This article is part of the Rehband Carry Yourself series, a complete guide to improving your upper body strength, mobility and movement patterns.
The accessory exercises will help you to strengthen your upper body, improve your lifts and make you more resistant to injury. They promote both technique and the development of strength in other capacities, 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, Tia Clair Toomey and USA Weightlifter Mattie Rogers.
Accessory exercises are a great way to attack your lift and technique from new angles, strengthen weak spots and break through plateaus. Use these variations to become a better lifter with a much stronger upper body.
1. SNATCH HIGH PULL
The snatch high pull is a great way to develop strength, speed, power, posture and balance. You will be able to handle heavier weights than in the snatch, which in turn is great for improving explosive power.
Generally, the snatch pull should be done for 2-5 reps per set anywhere from 80%-110% of the lifter’s best snatch depending on the lifter and how it fits into the program. The weight should not exceed what you can do with reasonably proper positioning and speed in the final extension. As a strength exercise, it should be placed toward the end of a workout, but because it also involves some speed and technique, it’s generally best performed before more basic strength work like squats or upper body pressing exercises.
2. HANG SNATCH
The hang snatch has many functions. It can be used for beginners because many people find it easier than snatching from the floor. It creates balance and proper positioning at the start of the second pull. It is a great way to develop force production in the extension and more aggressiveness in the pull under the bar.
3. SNATCHING FROM THE BLOCKS
Snatching from the blocks means that the plates of the bar rest on blocks that vary in height to provide a dead stop from which to execute the lift from. Typically, this is just above the knee and around the mid-thigh area. This is done to focus on improving a certain part of the pull or the receiving portion of the snatch and is crucial in developing and continuing to improve the second pull.
“It is always good to work from different positions – then when you put them all together hopefully the whole lift will go up. I focus on high elbows and speed getting under the bar.” Annie Thorisdottir
This is a valuable training tool that requires no more mobility than a full snatch and can be used to improve your pulling and receiving technique in the snatch. Subsequently, it has the potential to improve both your one rep max and your performance in WOD’s involving snatches and snatch cycling.
As any of you who have tried high rep barbell cycling – especially snatches – will testify, your arms will burn out fast if you’re lifting with sub-optimal technique and often this is because of inefficiencies in the second pull.
4. SNATCH DEADLIFT
The snatch deadlift strengthens the first pull of the snatch.
Begin with a wide snatch grip with the barbell placed on the platform. The feet should be directly under the hips, with the feet turned out. Squat down to the bar, keeping the back in absolute extension with the head facing forward.
Initiate the movement by driving through the heels, raising the hips. The back angle should remain the same until the bar passes the knees.
At that point, drive your hips through the bar as you lay back. Return the bar to the platform by reversing the motion.
5. PAUSED OVERHEAD SQUATS
The overhead squat is the ultimate core exercise, the heart of the snatch, and peerless in developing effective athletic movement. This demanding exercise reveals every lack of mobility without mercy. Adding a pause at the bottom will help you to strengthen your overhead position and your ability to catch and balance the bar during the lift. Try this exercise with arm compression sleeves to offer additional support and feedback to your body.
6. SNATCH GRIP PUSH PRESS
Also known as snatch presses, they increase the strength and mobility of the arms in the snatch receiving position. This is also a great shoulder exercise, and if you want to build serious strength, do them strict.
7. BARBELL ROWS
Training the upper back stabilizers is pretty common in Olympic Weightlifting, but often the lats are neglected. Barbell rows enable both to be trained at the same time.
The barbell row is one of the most effective assistance exercises you can do to increase your squat, bench press and deadlift. It will improve the strength of your back, hips and grip and even be useful for improving the power of your lifting.
Technique for the Barbell Row
- Grip the bar firmly and tense your upper back muscles.
- Slowly pull the bar off the floor by engaging your upper back and lat muscles.
- You should feel a pulling sensation across your back, this indicates that the lats are engaged.
- As the lats engage and you begin to lift the bar off the floor in line with your sternum, keep your elbows locked and in position.
- The elbows play a significant role in the row as well as other pushing and pulling lifts.
- You will need to find the best position for your elbows. A good starting position will be about 45 degrees from the body.
The Bar Path
- Pull the barbell up in a straight path, close the body by tightening your upper back, lats, and everything in between.
- Squeeze hard at the top of the movement.
- Slowly lower the bar back to the starting position over the centre of your foot.
- By lowering the barbell slowly, you will be able to feel your lats really work.
The Clean and Jerk, Snatch and these 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.