Olympic lifting isn’t just about heavy barbells and deep squats. The power snatch is a beginner variation of the snatch that trains your speed above all else, since you have to be faster than usual in order to receive the barbell higher.
In order to “power” a snatch, you need to keep your hips above your knees when you catch the bar. A power snatch is considered a type of snatch, but not all snatches are powered. Therefore, mastering the power snatch is a necessary precursor to becoming truly strong in the snatch itself.
Both beginner and advanced lifters alike use the power snatch to build up their strength and refine their technique with the barbell. The power snatch is often the first stop on the journey to learning the competitive version of the exercise, and only grows in importance over time as you develop your maximum muscular power.
In this article, we will go through everything you need to know about the power snatch, including:
- How to Do the Power Snatch
- Benefits of the Power Snatch
- Muscles Worked by the Power Snatch
- Who Should Do the Power Snatch
- Power Snatch Sets and Reps
- Power Snatch Variations
- Power Snatch Alternatives
- Frequently Asked Questions
How to Do the Power Snatch
A power snatch is a snatch that does not include a full squat. Your hips have to stay above your knees in the catch — follow these steps to ensure you’re getting it right.
Step 1 — Set Your Start
Start with your shoelaces under the bar and find a wide snatch grip. Place your gaze at eye level and set your back tight by pulling your shoulders back and pushing your knees out slightly. Ensure that your shoulders are over the barbell.
Coach’s Tip: Find tension and stillness before your lift comes off the floor.
Step 2 — Pull Into the Hip
Push through your legs and pull the bar past your knee while elevating your chest. Keep your shoulders vertically over the bar in your pull to stay centered in your lift. Your arms should remain straight as you pull.
Coach’s Tip: Your chest and hips should rise at the same rate as the weight comes off the floor.
Step 3 — Fully Extend
As you approach a standing position, pull the barbell into your hip and extend forcefully. At hip contact, extend your ankles, knees and hips at the same time. Your elbows should pull up and back while you point your knuckles down at the floor. Pull the barbell to at least chest-height.
Coach’s Tip: You should extend up onto your toes at the top of the pull.
Step 4 — Pull Under
After extending, pull yourself underneath the barbell to catch the weight overhead. This step defines the power snatch, as your hip crease must stay above your knee when you catch the bar. Your feet should slide out slightly to a wider stance.
Coach’s Tip: To catch in a definite power, push up against the barbell right away when you straighten your arms so that the weight doesn’t push you downward.
Benefits of the Power Snatch
The power snatch brings out the best parts of your full snatch. Knowing how the exercise benefits you will help you use it properly in the gym.
Better Snatch Technique
The power snatch is one of the building blocks of a good full snatch. You use the same technique from start to finish, other than what height you receive the barbell at. Therefore, any technique improvements you make while power snatching should translate to your full snatch as well.
Snatching of any kind involves a high amount of speed. The power snatch in particular is limited by how fast you can move from extension to catching the barbell. It’s a speedier version of the snatch that helps you maximize your acceleration in both the snatch itself as well as other barbell lifts.
The power snatch is appropriately named. Even when compared to the full snatch, which often enables you to use heavier weights, you have to generate more muscular power to perform the power snatch successfully. Any athlete who is highly focused on power generation should perform power snatches regularly.
Muscles Worked by the Power Snatch
Since there’s so much going on in a power snatch, you need to know what muscles are commonly involved. These are the major players that decide whether your power snatch will succeed or fail.
Quadriceps & Glutes
Your lower body produces the majority of power in the lift. Once you’ve set your start position, your quads and glutes work in combination to elevate the bar while your torso “stays on top” of the bar.
Your legs are also responsible for catching the lift and resisting the bar’s downward momentum.
Upper & Lower Back
Your back helps keep the bar close. Your lats engage in the pull to keep the bar tight to your body, which guides it to the right catch position. Your spinal erectors are responsible for acting as a “frame” through which your legs can generate force from start to finish.
Your shoulders help guide the barbell after it clears your hips. They then finish the lift by pushing up against the bar in the overhead position. A good catch is reliant on rigid shoulders that can hold the barbell in the correct place.
In the power snatch, your arms have to up against the barbell in one rapid motion once it is over your head. Your triceps support this action by locking out your arms underneath the bar.
Your core is the central pillar that holds everything in place while power snatching. It remains active through your lift as you move your body underneath the weight.
For example, your core has to hold tight when the lift comes off the floor, and must maintain tension as you turn the bar over and extend your arms.
Who Should Do the Power Snatch
The power snatch supports many different training goals. Practicing the lift can pay off in sport performance, especially for a few specific types of athlete.
Beginner lifters should do the power snatch before learning the full snatch because the technique is more straightforward and you’ll have an easier time catching a barbell high than sinking into a deep squat.
Over time, you can gradually introduce the overhead squat as well to merge the two exercises, but you should still include plenty of power snatches for convenient practice.
Even when you can do a full snatch properly, you should still include the power snatch because it reminds you to utilize the full strength of your lower and upper body. Power snatches, especially performed with heavier weights, are a great way to “remind” your body how to get as much juice out of every rep as possible.
CrossFit workouts often include both the power snatch and the full, or “squat,” snatch from time to time. Since CrossFit workouts are constantly varied, you can expect to see different kinds of snatches on a regular basis.
If a successful WOD is on the line, you’ll be thankful that you’ve practiced the power snatch on your own when it comes time to work hard in class.
Athletes who do traditional sports other than Olympic lifting should still practice the snatch and its variations. However, you may be limited by the amount of dedicated time you have to develop good technique.
As such, you should stick to the more accessible versions of the snatch or clean. You can learn to power snatch well in far less time than it would take you to master the competition snatch, which is one of the main reasons the power variations are commonly seen in athletic facilities or collegiate training programs.
Power Snatch Sets and Reps
The lift is used to address different training goals, in and out of weightlifting. Power snatching may be relatively simple to perform, but you still need to know how to program it effectively.
For Technique Development
For technique purposes, you should use lighter weights and emphasize the quality of your movement. Start with a PVC pipe, dowel rod, or the empty bar and do 2 – 5 sets of sharp lifts consisting of 1 – 3 reps.
Add weight gradually while keeping your overall volume high, and don’t increase the weights you use until your sets are tight and consistent.
For Speed Training
If you want to develop your speed as much as possible, you need to work with lighter weights. Identify roughly how much weight you can do for a single rep in the power snatch, and then perform multiple sets between 80 and 95% of your max for 1 to 3 reps.
Adding weight will force you to bring more speed to each rep, but be careful — putting on too many plates too quickly will slow you down and could compromise your technique.
For Sport-Specific Strength
When training the power snatch for other sports, you should start with the dowel rod or empty barbell to make sure that your technique is correct. Increase your intensity slowly over time, and work on your volume with sets of 2 to 5 repetitions. Stack up your total working volume slowly over time as you adjust to the stimulus.
Power Snatch Variations
There are different ways that you can do the power snatch. Knowing which variation is right for you will keep your training relevant and effective.
Hang Power Snatch
Lifts done “from the hang” begin at a standing position and are then lowered down your body to a certain height.
To perform a hang power snatch, stand tall with the barbell and then hinge at your hips until the bar is roughly at knee-level. Then, rapidly reverse the motion and perform the exercise as you normally would. Working from the hang is a good way to reduce the total range of motion if you’re fatigued or help focus on a specific section of your pull.
Block Power Snatch
Lifting from the blocks adjusts the starting height of the barbell. You can place your bar on a pair of sturdy blocks or boxes at any height. Block training is another way to zero in on a certain area of your technique, or provide some novelty to your training overall.
Pause Power Snatch
You can include a pause in your power snatch in one of various places — below the knee, above the knee, or in the catch itself. A pause exaggerates muscular tension and increases acceleration through your lift by forcing you to restart your motion after coming to a standstill. Pauses are also particularly effective for creating more stability in a specific posture.
You can also pause in the catch position for a few seconds to ensure each rep is properly secured, or make pause reps a part of your next barbell complex.
Tempo Power Snatch
Tempo training is good for both technical practice and more muscular hypertrophy. A tempo snatch exaggerates your pull by forcing you to take a full three to five seconds to lift the barbell up past your knee. After you clear your knees, rapidly accelerate as you normally would. Tempo snatches maximize your leg drive and acceleration capabilities.
Power Snatch Alternatives
The power snatch is a very complicated maneuver and might not be right for everyone. These alternatives provide similar benefits and value.
Dumbbell Power Snatch
If you don’t have access to a barbell, you can still practice the general movement of the snatch by using a dumbbell instead. Place the weight between your legs, grab it with one arm, and pull as you normally would. You won’t be able to use as much weight, but you can still practice your technique.
The muscle snatch is a variation that isolates the role of your arms and upper body in the snatch. By eliminating any kind of squat and instead pushing the barbell into place with your arms, you’re able to train your fixation and work on some muscular strength as well.
The overhead squat allows you to isolate your overhead strength and leg stability without requiring that you pull the bar from the floor.
The main feature of a power snatch is its high catch position, which can leave your legs understimulated. If you want to work on your overhead stability and get a good leg workout in as well, you can perform overhead squats instead.
Every time you train the competition snatch, you’re preparing to lift well on meet day. That said, performing other similar movements can pay off in more versatile ways
When you do power snatches, you’re practicing quality barbell movement that translates to all areas of your lifting. The snatch, whether you pull and catch high or receive it in a deep squat, demands more of your total-body power than almost any other exercise out there. Embrace the power snatch to take your weightlifting practice one step further, and reap the rewards that follow.
The power snatch is a lot to take in. If you’ve still got some lingering questions about the exercise, keep reading.
What makes my lift a “valid” power snatch?
Since you can receive a barbell at different heights, the power snatch can be somewhat subjective. Due to anatomical differences, your power snatch might look a bit different to someone else’s. You can record your lifting to make sure you’re catching each rep high enough.
What if the power snatch is painful on my wrists?
Learning any kind of snatch can be painful on your joints at first due to the extreme positions they’re placed in. Make sure you’re going easy with the weights or even using a pipe or dowel to begin with. The exercise should become more comfortable over time, but make sure you have good form. A pair of wrist wraps might help as well.
Featured Image courtesy of Riley Stefan