Fix the Weak Links in your Snatch

Written by

Sam Lower

Muscle Snatches:

Two issues commonly seen with beginners is letting the bar pull away from them in the middle of the pull and losing tension from mid-pull to turnover. The muscle snatch is a great exercise to help correct both of these issues. When the muscle snatch is performed at the proper weight, it requires the athlete to perform a straight bar path past the hips and continue pulling after contact at the hip. For athletes having this issue, I would use the muscle snatch as a warm-up/technique exercise before performing the snatch.

Snatch from Deficit:

Snatching from a deficit is an exercise that is used for athletes that either have trouble using their legs in the initial pull from the ground or trouble finishing the pull at the top. The deficit can be put at different heights anywhere from 1-3 inches, depending on the skill level of the athlete. To get to the proper set-up position from the deficit, the athlete must lower the hips more than usual, which puts them in a position that forces them to push through the ground with their legs. This helps them understand the feeling of pushing with the legs to the hang position as opposed to pulling over the bar too fast. Also, since the bar has to travel further, it teaches the athlete to be patient through the pull and finish at the top.

Jacob Tsypkin

Complex: Muscle Snatch + Power Snatch + Snatch:

One of the most persistent issues I see with new lifters is failure to properly use the upper body in the pull underneath the bar. Often, explosive lifters with generally good technique will simply let the bar float after the finish, turning the snatch into a throw-and-catch-type movement. Instead, the lifter should strive to constantly interact with the bar. The goal of this complex is to get the lifter to feel the arms work in the turnover with the muscle snatch, and then carry that over into the power and full snatches. The key is to use a weight that is light enough to allow a smooth, fast turnover in the muscle snatch, but heavy enough that the lifter must use the arms to complete the lift. My lifters often use this complex as a warm-up and will rarely – if ever – go above 60%. 45-55% will be plenty for most athletes.

Reena Tenorio

No-Brush Snatch: 

For lifters who have difficulty keeping the bar close and finishing the pull, snatch with no brush is a beneficial exercise. It will also help to improve speed under the bar. The lifter will perform a snatch, but at the hip position, the bar is not to touch the body, emphasizing a vertical bar path, a strong final pull, and speed under the bar.

Snatch from Various Heights Blocks: 

These help to improve speed and force of the final pull as well as speed under the bar. This variation is less taxing on the back and legs and can be used to reduce the load that the athlete may experience when lifting from the floor.

Reena recommends trying no-brush snatches to build speed under the bar.
Reena recommends trying no-brush snatches and snatches from blocks to build speed under the bar.

Quinn Henoch

Power Snatch:

When performing a power snatch, the lifter will receive the bar with the hips above 90 degrees of flexion. This differs from a full snatch, in which the bar will be received in a full overhead squat position.

This exercise trains the lifter to extend fully and powerfully at the top of the second pull. This variation also requires the athlete to pull under the bar quickly – training speed of the turnover. The goal is to put maximum height on the barbell with a powerful ankle, knee, and hip extension, then to snap under the bar with an aggressive turnover – negating the need to squat. When this type of aggression and speed is then incorporated into the full snatch, maximum weights tend to improve. It is a confidence builder for the lifter to walk up to the barbell with the intent to perform a full snatch, knowing he or she has power snatched the same weight in the past.

Dead Hang Snatch:

The dead hang snatch starts with the lifter standing tall with knees and hips extended and the bar resting near the crease of the hip. The lifter initiates the movement with a shrug and pulls under the bar into the full overhead squat position, then stands. Be sure not to dip, jump, or use any other compensatory movement to attain momentum on the bar other than a shrug up.

This exercise is designed to train speed when pulling under the bar. Perform with an empty barbell initially to avoid compensation and slowly increase weight over the course of a training cycle. Remember, it is not about the weight on the bar – it is about speed under the bar.

Thomas Lower

Snatch without Moving Feet:

This exercise can be done using the hook grip or not; I do not believe that either will have an impact on the effectiveness of the exercise. This is one of my favorite exercises to use with intermediate to advanced weightlifting athletes to work on timing, positioning, and finish of the snatch. The general concept of the exercise is that if you are put in a receiving position with your feet and do not allow yourself to jump under the bar, your positions in the pull, timing of the catch, and finish all must be correct for you to be successful in the lift.

Common mistakes that can be corrected with this exercise:

Pulling one’s shoulders back too early causes the athlete to drive the hips to the bar instead of staying over the bar and bringing the bar to the hips. One rule that I always preach to my athletes is that, “Whatever your shoulders do in the pull, your knees will do the opposite.” This is our way of staying balanced through the pull. So if your shoulders pull back too early in the pull, your knees – along with your hips – will come through early also. A common adjustment we see is either a jump back or jump forward to reposition under the bar. Using the snatch without moving feet eliminates this adjustment, which forces the athlete to stay over the bar and stay on the heels longer in the pull.

The second rule I preach to my athletes is that, “Where you meet the bar at the hips in comparison to your foot will control where you receive the bar overhead in comparison to your foot.” Simply put, if you throw your hips to the bar and the point of contact over your toes, chances are you will receive the bar over your toes. Now, if an athlete stays patient and brings the bar in the proper power position and meets the bar at the hips over the middle of the foot, the athlete has a much better chance to receive centered and over the middle of the foot. The snatch without moving feet forces you to meet the bar over the center of your foot in the power position, or you will not be successful in the lift.

Along with benefiting the positioning of the pull, this exercise also emphasizes the finish and timing of the catch as mentioned above. Since the feet are already in the receiving position, this takes away some of the complexity of the catch. With fewer moving parts, the athlete is left to focus on other aspects of the lift. One common mistake for many weightlifting athletes is getting crashed on in the catch. This is often due to a few different mistakes, including: a timing issue between receiving the bar overhead and hitting the receiving position, losing tension with the bar mid-pull, and lack of finish at the top of the pull. The snatch without moving feet can help fix all three of these mistakes. Since the feet are stationary on this exercise, it becomes easier to time the catch. The athlete can work on receiving the bar at different positions at the catch and work on tightening up at the hips against the bar on the finish. For losing tension against the bar and the finish, the snatch without moving feet takes away a lot of the power that would be distributed on the top of the pull with the jump. This puts an emphasis on the pull through the middle and the finish at the top. If the athlete stops pulling at any time, he or she will be unsuccessful in the lift.

Snatch from Various Heights Using Blocks or Stairs:

Snatching from various heights has become very popular, and it does have a very important place in a program. Doing block work allows an athlete to work on different positions of the pull without letting strength deficiencies become the limiting factor. You cannot separate strength and technique. Are the athletes pulling back too early because they have bad technique, or are they weaker in the back in comparison to their legs so they are trying to get back to an upright position? Probably both for most athletes. Block work gives you the ability to put the athlete in a good position without the strain of constantly doing the full lifts, giving a coach the ability to work on technical issues from the top-down (hip and hang block work) and strength issues from the bottom-up (pulls from various heights) to prepare the athlete for the full lifts.

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