The SAT, or Snatch Assessment Tool, is a tool that I created to help trainers and kettlebell practitioners alike to visually assess and correct their Kettlebell Snatch technique. Working with athletes on a daily basis makes it a requirement to have simple and effective tools in your “trainer’s toolbox” to quickly fix or remediate movement skills. Always on the lookout for new tools that I can use, I was thrilled when I learned about Dan John’s Hinge Assessment Tool and how simple and effective it was. Dan’s HAT or Hinge Assessment Tool inspired me to look at the Kettlebell Snatch in a very different light; interpreting the markers for a great Snatch technique as opposed to a poor Snatch technique. So once again I find myself thanking Dan John… Thanks!
The Snatch Assessment Tool (SAT)
The SAT is comprised of four tests that will allow the user to visually assess the subjects Kettlebell Snatch technique and hopefully lead them to several corrections or technique modifications. All that is required for the SAT is a stick or PVC pipe about six feet long, a bit of open space, and a Kettlebell. Once you have all those things in place you’re ready to go.
The four tests are: Taming the Arc, Trajectory, Transition, and Top Lockout. Looking at each one of these separately and in combination will improve your Snatch technique, make them more consistent and safer, and allow you to move more weight faster and more efficiently.
Taming the Arc
Taming the Arc means that you are using just enough forward swing to mobilize the Kettlebell and get it into the overhead position as safely and as efficiently as possible. What this means is that the forward arc that most people associate with the Kettlebell Swing needs to be dialed back and that energy needs to be translated into upward movement.
To check if the arc of the Kettlebell has been properly tamed you will need to have the subject stand with their arm bent at ninety degrees and the elbow tucked against their body. The fingertips should be extended and the stick should be placed at the end of the fingertips. This will be the testing distance for the Snatch and the subject should not realign their feet once they have found the correct distance. The trainer should stand in front of the subject, holding the stick in place, so that they can observe the arc of the Kettlebell. Have the subject do several Kettlebell Snatch on both the right and left side to see if they can effectively mobilize the Kettlebell within this testing zone.
Trajectory means the path that the Kettlebell takes from the backswing all the way to the overhead position and on the way back down. The trajectory of the kettlebell is important in that it tells a lot about the subject’s backswing, shoulder alignment, pull/punch transition, and hand position on the Kettlebell. Optimally the trajectory of the Kettlebell should be a straight line when viewed from the front. Deviations from this optimal trajectory indicate that there are compensations occurring during the movement that will need to be addressed.
To check if the trajectory of the Kettlebell both safe and efficient have the subject stand with their arm bent at ninety degrees and the elbow tucked against their body. The fingertips should be extended and the stick should be placed at the end of the fingertips. This will be the testing distance for the Snatch and the subject should not realign their feet once they have found the correct distance. In this instance the trainer should pay particular attention as to where the place the stick in relation to the subject. While maintaining the testing distance the stick should be placed so that it bisects the subject’s body; clearly defining their centerline. The trainer should stand in front of the subject, holding the stick in place, so that they can observe the trajectory of the Kettlebell. Have the subject do several Kettlebell Snatch on both the right and left side to see if they can effectively mobilize the Kettlebell within this testing zone. Observe the path that the Kettlebell takes and confirm that it is moving parallel with the stick from the backswing to the overhead lockout position. The easiest way to confirm this is to focus on the thumb of the hand holding the Kettlebell. Do not focus on the Kettlebell itself; watch the hand that is mobilizing the Kettlebell instead. This will give you a truer evaluation of the trajectory than focusing on the Kettlebell itself.
Transition means the timing between pulling through the backswing and the ballistic punch of the Kettlebell into the overhead lockout in addition well as managing the “float”. This is an oftentimes underappreciated aspect of the Kettlebell Snatch but by studying this part of the technique you can gain insight into how well the person is transferring energy to and from the Kettlebell.
To check and see if the transition of the Kettlebell is both safe and efficient once again have the subject stand in testing position described above. Make sure that you can easily see the subject from hips to shoulders and that once again the centerline is bisected by the stick. Have the subject do several Kettlebell Snatch on both the right and left side and note where the transition from “pulling” to “punching” occurs. In the instance where the energy derived from the backswing and the hip snap are effectively being transferred to the Kettlebell you will notice that the transition occurs above the waist and approaching the shoulders. This transitional zone should be consistent from the right side to the left side in the absence of any other factors. If the transition is observed as being well above the shoulders and almost at the lockout position then the Snatch technique should be evaluated again for leaks in the hip snap or a shortened backswing among other factors.
Top Lockout means the position of the Kettlebell overhead once it has stopped moving. This is a loaded overhead position and it’s alignment with the shoulder, midline and hand tells a lot about the rest of the technique. Having a good top lockout means that the load from the Kettlebell is being transmitted through the whole body in a safe, efficient and strong manner and that the shoulders, neck and back are not unduly taxed in the process.
In this instance the trainer should stand beside the subject and line the stick up with the subject’s ear. There is no need to “crowd” the subject during this part of the assessment and it is important that the trainer has enough room to make a good visual assessment of the termination of the Snatch. Have the subject do several Kettlebell Snatch on both the right and left side, pausing in the overhead position until the trainer releases them for the next repetition. The trainer should observe the location of both the subject’s hand and the kettlebell at the termination of the Snatch. The optimal position of the subject’s hand should be inline or slightly behind their ear and the stick should make any deviations from this position quite obvious. If the subject is observed stopping the Kettlebell prior to a full overhead lockout position (i.e. the hand in front of the subject’s ear) then the Snatch technique will need to be reevaluated from the bottom to top to see where the truncation of the movement originates.
The Kettlebell Snatch is a visually simple but technically challenging technique with a host of subtleties involved. Mastering it will take the average athlete thousands and thousands of repetitions to be competent at it while true mastery of the movement will take tens of thousands of repetitions. While this might be daunting to some I hope it is a challenge to others in that is will inspire you to study the technique and find out how to make it more efficient, safe and powerful.
I hope this blog posting will benefit you and I look forward to your feedback and comments.
Michael A. Krivka, Sr., RKC Team Leader is a Washington, DC native who has been involved in Kettlebell training for over a decade and is currently an RKC Team Leader and member of the RKC Board of Advisors under Dragon Door (where he has been listed as one of the top reviewed RKC’s in the world for the last five years… read more here.