This article is part of the Rehband ‘Carry Yourself’ series, a complete guide explaining how to improve your upper body strength, mobility, posture and health.
The guide will give you tools to analyse your technique for the Snatch in detail. It will help you to improve your lifts, make you more resistant to injury and ultimately give you a stronger upper body allowing you to become a better athlete and more accomplished lifter. It will also give you helpful tips from top CrossFit® and Rehband athletes Annie Thorisdottir, Rich Froning and USA Weightlifter Mattie Rogers. Learning from some of the best is a sure-fire way to improve.
There is also a particular focus on learning to move well in order to maximise your full potential and avoid injury. Learning the correct movement patterns and performing them with excellent form is absolutely essential for success, and to improve the everyday functionality of your body and long-term health.
Learning the Snatch technique is one of the hardest skills to master. It contrasts with the clean and jerk, in that it favours the athleticism attributed to a gymnastic body-type over the ‘gym-bro’, who may be struggling to learn the snatch after years spent believing that parallel squats were the lowest one could possibly go, and the overhead squat was a mere fairy tale.
A big snatch requires a combination of flexibility, strength, power and technique, without any one of these your snatch will eventually suffer.
These tips will help to prevent against the frustration that the snatch can inevitably bring.
1. START RIGHT, END RIGHT
The start position in the snatch is often ignored by many beginners because we only really know we have failed the snatch when it does not make it above your head. If you do not start correctly, the bar path and your power will be severely handicapped. When you set up, check your feet, knees, hips and shoulders.
Firstly, start with your toes under the bar, if the bar starts far away, it stays far away. Pressure should be distributed on the balls of your feet to allow your legs to drive through the floor. Point your feet and knees slightly out, this will help the bar stay close without smashing into your knees.
Keep those hips down! Hips should always be lower than your shoulders, so make sure they are positioned like that in your start position.
Your shoulders must be over the bar to start with as this will allow you to produce that powerful hip extension when you move into the extension phase at the top of the lift.
2. REVERSE THE CHAIN TO SOLVE ANY PROBLEMS
Working backwards from the snatch is the ideal problem solver. If you have a problem with your catch position, overhead squats and snatch balance are going to be your friends. For 90% of beginners it is the second pull (from the knee into the extension) that causes problems. The dip snatch and hang snatch above knee will be your next port of call.
Wrist protection and elbow sleeves are a great way to help offer support and feedback to your body during the catch phase of the snatch. It is important to work on strengthening these parts of your upper body in order to support the weight.
Finally, if there are issues transitioning from below the knee to above, hang snatch below the knee or pause snatch (pausing at the knee) will help your mind and body connect the two. Do not just continue to snatch from the floor, experiment with a warm up drill of hang snatch, hang snatch below the knee and snatch from the floor until you feel your full snatch is perfect.
3. YOU ARE ONLY AS STRONG AS YOUR WEAKEST POINT
Turning your weaknesses into strengths is essential when it comes to snatching. For example, if you always break down in the catch position, then having a huge pull counts for nothing if your overhead position cannot receive the weight correctly.
Weaknesses may always be there, but if you step into the gym tomorrow and attack them regularly then they will improve and help your snatch along the way!
4. PULLS, PULLS PULLS!
Essential for technique and strength, without these, you cannot get enough mileage on the correct positions for it to carry over into your snatch! Pulls should emphasise control, with a strong shrug with the shoulders whilst your feet move up onto the toes. Just snatching to improve your snatch is like learning to drive a car under race conditions, you really need some quiet time to purely focus on control and movement patterns.
Many beginners shy away from pulls often because they do not understand the purpose, nor feel the effect. Pulls do not make you feel like you will snatch the weight because you and the bar are not moving in the same way as with a full snatch, but have no fear, they will help your lift. We recommend five sets of 3 repetitions +10 kg more than your best snatch.
SNATCH TECHNIQUE IS NOTHING WITHOUT STRENGTH
The old Russian weightlifting research¹² shows that the snatch on average is about 60% of your maximum back squat. If you only do a few WODs a week and your leg strength is something you struggle with, I recommend that squats are trained in another session (or at the very least, before the WOD) if you want to truly improve your efficiency, leg strength and ultimately your potential in the Olympic lifts. This article is concentrating on the role of the upper body, but if your legs and core are not strong, then you will never achieve your full potential with the snatch.
The Clean and Jerk, Snatch and Accessory Exercises will all help to develop your mobility, strength and motor patterns. They are all great ways to strengthen your upper body for general life as well.
Make sure that you always place optimal form at the top of your list of priorities when it comes to mastering these lifts. This in turn will improve your posture and proprioceptive abilities as well. Both of these classical Olympic lifts will also test and improve your athleticism and ability to generate power and speed in a technically effective manner. They are different from other more strength orientated exercises such as the overhead press in that you have to enable your full potential across a broader range of domains in order to complete each lift successfully.
¹ Determining Physical Preparedness of Weightlifters For Competition, V.G. Oleshko in 1980 Weightlifting Yearbook
² Modeling Speed Strength Preparedness of Weightlifters by Mikhailyuk and Bashkirov in 1983 Weightlifting Yearbook