One-Arm Dumbbell Snatch

Olympic lifts are GREAT exercises for developing explosive power...but they're NOT easy to learn.

That's where the One-Arm Dumbbell Snatch comes in...

This is one of my favorite "starter" exercises for explosive training. The exercise is much more accessible than a regular Olympic snatch as there is not nearly as much technique involved.



At it's simplest, it's primarily just a matter of grabbing a dumbbell and using explosive power to heave it directly overhead in one movement.

THAT is what makes it a lift that is easy to learn and something even a relative novice to explosive training can do safely.

How to Do the One-Arm Dumbbell Snatch

The first time you do this one, start with a light dumbbell. Once you get the mechanics of the movement down, THEN you can start increasing the weight.

Set the dumbbell between your feet, with your feet set a little wider than shoulder-width apart. You should be looking forward and not down at this point. You won't be looking directly forward, though, as that will force you to start this exercise in too much of a squat position.

How to Do the One-Arm Dumbbell Snatch  - StartHow to Do the One-Arm Dumbbell Snatch  - Start

The majority of the power for this exercise is going to come from the hips and lower back, not necessarily the quads, so squatting down deep is actually NOT something you want to do. We're looking for a "half-squat" position here.

If you think about how far down you'd squat if you were going to jump as high as you could, this is the approximate depth and position you want to come down to. If you squat down TOO deep, you actually decrease the leverage/strength of the lower body, which decreases the power you can generate.

The rule of thumb is simple...squat down only as far as it takes to grab the handle of the dumbbell.

Start the movement with a small dip/squat to develop some elastic tension in the muscles.

Now EXPLODE out of this position, generating as much power as you can in the hips and lower back to heave the weight DIRECTLY up and into the overhead position.

The path of the dumbbell should be as vertical as swinging forward.

How to Do the One-Arm Dumbbell Snatch How to Do the One-Arm Dumbbell Snatch

DO NOT try and use the upper body to do this exercise.

The arm connects your body to the dumbbell...that's pretty much it. The contribution of the upper body is limited to adding to the acceleration of the dumbbell off the floor at the mid-point of the exercise here, when the dumbbell is about at midsection level.

How to Do the One-Arm Dumbbell Snatch How to Do the One-Arm Dumbbell Snatch

As the dumbbell starts getting close to the top position, you may need to chip in with a bit of shoulder strength to lock the dumbbell out overhead.

How to Do the One-Arm Dumbbell Snatch How to Do the One-Arm Dumbbell Snatch

Hold that lockout position. Your upper body will be shifted a bit to the side in order to keep the dumbbell over your center of balance.

How to Do the One-Arm Dumbbell Snatch  - LockoutHow to Do the One-Arm Dumbbell Snatch  - Lokcout

Now set the dumbbell back down on the floor and repeat. When setting it down, I recommend grabbing it with the other hand as well, to help control the descent.

Set it down gently! These aren't "bumper" dumbbells and there's no need to just drop them. You don't want to damage the floor or the dumbbells.

That's the exercise! It'll be much easier to see the mechanics of the movement in the video demo, so be sure to watch that to get the best idea of how to do it.

Bottom line, it's a relatively "easy" explosive exercise to learn...definitely much easier than a barbell snatch and still very effective for building explosive power in the entire body.


Notes on Explosive Training

  • Explosive training should always be done FIRST in any training session that you do it. That's when your muscles and nervous system are fresh and you'll get the most power out of them.
  • DO NOT train to failure on explosive lifts. Always keep a rep or two in the tank.
  • If you feel your form starting to break down at all, that's the end of the set.
  • DO NOT do explosive training for high reps - 3 to 5 reps MAX. Going for reps higher than this is not only potentially dangerous because of form breakdown but you're not really effectively training your explosive muscle fibers and your nervous system either.

Once you've got this one down, try the Split Squat One-Arm Dumbbell Snatch.



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