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Perfecting the snatch takes time, dedication, and a highly detailed approach to addressing technical faults and weaknesses. One exercise that can drastically improve technique in weightlifters, CrossFit® athletes, and fitness goers is the snatch balance, which we will discuss in detail throughout this article.
In this article we will discuss:
- Proper snatch balance technique
- Benefits of the snatch balance
- How to program the snatch balance in your training routine
Snatch Balance Exercise Demo
Below is a video demonstration of how to perform the snatch balance. In the video below, the athlete jumps their feet out (typically one foot width) from the snatch pulling stance to the overhead squat/receiving stance position.
A variation of the snatch balance is the heaving snatch balance, which requires the lifter to start with the feet in the overhead squat stance in which he/she does NOT move feet. The heave variation increased ability to stay vertical in the receiving position.
Both variations have a lifter place the barbell in the back rack position, dip vertically (similar the jerk), drive the barbell upwards off the body using the legs (similar to the jerk), and then get fixed in a deep, strong, and stable position.
For increased speed and technique, the lifter should work to meet the barbell in the overhead squat as low and as fast as possible following the dip and drive phase. It is important to note that catching the barbell high and then riding it down into an overhead squat will diminish a lifter speed and confidence catching heavy snatches at full depth, and therefore is not advised as a general snatch balance practice.
Benefits of the Snatch Balance
Below are a few brief yet highly beneficial technique and strength aspects of the snatch that are directly impacted by the addition of snatch balances within training programs.
1. Confidence in the Snatch Receiving Position:
The ability to quickly and confidently drop into an overhead squat receiving position is one that requires mobility, timing, and speed, all of which must be developed through movements specifically geared to challenge a lifter’s ability to get fixated in a deep and stable position while simultaneously applying aggressive elbow extension to support the load. The snatch balance specifically targets this aspect of the snatch.
2. Vertical Torso in the Receiving Position of the Snatch:
Receiving the snatch in anything but a vertical and stable torso position will result in a lifter producing excessive lean of the trunk, often leading to missed reps. Although other faults, such as not finishing one’s pull or poor pulling technique and power can result in a poor receiving position, the snatch balance can help to reinforce strength, stability, and proper awareness of proper bar path in the recovery of the snatch.
3. Increased Speed Under Barbell in Snatch:
As discussed above, the speed at which a lifter can attain fixation underneath a barbell (as well as their ability to get fixated quickly in a stable and deep position) will drastically affect their ability to snatch. Speed and timing must be developed, and often is neglected as lifters try to pull loads higher when in fact they should also be trying to increase their ability to receiving snatches in a deeper, more stable position as well.
4. Overhead Strength and Stabilization:
Increasing overhead lockout strength of the arms and upper back, as well as an increased awareness and stabilization throughout the receiving positions of the snatch are key to securing lifts overhead. Snatch balances can be manipulated to pinpoint certain phases of the receiving position.
How to Program Snatch Balances
Programming the snatch balance can be done in a variety of ways. Below are just a few examples.
The snatch balance can be built into light warm Up sets or done with an empty barbell daily to prepare for snatch training sessions. In the below video, the snatch balance is combined with various snatch movements in my typical warm-up series for my Olympic weightlifters and CrossFit athletes.
Similar to above, this movement can be done with light to moderate loads (40-60% of snatch max) in primer sets after a general warm up for lifters who may lack proper overhead receiving mechanics, speed, and/or confidence receiving the snatch in a deep overhead squat position.
Building snatch balances into complexes is a great way to increase training volume and progress athletes towards fuller versions of the snatch. Popular complexes are:
- Snatch + Snatch balance + Overhead squat (made popular by Aleksey Torokhtiy)
- Behind the Neck Snatch Push Press + Snatch balance
If you look closely, you will see yours truly getting some props for my attempt at Aleksey’s complex in his #tor_complex Instagram series. Both of these complexes can be done with a variety of rep ranges, however it is recommended to keep total repetitions per complex to 2-5 total reps (for example, 1 snatch + 2 snatch balances + 1 overhead squat). Personally, I enjoy programming these into snatch complexes during heavy max out sessions, which allow athletes to attack heavier loads, gain experience with higher percentages, yet still govern the total intensity used during sessions (often lifters cannot perform higher volume snatch complexes with more than 85-90% of snatch max)
Snatch Assistance Lifts
Following main snatch and clean jerk lifts, coaches can program snatch balances and other assistance lifts (typically 1-2 per session) to specifically target weaknesses and/or faults that a lifter may express. Lifters who lack speed and/or timing under the barbell, poor overhead squatting mechanics (not due to mobility), or express hesitation turning themselves underneath heavy loads will benefit from snatch balances. Typically, this movement can be competed with 60-90% of snatch max for 3-5 sets of 2-5 repetitions.
The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of USA Weightlifting