Hardstyle 101: The Snatch

Hardstyle 101: The Snatch

We are excited to have Zack Henderson break down some more kettlebell movements for us. Zack has previously shown us how applying kettlebell movements can help improve your power lifting numbers. We love working with Zack because of his knowledge and understanding of not only kettlebells movements but how they can be applied to different aspects of working out as well as being able to thoroughly explain them. In this post, Zack breaks down the hardstyle snatch and our quick follow up he will break down The Press next.

By Zack Henderson:

I support the swinging, cleaning, jerking, snatching and lifting of the mighty kettlebell in all its forms. The human body is capable of expressing strength and movement in infinite ways. Any resistance we use, kettlebell or otherwise, is just a way to explore and develop those capabilities.

There is no “wrong” way to exercise. If it hurts or otherwise damages your health, that’s abuse, not exercise. Unfortunately, we live in a world where many people construct artificial divides and argue nuance just to promote their own cause. Judgement from a high horse is little more than a sign of insecurity or ignorance.

Before we dive in, understand that I am in not writing as a representative of any training organization. Rather, I’m sharing my own perspective on a style that I’ve found valuable in my own fitness pursuits and my approach to training others.

I will spare you the history lesson and get right down to the meat and potatoes of what hardstyle means in the context of kettlebell training.

The ballistics are treated with high acceleration and the grinds are treated with tension. At all other times, your priority to to stay as loose and fresh as possible.

The rest is simply how these ideas can be scaled to different goals and skill levels.

Let us take a look at how hardstyle principles are applied in action.

Read and watch the full breakdown below!

The Snatch

The snatch is an exercise in expressing power, tension, and just the right amount of relaxation almost simultaneously.

For starters, the hips power the weight. While the shoulders and lats certainly help guide the bell, the aggressive hip extension allows the bell to get overhead. The backswing “loads” the kettlebell like a stone in a slingshot. The hips are hinged in order to allow the posterior chain to maximally contract and apply force to the bell.

Now, once we achieve full hip extension, the qualities of tension and dynamic relaxation must balance in order to smoothly direct the trajectory of the bell overhead and land without an impact to the forearms. On the relaxation front, the arms must stay loose and bend easily to keep the bell from overarching outwards - creating wasted movement and an inefficient trajectory that risk the shoulders and back. Tension, and just the right kind, comes next to stabilize the lockout. A step beyond “just stay tight” is the concept of the “active static” contraction wherein the goal is to create a feeling of stability via a paradoxical focus. In the case of a snatch lockout, the technique includes pushing energy up from the elbow into the bell and pulling down from the elbow into the shoulder socket.

Common Misconception

A push back against hardstyle comes from the assumption that one needs to be tight 24/7 and power-breathe just to turn a doorknob.

While there are some athletes that overuse tension, they are still missing half the equation.

Remember, the goal is to return to baseline as quickly as possible. In the micro, this means staying loose and relaxed between sets. In the macro, this means staying fresh between sessions and prioritizing recovery and relaxation in life.

Relaxation is its own skill that requires consistent practice. To that end, here is a relaxation meditation sequence that you can use to develop internal awareness and remove tension:

Focus your attention on your toes. Mentally “feel” them.

Take a deep breath and think “I am relaxing my toes.”

Take another deep breath and think “My toes are relaxing.”

Repeat with every joint/muscle in your body all the way up to the crown of your head

While this may seem tedious, you are building stronger parasympathetic control that you can then utilize in your training to quickly relax certain areas.

Would you have guessed a discourse on hardstyle would include meditation? Most people stop the hardstyle conversation at high tension and acceleration, but the real magic is in the ability to go from one extreme to the other and to know how to work in between.


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Zack Henderson, SFG II, SFL, SFB, enjoys coaching people of all skill levels to become stronger than ever. His students include powerlifters, kettlebell enthusiasts, and the everyday athlete who wants to look and feel better.

Zack trains locally in Nashville, TN and offers online training at his website. To learn more, check out The Kettlebell Core Challenge, a free 21-day challenge to obliterate weakness, lose fat, and forge an iron core with the power of the kettlebell!

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