The Snatch can be one of the most frustrating lifts. If you haven’t spent a ton of time hammering technique you may have found that you might not miss a single lift one day and miss everything the next. Consistency is key when it comes to the Olympic lifts. Here are a few exercises that can improve technique and consistency in the Snatch.
Helps if: you lack overhead strength, you’re uncomfortable under heavy weight.
Unrack the weight as you would a back squat and move the hands to the same width as you would use for the Snatch. Push press the weight up and make sure the elbows are locked and pointing to the sides. The wrists should be extended position (think about a waiter holding a tray). As you squat continue to “press up” on the bar to remain in a stable position. Return to a standing position.
Helps if: you’re slow under the bar, have balance issues in the catch position, you’re uncomfortable under heavy weight.
Unrack the weight as you would a back squat and move the hands to the same width as you would use for the Snatch. Perform a dip and drive (as you would in a Jerk) while simultaneously pushing yourself under the weight as fast as possible. When pushing under the bar be sure to lock the elbows out and continue to press up against the bar. If the weight is light, ride the weight down into a full squat position. Return to a standing position.
Snatch High Pull
Helps if: you “loop” the bar around the body instead of keeping it close.
Set up in a Snatch position with the bar on the ground (or blocks). Perform a normal Snatch pull. When the body is in a fully extended position pull the elbows high and to the sides while keeping the bar close into the body. The bar should come to about chest height at the top of the pull. For this exercise to be effective it is imperative that the bar stays close to the body through the entire lift. Allowing the bar to travel outside the base of support can reinforce bad habits.
Toes Off Snatch
Helps if: you consistently jump forward as you catch, you don’t push through the heels during the pull.
For this exercise you need board anywhere up to an ~1″ in height and wide and long enough to safely Snatch on. Set up as you would a normal Snatch, but place your toes off the edge of the board (see Figure 1) and perform the lift. Because your toes are off the board it will force you to push through your heels and stay balanced in the appropriate positions. This exercise can help those that have the tendency to transition to the forefoot too early as well as those who push the hips and bar out in front of the feet during the pull (which will typically cause an athlete to jump forward). If you hop forward during this exercise, there’s no way you’re making the lift. You may actually find yourself moving the feet backwards as you land during this exercise.
Rearward displacement in the drop-under phase in the snatch is not detrimental to performance and actually seems to be a preferred technique in US national-level lifters. In addition to evidence that rearward displacement is exhibited in elite lifters and is coached globally, it seems this is the preferred technique in international competitions. This technique may be considered a viable variation of the snatch by coaches and athletes of all levels. (1)
It is important to note that you do not have to “jump backward” to be successful in the lift. The feet should ideally land a little wider than your pull stance or a little wider with a slight rearward displacement. This “jump backwards” should not happen actively, meaning jumping backwards on purpose or for the sake of jumping backwards will not help. Actively jumping backwards can have a negative impact on the lift. This rearward displacement should come naturally as a product of a proper pull.
These exercises aren’t a one-time fix or a solution to every technique flaw. With everything, perfect repetition over the course of many sessions is important. Also, these are not the end-all be-all to Snatch improvement, though I have found these, specifically, to be very effective in improving the common errors found in the Snatch lift. There are many other successful drills and lifts to improve technique – one being the Snatch itself. It has been said that if you want to be good at something do more of that something… If you want to get better at playing the piano, play more often. If you want to get better at Snatching, Snatch more often.
1. Whitehead PN, Schilling BK, Stone MH, Kilgore JL, Chiu LZ. Snatch Technique of United States National Level Weightlifters. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Aug 12. [Epub ahead of print]