Snatch Grip 101 – Hook Grip, Proper Width, and More

The snatch is a highly technical movement that can be affected by the slightest of errors in the set up, pull, transitions, recovery, and timing. Often overlooked is the first, and very critical phase of the snatch, which begins with the lifter setting up onto the barbell and ENDS once the lift actually starts.

In this article, we will address the key aspects of the snatch grip, more specifically; the hook grip, proper snatch width placement and assessment tools, and the impacts that taking too wide/too narrow of grip width can have on the snatch.

Snatch Grip 101

The below sections discuss the key benefits of attaining a proper hook grip and hand placement on the barbell. The below video goes in detail regarding key aspects of the snatch grip, specifically; (1) how to successfully teach, develop, and attain the hook grip, (2) determine proper grip width/placement in the snatch grip, and (3) what individual differences (in the snatch grip) coaches and athletes should recognize and they impact those may have on performance.

Problems with Too Wide of a Grip in the Snatch

Taking too wide of a snatch grip can negatively impact pulling and grip strength and overhead stability and potential wrist and elbow injury. When first learning the snatch grip, many athletes will often resort to taking a supra-wide grip due to limited shoulder and thoracic mobility, which by taking a wider grip placement can allow them to sit under the barbell in the overhead squat. Many issues can arise from such grips, specifically:

  • Too wide of grip can impact a lifter’s ability to grip the barbell throughout the pull and transitions.
  • Too wide of grip can create instability in the overhead position, as the trade off for increased shoulder mobility (by widening the hands) is paired with decreased stability of the shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints.
  • Too wide of a grip can limit a lifter’s ability to elevate the elbows vertically (with slight internal rotation) a during the second and third pull/turnover phase.

Problems with Too Narrow of a Grip in the Snatch

As too wide of grip has its issues, so does taking too narrow of a grip placement. Many of the issues are the complete opposite of taking too wide of a grip, however some are unique to too close of hand placement on the barbell:

Me, taking a narrow grip width in the snatch after slowly rehabbing an injured wrist. The narrow position helped with wrist pain in the snatch, however affects pulling and timing in the snatch.

  • Too narrow of a grip placement can result in the barbell finishing below or at the pubic bone, which creates issues such as not finishing pulls high enough, early arm bending (to naturally pull the barbell higher, above the front of the hip grease), and even excessive hitting of the barbell onto the lifter frontal nether regions.
  • Too narrow of a grip can limit the lifter’s ability to assume an upright, deep squat position while receiving the barbell overhead. While a narrow grip is stable, the trade off is that it demands a great deal of shoulder and squat mobility to assume a stable and upright torso.
  • Too narrow of a grip often results in a lifter initiating an premature arm bend in the snatch to bring the barbell higher into the hip. By creating a fault early arm bend (note, some lifters may still need to have a very subtle arm bend at the top of the second pull due to anthropometric considerations…see below), the lifter minimizes lat and back control/strength, disrupts the balance throughout the pull (regarding the lifters balance standing up in midfoot), and can lead to not finishing pulls.

Establishing the Hook Grip in the Snatch

The hook grip is an essential component of Olympic weightlifting, as it allows for maximal grip strength, control, and fluidity of the wrist and arm. Non-hook grip variations, which can be used in training for specific purposes, generally are not advised as the are inferior for maximal grip control during the snatch and clean.

The hook grip also allows a lifter to remain connected to the barbell, however still have firm yet relaxed arms since the barbell is sitting in the hand rather than being squeezed to death.

Determining Grip Width in the Snatch

Determining proper snatch grip width on the barbell is pretty straight forward once you learn the general assessment practices. From there, you can fine tune grip placement based on individual considerations (see below). While many coaches may disagree on the best method for assessing proper grip width, most can agree upon the what specific components that we as coaches are most concerned about:

  1. Is the barbell sitting above/at the hip crease while the lifter stands tall, with straight arms?
  2. If the lifter was to bend forward with straight arms, would the barbell be sitting in the hip crease?
  3. Can the lifter elevate the elbows (with slight internal rotation at the shoulder) vertically with this grip?
  4. Does the lifter demonstrate proper overhead stability and squatting mechanics with this grip (for all reasons discussed above)?
  5. Is the lifter able to attain a hook grip on the barbell and assume the correct starting position in the snatch?
  6. While in the setup, is the lifter’s knees inside the elbows (either touching or slightly touching). Elbows should not be rubbing on the knees, as this is excessive friction and suggests too narrow of a grip and/or too wide of foot placement.

Individual Considerations

Below are a few factors to consider when attempting to further customize snatch grip width for optimal performance and comfort.

Wrist and Elbow Pain: More often than not, excessive stress on the wrist and elbow is caused by poor stability of the shoulder joint to lock into place and support the load, forcing the wrist and elbows to created needed stability. In this case, narrowing the grip can increase shoulder stability and strength overhead and allow the elbow and wrist to align properly while supporting loads

Long Arms: Lifters with long arms may have some issues determining proper width, as sometime they may need to bend the arms to pull the barbell into the hip at the end of the second pull (since they cannot increase width any wider). If this is the case, longer armed lifters must be sure to increase overhead stability and strength in the wide placement to ensure injury resilience.

Final Words

While the hook grip and proper grip width are important for proper snatch technician and performance, coaches and athletes should understand that the above methods are general guidelines that may or may not apply to every athlete. By understanding the basics of the methods discussed above, coaches and athletes should then create a more unique and personalized grip with placement for best results.

Featured Image: @ebephysique on Instagram

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Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.