Beginner's Guide to Learning the Snatch

Learning how to snatch a barbell for the first time, or looking for a very basic breakdown on how to approach learning these movements?

I have put together a 6-part video series (with corresponding notes and cues below) on how to get started with the snatch;

In this series, we will talk about overhead position, leg drive, proper balance, and sequence lifts in a way that helps you to stay safe and be effective in learning this complex olympic lift.


Before you watch the videos, remember these main goals of the snatch: 

  • Keep the bar over your area of base as much as possible. Your "area of base" is your center of gravity where you have the most control of the weight. A visual way to think of this is "the middle of your feet." If you stand on a line of tape that bisects the middle of your foot under the arch, that's where we want to keep the bar as long as possible.
  • We want to limit the amount of horizontal displacement of the bar because the more the bar gets away from our center of gravity, the more energy and force we have to use to bring it back (which gets harder when it gets heavier!)
  • Your feet are the foundation and connection between you, the bar and the earth, so pay attention to how firm your feet land against the floor and the pressure and engagement of your feet into the floor. Having proper footwear (flat & wide soles that are firm against the ground) will help you not just in terms of technique but safety.
  • The snatch is a dynamic and FAST movement so we eventually want to learn speed and being quick to extend and receive. As a first time learner of the snatch, because you are building a lot more muscle memory in the lift, you may be slower to move at first. Over time once the movements become more habits and you can think about them less, you will be able to move faster, explode quicker and harder, and lock out punchier.
  • Give yourself grace and forgiveness in learning this movement for the first time because it is complex and requires a lot of patience and practice to get it right. Even professional lifters who have been doing this since childhood are still working tirelessly everyday to perfect their technique.

I saw a big need for a very simple and easy-to-follow guide to learn the snatch for weightlifting that broke down the parts of the snatch into it's pieces, assuming that someone is newer to the movement and has not realized his/her mobility limitations yet.

One of the hugest mistakes I see in many "Snatch Beginner's Guides" is trying to get the athlete to do too much, too soon, or assuming that the athlete as a very decent athletic and mobility level to get into the required positions.

Prior to learning the snatch, an athlete should learn the basics of the power lifts (back squat, press, deadlift and proper way to pick the bar up from the floor) as well as have some experience with the front squat in order to have some level of comfort when adding on more ballistic and dynamic movement involving speed and coordination.

I like to have athletes learn the snatch FIRST before the clean, because:

  1. I feel that the concept of the snatch (bar to overhead) is much simpler to grasp than trying to rack the bar on the shoulders, especially since the turnover to achieve a front rack is usually tougher for most compared to the snatch, and
  2. The idea of getting a bar all the way above the body gets the idea of "POWER, FAST, AGGRESSIVE" easier than a clean.
Oh, and what a fabulous time for me to suddenly have this drive and the idea to make a video about snatching...while 25 weeks pregnant!!

So thank you for acknowledging that the baby bump is a little bit in the way (and is affecting my bar path) and I am doing the best that I can to keep it straight. I am keeping the weights VERY LIGHT so that I actually feel no impact and luckily my bump sits a bit higher up on my frame that I can have some hip contact with a light weight without it being too impactful or aggressive on the pelvis.

Because of the bump, my start position from the floor and lifting off to the knee is a bit skewed and affected, for example, I noticed that my knees are a bit more forward when the bar is at the knees, and the bar actually kicks slightly forward when bringing the bar from the floor. Having the bar drift forward during the lift off is not something I would coach or advise so please acknowledge this defect in my lift. (That's why I'm using a light weight!)

Here is a 6-part video series introducing the barbell snatch, the way we teach our athletes at our gym:


1. Learning the Proper Overhead Position in the Snatch

The very first thing I want to address is how to properly hold the bar overhead in the snatch.

This is essential before learning how to even bring the bar from the hips or the floor because having a proper lockout over head position to support the weight of the bar is necessary for safety.

Often times, lifters try to learn to snatch without learning how to punch or lockout the arms aggressively and end up muscling up the bar or continuously pressing the arms out to lockout. 

In this video, I will go over the type of bar or PVC to use when learning to snatch for the first time, a quick note on proper footwear, and how to engage the upper back to hold the bar securely overhead.

Video Notes:

  • Use a PVC that is about 5' long and 1" diameter, or a light training bar when learning the lifts for the first time.
  • Getting "weightlifting shoes" is not necessarily needed for beginners who are still learning the movement (although the elevated heel does help to get a more upright position), but it is important that the sole of the shoe is flat and firm enough to feel the floor and the ground with the foot. If the bottom of the shoe is too rounded or squishy (as are a lot of running shoes for stability) then it can be hard for the athlete to feel firmly grounded and connected to the floor. It is more important that beginning athletes learn proper technique first since just having a weightlifting shoe doesn't make a weightlifter.
  • You want to squeeze and rotate inward the upper-inner edge of the shoulder blades to help support holding the bar overhead. The wrist is slightly extended so that the palm is facing upward and the grip is around the bar (like a waiter holding a platter).

Proper Overhead Position in the Snatch

A quick note about weightlifting shoes:

In the video I am wearing my Nike Romaleo 2's (my most favorite and durable lifting shoe). There are plenty of posts and websites out there about different weightlifting shoes from Nike, Adidas, Velaasa, DoWin, NoBull and Reebok - If you're on a budget, check out used weightlifting shoes on Poshmark - it's a great way to spend less while getting a decent shoe as you are just starting the sport before investing in a newer pair.


2. Basics of the Overhead Squat

It is important that an athlete knows whether or not he/she is able to achieve the positions of an overhead squat.

Please note that you may need some knowledge of what a squat is (trying to get hip crease below "parallel" or below the knees) and may also have some experience with a back squat or front squat. The overhead squat is a very complex squat that requires a lot of mobility in order to get depth. Make sure you know the key points of holding a bar overhead (the previous video) prior to learning how to overhead squat.

If you are needing to work on your overhead squat mobility, check out the Snatch Bottom Mobility Program, which is a 30-day program full of drills that you can do alongside a 10-15 minute video per day to get better depth in your squat.

Video Notes:

  • Start very light, usually with a PVC, light bar or even a resistance band
  • When learning depth, it is OK to grab a bench, chair or elevated target to send the hips to, to learn how to keep the feet engaged with the floor and to keep the bar over the base of the neck & middle of the foot during the descent and ascent.
  • Wall squats or accumulating time in the bottom of your overhead squat are great ways to help build up the mobility needed for going overhead.

3. Learning the Push Press & Push Jerk

Recruit Leg Power & Find Lockout Overhead

The next step in learning how to snatch is...still taking the bar from the back!

I will go over How to Push Press and the Push Jerk - two essential lifts to learn that will help the athlete learn how to recruit leg drive in order to propel a bar overhead. The push jerk will teach the athlete how to properly punch and lockout the elbows and arms while simultaneously landing the feet firmly on the ground.

Learning these will also help learning the regular push jerk from the front rack much easier to grasp when learning the clean & jerk.

Key Notes from the Video:

  • Dip & Drive with the torso straight up and down (like your back is against a wall during the dip and drive)
  • In the dip, the load should be evenly pressured throughout the feet (50/50 ball of foot and heel) so the lifter remains balanced and the bar does not go forward.
  • In the drive, aim to quickly extend the hips and knees by punching the feet through the floor.
  • In the push jerk, the legs will bend (dip), extend (drive), then re-bend (re-dip) to punch under the bar and to lockout sooner. The push press does not have a second re-dip, it serves to continuously drive the bar overhead.
  • Athletes should have comfort with the mechanics of the push jerk (punching & locking out the arms) prior to moving onto the hang power snatch to have the muscle memory of achieving a quick lock out. 

While an athlete can move onto the hang power snatch without being proficient at the push jerk, learning the push jerk properly will only help the athlete achieve a better lock out so that in a competition, the lifter is not called for a "press-out"


4. The High Hang & Hang Positions, Snatching from the Power Position

Next we will finally learn how to snatch the bar from the front of the body...starting at the high hang position (also known as the power position). It is called the power position because that is the spot that the hips and legs can transfer the most power into the bar when the bar is at the hip crease and the legs go from a bent to an extended position.

I will go over the basics of the high hang (dip, drive & receive the bar in the same manner as the push jerk) as well as teach the mid-hang, bringing the bar further down the thighs to achieve more runway.

Key Points from Video:

  • Drive the legs to extension (straighten the hip crease and knees and extend the ankles) without bending the arms.
  • First do a snatch pull without arm bend to learn how to extend the hips/knees/ankles without prematurely bending the arms,
  • Then do a snatch HIGH PULL to learn how to track the bar close to the shirt and keep the elbows traveling upward.
  • Aim to load pressure in the feet evenly in the dip & drive.
  • As the bar slides down to the mid-thigh, send the hips and hamstrings back so the shins are vertical and the shoulder blades are covered over the top of the bar.
  • Make sure the pressure in the foot stays even as the hips & hamstrings go back in the hang snatch - often times a lifter ma accidentally shift weight back to the heels so be aware of your foot pressure.
  • We repeat the same no-arm snatch pull and snatch high pull drills when starting the bar at the mid-thigh.

5. The Snatch Deadlift - How to Set Up and Lift Off the Bar from the floor

While I don't recommend beginner lifters to take the bar from the floor right away, it is very important and essential for an athlete to learn how to "lift off" the bar from the floor in practicing to eventually do a full power snatch or full snatch.

"THE LIFT OFF" (Better known as the FIRST PULL in the Snatch)

A lift off for a snatch or clean is different from a conventional deadlift, in that the purpose of taking the bar from the floor is to get the bar into the optimal position to accelerate and extend at the power position. 

BALANCE is key here, and making sure that the bar is lifted off by pushing the feet into the floor (not necessarily just pulling the bar from the floor) will help the athlete recruit leg drive.

Learning how to lift off will also help an athlete to develop postural strength in their posterior chain for staying over the bar.

In the lift off video, we do a snatch deadlift to the mid-thigh (or matching the mid-hang position we learned in the previous video.)

 

Start Position Notes:

  • Fix your gaze on a point above the horizon, chin upright and skin of the neck stretched slightly.
  • Keep your back and spine rigid, tight & engaged with a slight upward thoracic extension to accommodate the gaze, pushing your mid-back and torso forward between the thighs so the back is flat with even a slight arch upward.
  • Position the feet in a width that feels "jumpy" (where you could do a high jump if you could)
  • Arms are vertical, feel vertical, and stay vertical. Shoulder heads will be slightly in front of the bar at set up.
  • Toes may be slightly flared out to help clear the shins out of the way of the bar quicker (opposed to toes forward)
  • Height position of the hips will differ based on the person's anatomy (longer torso, longer leg-length from hips to knees, etc). 
  • Make sure the pressure in the foot stays even as the bar lifts off 1" from the floor, to the knees, and to the mid-thigh
  • Keep shoulder blades covered over the bar so that the extension is more powerful when the bar gets to the high hang.
Start Position Basics

6. Putting the Power Snatch Together (and eventually riding down to a squat)

OK PHEW! At this time we can finally talk about putting it all together in a full power snatch from the floor.

By this time, you have practiced the hang position several times and are comfortable snatching from the hang (several days to several weeks), and have also learned how to "lift off" the bar from the floor several times.

In this video, I start by demonstrating the Snatch High Pull (from the floor) and then the full power snatch.

I finish the video with a quick tutorial on how to eventually ride the bar down into the squat.

Again, this is a BEGINNER'S video series, so learning how to pull under to receive in a squat will come with more experience.

The power snatch is a very valid lift for a lifter to use at a weightlifting meet so that's why we are ending here.

Video Notes:

  • We are combining the lift-off to mid-thigh with the hang snatch from mid-thigh, but working on linking those two things together in continuous acceleration.
  • Bar contact should brush the hip crease in the soft area above the pubic bone in the full snatch here. Bar contact is like a rock skipping against water, not like a tennis ball bouncing hard.
  • We start with the high pull first, learning how to get that acceleration (or having the lifter pause at mid-thigh, then continuing to the high pull until they are comfortable with those positions).
  • We then move into the full snatch and throw in some reminders about how to catch the bar, as well as holding the bar overhead during recovery.
  • Lastly, practice holding the bar still for at least 1 second in your recovery (legs, hips & knees straight, body is standing still with no bar movement) to build strength in your finish and recovery.

 


If you enjoyed this tutorial, check out my instagram page (@artofbarbell_)  where I have hundreds of posts and mini tutorials on weightlifting technique that is visual and simple to understand!

Drills for a more comfortable snatch bottom position

Lastly, if you know you need to work on your mobility for the snatch and overhead squat, check out the Snatch Bottom Mobility Program which I designed to help you learn drills and movements to improve your mobility in just 30 days & beyond!

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