identified in my own snatches with a heavier bell or something that was considered ok and normal as the weight of the kettlebell approached a certain ratio to bodyweight.

Thanks for being involved, im really curious how this discussion goes as it sill hopefully increase my understanding of optimal mechanics.

Dave.
 

DaveS

Level 2 Valued Member
I think "more squatty" when describing a hinge for a heavy snatch is a way to describe 1) slightly more knee bend than one might have for a moderate weight swing or snatch, which brings the hips lower and also brings the knees more forward over the toes, and 2) a more deliberate loading of the bottom position, which is 2 things, 2a) the weight goes down more than back (7:00 or 7:30, as opposed to 8:00 or 8:30 in Senior SFG Woo-chae Yoon's "SFG clock"), and 2b) there is a tiny bit more time spent in the bottom position.

View attachment 11455

Not saying mine is right, but putting myself up as an example for discussion... Left/first is a heavy swing hinge, right/second is a heavy snatch hinge. Both are hinges -- but the snatch is deeper knee bend, a.k.a "more squatty." (It's not a great example of 2a above, but some of the examples in the first post are).

What you can't see in the photos, but you can definitely see in the videos in the first post in this thread, is a few extra microseconds in that bottom position. This is the 2b that I mentioned above. "Coiling the spring" as @Al Ciampa says. Really using that rebound, elastic recoil of the tissues, stretch reflex... ? Some of these terms are right and others probably are not... Perhaps someone with a better grasp on the terminology can help here. In any case, it seems to be crucial in the heavy kettlebell snatch. (IMO it can also be used to great effect in a heavy swing, but does not seem to be quite as essential... perhaps just shifts the emphasis slightly in the swing.)

View attachment 11454 View attachment 11453

Also interesting is that I'm slightly more bent over in the torso in the snatch hinge. Perhaps the overall effect is that the whole body folds up more and then has more vertical force production available to get the snatch to overhead.

(Also, a disclaimer: There could always be other confounders as well... The swing photo is from Dec 2015 when I had been doing almost all kettlebell training for strength, and the snatch photo is April 2019 when I was a lot stronger overall, and had been doing barbell strength training for 2 years prior.)
You state these points well and good use of analogy to clarify it. Your points are exactly what I was noticing too as I watched your original videos lists with the more vertical projection and deeper leg bend but shallower hinge.

An interesting discussion!

Dave
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
@Os Aponte, I would suggest that there is an "optimum" hinge for the squat test size kettlebell. But here in this thread, we are talking about a kettlebell one size, maybe two or more sizes heavier than snatch test size. I understand the idea that technique should not change with the weight (deadlift, squat, bench press, press, kettlebell press, bent press...) but I would suggest that the same is not necessarily true for kettlebell ballistics, squat and swing. The weight changes the position of the body for optimum movement. There is nothing dangerous about being more squatty than the typical hinge. If it works to move the weight, and it's still a hinge (hips above knees, shoulders above hips), then I think it's good. Still open for discussion, of course...
 

Eric Addis

Level 5 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
@Os Aponte, There is nothing dangerous about being more squatty than the typical hinge. If it works to move the weight, and it's still a hinge (hips above knees, shoulders above hips), then I think it's good. Still open for discussion, of course...
Is the more "squatty" hinge Dangerous? Maybe not.
Is it optimal? Definitely not.

In both of the "squatty" examples Os provided, his shoudlers were still above his hips, and hips above knees. But I would struggle to call them a good hinge. In fact, I've seen plenty of people perform a squat where the "shoulders above hips, hips above knees" was still applied. So I don't find that descriptor to be clear enough.

This leads to the question of how do we best define the hinge in ballistics. I have some answers in my head, but perhaps they're better suited to a different thread?
 
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Os Aponte

Level 4 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
@Os Aponte, I would suggest that there is an "optimum" hinge for the squat test size kettlebell. But here in this thread, we are talking about a kettlebell one size, maybe two or more sizes heavier than snatch test size. I understand the idea that technique should not change with the weight (deadlift, squat, bench press, press, kettlebell press, bent press...) but I would suggest that the same is not necessarily true for kettlebell ballistics, squat and swing. The weight changes the position of the body for optimum movement. There is nothing dangerous about being more squatty than the typical hinge. If it works to move the weight, and it's still a hinge (hips above knees, shoulders above hips), then I think it's good. Still open for discussion, of course...
HardStyle has been called the martial art of strength training. As a lifelong martial artist, I value tradition and honoring my teachers by preserving what they have shared with me. With that in mind, changing the technique seems like a very slippery slope. Candy cane presses, scooping double cleans, grinds that look like you are watching a video played at 2x the original take. Where do we stop?
As an instructor, I feel a great sense of responsibility to teach in accordance with the StrongFirst standard. So technical proficiency and faithfulness are paramount to me. As an individual practitioner, I have never been motivated by more for the sake of more. But rather more through meticulous practice and earning every step forward with rigorous discipline. At 44 years old this approach allows me to enjoy vibrant health and athletic longevity. Everyone I have met along my journey that compromised on technique to do more, be intensity or volume, is now singing the sad song of "I use to do that, but excuse, excuse, excuse" So as a professional and as a human being I just can't find a good reason to fix what is not broken.
Form over load. All-day every day, that is the Iron Core Way.
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
HardStyle has been called the martial art of strength training. As a lifelong martial artist, I value tradition and honoring my teachers by preserving what they have shared with me. With that in mind, changing the technique seems like a very slippery slope. Candy cane presses, scooping double cleans, grinds that look like you are watching a video played at 2x the original take. Where do we stop?
As an instructor, I feel a great sense of responsibility to teach in accordance with the StrongFirst standard. So technical proficiency and faithfulness are paramount to me. As an individual practitioner, I have never been motivated by more for the sake of more. But rather more through meticulous practice and earning every step forward with rigorous discipline. At 44 years old this approach allows me to enjoy vibrant health and athletic longevity. Everyone I have met along my journey that compromised on technique to do more, be intensity or volume, is now singing the sad song of "I use to do that, but excuse, excuse, excuse" So as a professional and as a human being I just can't find a good reason to fix what is not broken.
Form over load. All-day every day, that is the Iron Core Way.
I can respect the form purism. It is certainly the way to go if we don't analyze the effects and reasons to deviate, and is certainly the way to go when teaching students in their first year or two of training.

To your examples, my thoughts:

Why not candy cane presses? Because they represent weakness of spine stability under load, which is one of the things we are trying to train with presses. Better to back down to a weight where that doesn't occur and train there until we can advance the weight without that happening. Is it dangerous for this to occur at a heavy weight? I'll leave that to other experts to decide, but I would say "it depends." The movement itself is probably not dangerous, but any time a heavy lift displays a form that is significantly different than one has trained, then the tissues under load may not be prepared for it. So that's a good reason to avoid it even with a max effort.

Why not scooping double cleans? Because they represent a lack of power to get the weight to the rack with hardstyle technique using one powerful extension of hips and knees. Is it dangerous to do this? Probably not -- barbell cleans certainly have you bend the knees to get under the weight. However, it may represent a hybrid technique where the advantages and pitfalls haven't been thoroughly worked out by a certain methodology; therefore, better to enforce the handstyle technique that we know works, and effectively trains the desired adaptations.

Why not grinds that take much longer than normal? Because they represent a max effort. If form breakdown does not occur as part of that grind, I would say that's fine, and an important part of strength training; however, should represent a very small percentage of lifts. The purpose of a max effort grind is to increase limit strength and achieve performance goals. Nothing wrong with those in the right context, but should not represent daily training. (Examples: TSC or other competition deadlifts, Beast Tamer/Iron Maiden press and pull-up.).

But back to heavy snatches:

There standards defined in the SFG manual do not specify any particular back or knee angle for the hinge, either for swing or snatch. Therefore I don't believe the "more squatty" idea we are discussing is in conflict with any StrongFirst standard, and I believe it is still within the context of proper technique. Would you (or @Brett Jones) agree?
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Is the more "squatty" hinge Dangerous? Maybe not.
Is it optimal? Definitely not.

In both of the "squatty" examples Os provided, his shoudlers were still above his hips, and hips above knees. But I would struggle to call them a good hinge. In fact, I've seen plenty of people perform a squat where the "shoulders above hips, hips above knees" was still applied. So I don't find that descriptor to be clear enough.
I re-watched the example (4th video in the Instagram post) and the last 3 reps look squatty, I agree. It's a good example of the characteristic we're talking about for the heavy snatch.

"Is it optimal?" Always begs the question "for what"? So, maybe... maybe not. I would disagree with the idea that it represents any particular problem.

This leads to the question of how do we best define the hinge in ballistics. I have some answers in my head, but perhaps they're better suited to a different thread?
I think this thread is a great place for it! Would like to hear your thoughts.
 

Brett Jones

StrongFirst Director of Education
Master Certified Instructor
Beast Tamer
Re: "defining" the hinge:
The hinge has shoulders above hips, hips above knees then it is a good hinge and the main motion of the hips is "back".
Squat(ty)
If the hips drop to be level with or below the knees then it is a squatting motion this also means the main motion of the hips is "down".

Re: form "purity"
StrongFirst has high standards and expectations.
But the student cannot get lost in those.
Individual structure etc...has to be accounted for.
Physics gets involved at a certain point and form can shift slightly with heavier weights—as mentioned previously we see a natural slight "shift" of form with "heavy enough" double KBs to avoid getting pulled backwards by the weights during the hinge.

There standards defined in the SFG manual do not specify any particular back or knee angle for the hinge, either for swing or snatch. Therefore I don't believe the "more squatty" idea we are discussing is in conflict with any StrongFirst standard, and I believe it is still within the context of proper technique. Would you (or @Brett Jones) agree?

Anna—we certainly teach and define the hinge off of the KB DL and that is the expectation for the ballistics.
I will go back and rewatch the original videos to see if any appear to "cross the line" to being too squatty.

Edit/Add
I went back and watched through the videos and there are two examples of a more squatty style are individuals where their structure lends to that style and they have great efficient arcs without dropping into the clearly squatty style the Os demonstrates. The squatty style Os shows is too much squat and we would guide that person towards a better hinge.

Brett
 
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Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
1. The biggest reason for the squatty style @Os Aponte shows, IMO, is fear - fear of the weight pulling you over backwards or fear of losing your grip on the handle or fear of loading your posterior chain. The end of the descent of a kettlebell snatch then becomes an act of deceleration, followed by something similar to a hang snatch to put the weight overhead again. And, heck, if you're snatching something too heavy for your current level of strength, that fear is justified.

My teaching cue, when I see this, is "load the hips." It's been my very rewarding pleasure, over the years, to have been able to give this cue to a few students who were getting ready for their SFG and nervous about their snatch test, and since they were already pretty strong and dialed in, I could see them relax as they came to think of the bottom of the snatch as an act of storing then releasing energy.

2.
changing the technique seems like a very slippery slope
Yes, but I think our hard style kettlebell swings and snatches are, in some ways, unique in this regard, @Os Aponte. The optimal loading of the posterior chain, without falling over, is going to be at a slightly lower, hips more back, knees more forward, position with a heavier weight. Maybe "without falling over" is the most important part.

FWIW, I get to experience my different hinge several times a week because my usual swing session involves using different weights, e.g., lately I do 10 reps x 2 sets x 2-handed with something heavier, then 10 reps x 2 sets x 1-handed with something lighter. My knees are definitely coming forward more when my 68 kg are 2-hand swinging a 44 kg bell. I think about loading my hips, and I usually just let the rest take care of itself.

I can think of some other examples, e.g., a heavy one-arm military press, in order to maintain balance, often finds the lifter needing to move a little underneath the weight, particularly as it passes the sticking point, and as long as it's a little, and for that reason - and OK with @Brett Jones - then, IMO, it's OK.

3. @Anna C, 32 kg snatches - I'm glad you're on our side. :)

-S-
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Interesting, I was thinking that since hardstyle kettlebell is not competitive, and even competitive kettlebell (GS) is strength endurance not max strength, we often don't get to explore the issues of form changes when limits are pushed and weight is relatively heavy.

In contrast, in barbell sports, both weightlifting and powerlifting, it's a common conversation!

So I think it speaks to the nature of kettlebell training that form is emphasized as @Os Aponte describes. It's a practice, and a training method that drives certain adaptations, but not a sport for performance. I certainly agree with the mindset in that context.

It's just interesting to push the limits a bit, and explore what changes... what should.. what can... what should not.

Great discussion and many good points raised!

3. @Anna C, 32 kg snatches - I'm glad you're on our side. :)
Yeah it's definitely not my usual training weight, but 24kg and 28kg were regular snatch weights at the time and I was feeling good that day. Since I'm >50 and my snatch test bell is 12kg, that puts it at 2.6x snatch test weight. :)
 

AndyMcL

Level 5 Valued Member
Good instagram post here advocating for a slightly "squattier" snatch.

I think there's room for some individual variation, and, as weight gets heavier, people are naturally going to gravitate towards what works best for them. There isn't one exact "right" way to do it. In all strength sports you see slight deviations in style and technique. Note: that doesn't mean that "whatever you want to do" is a valid technique.

Bret's comment about no one arguing for a squat style snatch is appropriate; none of the"squattier" examples have someone bending the knees before the hips like in GS. Hips are still initiating the movement and staying well above the knees. In the hinge/squat continuum a two-handed swing is going to be far to the hinge side. A push press would be all the way to the squat side (knee flexion with minimal hip flexion). A snatch is going to be on the hinge side, but in my mind, closer to the middle. If a swing was a broad jump a snatch is going to be a little more like a vertical jump. Yes, you can generate the force mostly horizontally with a more "pure" hinge and use the upper body/core to tame the arc and redirect the force, but as weight gets heavier it is likely more efficient for most people to use a slightly deeper knee bend to get some power from the quads you can direct more vertically. For me it actually feels somewhat like a Hex-Bar Deadlift.

Steve's point about weight is also key. As bells get heavier you need to lean a little more forward and/or move the knees a little more forward to compensate so that the center of gravity in the system doesn't change that much. For me snatches with the 28kg (~35% of BW) is where I start to get a little more knee bend. I imagine that in general larger humans will be able to maintain the more pure style for longer than smaller humans.
 

DuncanGB

Level 6 Valued Member
I can respect the form purism. It is certainly the way to go if we don't analyze the effects and reasons to deviate, and is certainly the way to go when teaching students in their first year or two of training.
I'm with @Os Aponte here - I know and feel from my own snatching experience already (just 6 months or so) that he's communicating something deeper than mere "form purism"
 
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Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
I'm with @Os Aponte here - I know and feel from my own snatching experience already (just 6 months or so) that he's communicating something deeper than mere "form purism"
Do you mean deeper as in something of the body -- muscle development, safety in movement, effective training, ability to move more weight? Or of the mind -- satisfaction of maintaining a standard, finding a way to continue doing it properly as things change?
 

DuncanGB

Level 6 Valued Member
Do you mean deeper as in something of the body -- muscle development, safety in movement, effective training, ability to move more weight? Or of the mind -- satisfaction of maintaining a standard, finding a way to continue doing it properly as things change?
Both / neither. More a simple enjoyment of the feeling of the movement in and of itself - its gefühl.
 
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Steve W.

Level 6 Valued Member
I'm seeing a few overlapping, but different questions being discussed here.

"What is (or should be) the normative range of technical variation among hardstyle ballistic hinge exercises?"

"What is (or should be) the normative range of technical variation in a "good" hardstyle snatch?"

"What (if any) are appropriate and necessary technical variations depending on the absolute or relative load?"

"By what criteria should these normative ranges be established?"

Based on my experience and observation, form will not and can not be exactly the same regardless of load. What is an appropriate and necessary technical ACCOMMODATION for the load and what is an inappropriate technical DISTORTION due to the load can be a fine line, and sometimes an aesthetic judgment.

My rough ""know it when I see (or feel) it" rule (which is still open to some interpretation): "Are you snatching the bell, or is the bell snatching you?"
 
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