Category Archives: Power Snatch
You can’t beat the snatch – at least not in terms of things you can do in the weight room for developing explosive strength, ridiculous traps, and extreme athleticism.
Unfortunately, few recreational lifters have the slightest idea how to perform a snatch, and those that do often still make some common mistakes that turn this solid exercise into a chiropractor and soft-tissue therapists’ wet dream.
It doesn’t have to be that way. And if you keep an eye out for the following six mistakes, you can take your snatch game up a notch and develop the mountainous traps and explosive power you deserve.
Mistake 1: Always going from the floor
Problems in the snatch often result from bad movement once the lift has begun, but an even more prevalent problem is a poor starting position.
There are a number of explanations for this, but the most common is simply not knowing what the heck a good start position looks like.
At the floor level, the key is to maintain a trunk position that’s about 30 degrees above horizontal. The angle of the shins and the thighs can vary greatly based on the height of the lifter, but the trunk angle remains constant.(1) Get this wrong and you don’t have much of a shot at getting the pull off the ground correctly.
Let’s take a look at getting in the correct position. The true start position for the snatch is uncomfortable, maybe even downright difficult, for the following reasons:
- Hip mobility. A quality you lost by sitting at a desk all day.
- Ankle mobility. Probably taken from you in that heated game of pick-up basketball 3 years ago when you rolled your ankle going for a game winning lay-up.
- Thoracic spine extension. Again, stolen from you by your desk job.
- Trunk stability. Unless you’ve been practicing some awesome diaphragmatic breathing patterns over the last several years, this is probably gone as well.
Most aren’t lacking in every area required to get into the correct start position, but even one red flag means that you’ll default to easier patterns to get to a bar resting on the ground.
For example, those lacking in hip mobility, thoracic mobility, or trunk stability will likely default to flexion at the lumbar spine, meaning a jacked-up back is right around the corner.
Fortunately, it’s possible to improve mobility in areas that you’re lacking and achieve the correct start position in no time. So make your first goal to develop mobility and stability where you need it, and then come back to trying to snatch from the floor.
In the meantime, starting the lifts from a slightly elevated (but static) position (a low block or another bumper plate) can help athletes get into a start position that doesn’t include lumbar flexion.
Here’s an example from when I was working on recovering some hip mobility that I’d lost over the years.
Mistake 2: Hitting pop ups.
Getting into the correct start position for a snatch from the floor doesn’t mean that you’re out of the danger zone. A big mistake could still be waiting to bite you in the arse.
We’ve already established the correct torso position for when starting on the ground – roughly 30 degrees above horizontal – and that’s also the angle the torso should be in when the first pull is complete and the bar is above the knees.(1)
Snatching mistake #2 is letting your hips pop up too early. Doing so results in the bar being too far in front of you, and effectively puts your chances of making a good lift on par with the odds of Carrot Top winning an Oscar.
The initial lift off the floor should be done by extension of the knees – driving the knees back while lifting the torso. The torso should remain in the same position relative to the ground (30 degrees above horizontal) throughout the first pull.
Now we’re looking to translate this torso position vertically through space. This maintains the powerful RDL/hips loaded position above the knee. The knees should continue driving back until almost reaching extension as the bar begins to pass the knee.
Here’s a video that shows the difference when your hips rise too fast versus when they rise at the right pace. It doesn’t appear to be a huge difference, but it will significantly affect your ability to complete the lift.
Mistake 3: Not keeping the bar tight to the body.
Just as if you told me you saw an awful movie recently, I’d guess that it probably featured sparkling vampires and bad acting, if you were to tell me that you miss a lot of reps in the snatch, I’d immediately think this mistake was the culprit.
Mistake #3 is letting the bar get too far from your body during any part of the snatch. One of the basic concepts of weightlifting is once the bar breaks from the floor, the body and the bar must act as one unit. This unit, or lifter/barbell system, functions optimally when the bar is close to the body.
There are two typical instances when the bar can get away from you during the snatch:
First pull off the floor
If the bar gets away from the body during the first pull, you’re basically screwed. The lifter/barbell system is loose, and you’ll have a hard time recovering the lift.
To correct this, try pulling the bar tight to the body in a sweeping motion as you start the lift.
After the bar passes the knees is another point in which the bar can get away from you. If this occurs at this stage you have zero hope of making the lift because you’re no longer in control of the bar. As the bar drifts out away from the body, you must move away from your upward motion path and jump forward to catch the bar.
Mistake 4: Not closing the “triangle.”
The next mistake goes by a number of names: a short pull, leaving the hips out, or not finishing with extension. We call it “not closing the triangle” and it’s mistake # 4 on the list.
The triangle is the position you achieve when the bar is above the knees. This position is important to form: the hips are away from the bar, the arms are directed back towards the thighs, and the chest is over the bar forming three sides of a “power triangle.”
The triangle stores a ton of potential power – the hips are primed and ready to explode with force on the bar. It’s easy to achieve any sort of triangle above the knees, but often people are unable to shut it.
Focus on driving the hips to the bar as soon as the bar passes your knees. Finish the second pull and shut the triangle with force and finality to get the most out of your snatch. If you leave it “open” you’ve left a lot of power on the platform that could’ve been used to lift bigger weights.
Mistake 5: Being a swinger.
In snatching there are two types of people: swingers and pullers.
Although the term “swingers” invokes pleasant images of a loose and free-loving lifestyle, being a swinger isn’t a good thing when it comes to the snatch.
Efficient weightlifters finish the second pull with a vertical spike of power. Swingers, on the other hand, finish the second pull with a forward spike of power, leading the bar to “pop” off their hips in a distinct forward arc.
While big weights can be lifted in this way – you’re still reaching full, powerful hip extension – it’s far from efficient, and will lead to more missed lifts than you’d care to have.
Focus on achieving a vertical finish to the bar. Know that by actively pulling yourself under the bar you’ll be able to get around the bar, rather than making the bar move around your body.
The video below shows the big difference in bar path and the loss of efficiency that comes from swinging versus pulling.
Again, it isn’t a huge difference in the “looks” category, but one that will screw you up big time going forward. And that’s why it’s mistake #5.
Mistake 6: Catching like a Starfish.
A largely overlooked component of the Olympic lifts is the receiving portion. The snatch is great for force production, but just as important is the force absorption that takes place as you receive the bar.
This position should look like landing from a jump. When it doesn’t, not only are you missing out on the benefits of force absorption, you’re also training yourself to land in bad positions in other athletic movements. Your training just went from injury prevention to injury promotion. Hello mistake #6.
The starfish is an ugly creature that likes to poke its head out when weights approach a maximum. Most have seen it before, and likely done it as well. The feet splay out wide, with all the weight towards the toes. It’s about the least athletic position you can imagine.
Landing like a starfish occurs because you haven’t prepared to move rapidly under the bar. Your body defaults to what it thinks is the fastest way, which in most cases happens to be the feet wide, starfish position.
Prepare yourself by doing drills like the snatch balance to improve your comfort level in getting under the bar for max weights. Although this drill requires that you go into a full overhead squat to receive the bar, it will still equip you with a strategy to get under the bar that’s far better than the starfish.
Wrapping it up
There are plenty more mistakes lifters make when performing the snatch, but these 6 are the big ones that keep most from hitting big weights. Correct these mistakes and you’ll be on your way to putting some serious weight over your head.
Is there an exercise that can improve power, strength, dynamic flexibility, agility, balance, coordination, and overall athleticism, all while helping your deadlift and even adding thickness to your traps?
There sure is. Enter the snatch.
Power is “speed plus strength” and there’s nothing like Olympic style weight lifting to build this type of explosive athleticism. The development of the coordinated triple extension also has great transfer to athletic performance, so any lifter would be foolish not to include this in their program.
Unfortunately, some coaches and athletes shy away from the snatch out of fear of injury or due to a lack of knowledge or technique. It does take time and effort to learn these lifts, but the payoff is well worth it.
Some Lingo First
Snatch. Implies the bar is lifted off the floor and received in the bottom of an overhead squat.
Pocket Snatch. The bar is lifted off the floor with a snatch grip in front of the hips. The knees jut forward, but the torso remains behind the bar. The bar is then explosively pulled into the overhead position. The body can receive the bar in a full or quarter squat.
Power Snatch. The bar is lifted off the floor and received in a quarter squat overhead.
Hang Power Snatch. Implies the bar starts in front of the hips and is slid down below or just above the knees and is received in a quarter squat.
Olympic Lifting Shoes & The Hook Grip
O-shoes are the preferred footwear for the snatch as they provide a rigid platform to drive your feet into. The raised heel creates a slight anterior weight shift that allows for optimal balance during the snatch and clean lifts.
The hook grip takes a while to get used to, but it allows for more weight to be held in the long run. Initially it sucks, but you’ll just have to grow a pair and get used to it.
To hook grip, grab the bar with an overhand grip; wrap your thumb around the underside of the bar, and then hook your fingers around your thumb.
Pulling Stance, Squat Stance & Snatch Grip
When performing the pull, the feet should be roughly hip-width apart – let’s call this pulling stance. The landing position, which we’ll call squat stance, should have your feet slightly wider than the pulling stance to allow for optimal balance when receiving the bar in a quarter or full squat.
Practice quickly maneuvering from the pulling stance to landing stance with this drill: stand in the pulling stance, lift your feet off the ground a minimal amount and land in squat stance while dropping into a quarter squat. Don’t jump, just leave the ground and slide the feet out quickly.
Check out the video below:
Find your snatch grip by holding a bar with a double overhand grip. Slide your hands out until the bar rests at your hip-crease. Test this by flexing your hip. This position is an appropriate snatch grip to start with – slight alterations can be made later if needed.
I learned the term pocket position from S&C Coach Eric Drinkwater. With your snatch grip and your feet in the pulling stance, slightly push your knees forward, but keep your torso upright and behind the bar.
This is the most important position when learning the snatch. It’s the position that you’ll always go into at the top of the second pull. Learn and own this position. The only time the torso will be behind the bar during the snatch is at this moment.
Working on thoracic and shoulder mobility in your warm-up will help you achieve a nice snatch. Loosening up your hips will also do your snatch justice.
T-Spine Roll Out Over Foam Roller. Gently roll up and down the length of your thoracic spine over a foam roller. Support your head while gently driving your chin downward. Flare out your elbows while you try to stretch your chest and front shoulders. Go up and down 10-15 times.
Sit-to-Stand with T-Spine Extension and Rotation. This drill is great for improving mobility for the overhead squat.
Stand with your feet just wider than hip-width apart. Bend over, round your back, soften your knees, and touch your toes. Push your knees to the outside of your arms, keep your heels flat and actively pull yourself “into the hole.” Keep your knees pushed out and drive your chest upward while driving your hips ass-to-grass. Try to maintain a neutral spine while opening the chest.
Reach for the sky with one arm while rotating through your t-spine. Drive your thumb back and hold for a few seconds. Return the arm down and switch sides. Return that arm down and now bring both arms overhead. Push your knees out and chest upward while fully flexing your shoulders. Stand up, fold over and repeat. Perform 10 reps.
Shoulder Dislocations. Hold a stick with a snatch grip and bring the stick overhead and behind your body without bending your elbows. If your shoulders are too tight, start with a wider grip and slowly move your hands inward to your snatch grip as your shoulders start to warm up. Perform 15 reps before going into the barbell movement prep.
Barbell Complex Movement Prep
Perform 3-5 reps of the following exercises and perform 2-3 sets at the beginning of each workout. The more practice, the better!
Romanian Deadlift. With your snatch grip in your pulling stance, soften your knees and push your hips back while you hinge forward. Keep the bar close, your back tight, and shoulders set. Poke your chin forward and finish with the bar slightly below your knees.
High Snatch Pull. Slide the bar down your thighs to the top of your knees. Poke your chin forward and keep your back tight, chest out, and shoulders set, as in the Romanian deadlift. Snap your hips forward as you jump. Let your shoulders shrug and let your arms bend. Let your elbows drive up as your body goes into the scarecrow position.
Muscle Snatch. Perform the high snatch pull, but this time, let the bar continue upward and extend your arms to lock the bar overhead.
Overhead Squat. Finish your last muscle snatch and move your feet to squat stance. Perform deep ass-to-grass overhead squats. Keep the arms locked and keep the bar just behind your ears. Pull the bar apart to create stability in your shoulders.
Heaving Snatch Balance. Place the bar on your upper back and stand in pulling stance. Push your knees forward (dip) and drive the bar upward, all while transitioning into the squat stance and dropping into an overhead squat. Stick the landing and stay tight. Now perform an overhead squat from this position. Return the bar to the back and move your feet back to pulling stance.
Top Down Approach Snatch Progression
This is a modified progression Coach Glenn Pendlay recommends to beginners. If you’re an athlete and don’t plan on competing in weight lifting, the hang power snatch is all you need.
Not receiving the bar in a full overhead squat requires you to pull more explosively, plus it doesn’t require as much technique as the full snatch. But if you’re up for a challenge, you can progress to the full-blown snatch.
Pocket Power Snatch. This variation teaches you to be behind the bar at the top of your second pull. Grab a weighted bar with a snatch grip. With your feet in pulling stance, set your shoulders. Push your knees forward slightly and keep your torso behind the bar.
Pull explosively as if doing a high pull and keep the bar in tight. Receive the bar locked overhead as you pull yourself under the bar into a quarter squat.
Pocket Power Snatch to Overhead Squat. This combination exercise will teach you how to support more weight overhead while performing an overhead squat. It will also teach you to explode the bar upward while pulling yourself underneath it fast.
Add a little more weight to the bar and perform a pocket power snatch. Instead of standing after receiving the bar, perform an overhead squat.
Pocket Snatch. Set yourself up just like the pocket power snatch. This time, you’ll receive the bar locked overhead in the bottom of the squat. Stay tight at the bottom and feel like you’re pulling the bar apart. Drive out of the hole and finish with your feet together.
Hang Power Snatch (above knee). In this progression, you’ll form the “bow & arrow” made famous by coach Dan John. Grab the bar with a snatch grip with your feet in pulling stance. Puff your chest out and start to hinge forward. Push the bar into your thighs so it drags on your shorts – this tightens the lats and keeps the bar close to the seat of power. Keep your chest over the bar and stop above your knees.
From this position, push your knees forward while extending your hips. Your torso will rise quickly. You want to achieve the pocket position before going into the scarecrow position.
Keep the arms straight until the shoulders shrug. As Glenn Pendlay says, the power stops once your elbows bend. Receive the bar overhead with locked arms in a quarter squat.
Hang Power Snatch (below knee). In this progression, perform the steps as in the hang power snatch (above knee), but this time, transition the bar just below the knees. Stay tight in your torso and push your hips way back. Keep your shoulders set and the bar in close.
Push the floor away, drag the bar up your shorts and find the pocket position. Explosively pull upward and receive the bar with your arms locked out overhead in a quarter squat.
Power Snatch. The snatch off the floor includes the first pull, otherwise known as a snatch grip deadlift. Set up in pulling stance with a snatch grip. Keep your shoulders well over the bar. Do not pull the bar fast off the floor. Picture yourself accelerating the bar off the floor into the racked position.
As you start to move the bar off the floor, extend your knees but keep a constant torso angle until the bar passes the transition zone around your knees.
From here, you’re familiar with the movement from practicing the hang power snatch (below knee). Drag the bar up your shorts, find the pocket position and boom – the bar sails upward as you pull yourself under the bar.
Receive the bar with locked arms overhead in a quarter squat. Stand up and finish with your feet together.
Snatch. Finally! Perform the same movements as in the power snatch, except this time, pull yourself under the bar and receive it with locked arms in a deep squat. Stand and finish with your feet together.
Congrats, you just did your first snatch. We always remember our first time.
Use these as assistance lifts to the snatch. Work on your snatch at the beginning of your workouts, followed by one of these bar drills. Keep the sets and reps around 3-5.
Press Behind Neck – Snatch Grip
This exercise develops balance and coordination while supporting weight overhead. It also develops the flexibility required in the shoulders for a good snatch.
Start with the bar on your back with a snatch grip. Stay tight and tall. Take a breath of air and press the bar up. Hold the lockout position for one second and carefully return the bar to your back.
Pressing Snatch Balance
This exercise develops coordination, balance, and strength. With a snatch grip and your feet in squat stance, simultaneously press the bar overhead while pulling yourself into a squat. When you reach the bottom of the squat, the bar should’ve just been locked out. Now perform an overhead squat. Return the bar to the back and repeat.
Heaving Snatch Balance
This is the same exercise described above in the bar movement prep, but with weight. Don’t worry about how much weight is on the bar. Focus on speed of execution, timing, coordination, and balance. Leave your ego at the door and own this exercise. As S&C Coach Matt Wichlinski says, this is yourmoneymaker.
These movements are skills that will require practice and patience. Perform the barbell complex movement prep in every warm up, even if you’re not snatching. More volume throughout the week will engrain the timing and movement patterns necessary for an effective snatch.
After your dynamic warm up, t-spine and shoulder mobility work, and barbell complex movement prep, choose a snatch variation to work on.
For example, one day work on pocket power snatches to overhead squats. On a different day, work on power snatches. Keep the sets and reps around 3-5 for both. One rep every-minute-on-the-minute is also a great way to get in volume and practice.
I like doing one-rep-every-minute-on-the-minute for 10-15 minutes, but sometimes I’ll do 20-25 minutes. Have fun with it and be creative.
Afterwards, work on one of your bar drill assistance moves and call it a day.
Time to work.