Weight Training for MMA the Dumbbell Snatch

Mariusz Pudzianowski Dumbbell Snatch

There are possibly many occasions during a fight when we are not only are rising from the ground to our feet to get ourselves safe, but also taking part of an opponent with us. If you are up against the fence and want to draw an opponent’s ankle upwards to bring him down then understand that this involves a full body movement. If we want to increase our power in this movement, then when weight training for MMA, the dumbbell snatch should be used.

Good Form

As in all exercises used when weight training for MMA the dumbbell snatch must be performed with good form otherwise injury to the lower back can occur. So be careful to keep your back straight, your head up, and don’t use a weight that forces bad form.

This is a great movement for increasing overall body power and muscular control. It has many carry over affects to real fight situations. Again, as with the dumbbell floor press, the variations are endless. It can be used as a mass and power builder. It can be incorporated into a conditioning workout. And you can superset it with other exercises. In time you can go really heavy for singles if you so desire. Some Olympic weight lifters even use it to help their lifts.

You need to begin the movement with a powerful start. After you get accustomed to it, it becomes an enjoyable challenge, as you increase the amount of weight you can move from floor to overhead.

Dumbbell snatch

You’ll find that when weight training for MMA the dumbbell snatch can be adapted for particular training goals. It can be performed as a max effort exercise or as part of a conditioning workout. You can even use it as a warm up for the entire body before you start a heavy weights session.  Strength, flexibility, acceleration and coordination are all needed to perform and progress well in the dumbbell snatch.  The lift hits every muscle in the body but places the most emphasis on hamstrings, quads, lower back, obliques, traps, forearms, and deltoids.

Unlike some of the exercises you might use when weight training for MMA, the dumbbell snatch is an explosive movement. Its not supposed to be used in a slow manner as it will usually result in injury. You have to maintain inertia and accelerate all the way to the top position as you drive the weight from your feet to overhead in one fluid motion.


If you’ve not tried a dumbbell snatch before, there are few important points to bear in mind:

  • As you begin the movement, drive with your legs first.
  • As you start to rise, engage the lower back and hips.
  • When you are upright, keep the momentum by pulling the weight with your arms.
  • As it rises to chest height, squat down fast to get the dumbbell to shoulder height.
  • Then power up again with the legs and glutes.
  • When you have sufficient momentum, engage the shoulders and triceps to lift it overhead.

The key thing to get through to a beginner is USE YOUR LEGS! You will appreciate this more when you attempt heavier weights. It takes time to learn proper execution. Start light and build up over several sessions. Never sacrifice technique though, or you will injure yourself eventually.

Lets break the movement down a bit more to fully understand what it takes to perform correctly.

Start Position

Begin in a Sumo wrestler type stance, but feet not so wide apart. Grab the dumbbell with palms facing you.  If the weight you’re using is relatively light, then you can start by holding it off the floor. This is the hang position. As its supposed to be a full body movement, the lower to the floor at the start the better. If it is a heavy attempt then you can start with the dumbbell on the floor.

The arm holding the dumbbell should be ever so slightly bent. Your other arm will naturally go into a position to help stabilise you as you begin the lift. Don’t slouch. Keep you back tight and in a straight line from your head to buttocks.


Now you are ready to start pulling the weight upwards. Remember – push with your legs first and thrust your hips forwards. As you get some speed, then pull up with your arms. But DO NOT START the movement with your arms! As the weight rises up to chest level, use your trapezius muscles to shrug the weight even higher.

Squat / Thrust / Push

As the dumbbell rises to your chest, you need to squat down and get underneath the weight. Now your knuckles are facing you. Immediately thrust upwards again using your legs. At the same time push up with your shoulders and arms to raise the dumbbell over your head.

Back Down

If you are using a light to moderate weight, then you can comfortably bring the dumbbell back down with one arm.  Its almost a drop, but controlled.  If its heavy, then you can grab it with teh free hand and lower it that way.

When you start using heavier weights, the importance of driving with the legs will become more apparent. So will good technique.

As you progress in weight training for MMA, the dumbbell snatch will become a key component in your programme.

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