Improve Your Snatch


Snatch: (noun) the rapid raising of a weight from the floor to above the head in one movement.

Reading that definition from, “the snatch” seems easier said than done, huh?

For the majority of us CrossFitters and weightlifters, however, the snatch somehow seems to become this complicated, intricate Advanced Calculus problem that we spend hours, sessions, years trying to conquer, correct and improve.

Heck, even the most elite CrossFit Games athletes will tell you that they are continuously working on this ever-simple movement of lifting a barbell from the floor to above their heads in one movement.

So what is the secret to improving the ‘intimidating’ snatch?

Below are a few key tips to at least get you pointed in the right direction.

Before you get started, don’t forget to warm up with a couple rounds of the Burgener warmup:

Dip and drive from high hang (Down and Up)
Dip and drive from high hang followed by a high pull (Elbows High and Outside)
Muscle snatch from high hang
Snatch grip behind the neck push press
Overhead squat
Snatch balance (no heaving)
Squat snatch from high hang

Now, for the keys for Performance:

Shoulders OVER the Bar.

Weight lifting ‘master’, Spencer Arnold, a USAW athlete and coach for many competitive weight lifters and CrossFitters, says:

“A target problem is our inability to cover the bar with our shoulders when snatching or cleaning. A lifter’s best friend is leverage. Just like a see-saw with a heavy weight on one end: the longer the lever, the less power need to be applied to move the weight. This goes back to simple machines in 9th grade physical science. The longer the lever that is moving an object, the more weight it is able to displace with less force. This is how catapults in the Middle Ages were able to throw giant stones thousands of yards: Leverage. Cover the bar with your shoulders in the set-up, prior to the first pull.”


Sweep the Bar Back:

A big reason why a lot of missed lifts occur is from improper hip movement into the bar as it transitions from the ground up into the hips.  You may try to rip the bar off the ground as fast as you can and miss bar-body contact completely, or you may bounce the bar off the low thigh and end up sweeping the bar out and around (instead of straight up and down).

From the first (pull) position, your shoulders, arms, hips and legs, should move in unison, like an elevator, pulling the bar straight up off the ground. The knees also need to be pushed back out of the way of the bar so that the legs are almost extended bringing the bar to just above the kneecap, then transferring your weight back on to the legs and heels, where a powerful leg drive is used to propel a heavy weight up an extra couple of inches that you need to get under it.

“Think” of Starting the Bar Every Time from the Hang Position

Since the first two tips focus more on the ‘first pull’—sometimes it’s just plain hard to re-wire poorly learned motor mechanics. When all else fails, think about breaking a full snatch up, in your mind, into two distinctly separate pulls—the first pull from the ground, then the second pull from the hang. For those who struggle with moving the body in one continuous movement, missing their hips, or bouncing the bar off their thighs, it can be easier to tell yourself that you are “just doing a hang snatch”—snatch-grip deadlift that bar up to the mid thigh, then focus on completing the lift from the hang position. Use momentum from your hips and shoulders to fire that bar up the body and overhead. Performing snatches from a mid thigh, launch position can also help improve your speed under the bar, since you are able to use more weight due to the engagement of the hamstrings.

Focus on Improving Your Overhead Squat

What came first, the chicken or the egg? Sometimes the thought of a complete snatch can be overwhelming—especially if you are uncomfortable with landing in the overhead squat position. This is where you can take a ‘bottom up’ approach, and first, begin to work on the ‘landing position’, your overhead squat (and getting comfortable with weight overhead). Check out this article for a few pointers, specifically on squatting overhead: [HERE]

While You Are At It….Focus on Mobility!

You’ve heard it once, you’ll hear it again: Mobility, mobility, mobility. Lacrosse ball around your scapula and shoulder blades, on your Serratus Anterior (the muscle on your side, underneath your armpits) and in the socket of your anterior shoulder capsule (front of your shoulder, to the side of your Pectoral muscles). You can also take a pull-up band and use it to stretch into your lats and shoulders. Sure, you’ve heard it before—but begin to put it into practice when you see “Snatch” on the Whiteboard. It can make a world of difference! Of course, we couldn’t forget to mention this guy: [HERE]

Nicole Hughes