4 Exercises to Strengthen Your Receiving Position in the Snatch

It’s pretty natural for many lifters to question their overhead strength, stability, and confidence when fixing themselves under a near-maximal (or maximal) loaded barbell in the snatch. Many lifters may find themselves not fully committing to an aggressive turnover, or simply cutting their final pulls short so they can get under the barbell “quicker” (I use quotations because while I have heard this many times, not finishing your pull will often slow the rate at which you can pull yourself downwards).

For many functional fitness athletes and  gym members, snatches, while important aspects of their weekly WODs, are often not given the necessary attention and training prescriptions to allow for vast improvement in maximal (and near-maximal) snatching abilities. With loads often over 80% of one’s snatch max, many factors can play a role in the success of the lift during WODs, competitions, or training.


A photo posted by Mike Dewar (@mikejdewar) on

In this article, we will address four exercises functional fitness athletes can build into their weekly class WOD and training routine to increase their overhead strength, stability, and confidence specific to the receiving position of heavy snatches.

Behind the Neck Snatch Push Press

This is a great exercise for developing upper body muscle mass specific to the snatch overhead position. Additionally, this will increase a lifter’s lock out ability while stabilizing overhead and solidify proper barbell placement over the back of the neck. I often will finish each set of behind the neck snatch push presses with one or two overhead pause squats to increase the application to the overhead strength needed in the bottom of the snatch.

When Should You Do These?

This strengthening exercise should be done after main weightlifting lifts, or following heavy strength work. In the event you have 10 minutes in between your weightlifting/strength segment and the class WOD, I recommend squeezing these there. At the very least, take 10 minutes after your class WOD to recover and then perform these at the end of your training session.

How Heavy Should You Go?

For strength development and a high application to snatch overhead patterning, I recommend doing 3-5 sets of 3-5 repetitions with 75-90% of your snatch, depending on the lifter’s abilities. Personally, I tend to have good overhead strength and stability relative to my lifts, and am able to perform multiple sets of behind the neck push presses for 3-5 reps with 90% of my best snatch.

Pause Overhead Squats

Paused overhead squats, either performed as standalone exercises, part of complexes, or after warm-up and even snatches in training can improve strength, balance, and stability (overhead and hip/knee/ankle) highly specific to the receiving position in the snatch.


A video posted by Mike Dewar (@mikejdewar) on

When Should You Do These?

Performing paused overhead squats during warm ups, complexes, and over straight sets can be a great way to increase stability (both overhead and hip) while in the bottom position of the snatch. Many beginner and intermediate level snatches fail to find comfort and confidence while in the overhead squat position, often missing snatches in front due to not finding proper balance (of the barbell and/or foot pressure) as they try to stand up prior to stabilizing the barbell overhead.

How Heavy Should You Go?

I often prescribe these during snatch complexes, warm-up sets, following snatch push presses, and even (very seldom) as standalone exercises. The pause can be anywhere from 3-10 seconds, with loading matching the abilities of a lifter. Personally speaking, I will often perform heavy snatch complexes followed by one pause overhead squat lasting upwards of 10 seconds in an attempt to solidify a stronger, more stable base.

Heaving Snatch Balance

This movement is very similar to a regular snatch balance, with the only exception being that a lifters starts his/her feet already in their overhead squat position, dips, drives, and gets under the barbell without shifting their feet out. The heaving snatch balance forces a lifter to drive themselves aggressively under the barbell in a vertical fashion, both increasing upper back and shoulder strength as well as patterning sound receiving bar patterning specific to the overhead position in the snatch.


A video posted by Fawn Friday (@fawnfriday) on

When Should You Do These?

Preferably, a lifter can perform these following their main weightlifting and strength segments, but before the class WOD, as this exercise is meant to be loaded with moderate to heavy loads. In the event an athlete needs to perform these following a class WOD, I recommend taking 10 minutes or so to recover, warm-up the movement, and get to work.

How Heavy Should You Go?

This is highly dependent upon a lifters technique and abilities. I often urge lifters to do sets consisting of 2-3 repetitions, building it challenging yet fluid repetitions. Some lifters may have a great limitation with staying upright in the dip, drive, and receiving position of the snatch, limiting the amount of loading that can be used. Those individuals would then find additional benefit from performing this specific exercise to increase their receiving balance and setup for the snatch.

Drop Snatch

While this may not be a strength-focused movement, the drop snatch can increase a lifter’s confidence and stability getting under a heavy, high flying barbell. This movement can be used to increase footwork, teach upper body engagement as one pushed themselves into the overhead squatting position, and ultimately increase the speed at which a lifter gets under the barbell.

When Should You Do These?

Due to the explosive nature and high technical degree of this exercise, I recommend a lifter does this during warm-up sets and prior to snatch sessions or WODs. In the event a lifter wants to train these individuals (not as part of warm-up or light snatch sets), he/she should program them earlier in a workout (less physical and mental fatigue) when they are more explosive mentally focused.

How Heavy Should You Go?

Much like the heaving snatch balance, this exercise is dependent on the speed, technique, and confidence of a lifter. Often the empty barbell is enough to determine a lifter’s ability, with load only being added progressively as the lifter exhibits maximal speed and technique while pushing themselves under the barbell.

Final Words

These four exercises can be programmed by coaches during weight lifting and/or class WOD segments and/or by athletes/members looking to add additional snatch specific technique and strength exercises after their daily WOD. While these four exercises do not address many common faults seen in during the first, second, third, and setup of the snatch, they can work to improve to overhead strength and stability while receiving the barbell in the snatch.

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Featured Image: @mikejdewar on Instagram