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Tone your legs, arms and core with this 1 exercise

The dumbbell snatch is a full-body move that gets your heart rate up for a strength and cardio workout in one.
The dumbbell snatch is an explosive cardio move.
The dumbbell snatch is an explosive cardio move.TODAY Illustration

In this series, we’re helping you master basic exercises — as if you had a personal trainer by your side! Our goal is to equip you with the knowledge to perform these moves properly in order to get better results and prevent injury.

Weight training can help improve strength, tone your muscles and reduce body weight over time — and it’s important for cardiovascular health, too.

When we pick up a dumbbell, we tend to gravitate toward simple exercises like bicep curls or a weighted squat. These exercises are great, but there are lots of more complex exercises that will help you get more bang for your buck, increasing calorie burn and working your entire body while getting your heart rate up.

The dumbbell snatch is one of those exercises. It’s a great move to add to any strength-training routine because it incorporates cardio while giving you a full-body workout. The snatch is a go-to exercise in CrossFit workouts and can be intimidating. But anyone, regardless of fitness level, can master the move and incorporate it into their routine.

What do dumbbell snatches do for the body?

Dumbbell snatches require engagement of your lower body muscles, including your calves, glutes and quads, as well as your triceps, biceps and core. Because you explode from a squat position, the dumbbell snatch can also function as a cardio move. The continuous full-body movement is great for burning calories, toning your muscles and aiding in weight loss.

The common mistakes people make when doing a dumbbell snatch

At first glance, the dumbbell snatch may look complicated. The move requires core engagement to remain stable and in control while moving up and down and lifting the dumbbell in the air. But if you break down the exercise into steps, it’s easy to get the hang of it.

A lot of people do not tighten their core enough when coming up from the squat position and bringing the weight into the air, which can cause strain and loss of control. I’ve also seen people perform the move too quickly, which can eliminate some of the strength-training benefits and also increase risk of using improper form. Posture and back position is also an extremely important aspect to keep in mind. To avoid making any common mistakes, follow these tips:

  • Engage your core, keeping your body tight and in control.
  • Take it slow so that you have each part of the movement down before increasing the speed and intensity.
  • Keep your back straight with your chest and head up throughout so that you avoid any strain.

How to do a modified dumbbell snatch

Using a weight while performing any complex move that has a cardio element can be intimidating. Luckily, despite the name, you don’t need a weight to perform the dumbbell snatch. If you’re looking for a modified version of the move or want to ease into it, try performing the movements without the dumbbell, focusing on engaging your lower body and core.


Modified Dumbbell Snatch Exercise

Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart and lower into a squat. Keep your right arm hanging down toward the floor as if you were holding a dumbbell. Lower your hips into a squat position and touch your fingertips to the floor. Keep your back straight and your chest and head up. Use your legs and glutes to stand up and lift your arm up overhead. Reverse the movement. Once you are back in the squat position, switch sides and touch the left fingertips to the floor before bringing the left arm up overhead. Repeat, alternating sides.  

How to do a dumbbell snatch

Dumbbell Snatch Exercise

If you’re ready to take the move to the next level, pick up a dumbbell of your choosing. If it’s your first time, start out with something lighter, like a 2- or 3-pound dumbbell, until you get the hang of it.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold one dumbbell in your right hand.
  2. Lower your hips into a squat position with your dumbbell hanging down near the floor. Keep your back straight and your chest and head up.
  3. Stand up and use your legs and back to lift the dumbbell up near your chest. Think about sliding the dumbbell up your body.
  4. Continue to pull your arm straight up above your head.
  5. Reverse the movement, bringing the dumbbell back down toward the ground and then switch the dumbbell to the left hand and repeat.

4 exercises that will help you perform the dumbbell snatch

The dumbbell snatch has a lot of different components. These exercises can help you master each different part of the movement.

Calf raises

calf raise exercise

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides. Hold onto a wall or chair for balance if needed, or hold a weight in each hand if you’d like to increase the difficulty. Squeeze your calves to lift your heels off the ground and shift your weight onto the balls of your feet. Return your heels to the ground and repeat.

Lateral raise

Lateral raise exercise

Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Standing up straight, lift your arms away from your body straight out to the sides until they are extended out parallel to the floor. Slowly lower the weights back to your sides and repeat.


Lunge exercise

Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart. Step forward with your right foot and place it flat in front of you. Your left heel should lift slightly off the ground. Bend your left knee to lower yourself toward the ground, keeping your core engaged, until both knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. Straighten both legs, then repeat.

Jump squat

Jump squat exercise

Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees and sit your hips back. Bend until you are in sitting position with your thighs parallel to the ground. Then, explode into the air, jumping up and raising your arms straight up toward the ceiling before landing softly with slightly bent knees. Repeat.

More moves to master:

Donkey kick