The snatch is one of the most complex barbell movements in all of strength, power, and fitness sports. It requires a great deal of coordination, strength, power, mobility, and proprioception; all of which are developed through years of continual training.
In this snatch ultimate guide we will cover everything you need to know about snatch teaching progressions, technique, and snatch variations for overall development.
The snatch is one of the two competitive lifts done in Olympic weightlifting. It entails a lifter to pull a barbell from the floor high enough to where they can then assume an overhead squatted position and receiving the load overhead, in one fluid movement. The below video is of the full snatch lift done in an Olympic weightlifting competition.
Olympic Snatch: Muscles Worked
The Olympic-style snatch is a total body movement that targets nearly every muscle in the body. Below are the main muscle groups that are worked when performing the snatch exercise.
- Lower back and spinal erectors
- Abdominals, obliques, and transverse abdominals
- Latissimus Dorsi
- Shoulders and scapular stabilizers
- Triceps, biceps, forearms
The below section discusses the primary phases of the snatch. Note, that different countries may have slightly different perspectives on each phase, however the below guidelines are generally accepted a the keys to successful mastering each phase of the snatch below.
Like the clean and jerk, the snatch set up is critical to the overall success of the lift. The below video demonstrates proper setup mechanics, including how to take a hook grip, selecting hand placement in the snatch, and proper body mechanics.
The first pull is the segment of the snatch where the barbell is moved from the floor to above the knee. The purpose of this pulling phase is to keep the barbell close the body and build momentum as the lifter enters the second pull. Common issues with this phase are that the lifter gets pulled out of balance (pulled forwards onto toes), fails to keep the shoulders stretched out over the barbell (by keeping knees back), or simply making the barbell go out and around the knees (rather than pulling the knees back out of the way). The hips and shoulders should rise together so that the lifters torso/back angle should not change throughout the first pull. The below video is a good demonstration of how to perform the firth pull of the snatch (it is not in English nor has translations, but one can learn a great amount from the video by watching closely).
The key here is to finish the pull to the hip with straight elbows, being sure to then finish the shoulders up and back. This phase is highly dependent on the set up and first pull, which when done correctly can make the second pull very seamless (yet needs to be maximally aggressive).
Third Pull / Turnover Phase
The turnover phase or third pull of the snatch is a key aspect that some lifters fail to recognize. The importance of this phase is to aggressively finish the elbows high with the forearms vertically to maximize the terminal height of the barbell. While this is occuring, the lifter must move the feet into the squat position and actively pull themselves underneath the barbell to assume the correct receiving position (see below). Movements like the tall snatch and snatch with no contact (see variation below) can be done to enhance a lifter’s understanding and strength in this phase.
The below video demonstrates what the proper overhead squat positioning looks like and how you can attain this necessary position for the snatch. If an athlete lacks instability or immobility in the overhead squat, he/she will have issues securing a strong, receiving position in the snatch.
Below are nine (9) snatch variations coaches and athletes can integrate into training programs to instill greater technique, power, and performance in the snatch. Each variation below specifically addresses technical faults and/or phases of the lift that are more challenging for lifters.
The muscle snatch is done to increase pulling strength and involvement of the upper body during the turnover phases of the snatch. In addition, the muscle snatch can be used to develop a proper bar path for beginner lifters as it is a less complex variation than the full speed snatch. In the below video the muscle snatch is demonstrated. Note, that a lifter starts in the same snatch set up, first pull, and second pull as discussed above (some muscle snatch variations do not invoice hip contact). The difference between this and the snatch is that the lifter does not rebend the knees and hips to drop under the barbell, but rather uses the upper body to pull the bar higher into the turnover + press phase overhead, which can develop the upper body muscles necessary for the snatch.
The power snatch is nearly identical to a full snatch with the exception that a lifter does not drop into a full squat to receiving the barbell overhead. Rather, the lifter intentionally meets the barbell at a higher point (anywhere ofen above thighs to parallel to the floor). The purpose of this exercise is to force the lifter to pull more aggressively in the snatch and attempt to turnover the barbell at a higher point (since the cannot simply drop their body underneath).
The block snatch is a variation done to increase the rate of force development (often in the second pull), increase turnover speed and aggression, and teach lifters how to increase speed under the bar. The barbell is set onto blocks (or anything else to elevate it off the floor) to start the lift past the first pull phase. This will force a lifter to strengthen their second pull, but can also be used as a teaching progression to minimize the amount of phases a lifter must do at once (often taught in the “top-down snatch progression”).
The hang snatch is done for nearly the exact same reasons as a block snatch, and often done from a similar starting point (bar either above the knee or slightly below the knee). To start, a lifter lowers the barbell from the hips to about 1-2 inches below/above the knees. Once the barbell is lowered here, the lifter immediately starts the second pull (limiting the pause at the starting point) and finishes into a full snatch. The difference between a hang snatch and a block snatch is subtle, but by having a lifter load the hamstrings prior to the pull they can often develop the stretch-shortening cycle of the muscles. Both the hang and block snatches can be done and each should be used for most beginner and intermediate weightlifters looking to increase power in the second pull and speed under the bar.
The slow snatch has a lifter intentionally perform the first and second pull (leading up to the explosion phase) at a slower pace than usual. This is helpful for lifters to learn/relearn proper bar path, body position, and balance throughout the pull. Additionally, this can result in an increased rate of force production in the later stages of the second pull, both of which can help a lifter become more confident and effective finishing the snatch pull aggressively.
The deficit snatch is done exactly the same as a full snatch, however the lifter starts be standing on a plate and/or riser (roughly 1-3 inches). In doing so, the lifter is forced to assume a deeper set up position, one that will force the knees and hips to go into greater flexion. The purpose of this variation is to strengthen a lifters pulling abilities off the floor, enhance strength in the setup of the snatch, and develop greater dependency of the legs in the snatch rather than the upper body (since the lifter must lift with their legs longer to finish the pull).
Snatch with No Feet
The snatch with no feet is done to force them to maximally finish the pull upwards while staying in close proximity to the barbell throughout the pull. Very often, lifters will bounce the barbell off the hips, sending it forwards instead of upwards, which can be combated by this variation (as well as the next). The snatch with no feet is done nearly identical to the full snatch, with the exception that the lifter starts their feet in the overhead squat positioning (wider than normal snatch set up) in the setup to allow for proper foot placement in the reclining position (since the cannot move their feet at all in the snatch).
No Contact Snatch
The snatch with no contact can be done to increase a a lifter’s ability to finish the pull upwards and keep the barbell close throughout the pull. Additionally, this variation will force a lifter to stay over the bar so that it does not drift away in the pull. Lastly, this can be a good option for lifters who bounce the bar horizontally off the hips rather than creating upwards momentum in the snatch.
The tall snatch is a movement that can be done to develop the upper body muscles used in the turnover and reclining position of the snatch. Additionally, it can help a lifer find greater confidence, speed, and aggression in the turnover phases of the pull.
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Featured Image: J2FIT Weightlifting