Technical breakdown to the snatch.
When an athlete snatches, the bar is moved from the floor to overhead in one motion. If you can do this, it means you can snatch. And then, there comes a bit more of a technical side to it. But the way I teach the snatch is very simple. I believe there is no need to overcomplicate things from the beginning because it slows down the learning process. In this blog I will take you through the phases and how to utilise them in order to master a perfect snatch!
The technical model of the snatch starts with the bar on the floor, which then the athlete lifts over his head, receiving it at a bottom squat position and finishes with the athlete standing up with the load remaining overhead in a recovery phase. In order to complete this movement, you first need to be able to overhead squat. For a decent overhead squat, it requires an athlete to have a good shoulder, hip and ankle mobility. If you trying to overhead press a barbell from behind the neck for the first time and you are all stiff, well yeah, it won’t happen just like that, but ask yourself how much overhead work have you done? Some people are naturally more flexible and that’s just how it is; some of us need to work on certain things a bit more. And then still, even if your mobility seems sufficient to perform many movements without limitation, mobility work is vital for healthy and strong joints, so you should implement some into your training anyhow. If your issue isn’t the overhead position but to actually squat with the barbell remaining behind the neck, then it is very likely to be the capacity or your hips and ankles. In that case, you can use a snatch derivative – the power snatch, and catch the bar in a mid-squat position while working on getting into a full depth with consistent training alongside some mobility drills. The overhead squat in its nature is a unique full body exercise for core strength, stability, flexibility, and can work great for an athletic development. More about overhead squat and its benefits may come soon from the one and only – Max Hartman!
The snatch balance is essentially a quick drop into the overhead squat. It starts in a standing position with the barbell behind the neck, follows with an athlete bending the knees, driving up into a triple extension and getting quickly under the bar into a squat with the arms locking out into a fully straight position. Snatch balance = the catch phase of the snatch. Using it in practice, an athlete can adapt to heavier load over the head in the bottom squat position. Therefore, if your pulling phases are quite strong but you struggle to remain stable in the catch, heavy single snatch balance could help you. It is also a good drill for improving speed with getting under the bar, so conversely, you can implement it as lighter triples or doubles.
The state of triple extension is when your ankles, knees and hips are fully extended. Allowing a barbell to travel in the vertical direction will further allow for smooth transition.
During this phase the bar should feel ‘weightless’ and travels as far as the amount of force that is being generated by a lifter from the ground. A full triple extension occurs after the second pull and if we are talking about pulling you don’t actually lift the bar with your arms, they only direct the bar path. All the power is generated against the ground. Thus, your starting position is crucial as much as every phase of the lift.
Your set up is more important than you would think! Have you ever thought why weightlifters use hook grip? Gripping your thumb around the bar helps to keep your arms fairly relaxed but mainly, it locks the bar safely. If you are doing reps on snatches, always make sure you set your starting position on point. Sometimes if you miss a lift can be related to the starting set up. Bear in mind one thing, this position is not comfortable so if a coach or somebody who is watching you, is giving you a few cues, and you move from being comfortable to feeling very uncomfortable, that is probably better set up. Shoulder slightly over the bar, chest up, back tight, bar close to your shins, hips higher than knees, elbows locked outwards, head forward and weight distributed towards forefoot, and you ready to move into the first pull!
First pull is a phase where your knees start to extend (posterior knee drive) while maintaining straight arms and back. A very important thing is to remain the angle of your torso constant. This phase finished just above the knee where the transition/ double knee bend/ scoop through occurs.
During this phase the bar travels from above the knee (hang position) to the hips (power position). The biggest acceleration of the lift must occur at this phase, and therefore, there is a need to drive your extended knees back to the front (bend them again). The bar must meet the hips with the knees bent and your torso in an upright position with your arms still remaining straight. This will allow the bar travel vertically from the hip and allow an athlete to achieve a full triple extension. If the bar wouldn’t meet the hips, the second pull can still happen but it will limit the extension and so the athlete would have to chase the bar in order to catch it, which then leads into jumping forward (in most cases). Therefore, it is crucial to master all the phases.
As mentioned above when the bar meets the hips at the power position, the athlete can now start extending the ankles, which starts with getting onto the tip toes, following that, the elbows starting to bend, extending the knees and hips with the elbows at the highest point. During this phase the bar becomes ‘weightless’ and it travels as high as the amount of force that has been produced from the bottom and the transition.
When the elbows reach the highest point with the ankles still fully extended, the athlete starts to transfer body weight downwards until the arms extend. Adjusting a wider stance will allow a greater depth of a catch. At this point the weight should be distributed towards rear of foot. It is vital to remain tightness in your upper body because now there is a need to stand up – known as the recovery phase. The lift doesn’t finish with the catch, an athlete needs to be able to stand up in a controlled manner.
The recovery phase would be essentially your overhead squat. Again, you need a decent amount of strength but also a few technical points. Lead up with your chest and torso upright.
It is very common that when athletes is being taught the lift through the segmented phases, they are very likely to find it difficult to then perform the movement in its full motion. I believe the athlete needs to have an understanding of what the movement looks and feels like. People can learn a lot by just observing and imagination the processes. Show your athletes the lift, emphasise some cues and let them do it. Don’t let them think too much about it because they will get confused – get the bar and lift it up. Simple. If they understand this and can do it then observe them a bit more and think why they are choosing to move that way. Find solutions and keep practising. It is good to work on the phases you really struggle with but remember that you actually need to apply it in a full lift. For instance, if you bend your elbows too early, and you are trying to fix it with doing lots of pull, and high pulls, you may start controlling it better when doing these derivatives alone but when you then trying to snatch, the early bend still occurs. Hence, try to put this in a complex of pull + snatch. And this applies for any derivatives you are going to utilise; lift off, pulls, snatch balance, pause snatches etc.