The dumbbell snatch is a total body exercise that can be beneficial for increasing total body power, strength, and metabolic endurance. Many strength and fitness athletes will find that training the dumbbell snatch (either for heavier power/strength training or for more cardiovascular/muscle endurance training) can be beneficial for overall performance.

How to Do a Dumbbell Snatch

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to properly set up and perform the dumbbell snatch, more specifically the single arm variation. Note, that this exercise can also be done with two dumbbells and/or done so that the lifter receives the dumbbell in the squatted or “power” position.

Step 1: Start with a dumbbell directly below you, so that you are standing over it evenly.

Be sure to have the load directly underneath you. Having it too far back or too far forward will cause you to get pulled out of balance, losing power and positioning.

Step 2: Squat down so that you are in a similar start position to a deadlift, with the chest and head up, and shoulders slightly higher than the hips.

The back should remain flat, with the shins nearly vertical. Once you are set, grasp the dumbbell and straighten the arm.

Step 3: Lift the dumbbell with the legs and back, coming straight up with the dumbbell, making sure not to bend the arm early.

The arm should remain straight until the dumbbell gets to about the hip, in which the momentum from the first part of the pull should seamless transition into the arm pulling upward on the dumbbell to continue its ascent. Be sure to keep the elbow high throughout this pulling process.

Step 4: Once you have pulled as high as you can, turn the elbow underneath the dumbbell, ending in the overhead position of the movement.

This should not be a struggling press out but rather a smooth locking out of the elbow.

Step 5: You can receive the dumbbell in the standing overhead position, similar to the muscle snatch, or you can re-bend the knees and hips to receive the dumbbell at a lower point.

Once you have stood up again, with the dumbbell supported overhead, bring it down in similar fashion as the way it came up, and repeat for reps, alternating hands is need.

3 Benefits of Dumbbell Snatches

Below are (3) benefits of the dumbbell snatch that coaches and athletes from most strength, power, and fitness sports can expect when implementing dumbbell snatches into a training regimen.

Increased Muscle Balance and Coordination

The dumbbell snatch, like most unilateral exercises, offers lifters an opportunity to address any muscular imbalances and movement asymmetries that may otherwise go undetected when training with a barbell. While the dumbbell snatch may not have direct technique application to the highly technical barbell snatch, it can still be used to enhance shoulder stability, strength, and power for all level lifters.

Beginner-Friendly Power Exercise

The dumbbell snatch requires less technique, mobility, and arguably less skill than the barbell snatch; which can make it a good option for beginner lifters (of all ages) and/or individuals who may have concerns snatching overhead with a barbell (such as overhead athletes, as the barbell does not allow for individual shoulder joint positioning overhead). Both the dumbbell snatch and the barbell snatch can be used and integrated within training programs; however the dumbbell snatch is often a good exercise to introduce to newer lifters so that they can grasp a better concept of the overall movement patterning.

Versatile Movement for Conditioning Workouts

LIke the kettlebell, the dumbbell allows lifters to perform longer (time duration) sets and complexes (yes, the barbell can be effective at this as well). The dumbbell snatch, when done in a cyclical motion, can be performed for longer durations, and often seamlessly transitioned into other dumbbell exercise like windmills, presses, goblet squats, swings, etc; further increasing metabolic demands.

Muscles Worked – Dumbbell Snatch

The dumbbell snatch is a dynamic movement that challenges the entire body to move in a coordinated effort to promote force with the legs, core, and upper body. Below is a breakdown of the primary muscle groups involved in this exercise.

Shoulders and Triceps

Both the shoulders and the triceps are active in the dumbbell snatch, providing strength and support in both the pulling and overhead lock out positions. Additionally the shoulder stabilizers are called upon to provide support during this ballistic exercise.

Posterior Chain (Glutes, Hamstrings, Erectors)

The glutes, hamstrings, and erectors are all responsible powerful hip extension which creates the force necessary to pull the load from the ground into the overhead position. Increased rate of force development via the posterior chain can result in heavier loads being snatched overhead.

Back and Scapular Muscles

The larger back muscles such as the latissimus dorsi, traps, and scapular stabilizing muscles all help to provide muscular force in the pulling phases of the snatch. Additionally, muscles like the rhomboids help to stabilize the shoulder blades to allow for maximum shoulder strength and stability overhead.

Who Should Do Dumbbell Snatches?

Below are some reasons why strength, power, and fitness athletes can benefit from performing the dumbbell snatch.

Powerlifters and Strongman

The dumbbell snatch can be trained to increase overall fitness and used as a means for metabolic conditioning/work capacity training. Additionally, the dumbbell snatch can be done to incorporate more ballistic and explosive-based lifting within training programs to further enhance strength development and force production (rate of force production). While the snatch movement is not specific to the bench press, squat, deadlift, or most other movements done in most strongman events, it can help to improve overall strength and athletic development.

Olympic Weightlifters

While the dumbbell snatch does not transfer specifically to the barbell snatch, it can be used at certain times when a lifter may not be able to snatch (let’s say due to a wrist injury). The dumbbell snatch can be done to maintain basic movement patterning during times where no training would otherwise occur. That said, adding dumbbell snatches within formal weightlifting training for other reasons, may actually limit recovery from barbell snatch sessions (done with a barbell).

Functional Fitness Athletes

The dumbbell snatch is a useful exercise in the training of functional fitness and CrossFit athletes looking to increase overall strength, power, and fitness. The dumbbell snatch is an exercise that has found its way into a handful of CrossFit workouts at the local, Open, Regionals, and Games level. Failure to train the dumbbell snatch could result in leaving overhead strength, stability, and sport specific improvements on the table.

General Fitness and Movement

The dumbbell snatch, aside from the benefits listed in the previous section, can be a beneficial way to increase overall athleticism and fitness for most gym-goers. The dumbbell snatch can be done for strength and power to help integrate posterior chain force development, increase muscle coordination, and improved metabolic fitness. The ability to manipulate the positioning of the dumbbell also makes this a very versatile movement to incorporate even with beginner and intermediate trainees.