Snatch Training | Exercises to improve the snatch
Ever hear someone talk about how much their snatch sucks? Woe is me-ing about what they do wrong and trying to figure out what to do better to overcome a plateau? Every coach has heard this from their athletes.
A lot of athletes will wallow in their own heads about how to improve. Start by understanding what needs to be done by performing the movement of the snatch in a technically efficient manner. Right off the floor, the knees need to clear back. From below the knee to above the knee, no man’s land (where most lifts are lost), the technical model comes into play something fierce. Exiting no man’s land into the reciprocation point where the knees come forward and the heels are held flat with the chest forward. Then the chest is raised as the bar comes into the hip before finishing strong with the upper body into the catch position.
We have to know the technical model. We have to break it down into all the little parts mentioned above. Then we have to see where the athlete is losing the lift. Now with the snatch, it is almost never about strength; it is almost always about the technique. The snatch is a very finicky movement; it is receptive to errors.
The realm of the snatch world is a very precise movement. This reinforces the idea that it is rarely a lack of strength but a technical error causing the missed lift.
4. Pause At The Liftoff / Lower And Reset / Snatch
Right off the floor, we want the knees to clear back. A lot of people tend to bump the bar forward right off the floor. This puts the lifter on their toes incredibly early in the pull and out of position.
To correct this position we have our lifters liftoff and pause two to three inches off the floor for a solid two to three count. The athlete needs to feel the knees come back. Lower the bar back down to the floor, get reset and go into the full snatch movement.
The key is to execute the liftoff for the full snatch the exact same way the liftoff with the pause is executed. By teaching the lifter the proper position from the liftoff will help them be more successful going forward and work towards eliminating the bumping of the bar forward from the liftoff.
3. Low Hang With A Pause Below The Knee
The next position where misses tend to stem from is right below the knee. The big key part here is that when the bar is directly below the knee, right around the patellar tendon, the knees need to be over-top the heels.
Have lifters lift the bar up, lower the bar below the knee, and pause right below the knee for a solid count of two or three to start. The reason a lot of lifters miss lifts from this position is that they tend to keep their knees forward. By throwing the pause in there, we are teaching the lifter how to feel their hamstrings engaged with the knees cleared back. As the athletes come out of the pause and the bar passes the knees, we want to see the knees come forward so the bar stays nice and tight through no man’s land. Then as the bar comes into the hip we want to see them holding the flat foot position.
This will help drastically improve the position right below the knee. The lifter will learn how to load their hamstrings as the knees clear back. In turn, this leads to a much bigger finish because the hamstrings are nice and loaded.
2. Two-Box Snatch
The reciprocation point, which is just above the knee, into the hip can be a serious problem area for athletes who keep their knees back too long. This creates a gapping issue between the bar and the thighs. This is when we see athletes get way behind the bar. Athletes will then either bend their arms to bring the bar in or their chest will get way behind the bar. This is when we see athletes bruise their pubic bones.
The key factor is knowing the feeling of clearing the knees back and then reciprocate forward; it is a little stretch reflex. We like to work this position from two blocks. We want the bar just above the knee caps, right around the reciprocation point. This forces the knees underneath the bar and has the athlete start from the position where the bar is already past the knee the lifter is able to better learn how to get their hips underneath their chest and extend vertically through their heels.
Lifters who tend to get their chest way behind the bar, the two-box snatch will expose that the athlete is looping the bar all over the place and they are inconsistent. Over time, as they start to feel their knees being under the bar and their knees are forward while their heels are grounded and their chest is in the proper position, it will transfer to monster lifts from the two-box position.
The demand of a vertical position transfers well to the full lift. Just make sure the bar is starting right above the knee at the reciprocation point to develop this explosiveness and technical prowess.
1. Snatch Balance
The last position requires catching the snatch. A lot of lifters struggle off the hip into the catch. There are various reasons for this: the chest gets too far behind the bar, getting on the toes early and bumping everything forward, not having an active upper body.
One of the biggest mistakes we see is lifters jumping their feet all over the place and stomping their feet like crazy. The problem becomes that most lifters aren’t athletic enough to be able to jump their feet all over the place; anyway, they shouldn’t be doing that anyway. The feet need to slide out.
This is based on physics. The longer the lifter is in a grounded position the longer they can apply force into the ground, which helps lift the bar. The sooner the feet get grounded, the sooner the lifter can absorb the force.
At Garage Strength, we show the snatch balance with minimal instruction. We do this to see the athlete perform the movement with a focus on their feet. Jumping all over the place? Going wide? Staying narrow? Barely doing anything? Crazy looking?
What is crazy is when we have a lifter who jumps all over the place and we have them perform a no-foot snatch balance, they end up doing weights that are 30, 40, 50 kilos over their best normal snatch! Why? Because the lifter is grounded and not moving their feet in the snatch balance position. They are connected to the ground so they can absorb the force of the weight very rapidly.
From there, over time, we want to transfer from the no-foot snatch balance into a movement that isn’t jumping the feet out but sliding the feet out into the catch position. Over time, as they learn how to slide the feet in the snatch balance, they develop more confidence in the catch position. This then transfers into the full snatch.
All of the above movement variations need to be executed with the thought in mind of how the movement needs to look from a full position. It can’t just be a random exercise. The movements have to be done with a specific purpose that is going to transfer well to the competitive movement. In this case, it is the snatch. Use all four exercises to improve positions and drastically improve the kilos on the bar, technical precision, and the ability to execute the movement with confidence and repeatability.
Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.