How To Do The Dumbbell Snatch

Man in a gym holds dumbbell above his head
(Image credit: Click and Photo / Shutterstock)

The dumbbell snatch regularly features in CrossFit workouts, but why should CrossFitters have all the fun? This dumbbell exercise is capable of developing explosive power, speed, co-ordination and endurance, making it worthy of a place in most people’s fitness plans. The only reason not to do it, in fact, is if all the dumbbells at your gym are in use—in which case do the kettlebell snatch instead. 

To get the low-down on this high-powered movement, we spoke to two-time CrossFit Games competitor and Reign Total Body Fuel athlete Moritz Fiebig to find out his top tips. 

How To Do A Dumbbell Snatch

There are a few variations of the dumbbell snatch. We’re going to focus on the most common, the single-arm power snatch, although most of the form cues here will apply to other variations too.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell on the floor just in front of you. Keeping your back straight, push your hips back and bend your knees to reach down and pick up the dumbbell with your right hand. Your right shoulder should be over the dumbbell, so your arm is vertical. 

Drive explosively through your feet to lift the dumbbell off the floor, then extend your hips and pull with your arm to produce enough momentum to raise it overhead. The dumbbell should stay close to your body throughout. 

Bend your knees slightly to reduce the distance the dumbbell has to travel, then catch it directly overhead with your arm extended. Control the dumbbell’s descent to the starting position to complete one rep. 

You can perform all your reps on one side, then switch sides, or perform alternating dumbbell snatches by passing the dumbbell from one hand to the other while it’s overhead or on the floor. 

Dumbbell Snatch Form Tips

1. Use Your Hips

“For all snatches the hips are really important,” says Fiebig. Extending at the hips—snapping them forward as you stand up straight—will help generate the momentum to get the dumbbell overhead. 

2. Your Lower Body Should Be The Hero

A CrossFit workout containing dumbbell snatches will usually challenge you to complete plenty of reps of this movement alongside other taxing exercises, so you’ll want to perform them as efficiently as possible. 

“Don’t pull too early with your arm, because your arms are not as strong as your legs and your hips,” says Fiebig. “Instead, use your hips to bring motion into the barbell or dumbbell, then it will fly and you can catch it overhead. 

“When you’re doing workouts with wall ball shots, burpees or rowing, your arms will get tired. If you do snatches through your lower body you will save some energy for the rest of the movements, particularly in a CrossFit workout.”

3. Find A Strong Catch Position 

“Finish with your biceps close to your ear,” says Fiebig. At the top of the rep, there should be a vertical line through your arm and torso down to the floor.

“If you always catch it in front of your head the front of your shoulder will get tired,” says Fiebig.

4. Breathe

This is good advice for pretty much any CrossFit exercise performed for reps, and a tip Fiebig highlighted for dumbbell snatches. 

Breathe out during the leg drive and pull phase, and breathe in when the dumbbell is overhead. 

Dumbbell Snatch Benefits

The dumbbell snatch will strengthen the active muscles, and there are a lot of them. After all, this is a compound exercise which works multiple muscle groups and joints. 

Your glutes, hamstrings, quads and calves will all kick into action as you lift the dumbbell from the floor, and then your back, shoulders and triceps come into play as you pull and catch the weight overhead. 

Because this is a dynamic exercise, it’s also a good way to develop speed, power and explosiveness. 

If you use a light-to-medium weight and a high rep scheme, as CrossFit WODs tend to, the dumbbell snatch also helps to build cardio fitness and muscular endurance

Finally, holding a heavy object overhead is something most of us rarely do, so performing the dumbbell snatch correctly can increase our shoulder stability. 

Dumbbell Snatch CrossFit Standards

The last time dumbbell snatches showed up in the CrossFit Open was in 2022, during workout 22.1—a 15-minute AMRAP workout of three wall walks, 12 alternating dumbbell snatches and 15 box jump-overs.

For RX athletes, the standards released by CrossFit stated that the dumbbell had to start with both heads on the ground. It must then be lifted overhead in one smooth motion, not a two-phase movement as in a dumbbell clean and press. 

Athletes had to alternate arms for each rep, and the non-lifting hand was not allowed to make contact with any other parts of the body during the lift. 

A rep was awarded when the arms, hips and knees were fully extended, and the dumbbell was visibly over the athlete’s midline when viewed from the side. 

About Our Expert

Moritz Fiebig
Moritz Fiebig

Moritz Fiebig is a CrossFit athlete and two-time CrossFit Games competitor. He also holds the title of fittest man in Germany following a 21st-place finish at the 2023 CrossFit Games, where he recorded three top-10 finishes. He has also worked as a CrossFit coach and is the owner of two gyms in Germany. 

Harry Bullmore
Staff writer

Harry covers news, reviews and features for Coach, Fit&Well and Live Science. With over a decade of training experience, he has tried everything from powerlifting to gymnastics, cardio to CrossFit, all in a bid to find fun ways of building a healthy, functional body.