Snatch block work (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, I believe, in developing and continuing to improve the second pull.
I’m sure a lot of you reading this have done Hang Snatches before, and Block Snatches are basically performed from the same position, but there’s quite a big difference between them.
THE BENEFITS OF LIFTING FROM A DEADSTOP POSITION
Firstly, I want to revisit the dead stop comment I made in the first sentence of this article. From the hang, there will always be a little bit of bounce or movement and definitely constant tension as you go to set up and then execute the lift. Therefore you will get a little bit of extra help that you won’t get from a dead stop start from the blocks.
This means you need to focus on an aggressive, fast, complete and assertive second and third pull to put acceleration on the bar and then swiftly pull yourself under the bar to receive it. If you don’t finish your pull properly, if your shoulders aren’t over the bar sufficiently in the set-up or if you don’t actively pull yourself under the bar then Snatches from the blocks will unearth all kinds of weaknesses, which is good, because it means you can fix them.
A GREAT WAY TO AVOID OVERTHINKING YOUR LIFTS
It’s also good if you tend to overthink the lifts because from the blocks all you need to do is set up and go. No hanging around, no slow pulling from the floor, just acceleration and power. You don’t have to just perform full snatches from the blocks, however. Snatch pulls and high pulls are also really effective in improving pulling technique and if you know that’s solely what you need to work on then that might be more efficient for you than performing full snatches from the blocks all of the time.
SECOND PULL, BODY POSITIONING AND ACCESSORY EXERCISES
It’s not too rare to find that you can lift more from the blocks than you can from the floor by 5kg or so. This is purely because you can set yourself in a better position from the blocks to execute your second pull than you’ll probably be in pulling a one rep max snatch from the floor, so it is to do with technical deficiencies, but even so it happens quite frequently.
When I haven’t lifted for a while I often find that my first pull becomes sloppy, my hips will rise first and my back will generally lack the positional strength needed to stay over the bar correctly and in that situation I’ll always be able to lift more from the blocks, no question. If you know you can consistently lift more from blocks than you can from the floor, then it might be time to look at integrating some positional strength work, pausing (segment) Snatches, pausing pulls and Snatch Deadlifts to help get rid of that weakness and make your snatch a better, more consistent overall lift.
BLOCK SNATCH SAFETY
So hopefully you’ve realised that Block Snatch work is a pretty effective training tool, however like most things in weightlifting and Crossfit, it has to be practiced with caution. As the blocks are usually about two feet long and one-foot-wide, each wooden Snatch block, (you can also stack bumper plates up if you don’t have access to blocks) naturally has corners and edges. If you do bail out badly you can send the barbell flying across to the other side of the gym and taking out anyone who stands in the way.
It won’t take much more than five minutes on social media to find the video of Mattie Rogers (an elite US -69kg lifter) lifting from the blocks, her bar then hits the front edge of the blocks and rolls about 6 meters full speed into a huge window and well… smashes it.
Luckily there was no one in the way, but it can be quite disconcerting when you contemplate handling a bailout when you’re snatching from the bocks. My advice would be to ensure the path is clear to the front and to the rear of you, and try to follow the bar down with your hands after each lift to ensure it doesn’t jump off the blocks at an awkward angle. At the end of the day it’s weightlifting, it’s there’s an element of risk involved, it’s down to us as athletes to minimise it.
POSITIVE EFFECTS OF SNATCH BLOCK TRAINING IN CROSSFIT
Snatching from the blocks can also help performance of the lifts in CrossFit. If you can establish a bombproof second and third pull then that will allow you to lift more in one rep max lifting events and help the efficacy of your barbell 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 suboptimal technique and often this is because of inefficiencies in the second pull.
- Get the second pull right by integrating Snatch block work into your program,
- Develop better pulling technique,
- Save your arms, do more reps, get better WOD scores/times. Simple.
In summary, Snatching from the blocks 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. There are safety aspects to keep a watchful eye on, however if used sensibly and correctly you should have no issues in integrating snatches from the blocks into your weightlifting or CrossFit program.
Happy lifting and enjoy your Snatch Block work!