One of the most technical movements in CrossFit that gets you frustrated…after double-unders (of course). The snatch is an explosive movement that needs accuracy, timing, mobility and strength. A fine mix -however even if one of those components is missing, the entire movement can come crashing to the floor.
Let’s talk about when you were first introduced to the snatch. It is usually broken down to the simplest form. For instance:
Your coach explains that you need a wide grip on the barbell, then get the bar from the floor to locked out above the head with no pauses and no swinging of the barbell.
The above sounds easy enough.
In reality, with a PVC pipe you are a pro, with an empty barbell you can still make it work, however slide any sort of weight on and that bar goes out of order. What I mean to say is that the snatch is not as simple as it seems. If you want to lift with correct technique and increase your snatch weight, without risking injury then you are going to have to take time to work not only on your snatch but to drill the skills needed to snatch well.
I want to talk about the most common mistakes I’ve seen when teaching the snatch and how to address them.
1 – Mobility and range of motion is key, to life and a good snatch.
If you have it, work on it. If you don’t have it, work on it.
Do it and don’t just say you will, then moan about your lack in range of motion. If you don’t know how, ask somebody – get some advice then do it every singe day, yes every single day!
Being able to add weight requires a strong, flexible and mobile body. Having the opposite is a recipe for disaster. This is your responsibility. If you go to your gym wanting to get better and stronger, fitter and faster and do not think about mobility or stretching then you are walking a very thin line. You may have the best coaches in the world but without proper range of motion you may never execute the snatch properly.
To improve your snatch you must be able to squat to depth with good form.
You must be able to hold a barbell in the snatch grip above your head with your lats activated. If your shoulders are rolling inwards or there is a bend in the elbow then thats what needs to be addressed first before going heavier on the snatch. It may be boring, but it will reduce your risk of injury and eventually get you stronger in the long run you will improve your snatch.
2 – The Start
The snatch is a DRIVE off the floor with the legs, and NOT a pull off the floor with the arms. Imagine pushing away the floor with your legs, that’s the start of the movement. Your arms are used to keep the bar close to your body body, not to yank off the floor.
Your elbows stay straight. Your elbows do not bend below the knees, or at the knees, or even at the thighs. Your arms remain straight until the bar is at the hips, and then your hips take over and drive the bar upwards, I often refer to in my class as “power from the hips”.
Your arms bend as the bar explodes upwards. Your arms bend as a reaction to the bars momentum up, they do not create this momentum. A drill to understand this context is as simple as performing a snatch pull.
3 – Squats
You need a strong squat. If you are still avoiding the squat snatch and if mobility allows it is time to face your fears. To create a strong, heavy snatch you need to be able to drop your body underneath the bar.
Your feet should start shoulder width apart and end in a squat stance, allowing you to get into the bottom of the squat.
Once you have started to get your feet in the right position (this takes time and consistency) then you need to be working on your squat. The more you can squat, and the better your position is (upright, heels on the floor, knees out) the more confident you will be when you need to drop underneath the bar.
How to better this? Start with you air squat, if your air squat is weak, if your chest drops forward or your butt drives up first, then your ability to squat with a bar overhead will be next to impossible. So If your air squat is weak then start there. Don’t add weight to poor form, build form the basics – strong units have a solid foundation.
4 – Variance
One of my favourites, the 3-position snatch. From the power position (bar at the hips), from the hang (above the knees) and from the floor. I incorporate this variation quite often in my barbell classes because this strengthens each position of the snatch.
Building to a moderate to heavy 3 position snatch is challenging and trains your body to start tight and hold strong in each portion of the snatch. This only comes once you have ironed out the mobility and start positions (which I usually drill in my classes)
5 – Did I say Variance?
Snatch balance and Overhead squats are your best mates and so is your snatch grip deadlifts. These 3 exercises can do wonders to improve your snatch. In the overhead squat and snatch balance – Getting comfortable with the barbell overhead is important.
Being able to support and move with a heavy weight improves not only your strength but your confidence. Snatch balances gets you dropping under the bar fast, teaching you speed.
Snatch grip deadlifts improve your setup position as well as your drive from the ground, the second point I made (refer to point 2).
Remember the snatch grip deadlift is not a snatch pull – here you can add extra weight to the bar, lifting more than you can snatch, focusing on good technique, chest up, butt down, lats activated and barbell close to your body and deadlifting the bar up.
Time to rock n roll!
These are my tips, there may be a couple dozen different tips however these are my top 5 that I practice. Everybody moves differently and has different advice for what will work however if there is one piece of advice we can ALL take away from this is:
#1. Mobility – Look after your body it is the best tool you have.
If you still don’t know where to start?
Heres a hint: My BARBELL CLASS!
By; Minhal Bhojani, Performance Coach