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    The story about the athlete that is said to “have mastered the snatch, but his clean didn’t work out” is rather trivial. The opposite can also happen: the athlete is barely handling the snatch in the second or third of three attempts and has to overcome all his opponents in clean & jerk to grasp at the medal. By the way, the second story is exactly about my youth. That’s why the comprehension of the difference between the snatch and the clean is the matter of utmost importance to me, and I always pay maximum attention to this in my way of training the others. Especially to the details of exercise phases and elements.

    Years of my sporting and coaching practice have driven me to the conclusion that the root of all problems lies in coaches and athletes that lack understanding the difference between the techniques of these two movements. That’s why similar requirements are applied to learning and practicing and this creates drawbacks in technical mastery in one of the movements.

     So what’s the difference between the snatch and the clean? We have already discussed some light on this question in the previous articles of our blog.

     First of all, there is a large number of technical parameters varying not only visually, but also statistically. In far 1978 the USSR scientists (V. Frolov, A. Lukashev) carried out multiple studies and made a number of conclusions.

     The main differences are related to much bigger weights (14-30% on average) and narrower grip used in the clean. Athletes shoulder griddle in starting position for the clean is located 10-15 cm higher the platform, than in snatch. That’s why the knee joint angles during the clean (89° on average) are 15° (20%) wider than in snatch (74°). It is important to note that knee joint angles are more open in all phases of the clean.  

      The difference in the biomechanics of athletes with distinct body proportions is also a very important feature. The basic differences for the athletes with long legs and short torso and athletes with short legs and long torso are in the starting position and catch phase.

      Athletes with short legs have narrower knee joint angles (45° on average) than the athletes with long legs (70°).

      Athletes with short legs have a lesser inclination of the torso towards the platform (70°) than the athletes with long legs (45°). In other phases – first pull, power position, turnover – differences become more insignificant. Athletes with short legs have wider knee joint angles and lesser torso to platform incline in the catch phase than the athletes with long legs and short torso.

      All these specificities show us that body proportions must be taken into consideration to individualize training of the starting and final positions. But you should not rely too much on the advantage that long legs or short torso give, in my opinion. There are many great athletes with all variants of body proportions, thus body biomechanics is one of the many success factors.

      By continuing with our comparative analysis of snatch and clean, we will remark that the pull phase in clean lasts longer (0,52 s) than in snatch (0,45 s) primarily due to the difference in weight.

       Comparison of the time-bound indices of transition and full extension phases showed the transition phase to be shorter (0,13 s) than the full extension phase (0,17 s) in the snatch. On the contrary, in clean the transition phase was longer (0,15 s) than the full extension phase (0,13 s). The transition in clean is longer than in snatch, in the first place because the weight is heavier and the movement speed is lower. During the clean, the torso is in an upright posture, and that’s why the full extension phase goes faster.

      Another important technical thing: you are unable to use the elasticity of the barbell doing the snatch with the wide grip, it also has a greatly prolonged effort direction path in comparison to the clean. Thus technical aspects are the decisive factor to successfully perform a snatch, and this is particularly related to maximum speed and upward travel height of the barbell. In other words, good results in snatch are greatly dependent on the muscles contraction speed, nervous system responsiveness, and the level of technical mastery of the athlete.     

      In their turn results in clean strongly depend on the skill to make use of the barbell elasticity properties. The USSR National Team head coach Alexey Medvedev investigated this case in 1986. Clean requires a focused effort to be applied twice – in the first pull and the power position. A powerful explosion is required to take advantage of the barbell elasticity properties and reach the maximum speed on this short stage. Also, barbell acceleration power releases you to turn your legs, torso and arms muscles from overcoming to receiving mode and to prepare the stability necessary for the catch phase. To make it happen you need to apply efforts during the pull.

      It’s worth pointing out for all the athletes, that an excessively powerful or explosive start, with the ground force going over 150%, can be the reason for losing the solid interaction of all body parts in the pull or transition phase, and then subsequent mistakes in other phases of the movement are likely to happen.

     The force applied to the ground in clean is lesser than in snatch (by 5-8%), pull and power position. This is related to the weight of the barbell and the length of the effort direction path.

     This comparative analysis, therefore, shows us the biomechanical differences between the snatch and the clean. That’s why we don’t recommend amateur athletes to combine exercises to develop the techniques in both of these movements in one workout session. Such an approach is reasonable only during the competition period in order to adapt the athlete to the competition stressful environment.

     Understanding these differences will also help both coaches and athletes to knowingly choose special assistance exercises for their training programs.

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