Wednesday, April 8, 2009

John Peck - The "Cred" - One Arm Dumbell Snatch

The one arm dumbbell snatch is one of my favorite exercises, and John Peck gives a nice introduction to it - along with a video from Charles Staley.

The "Cred" - One Arm Dumbell Snatch

By John A. Peck

Among my usual exercises, when I first enter the gym, is a series of what I call "the Cred," one arm dumbbell snatches.

Now this may seem a strange initiation to a weightlifting workout, but I believe by the end of this short article, you may be inspired not only to try it, but to regularly work it into your schedule. The benefits are nothing short of amazing, and nothing compares for gaining confidence and motivation in the typical gym.

Let me start by saying that I'm not very tall (5'7" on a good day), nor am I particularly strong, nor flexible, but this lift will not only increase both, but will make it look like you have loads of both - a great motivator for increasing each.


No, not the history of the lift - the history of me doing it. It went like this. I walk into Dave's Gym in Louisville, Ohio, an honest, hardcore weightlifting gym run by a deceptively experienced owner. He knows his stuff. The regulars of this gym are big guys generally; firemen, policemen (with arms bigger than my legs, literally), one guys who wants to be a model, and an on-and-off smattering of teens doing 'curls for girls,' and not much else during their three hour workout.

When I started the dumbbell snatch as a part of my routine, as I was told (by Charles) to concentrate on form, which I did, but soon I found that doing the lift right became natural as my body seemed to figure out the most efficient way to do it. In fact, after a few sets, I found that adding weight was simple, and in fact, the dynamics of such a full body lift are really relatively simple, and that fear, from lack of familiarity, was the biggest factor.


Some important points.

Set/Rep schedule: I recommend doing 5sets of 5 reps, until things get a little heavy, then 3 sets of 3 reps. When you get to 100 lbs (and you will) go to one rep on each side for each set. Don't do more than 5 reps at anytime. Just increase the weight.

First in line. Do this lift first in your workout. You'll need all your energy. When performing a good, textbook one arm dumbbell snatch, one must take into account that this is a full body lift. You will be using all of your muscles, especially the big ones, in accomplishing this lift. It is not an 'arm' exercise. If it becomes an arm exercise, you will either fail the lift, or hurt yourself, especially the shoulder, and you do not want a shoulder injury - ever. I also found no reason to add any cardio to my workout. This is more cardio than I would do anyway, and I encourage everyone to do it with as little break between sets as possible.

Left, right, left, right - Start with your weak side. You know which one that is. The set is complete when you have done all the reps with each arm. For me, I start with the left arm, and end with the right arm.

Drive from the heels. Anytime you are about to push something heavy, you do it from the heels, and dig in. You are about to push something heavy, so do it right. If you rock onto the balls of your feet, or toward the toes, you will lose much of your power. Stay on your heels from the start, and drive hard from there for maximum power.

Snap the hips. Anyone even slightly familiar with kettlebell snatches will know this very well, but I'll assume you don't know it. All of your power will come from the hips. When you start, snap those hips up as hard and fast as you can. Your hips, not your arm, is lifting the weight, and your back will compensate somewhat, which you will feel when you're done with your first workout. All the vertical power comes from the hips, so don't worry about your arms. In fact, if you try to utilize your arms, you are likely to end up 'swinging' it up in an arc, which means it will sail not up, but around behind your shoulder, and give you a nice, permanent shoulder injury. For this exercise, the weight needs to go straight up, and your hips and back will do it.

Drop under the weight. If needed. This is not cheating, it is good form. Once that weight starts flying upward, dropping under it slightly is better than trying to muscle it up with your arm and shoulder, and it is much better than having to drop the weight because your form is bad and you can't get the dumbbell all the way up. It's not complicated, but it may take a few tries. Don't worry. I believe you will do this naturally in a small way, but if you do so intentionally, you may find yourself completing lifts that otherwise you would fail.

Hold it. If you've done the lift right, you will standing there for a moment with the weight directly over your shoulder joint. Count slowly to three (in other words, three long seconds). Then lower it to the ground as safely as you can. Remember, don't fight the dumbbell for space. You will lose, and it will be painful. Plus, it just looks bad when you get a huge amount of weight up with one hand…and then drop it squarely on your foot. The laughter following you little-girl-squealing and hopping around will not make up for it.


Here are a few of the comments I've heard while doing this lift. Why include these? Because these are the unexpected benefits I have noticed as a middle aged man returning to the gym after a long layoff. Just as being in better shape, having larger muscles, more strength, and a thinner waist make me feel better, so these little jewels of commentary have really brought me some unsolicited joy and satisfaction.

· "Dude, what are you training for?" (High schoolers)
· "That's a lot of weight! I could never do that." (Gigantic fireman)
· "All of them!" (Gym owner, when being asked by high schoolers 'Which muscle does THAT work?')
· "Your husband, he's that strong guy. Yeah, I've seen him." (A different gigantic fireman, talking to my wife, who works at the gym as morning receptionist.)


Yes, there are a few cheats one can utilize in doing this incredibly basic exercise.
For example, I don't use grips or wrist wraps when I do the "Cred." Many people find that at some point, around 90-110 lbs they have the strength to do the lift, but not the grip to hold the dumbbell. A common problem, perhaps, but a problem still. Here's my solution.

First of all, use wraps if you like. It doesn't matter to me, and it won't matter to anyone who watches you. They won't even notice. If you don't use wraps, try these cheats to make things go a little easier when you are struggling at a particular weight.

Hand position: Keep your hand, and the dumbbell parallel to your feet (see picture), but when you lift, turn the dumbbell slightly to the outside. That is, clockwise if using your right hand, counter-clockwise if using your left. This gives your grip a little bit of a break, and a little more strength for the lift. Don't over do this cheat, but it will help you get an extra rep or three, when well into your sets.

It is also a good idea to move the hand closer to the "thumb" side of the grip. Again, this adds more balance, and therefore more strength, to the grip and allows you that extra 'oomph' you need to blast out those last reps.

From the Low Hang: Rather than snatch the dumbbell from the floor, pick it up and let it hang about 3-6 inches off the floor.(see photo) I don't know why this helps, as I can't imagine that those few inches make any difference at all, but it seems to. Ask Charles why this helps.

Now, I'm not an expert at this lift. I'm not an expert at any lift, but I would call myself a veteran of it. In my opinion, the One Armed Dumbell Snatch deserves a place on the roster of one of the greatest single lifts of all time.

This lift gives you instant 'cred.' You know, 'credit.' Strength credit. As my dad once told me, it doesn't matter if they're stronger than you, as long as you are stronger than they think you are, they'll respect you. Dad was right. If you don't believe me, try it at your gym for a month. Do it right, and do it hard. Then, write in and tell me what you see and hear, and enjoy the comments of the peanut gallery.

About The Author

John A. Peck is the priest of the Eastern Orthodox Church in Prescott, Arizona. A lifting veteran, he finds it an enjoyable way to avoid dying of life-style diseases. John is an adjunct instructor for Tri-City Prep High School (Latin), Yavapai Community College, and Veritas Theological Seminary. He has enjoyed great success in utilizing tiered and measurable physical training in Christian Youth programs. He is a happy husband, father of three sons, and owner of one dog, 13 chickens, and a set of bagpipes. He currently trains at TNT Fitness & Body in Prescott, AZ.


Anonymous said...

This is a great lift. A good alternative to Powercleans.

Samurai Frank said...

This is the first time I see an "Iron Priest"! The kettlebell pic is now my wall!It inspires this Orthodox believer to train more! Thanks for the article, Abouna!