Move of the Week: Single-arm Dumbbell Snatch

You need to be strong to be powerful, but I don’t think we’ve featured a move in this series that directly contributes to power development…until now. Read more here to learn about the single-arm dumbbell snatch!

THE MOVE: Single-arm Dumbbell Snatch

MOVEMENT PATTERN AND MUSCLES WORKED: Hinge pattern: posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes), and shoulder.

WHY DO IT: We’ve blogged a lot about Olympic weightlifting here, and with the Games still on our minds, I think it’s fair to say that this edition of Move of the Week is inspired by the lifts. In a perfect world, everyone would have the requisite mobility and stability to perform the clean & jerk and the snatch safely and effectively. Unfortunately, as I’ve spoken about here (Is Olympic Weightlifting right for you?), that is simply not the case!

Without the ability to train the lifts, one of the biggest things that people might miss out on in their training is power development. Doing some combination of our prior Moves of the Week in a training program will certainly get you strong, but how quickly can you apply that strength? This is where something like the single-arm dumbbell snatch comes in. It develops power, but it is also accessible to the majority of people who don’t have the mobility to perform the Olympic lifts in their purest form.

In terms of power development, today’s Move will teach you how to transfer power from your legs through your entire body to fling a dumbbell over your head. As you can see above, there’s also an overhead stability component here for the working arm to lock out and finish the lift. Finally, this is an easy exercise to pick up; you’ll either do it right, or you’ll do it wrong, and you’ll be able to feel this almost immediately. More about that below.

HOW TO DO IT: To expand on my last point, in this movement you should be able to feel the correct technique here because you don’t want to press the dumbbell at all, nor do you want to project the dumbbell in front of you. You want to think about guiding the dumbbell with your arm and catching the dumbbell overhead softly. Start with the dumbbell in front of you and between your feet. Sit your hips back and down in a hinge as if you’re preparing for a vertical jump. Now, jump forcefully and pull the dumbbell straight up overhead, letting your elbow bend naturally to keep the weight close to your body. Catch the dumbbell with your knees slightly bent, and stand up straight to finish the movement. Bring the weight down slowly and repeat.

As you can see in the video, the arm goes through a whip-like action and the entire movement is smooth and controlled. The weight isn’t being pressed up, nor does it get too far away the body. Done correctly, the DB snatch should look almost effortless.

For the DB snatch, I’d recommend 4 sets of 5-8 reps, at the beginning of your workout. The less fatigued you are, the better your technique will be and the more power you’ll be able to display. Since the snatch is a power movement, you should still be fresh enough to get after it in your normal strength training workout afterwards.

If you’re looking for a good, accessible way to develop power, be sure to try out the dumbbell snatch, and let us know what you think on Twitter or Instagram @halevylife !

by Jeremy Lau

Jeremy Lau

Jeremy Lau Halevy Life Staff CoachJeremy Lau is a Senior Staff Coach at Halevy Life.

Jeremy graduated cum laude from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a BSc. in Biomedical Engineering and is currently pursuing his M.Ed. in Exercise Physiology at Columbia University. In addition to his academic accolades, Jeremy is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).

Prior to joining the team at Halevy Life, Jeremy completed a coaching internship at Cressey Sports Performance, where he coached both amateur and professional athletes, among whom were many professional MLB baseball players.

As an athlete, Jeremy has played baseball competitively for most of his life.’