If you did not know, my favorite lifts are Olympic lifts. It is an awesome feeling when you can grab a heavy weight and accomplish a perfect lift. A perfect lift feels effortless, but it can be frustrating when you have a failed. The snatch in my opinion is one of the hardest lifts to master. It is such a unique exercise that needs to be taken serious. You need to put in the time and perfect practice to master the art of the snatch!
How to Perform the Snatch:
Before we even think about picking up the bar, we need to figure out our grip width. The snatch grip is a very wide grip that can be awkward at first. What really helped me was practicing on a broomstick until it became 2nd nature. So how do you know where to grip the bar? How I demonstrate to people is I have the lift their elbow up to 90 degrees and measure from elbow to elbow. Then that’s how far apart you are going to spread your hands on the bar. This will help you have a consistent grip that will help open up your shoulders for a more flexible movement.
Grip and Foot Position:
Now that we have the grip down, next we need to get into the starting position. Take note that if you have not mastered the deadlift then you need to accomplish this first. When you step up to the bar, you want your feet hip-width apart and you can turn your feet slightly out. Next you want to squat down by bending your knees. For most people, your hips will higher than your knees, chest up, back flat and shoulder blades pulled back. Your chest can be barely in front of the bar or right above it. Make sure that your weight is distributed in the center of your feet. If you are too much on your toes, you will fall on your face. If you are too much on your heels, you will fall on your butt. Before attempting the snatch, I like to do a couple warm up deadlifts with the snatch grip so I can get my legs and my rhythm down.
The next step is the 1st pull. This step is important because this is the beginning of our power. While lifting the bar we want to keep our hips back to create a strong contraction in our hamstrings and glutes. It is really important that our back is flat, our shoulder blades are pulled back and we are kicking our butt back. During the lifting phase your back should stay in the same angle, this means that our legs are doing the work not our back. This will help you become more efficient when transferring force throughout the entire lift. The bar needs to be as close to the body the whole time.
As we begin to extend up it is important that we use our hamstrings and our glutes to extend up while keeping your arms straight. Too many times I see people round their back when lifting up. This is a great way to wreck our lower back. When the bar gets to the knees, you need to be explosive up by pushing your feet into the ground while driving your hips towards the bar. While your knees are becoming fully extended, you are going jump and shrug your shoulders up. Your arms need to be straight while in this phase.
The second pull is the most explosive and powerful phase of the snatch. It begins when the knees reach maximum flexion during the transition phase. Have you ever done a wide grip upright row? That is what you are going to be doing in the next phase. If you have never down a wide grip high pull, then it can be helpful to become familiar with this movement. During this stage we are pulling the bar up our stomach as fast as we can until we reach our chin. When we reach our chin, our body should be in a triple extension. What is triple extension? Triple extension is when we have a maximum extension from our ankles, knees and hips. Some people like to jump when they are trying to get the weight above their head, but if you can be explosive while keeping your toes on the ground then that’s perfectly fine.
When you are pulling during the 1st and 2nd pulls, bar velocity is crucial. Research has suggested that the barbell should reach 70 percent of its maximum vertical velocity (Bartonietz 1996). If there is any hesitation during the lift, then you will most likely not accomplish a perfect lift. Usually when your velocity slows down, this is due to fatigue or a mistake in your delivery. When you catch the bar, then there will be negative velocity so can hold the bar above your head.
The catch phase is the overhead squat portion of this lift. An overhead squat and/or holding the bar above your head can be very challenging. In my personal experience, working with a broomstick first and then progressing to the bar is the way to start. Having the proper strength and stabilization in the shoulders is crucial in order to accomplish this lift. Another important note is that you need to have a strong trunk so you can hold the bar up in the air. Having a weak core will make you unstable and could lead to injury. When you snap the bar up in the air and catch it in the overhead position, your feet can move outside of shoulder width to give you a sturdy base. To have a textbook lift, you must lock your elbows out and hold that position for a couple of seconds.
The snatch has been shown to have positive effects in jumping and running performance. Just because it has it’s benefits, this does not mean that this should be the only Olympic lift that we should do. If you are new to this lift, take your time with it. Having your person practice a deadlift first, then progressing to a snatch grip deadlift. During the second pull, have them perform some snatch grip upright rows with a stick and then a bar can be very helpful. When you are incorporating this lift into your weightlifting program, this should be one of or the 1st lift. It is very important that we have a full tank to maximize this powerful exercise.
1. Akkus H. Kinematic analysis of the snatch lift with elite female weightlifters during the 2010 World Weightlifting Championship. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 26(4): 897-905, 2012.
2. Bartonietz, KE. Biomechanics of the snatch: Towards a higher training efficiency. Strength and Conditioning Journal 18(3): 24-31, 1996.
3. Campos J, Poletaev P, Cuesta A, Pablos C, and Carratala V. Kinematical analysis of the snatch in elite male junior weightlifters of different weight categories. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 20(4): 843-850, 2006.
Written by Chris Barber, CPT