These videos show proper technique for the dumbbell and kettlebell snatches.
On the kettlebell snatch (top) , notice how gravity is used to pull the weight overhead, and the strength required in the wrist to rotate the bell at the top of the movement.
On the dumbbell snatch (bottom), notice how close the weights stay to the body during the entire movement.
by Garrett Sylvester, Fitness Coach & Program Coordinator, Axistence Athletics
Snatching is one of those movements that puts a tremendous demand on the body. Not only does it consume a ton of energy, it takes a lot of coordination, strength and mobility to perform well - especially the barbell snatch. Today we are going to compare about the single arm kettlebell and dumbbell snatches. We program both movements in our WODs because they each have different benefits and risks.
Because the swing is the foundation for the kettlebell snatch, the movement is more ballistic in nature (meaning, its based on the gravitational movement – swing – of a projectile – the kettlebell). The swing allows for a bigger hinge, which engages the posterior chain of muscles and builds a stronger back. The ballistic nature of the kettlebell snatch engages the eccentric portion of the posterior chain in a stretched position.
With the more ballistic nature of the movement as well as the tool, the kettlebell snatch has a different path of travel versus the dumbbell snatch. The rotation required at the end of the movement requires more technical skill and timing to complete safely and efficiently. Because the kettlebell snatch requires more skill, there are more opportunities to injure the wrist, elbow, and shoulders as well as tear calluses. Overall, the kettlebell snatch requires more technique and control.
The dumbbell snatch is much simpler to learn. It is has a more vertical path and keeps the weights closer to the body from start to finish. This allows for easier control of the dumbbell.
Simpler movement means a beginner can learn it relatively quickly. A lot less can go wrong, so risk for injury is lower. The position of the body is much more similar to a barbell snatch than with the kettlebell snatch. It engages the posterior chain differently because the hinge on the dumbbell snatch is much smaller. The posterior chain is less engaged; much of the work involves the muscles on the front to the legs.
Now to the question -Which one gets better results, the kettlebell snatch or the dumbbell snatch? The answer is neither; they’re just different. It’s kind of like comparing a back squat to a front squat. It all depends on what you want to get out of the movements. They each have their own benefits versus risks, as well as slightly different engagement of the body, so the “better” movement is the one that helps you work the muscles you want to work and gain the skill you’re after.
On that note, the dumbbell snatch is much more beginner-friendly due to the dumbbell being much easier to handle versus the kettlebell. The kettlebell snatch can be performed safely once you learn the kettlebell swing, especially the single arm swing. Because they both offer a very similar but different stimulus, they should both be incorporated into your training to maximize your gains.