Kettlebell Snatch & Hand Care

Discussion in 'Kettlebell' started by Team Peroni, Jun 12, 2019.

  1. Team Peroni

    Team Peroni Double-Digit Post Count

    Hi guys.

    I've been using kettlebells for about 18 months and have progressed to simple standards on S&S. I other types of KB training including windmills, cleans and clean and jerks.

    I really enjoy the KB snatch and have tried several times in recent months to start a serious program. However every time I end up ripping my hands up. I don't have any issues with any of the other techniques, just seems to be the snatch that destroys my hands.

    Any pointers on how to avoid this would be appreciated. Thank you.
  2. Arryn Grogan

    Arryn Grogan Triple-Digit Post Count Certified Instructor

    Take some time to build up volume over a couple months to get your hands acclimated. Since you've completed Simple, I'd suggest practicing your snatches with 20kg for sets of ~10 and with the 24kg for sets of ~5, but only once per week and a total daily rep count of 40-80. Or, same weights and reps/set, but just add a few practice sets to your daily warm-up routine.

    However, over-gripping and grip placement is a big factor too... Are you ripping your calluses off or ripping the skin below it off?
  3. piratebum

    piratebum Triple-Digit Post Count

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  4. Jeff Glueck

    Jeff Glueck First Timer

    My coach recommended that I position my calluses directly over the top of the bell handle, then complete the grip. It feels weird at first and really tests finger strength, but it has helped me keep my hands healthy. It is amazing to me how the kettlebell exposes any weakness. Cheers.
  5. ShawnM

    ShawnM Quadruple-Digit Post Count

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  6. JoshuaH86

    JoshuaH86 Double-Digit Post Count

    Hook the kettlebell with your hand, don't squeeze it. You want just enough space in your grip to allow the kettlebell handle to rotate while taking as little skin with it as possible. As already mentioned, make sure you build up the volume progressively. Good luck!
  7. Steve W.

    Steve W. Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    @Team Peroni
    IMO, there are four factors (in addition to keeping calluses from building up too thick) that can greatly reduce your chances of developing a hand tear: hand strength, technique, conditioning and discretion.

    Hand tears come from overgripping the bell and holding the handle too far into the ball/palm of the hand rather than the fingers, especially when the handle is rotating in the grip. Friction enhancers such as chalk exacerbate the risk of hand tears.

    Hand Strength:
    The stronger you are, the more you can securely hook the handle in the fingers and maintain that kind of grip when fatigued. Also, the stronger you are, the less you need chalk. Not using chalk gives you a lot bigger margin for error. The increased friction with chalk gives a more secure grip, but will more harshly punish overgripping and tends to dry out and irritate the skin. You will probably find that not using chalk will slow your progress to bigger bells, since your hip power will progress faster than your ability to hold onto the bell. Personally, I really hate to use chalk and avoid it as much as possible, but do find it useful when transitioning to a larger bell, when conditions are more hot and humid, or I am doing a longer session that gets me sweating a lot, so I do end up using a light dusting of chalk most of the time.

    IMO, hand strength for snatching is very specific to snatching, so supplemental grip training does not have a lot of transfer. I don't even find that heavy swings have as much carryover to snatching as just snatching, even if you are snatching a lighter bell.

    The better your technique, the more consistently you can keep the handle hooked in the fingers, and avoid gripping tightly when the handle is rotating. You also get a feel for when you need to grip more tightly and when you can relax. This not only reduces stress on the skin, but also minimizes fatigue so you can maintain good technique longer.

    It can't be overstated how important technique is in avoiding hand tears. There are a million subtle ways to reduce and smooth out the force and friction on the hands, most of which would not be obviously visible to an observer. A lot of this is a feel you develop with a lot of experience and trial and error, more than something that can be easily communicated.

    I've been snatching kettlebells since 2001 and I did tear up my hands earlier on. The best teacher is to do a lot of reps, experiment with subtle tweaks, pay attention to the occasional "happy accidents" where you stumble into unusually good reps, try to replicate them and refine over time.

    (Skin) Conditioning:
    Skin becomes conditioned through frequent and consistent practice so that the skin is tougher and less prone to tearing. It isn't just developing calluses, which can cause problems if they get too thick, but a general overall toughness, even where the skin is not obviously thick or rough. This can take months and years of consistent practice.

    Discretion is the better part of valor when it comes to your hands. Cutting a set or session short if you feel a hot spot developing is much better than pushing through and getting a blister or tear that will affect your training until it heals. If your hands start feeling a little hot on a given day, that's a sign to stop for the day. Time to stop for the day does not mean "after I finish the last 5 sets I had planned to do."

    With experience, you do get a feel for hotness that isn't critical and hotness that is, but still err on the side of caution. One of my favorite Dan John sayings is, "Train today like you are planning to set a personal record tomorrow. Then train the same way tomorrow." There's always another day, so the fact that your hands might be a limiting factor is not a problem; if it's a fact, then just accept it as such and work within it.

    If you have to cut sessions short because of your hands on a regular basis, you are pushing the weight and/or volume too much for your current level of strength and technique.

    Hope this helps.
    Molson, rickyw, Bret S. and 6 others like this.
  8. Anna C

    Anna C More than 5000 posts Certified Instructor

    Brilliant summation here. The whole thing, but especially this part about chalk! I agree, USE IT when it helps, so your grip doesn't hold back your training progress -- but avoid overuse, particularly with snatches.
  9. Oscar

    Oscar Quadruple-Digit Post Count

    I started snatching about a year ago and fortunately haven't hurt my hands. One trick I have used a few times is to put chalk only on my fingers, not the palm. That way I let the handle pass over the calluses and catch it with the fingers without hurting the palms and more securely. It has worked well.
  10. Bret S.

    Bret S. Quadruple-Digit Post Count Certified Instructor

    Great advice from everyone, I'll add one more thing that helped me. I sanded my cast iron snatching bell handles down to bare metal and haven't used chalk for months. You can use different grit grades for grip preference, 80 grit plumbers tape works nicely as you can 'shoeshine' sand with it. As the tape wears down it becomes perfect for me, I also used paint stripper to cut down the work time.

    Another thing I use is coconut oil probably twice daily on average, doing this I don't have to sand callouses down very often.

    I snatch 3-4 times week without skin issues other than using a heavier bell for lots of reps, that will heat up the hands pretty quick, luckily I haven't had to cut a session short because of skin issues.. yet..
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  11. iron&flint

    iron&flint Double-Digit Post Count

    Do you not find this results in slippery hands? I’m really paranoid about even the most remote contact with anything oily for hours before I snatch.
  12. Bret S.

    Bret S. Quadruple-Digit Post Count Certified Instructor

    No problem with that, I snatch in the morning and coconut oil is fairly dry compared to other oils. After shower I'll use the oil and then again before sleep. When I get up it's not a factor.

    I did have a problem with oil last week, then figured out I oiled the heck out of the leather saddlebags on my motorcycle, when I used the tie straps I was getting it on my fingers.
    Not good.. as you said.. :)
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  13. Team Peroni

    Team Peroni Double-Digit Post Count

    Thanks for your reply, ripping the calluses off mainly. Think I must be over gripping. Will try to float kb from open hand at top to hook grip at the bottom. Been practicing today and felt a bit better.
    Arryn Grogan likes this.
  14. Team Peroni

    Team Peroni Double-Digit Post Count

  15. Team Peroni

    Team Peroni Double-Digit Post Count

    Really like this. I don't tend
    Oscar likes this.
  16. Team Peroni

    Team Peroni Double-Digit Post Count

    Guys, thank you to everyone who took time to reply. All your replies have been very helpful and I feel each one will help me progress in the KB discipline. Thanks.
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