Patty Soxx Maizels on Splitting in a Squat Snatch World

Recently, we examined some old weightlifting techniques that we rarely see on today’s competition platforms. The clean & press understandably fell out of fashion when it was eliminated from competition 1972. The continental clean still shows up in strongman style competition, but was outlawed in Olympic weightlifting in the first half of the 20th century, so it’s not something we see today’s weightlifters train.

Split variations of the clean and snatch, though, are still legal in Olympic weightlifting. Though we don’t see them often in competition, the split snatch dominated back in the day, with powerhouses like Norb Schemansky split snatching upwards of 350lbs.

One woman, Patty “Soxx” Maizels, is determined to keep the split snatching tradition alive. Originally from Würzburg, Germany, Maizels picked up Olympic weightlifting after the birth of her third child. Six months later, she was split snatching on a national stage. She’s lifted internationally as a 63kg, 69kg, and 75kg lifter and holds 18 International Master IWF Records. In 2012 she held the USAPL Raw National Back Squat record as a 67.5kg lifter. She recently represented the USA at the 2016 Masters Pan Ams, placing second overall, with the help of a 75kg split snatch.

After Maizels commented on our article about weightlifting techniques of yore, stating that she has been given hell for splitting and that she is constantly told that splitting is a “subpar technique and I can do better as a squatter,” we reached out to her. As one of the few athletes split snatching on the big stage, we wanted to get more of her thoughts on the subject. She took a break from training and coaching youth lifters at the Maizels Training Hall in Parkton, Maryland, and answered a few questions.

How did you begin split snatching?

I found that reflexively, I desired to split under the bar in both the clean and the snatch, rather then squat. It seemed to be innate. Potentially it could have been developmental….as a youth, I was a cheerleader (base lifter) who split routinely.  I found that split cleans had their limits with depth, but I soared with the split snatch.

What are the benefits of split snatching over conventional squat snatching?

At one time, split snatching WAS the conventional style. Weightlifting movements go through fads. I am convinced that [it is like] split jerking versus squat jerking. One is popular while the other is frowned upon.  Only the open minded can see virtue in both. 

What sort of reaction did you get from others in the community when you started split snatching? 

WOW, where do I begin? I was told that split snatching was “sub par, for older lifters with inflexibility…out of date, inefficient, past its prime, with limits, not as low as the squat snatch, less stable….” This reminds me of a time in the 1990s when split jerking was “the only way to jerk,” yet [Pyros] Dimas seemed to make squat jerks work. And now we have Kendrick Farris and countless others making gains with that “taboo” new movement.  

At the last senior nationals I attended, in 2012, Tommy Kono came up to me to tell me that he and Norbert Schemansky have “never seen a better split snatch since their time” and that I was the “best split snatcher to current date.” I take pride in that, since Norbert was my original idol.

What are some technical cues people should know about if they’re looking to work on split snatching or transition into split snatching?

A jerk split and a snatch split are TWO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT MOVEMENTS. The depth and foot placement that is necessary for successful split snatch would be incorrect for a split jerk. 

[For a split snatch,] the hip of the athlete must glide forward to the heal of the lead foot. The front foot must toe out the same way as the squat snatch, and the back foot is just a rudder for stability. Essentially, half of the athlete looks no different then the squat snatcher, whilst the other half has the opposite leg posed backwards for stability. 

The feet do not land at the same time as the squat snatch or the split jerk. In the split snatch, the front foot lands first, then the back foot, then the front foot and hips glide forward till the athlete’s hamstring and calf meet. 

The splitter must also pull 2″ higher then the squat snatch. Also, the speed under the bar must be faster then the squat snatch due to the the amount of ground coverage the feet must cover. The width of the feet is similar to the split jerk foot placement. Tight roping, when the feet are in a linear plane beneath the athletes hips vs. squaring from corner to corner beneath the hips, is a killer of depth and stability and must be fixed and coached out of the athlete.  

Why do you think split snatching fell out of favor?

For the same reasons squat jerking has recently come into favor….trends and fads.

What sort of athlete would best be suited for split snatching over conventional snatching?

One should make splitting and squatting compete with each other, and whichever gets the best gains should become the priority. No one athlete is the same, and we are not cookie cutter athletes. Current trends show that athletes with inflexibility, or older athletes, can continue to lift in the split when they cannot in the squat. Also, athletes with shoulder restrictions, inflexibility, or past shoulder surgeries tend to do better as splitters.

Did you ever try split cleaning? 

Yes, I did originally, but found that the knee gets in the way of racking the heavier weights and you are more prone to wrist, shoulder, thumb, and knee injury from the missed attempts.

Anything else you want to tell the community to help bust some of the myths and stereotypes associated with split snatching? 

Be open minded. For those who don’t know Maizels Training Hall, but do know Coffees Gym, John Coffee has also promoted and trained split cleaners/snatchers. It is coaches and gyms like these that get it done no matter what. If it works for one athlete but not the other, then go with the one that works to the fullest degree!