Miyagi Pinball: Tilt Your Kettlebell Snatch!

by Steve "Coach Fury" Holiner on September 16, 2015

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Steve "Coach Fury" Holiner Kettlebell Snatch

“You’re the best around. And nothing’s gonna ever keep you down”. That’s what they’ll be singing after you apply the following tips to your snatch technique. The following tips will improve your kettlebell snatch and help you destroy your snatch test if your RKC Workshop is coming up.

The kettlebell snatch is actually a fairly simple move, but people love to overcomplicate it. Over the years, I’ve broken down the technique into two simple words that pack a punch—or a crane kick—MIYAGI PINBALL! (Remember The Karate Kid?)

Two super common errors you’ll see with the Hardstyle kettlebell snatch are:

  1. Rotating or corkscrewing the kettlebell around the wrist as the kettlebell travels up and down.
  2. The arm staying straight during the entire snatch.

This is where “Miyagi” comes in. You have to paint the fence! Imagine you are Daniel-san standing in front of a fence. Your hand is an imaginary paintbrush. You’ll begin to paint upwards with the back of your fingers, then as you near the top of the fence, you’ll spike your fingers upward. The palm of your hand faces outward in this position. Now reverse the same motion on the way down. This will eliminate the first common error (corkscrew rotation) I previously mentioned. Painting the fence will also dramatically decrease the wear and tear on your hands when performing high rep kettlebell snatches.

Steve Holiner Kettlebell painting the fence

Steve “Coach Fury” Holiner in motion while demonstrating the kettlebell snatch “painting the fence” cue.

Do the following to fix the “straight arm” issue: Stand facing a wall, feet together, and with your right arm fully extended. Make a fist then move close enough to the wall that your arm is still straight and your knuckles are making contact with the wall. Now take a half step forward and allow your arm to bend. Paint the fence from this position. We’ve just shortened the arc of your kettlebell snatch, and that’s a very good thing.

Please note, that it is possible to try and shorten the arc too much. This will cause the kettlebell to travel almost straight down the body, forcing the elbow and shoulder to snap almost like a whip. We want to shorten the arc, not eliminate it, and you’ll still need some space to allow for a smooth transition into the backswing.

So, grab your kettlebell and go “Miyagi” on it! Hike the kettlebell back, snap your hips, let the elbow bend, and “paint the fence” until the kettlebell is locked out overhead. Reverse and repeat. If that feels different then you’ve earned that Karate Kid black belt from JC Penney.

Now, here’s where “pinball” comes into play. Having completed, witnessed, and administered over one hundred snatch tests, I’ve noticed another common (and fatal) flaw. Many people will allow their hinge to get shallow as they snatch—and they lose the ability to generate a TON of power when this happens.

Steve Holiner Pinball Backswing

Your hips are a pinball hammer. The kettlebell is the pinball. Pull your hips deep into the hinge (always while keeping the shoulders above the hips, and hips above the knees). As you “paint the fence” into the downward eccentric phase of the snatch, “pull the hammer back” by deeply hinging, then squeeze your glutes hard and fast, drive your feet into the floor, stand tall and “paint that fence”! The kettlebell will soar overhead.

Here’s a combination to help practice the “Miyagi Pinball”:

  • Heavy dead swing x 5
  • Snatch x 5 per arm *Remember to “Paint the Fence”.
  • Heavy dead swing x 3
  • Snatch x 8 per arm
  • Heavy dead swing x 1
  • Snatch x 10 per arm

Here’s why it works:

The kettlebell snatch is about efficiency. Shortening your arc means that you will have to project the kettlebell over a lesser distance to get it overhead. Shortening the arc also allows you to cut the kettlebell’s momentum as it approaches the lockout. This drastically reduces the risk of wear and tear on your shoulders. Using your hips to project the kettlebell will also keep your shoulders and back healthy, while cutting back on undue fatigue during high rep snatches.

Do you think any above would help you crush an RKC Snatch Test?

I do.

A fellow coach at MFF, Laura Smith had this to say about “Miyagi Pinball”:

“After Steve told me to “paint the fence” (karate kid style of course) I never had hand issues again. After months of my hands tearing every time I did a snatch test, this was life changing.”

There it is gang.

Try it and let me know what you think.


Steve “Coach Fury” Holiner’s superhero headquarters is Mark Fisher Fitness in NYC. Fury’s a Senior RKC, a DVRT Master Chief, and an Original Strength Instructor. He is available for classes, semi-privates, instructor training and programming at MFF. Check out coachfury.comfacebook.com/coachfury Instagram @iamcoachfury and Twitter @coachfury for more info.

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  • Paul Britt

    Great article. I will be using “Paint the Fence” in cklass this weekend to fix some issues.

    • Thanks Paul. Let me know how it goes.

  • Great Article – Fury-son!

  • Great drills/tips, Steve. These are game changers!!!

    • Thanks Adrienne. I’ve used this in a lot of workshops, certs and sessions. It truly seems to help folks.

      • We saw some great results right away, I’m not surprised to hear this approach has such a great success rate!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Heck Kepros

    Solid article. One question: heavy dead swings with one arm or two?

    • I’m referring to two handed here, but advanced folks could use one. The trick is to be sure we’re maintaining that deep hinge in the back swing.

  • einheit

    Great tips!

  • Love the cues to help people remember hip and arm position. Great article Steve!

  • Dude might I say, EXCELLENT cues!!! I <3 the metaphor with the pinball and the painting the fence against the wall drill!

  • Coach, this is awesome. And, I have to share that my boss and I love this because we use the Karate Kid song and Karate Kid references at work all the time…

    …just to get “crickets” from the younger designers who don’t know the EPIC movie!


    Thanks for the “Ear Worm”!!

    • Awesome Karen. We play the theme song too!

  • Jami Bryant

    I love the “pinball hammer” analogy! I always refer to the hips as a rubber band being pulled back. Giving the example of a pinball hammer gives creativity to the analogy and will resonate better with certain clients. Thank you, Coach Fury!

  • stephan Schlampp

    ^sorry – what do you mean by heavy dead swings ??

    • A Dead Swing is a single rep swing. The bell starts from the floor each rep. Hope that helps!

  • Chris Garcia

    Outstanding Coach, I will get my students to paint my fence next weekend. I am currently using “Pull the Weed.” I have them two handed pull deep rooted weeds to get the feeling of loading the wedge in the DL.
    Thank you
    Chris Garcia

  • Coach Al

    Steve, thank you for your tips and the video. I’m finding that my fore-arm is taking more of a beating with this approach (miyagi). Could you point me in the direction of what I may be doing wrong? Thanks again!

    • Hey Al, Is it slamming at the top? Make sure you’re not over-gripping the end or using too much tension in the arm to shorten the arc. The bell should still be floating so the it won;t take much to shorten your arc. Then work on spiking your hand through the handle toward the top to cut the momentum. It should land lightly. Hope that helps. Keep me posted.

      • Coach Al

        Thanks Steve. I’ll give those tips a try. Will let you know how it goes. Thanks again.

  • Pingback: Regress to Progress—Why Patterning is the Key to Fixing Your Swing | RKC School of Strength()

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