If you’ve followed Strength Ambassadors for any length of time, or you’ve read a couple of our blogs, you will have probably heard me mention “the Snatch”.
For the experienced lifters among us, this will be common terminology. For those of you who are just starting out with lifting of any kind, you might be thinking… Wait. What are we snatching?
Technically, we’re snatching increased strength, stability and power, but this will all mean very little out of context.
So today, we’re going to talk about an Olympic weightlifting movement that is enjoying a recent surge in popularity: the snatch.
What is the Snatch?
The snatch is one of the two lifts found in Olympic weightlifting. When a lifter performs the snatch, their objective is to lift the barbell from the ground to over their head, in one continuous motion.
The feeling of lifting something from the ground and securely holding it overhead is part of what makes the snatch so empowering. It’s fun to do, it looks heroic, and at the same time it develops a number of important attributes.
It enhances strength, speed and power, whilst tightening core and overhead strength, improving mobility, and it even has neurological benefits.
Kinaesthetic awareness is increased when a lifter performs the snatch because they have to be acutely aware of where they are in relation to the bar, as well as knowing when to receive the bar to ensure the snatch is successful. All of this develops our specialised sensory receptors which are responsible for relaying information about pressure and tension on the muscles to the central nervous system.
No wonder it’s sometimes referred to as the most athletic movement in sport!
What is the technique for the Snatch?
For weightlifting beginners, it’s essential to start with the basics when learning the snatch. Because the snatch is so complex, it’s advisable that those brand new to Olympic lifting seek the expertise of a qualified coach, which I can help you out with.
Before you even reach the bar however, it’s useful to be prepared in these areas:
Mobility and Stability
In a snatch, you rely heavily on the mobility of your shoulders, your thoracic spine – also known as your upper back – and your ankles.
As well as having good mobility in these areas it’s advisable to have good stability, too. A strong and stable core will come up trumps here as you support the bar through the lift.
Basic foundational movements
Practicing the foundational lifting movements: deadlifts, squats, rows, presses and overhead squats will build the strength necessary for Olympic lifting, plus teach you the correct movement patterns that can then be carried into your snatch.
Learning to fail
Yes, it may sound strange but actually in weightlifting there is a lot of failure and it’s important that lifters get comfortable with that. Why? Because not only will you learn from your mistakes, bettering your technique, form and movement the next time around, but in the snatch you also need to know how to get out of the way. Learning to fail makes us better, and potentially prevents injuries, so stay humble.
One element some lifters struggle with is how to get the bar into the hip. Click here for my best tips to make that transition seamless.
How to Perform a Snatch
A snatch that has been performed successfully and with great technique will look and feel fast, fluid and explosive. To achieve these three important things, there are five areas that lifters should work to finesse when snatching.
1. The Start Position
A good starting position will allow you to maintain the correct bar path and ultimately snatch more weight, more efficiently. A bad starting position will push the bar away from the correct path, and your lift can be over before you’re even halfway through.
A good starting position will usually follow these guidelines:
- Your feet are hip width apart, toes slightly turned out, with your mid-foot directly under the bar.
- In the start position, hips should be slightly higher than your knees, and shoulders slightly higher than hips.
- Your chest is lifted, back is neutral, and your head should be looking forwards.
- Your shoulders should be just in front of the bar.
- Your arms are relaxed but straight. This is because the pull should drive through the legs.
2. Lift off
Your lift off is not your lift. It’s important to ascertain that now so that you save your maximum power for later on in the lift. This area only focuses on the movement of the bar from the floor to just above your knees.
- Don’t rush. Think of this area as your set up. Get comfortable and get in position, saving your power until the explosion and acceleration that will complete the snatch later.
- Practice pushing through your legs to bring the bar up and closer toward your knees. It’s normal for the legs to straighten out slightly.
- Synchronise your hips and shoulders moving up at the same time whilst maintaining their same angle as in the start position
- Keep your arms straight, chest lifted, spine still neutral with your shoulders over the bar
- Don’t let the bar drift. Keep it tight to your legs.
3. Transition from above the knees to the power position
Everything has to happen quite quickly in this section, and this is the very beginning of the acceleration that will help propel that bar up and overhead in one fluid motion.
- Once the bar passes your knees, slightly rebend them in preparation for the explosive element of the lift
- Keep your torso tight, with ribs and pelvis aligned, and keep your arms straight, holding the bar against your body
- Accelerate the bar up your thighs as your body transforms into the power position
- Keep your heels on the floor throughout this phase – there can be a tendency for your weight to be pulled forward onto your toes, so push against the floor to avoid this happening
4. From the power position to the finish of the pull
This section is full of strength, speed and power. Everything performed here should be performed explosively, with gusto and energy.
- From the power position, push explosively with your legs as though you’re performing a vertical jump
- As your legs extend, shrug your shoulders to aid the transferring of force to the bar whilst you begin to descend underneath it
- Keep the bar as close to your body as possible and set your elbows high
- Resist the urge to pull the bar up with your arms: It will continue to move upward
5. Receiving the bar
This final section is the most empowering of all. This is where you will be holding the bar over your head in true heroic style, but it requires timing and focus.
- To accurately time the catch of the bar, punch your arms to full extension overhead at the same time that your feet hit the ground. You should be in a position similar to an overhead squat
- Maintain tension throughout your body, ensuring you have a connection that feels as though you are working as a unit. Push upwards into the bar to create a stable overhead position with your torso upright and head looking forward.
- To complete your snatch, returning to a standing position with feet in line and arms locked out.
Practicing those five areas will set you up to perform a snatch that is explosive, full of acceleration and that works in one fluid, empowering motion. If you want to test yourself, take a look at these technical snatch drills for beginners.
The snatch is an incredibly fun lift to perform, but it is best learnt with a personal instructor who can help you develop both your movement efficiency and your technical foundation. If you’re interested in learning more about Olympic lifting, or you want to get started why not check out our Olympic lifting classes?