Exercises

Snatch Exercise: How To, Benefits & Variations

The snatch is one of two main lifts in Olympic weightlifting. According to the competition rules, an athlete must lift a barbell in one movement from a platform to the overhead position. 

As a training exercise, the snatch is used in the preparation process. Both weightlifters and athletes from other sports perform it to improve coordination, strength, speed, flexibility, power, and mobility. 

What is a snatch? The Olympic barbell snatch is a weightlifting exercise that involves lifting a barbell from the ground to an overhead position in one fluid motion. It is a complex, full-body movement that requires coordination, power, and strength from a range of muscles.

The Olympic snatch is a weightlifting movement that has been included in the Olympic Games since the first modern Games were held in Athens, Greece in 1896. The early Olympic snatches were often performed with a split technique, where the lifter would split their legs apart to catch the barbell. However, this technique was later replaced by the squat technique, where the lifter catches the barbell in a full squat position.

Olympic weightlifting snatch exercise is power in its purest form. An athlete needs all physical qualities for this exercise. Moreover, all highly-coordinated movements are not easy to understand. Therefore, it is also one of the most challenging exercises to learn.

Helpful Video Demonstrations On How To Snatch

1. Step-by-step Visual Guide (Time: 1.5 minutes)

2. Simple Snatch Progression (Time: 3 minutes)

3. Detailed Video Tutorial (Time: 13 minutes)

The Main Muscles Used In Snatch

1. Legs

The leg muscles, specifically the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, play a significant role in generating power and explosiveness during the snatch. The quadriceps and hamstrings work together to extend the knees, while the glutes extend the hips.

2. Back

The back muscles, particularly the erector spinae, are essential in maintaining an upright posture throughout the lift. They also assist in extending the spine and keeping the bar close to the body.

3. Shoulders

The shoulder muscles, specifically the deltoids, trapezius, and rotator cuff, are used to raise the barbell from the ground to the overhead position. The deltoids are responsible for lifting the barbell overhead, while the rotator cuff stabilizes the shoulder joint.

4. Arms

The arm muscles, particularly the biceps and triceps, are used to stabilize the weight and maintain control of the barbell during the lift. They also assist in pulling the barbell upward during the initial phase of the lift.

5. Core

The core muscles, including the abdominals, obliques, and lower back, play a crucial role in stabilizing the body and transferring power from the legs to the upper body. They also assist in maintaining a neutral spine throughout the lift.

In summary, the Olympic snatch requires a wide range of muscles to work together in a coordinated and explosive manner. Proper form and technique, as well as adequate strength and flexibility in these muscle groups, are essential for performing this exercise safely and effectively.

Muscles in snatch
Photo by strengthlevel.com

How To Do A Snatch – Phases And Snatch Technique

1. Starting Position

(0:00-0:40 on the video above)

Approach a barbell, set up the shoulder-width stance, and place the barbell over the toes’ phalanges. Use the snatch grip. At this stage keep the barbell as close to the shins as possible. 

Open the chest and arch the back, stretch and relax the arms. Maintain the shoulders over the bar, and push the knees out in line with the toes.

Snatch Starting Position

2. First Pull

(0:40-1:11 on the video above)

In this phase the lifter pulls the barbell from the floor to the mid-thigh position. During the first pull, the lifter focuses on generating power and maintaining proper body positioning. This involves keeping the back straight, driving through the legs, and utilizing the hips and legs to initiate the upward movement of the barbell.

First Pull

The first pull sets the foundation for a successful snatch lift by establishing momentum and positioning for the subsequent phases. It is important to maintain the center of gravity in the middle of the foot, shoulders over the bar, and arms relaxed. 

3. Second Pull

(1:11-1:20 on the video above)

The 2nd Pull begins after finishing the lst Pull and lasts until the moment when the legs and body are fully extended. This movement achieves maximal vertical force and acceleration of the barbell, due to ankle, knee and hip extensions.

Second Pull

At the end of the 2nd pull, the heels will leave the platform, the lifters body will be fully extended, and the bar should now begin to travel up with an almost vertical trajectory.

4. Power Position

(1:16-1:19 on the video above)

At the moment the bar reaches the power position (in the groin), straighten the knees and hips powerfully and direct the elbows upwards. The main goal of this stage is to pass a vertical explosive impulse from the body to the bar.  

Power Position

5. Turnover

(0:40-1:11 on the video above)

In this phase the lifter pulls the barbell from the floor to the mid-thigh position. During the first pull, the lifter focuses on generating power and maintaining proper body positioning. This involves keeping the back straight, driving through the legs, and utilizing the hips and legs to initiate the upward movement of the barbell.

Turnover

6. Receive the Bar Overhead (Catch)

(1:31-1:47 on the video above)

The goal of this phase is to stabilize the center of gravity and balance. Keep the back tense, shoulders and elbows fixed. 

Catch Snatch

7. Recovery

(1:47-1:53 on the video above)

Never rush to stand up. Both at a workout or competition, an athlete must be confident that they feel and control a bar and every body part. Even top athletes have failed some attempts and lost medals because they rushed and began standing up too soon. Practice good snatch habits: patience and endurance are essential at this stage.

Recovery

At competitions, you may often hear coaches shouting “reach up” and “hold” to make an athlete push a bar up and pull their shoulders towards the ears to provide the highest stability. When everything is finished, an athlete can stand up and wait for a signal to lower a barbell and get a “good lift”.  

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Tips on Improving the Snatch by Oleksiy Torokhtiy

1. Always Warm UP! TOP-10 Exercises

2. Stay OVER the Bar

3. Synchronize Your Arms and Legs Work

4. Time to Time Ask Someone (Coach or Gym Baddy) to Check Your Technique

5. Practicing Drop Speed

The Main Benefits Of Snatch Olympic Lift

Strength And Power Generation Improvement

We can train explosive strength and power by doing “right” strength exercises at a rapid pace. Snatch in weightlifting is exactly this kind of exercise so you can significantly improve your power with its help. Additionally, such a boost makes you run faster and jump higher. Another great benefit is that the snatch involves mainly hip work which is crucial for jumping and running. 

Motor Neurons Involvement And Kinetic Chain Synchronization

A few words about physiology and biomechanics. A kinetic chain is “a combination of interrelated joints that form a complicated motor system.” A lot of exercises are based on this principle. Nevertheless, the sequence of muscle contractions in snatch weightlifting has no alternatives. It significantly depends on motor neuron recruitment in the central nervous system. It is, perhaps, the most difficult movement for the entire body. Once you learn how to snatch, it means that you can perform more moves with fewer efforts and less central nervous system exhaustion.  

Improves Flexibility And Mobility

To perform the Olympic snatch form correctly, you need to have good flexibility and mobility in your joints. By practicing this exercise, you can improve your range of motion and flexibility, which can help prevent injuries and improve your athletic performance.

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Enhances Coordination And Balance 

The Olympic snatch requires a high degree of coordination and balance. By practicing this exercise, you can improve your ability to coordinate your movements and maintain your balance, which can be beneficial in a variety of sports and activities.

Increases Calorie Burn

The Olympic snatch is a highly intense exercise that can burn a significant amount of calories. By incorporating this exercise into your workout routine, you can increase your calorie burn and help with weight loss and management.

The Snatch Movement Makes You A Stronger Weightlifter

It is rather obvious. Snatch lift is one of the two Olympic exercises.  

Overall, the Olympic snatch is an excellent exercise for building strength, power, and athleticism. However, it’s important to learn the proper technique and start with lighter weights before progressing to heavier ones to avoid injury.

Snatch in gym

Planning

Planning the loads for the competition exercises is, perhaps, the most complicated process. But we will try to simplify everything and give clear recommendations.  

Olympic lifting snatch program depends on personal peculiarities, experience, period of preparation, goals, etc. Usually, athletes perform 1-4 reps (rarely 6) within 70-100% from 1RM.  

Olympic snatch is used for improving: 

  • technique with light weights (up to 50%);
  • speed with moderate weights (50-75%);
  • strength and power (70-85%);
  • the competition mode (90 % and higher). 

As a rule, Olympic lift snatch is performed 2-3 times a week but top athletes may include it daily during particular periods of preparation. 

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How Can I Learn The Technique Of Snatch Olympic Lift?

The very first step is to learn and train the technique. Start with a PVC. Learn different parts, elements, and phases incrementally, then join everything in one movement.  

A lot of coaches use the “top-down” or “bottom-up” approach to work on every segment separately. You can learn how to snatch in 1-2 months if the process is arranged properly. After that, you can start aiming at particular weights. But mind that increasing the snatch mastery and honing the technique is a matter of the whole life. 

Snatch Variations

There are plenty of the snatch variations. Let’s look at some of them.

1. Fitness Snatch 

All fitness athletes, attention please – Сrossfit snatch is NO different from snatch Olympic. So please don’t make up your own technique, ask professional coaches for help and learn how to lift properly. 

2. Snatch from Blocks

The snatch from blocks is almost the same as the standard one but a barbell is elevated. This starting position has 2 goals: 

  • lift heavier weights to increase the load, as the shorter amplitude makes it easier for most athletes to snatch;
  • perform snatch barbell more aggressively in order to become more powerful and precise in the explosion position.

You may vary the block height and, therefore, alter the barbell position: above/below the knees or the middle of the hips.

3. Hang Snatch

The hang snatch is very similar to the block variation but has one difference – higher hamstring and back load. The starting position of this exercise also varies. It increases work density and TUT and, on top of that, allows to focus on a troublesome part of the snatch. 

4. Deficit Snatch

It is performed the same way as the regular snatch workout but an athlete stands on an elevation – a special wooden platform (4-8 cm) or a couple of plates. In this case, the range of motion is longer which increases strength and causes higher leg muscle tension. 

5. Power Snatch

In a power snatch, the lifter catches the barbell above parallel, typically at or above hip height. This variation emphasizes explosive power and can be used to train for sports that require quick bursts of power, like sprinting or jumping.

6. Snatch Balance

A snatch balance is a variation that involves catching the bar in a full overhead squat position. This exercise helps to develop speed, coordination, and mobility.

7. Snatch High Pull

The snatch high pull is a snatch variation that focuses on the first part of the snatch, the pull from the ground to the mid-thigh. This exercise can be used to develop explosive power in the legs and hips.

8. Overhead Squat

The overhead squat is a squat variation that involves lifting a barbell from a standing position to an overhead position and then squatting down. This exercise requires excellent mobility and can be used to strengthen the legs, core, and upper back.

You can also perform different snatch combinations, etc. Use straps if needed, or do exercises with/without the hook grip.

The Most Common Mistakes In Olympic Snatch

The Olympic snatch is a highly technical exercise that requires a lot of practice and attention to detail to perform correctly. Here are some of the most common mistakes that people make when performing the Olympic snatch:

1. Improper Grip

One of the most common mistakes is using an incorrect grip on the barbell. The hands should be placed as wide, so the bar goes to the hip crease in power position.

2. Poor Foot Positioning

The feet should be positioned hip-width apart with the toes pointing slightly outward. Some people make the mistake of turning their toes too far outward, which can affect their balance and stability.

3. Not Using The Legs

The snatch is a full-body exercise that requires the use of the legs to generate power. Some people make the mistake of relying too much on their upper body strength and not utilizing their legs enough during the lift.

Common Mistakes In Olympic Snatch

4. Not Keeping The Bar Close To The Body 

The bar should be kept close to the body during the lift, but some people make the mistake of allowing the bar to drift away from their body, which can make the lift more difficult and increase the risk of injury.

5. Poor Timing

The snatch requires a lot of coordination and timing to perform correctly. Some people make the mistake of not timing their movements correctly, which can affect their ability to lift the barbell smoothly and efficiently.

6. Lack of Mobility

The snatch requires a lot of mobility in the shoulders, hips, and ankles. Some people make the mistake of attempting the snatch without first improving their mobility, which can lead to poor technique and increase the risk of injury.

Overall, the Olympic snatch is a highly technical exercise that requires a lot of practice and attention to detail to perform correctly. To avoid these common mistakes, it’s important to learn the proper technique from a qualified coach, start with lighter weights, and focus on developing good mobility and coordination.

Who Should Perform Olympic Snatch?

The snatch training is demanding and requires a lot of strength, power, and mobility. It’s a great exercise for athletes and fitness enthusiasts who want to improve their athletic performance or overall fitness level. Here are some individuals who can benefit from performing the Olympic snatch:

1. Weightlifters

The Olympic snatch is a staple exercise for weightlifters as it is one of the two lifts contested in Olympic weightlifting competitions. Weightlifters use the snatch to develop strength, power, and explosiveness, and it is an essential exercise for improving their overall lifting performance.

2 Athletes

The Olympic snatch can be beneficial for athletes in sports that require explosive power, such as track and field, basketball, football, and volleyball. This exercise can help improve an athlete’s vertical jump, sprinting speed, and overall explosive power, which can give them an edge over their competition.

3. Fitness Enthusiasts

The Olympic snatch is a challenging exercise that can be used to improve overall fitness and body composition. By incorporating the snatch into your training routine, you can increase your strength, power, and mobility, and burn a significant amount of calories.

4. Individuals With Good Mobility And Technique

The Olympic snatch requires good mobility and technique to perform correctly and safely. If you have good mobility in your shoulders, hips, and ankles and have learned the proper technique for performing the snatch, then you may benefit from incorporating it into your training routine.

Overall, the Olympic snatch can be a beneficial exercise for a wide range of individuals, but it’s important to learn the proper technique and start with lighter weights before progressing to heavier ones to avoid injury.

Snatch Pull

Why Should We Use Hookgrip In Olympic Snatch?

The hookgrip is a popular grip technique used in weightlifting, and specifically in the Olympic snatch, for a few reasons:

1. Improved Grip Strength

The hookgrip allows the lifter to hold onto the barbell with more force, which can improve grip strength and reduce the risk of the barbell slipping during the lift. This is especially important during heavy lifts when the lifter needs to maintain a tight grip on the barbell.

2. Relaxed Forearm Muscles

Lifting with hookgrip style helps athletes keep forearm muscles almost relaxed, which is very beneficial in the phases of power position, during full extension and turnover.

3. Reduced Risk of Injury

The hookgrip can help reduce the risk of injury to the fingers and wrists by spreading the load over a larger surface area of the hand. This can help prevent the fingers from getting caught between the barbell and the lifter’s body, which can cause injury.

4. Better Bar Control

The hookgrip can improve bar control during the lift by allowing the lifter to maintain a more secure grip on the barbell. This can help the lifter keep the barbell close to their body during the lift, which is essential for proper technique and efficient movement.

5. Improved Performance

Using the hookgrip in the Olympic snatch can improve performance by allowing the lifter to lift heavier weights with greater ease. By improving grip strength and bar control, the hook grip can help the lifter focus on developing power and explosiveness during the lift.

Overall, the hookgrip is a useful technique for weightlifters, especially in the Olympic snatch. While it can take some time to get used to, the benefits of improved grip strength, reduced risk of injury, better bar control, and improved performance make it a worthwhile technique to master.

Torokhtiy lifting snatch

Why Should We Use Straps In Olympic Snatch Training?

Using straps in Olympic snatch training can be beneficial for some lifters in certain situations. Here are some reasons why lifters may choose to use straps:

1. To Improve Grip Strength

While the hook grip is an effective grip technique, some lifters may find that they still have trouble holding onto the barbell during heavy lifts. Using straps can help these lifters maintain a secure grip on the barbell, allowing them to focus on developing power and explosiveness in their lifts.

2. To Reduce Fatigue

Snatch training can be very demanding on the hands, and some lifters may find that their grip strength starts to give out before their other muscles. Using straps can help reduce the amount of fatigue on the hands, allowing the lifter to focus on developing other areas of their technique.

Snatch With Straps

3. To Target Specific Muscle Groups

Using straps can allow the lifter to focus more on specific muscle groups, such as the shoulders or legs, by reducing the amount of grip strength needed during the lift. This can be useful for lifters who are recovering from an injury or who have specific areas they want to target in their training.

4. To Practice Technique

In some cases, using straps can help lifters practice their technique more effectively. For example, if a lifter is having trouble with their grip during the snatch, using straps can allow them to focus on other areas of their technique without worrying about their grip strength.

It’s important to note that using straps should not be a substitute for developing good grip strength and technique. While they can be a useful tool in certain situations, lifters should still focus on developing their grip strength and using proper technique during their Olympic snatch training.

Today, the Olympic snatch is a highly technical and challenging lift that requires a combination of strength, speed, and precision. It is widely regarded as one of the most impressive and challenging feats of strength in the world of sports.

I hope to have clarified what is snatch and how great it is! Wish you all new records!

Snatch Outdoor

References:

  1. Upper extremity weightlifting injuries: Diagnosis and management // J Orthop: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5895929/
  2. Comparison between Olympic Weightlifting Lifts and Derivatives for External Load and Fatigue Monitoring // Healthcare (Basel): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9777922/
  3. Developing Maximal Neuromuscular Power // Sports Medicine: https://link.springer.com/article/10.2165/11537690-000000000-00000
  4. Effects of Different Number of Sets of Resistance Training on Flexibility // Int J Exerc Sci: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5609666/
  5. Developing explosive power: a comparison of technique and training // J Sci Med Sport: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11339494/
  6. Training for Muscular Strength: Methods for Monitoring and Adjusting Training Intensity // Sports Medicine: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-021-01488-
  7. Grip Strength and Sports Performance in Competitive Master Weightlifters //  Int J Environ Res Public Health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9915202/
  8. Olympic lifting vs powerlifting // John Garhammer: http://cdn.criticalbench.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/garhammer-olympic-lifting-vs-powerlifting.pdf

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Oleksiy Torokhtiy

Author: Oleksiy Torokhtiy
Olympic Weightlifting Champion

Experience: 21 years
Best ResultsSnatch – 200 kg,
C&J – 240 kg

Oleksiy Torokhtiy is a professional athlete boasting 20 years of experience in Olympic weightlifting. With multiple European and World titles under his belt, he has showcased his prowess in two Olympic Games (Beijing 2008 and London 2012). Upon concluding his illustrious career, Oleksiy dedicated himself to coaching. By 2022, he had conducted over 200 weightlifting seminars worldwide. He is the visionary behind an international sportswear and accessories brand known for its motto, “Warm Body Cold Mind.” Additionally, he is an esteemed author and the creator of a series of training programs and eBooks.

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