Hitting A Goal: A Bodyweight Snatch 

I have been very fortunate to be around some incredible strength athletes and coaches: Coach Burgener, Casey, Beau, Cody and Sage Burgener, Josh Everett, Greg Everett… the list goes on and on. I have learned a ton being coached by these people and observing them as they hit impressive numbers in a whole variety of lifts. 

Unfortunately, with all this skill at Mike’s Gym to motivate and teach me, I never really amounted to anything as a lifter. In fact, I never even snatched my bodyweight, which Dan John regards as a basic milestone for an athlete. This always bothered me because I felt I was letting this great group of people down by not meeting a minimum standard. 

So, several months ago, I set the goal of snatching my bodyweight. At 6’ 5.5”, a long-limbed 220 lbs, and 35 years old, I knew this would be a challenging feat for me. In addition, my unpredictable schedule only allowed 30-40 minutes, Monday through Friday, to workout. This article will detail how I accomplished this goal. 

This whole effort started approximately a year ago when I added snatches back into my workouts after a two-year hiatus. Once a week, I did the Burgener Warmup to get loose, then did power snatches or snatches. I would simply mix up the sets and reps and exercises (hang snatch, power snatch, snatch…) based on how I felt that day. Every rep, I focused on putting speed on the bar. My training log shows that I started off practicing with 50 kg (110 lbs). Eight weeks later, I did a snatch with 80 kg (176 lbs). 


At this point, I said to myself, “Self, I might have a shot at a 100 kg snatch.” Luckily, my bodyweight is usually right around 220 lbs. So I sat down and wrote my next program, designed to get me to a 90 kg snatch (baby steps!) (see Attachment 2). I used Pavel’s “Grease the Groove” idea, meaning I snatched every day I worked out (4 days per week). I continued to warm up each time with the Burgener Warmup, and I used snatch grip deadlifts, snatch balance and overhead squats to build strength in the snatch positions. The core of the program, however, was the one day per week I devoted to doing multiple singles at 85%+ of my current max. I have found if I can do 5 singles with a weight (with 2-3 minutes rest time between reps), I will rarely miss that weight again. Coach Burgener used to make me do this with a challenging weight with the reps being done on the minute. The key on this training day is to strive for maximum speed on the bar and to receive the bar in a solid position. When I started this workout, I did 70 kg for 10 singles on Day 1. Twelve weeks later, I did 80 kg for 5 singles. When this program had run its course (ie: I was sick of it), my snatch had improved to 85 kg. 

The results from this program were not as good as I’d hoped. First, the snatch grip deadlift did not seem to transfer to snatches the way regular deadlifts do to cleans for me. Secondly, I did not stay on top of my diet or sleep. I averaged about five hours a night of sleep and finished the program weighing only 213 lbs. Finally, as is often the case when I write my own workouts, I included too much “fluff” like the Keg Lifts, Man Makers, Turkish Get-ups… The one positive was that the multiple sets of singles had turned 80 kg into a medium weight I’d never miss instead of a near maximal weight I really had to dig deep for.

I refocused on my goal on the next program, which only lasted a month (see Attachment 3). I pulled out the binders full of notes from my workouts with Coach B (I often write notes on my hand or scrap pieces of paper as I watch Coach do his thing. He throws out so much good stuff and I consider it a lost opportunity if I don’t remember it and learn from it). From my notes, I picked three things to focus on technically: a) feel the heels through the first pull, b) SPEED (which I defined as the hips opening and then closing as fast as possible through the second and third pull) and c) an aggressive third pull. These would be the items I hammered over and over every time I did snatches.

As for the program itself, I did some form of snatch everyday (Monday thru Friday). I mixed it up between full snatches, power snatches, hang snatches, etc... I went 85%+ for 5-10 reps on Mondays (again, the key ingredient of the program) in the snatch and just did what felt right in the other workouts. Basically, my goal was to increase the weight with which I did 5 singles by 2.5 kg every Monday. I also back squatted everyday with light to medium weight. I varied the reps on squats from 3s or 5s on the minute to sets of 10. At the end of the four weeks I snatched 90 kg. I was only 10 kg from my goal, but those last 10 are always the hardest.

As luck would have it, I had an interesting conversation with Coach Burgener before starting my next program. He mentioned how he has had a lot of success having lifters working with approximately 70% in their Olympic lifts (focusing on speed and technique) while going heavy in the strength lifts-squat, press and deadlift. This conversation (and Dan John’s One Lift A Day Program) influenced my next workout schedule (see Attachment 4). I followed this schedule pretty closely and missed very few days, even with the birth of my second son. I constantly thought about keeping my weight on the heels and SPEED through the second pull! After eight weeks my snatch had increased to 95kg. Now it was time to knuckle down and get this thing done!

This last program was basically pure snatching. Full snatches three days a week and power snatches the other two. The power snatches save my legs but still let me focus on technique. Again, every workout, I concentrated on keeping my weight on the heels in the first pull and SPEED in second pull. I pushed the weight on Mondays because Coach taught me (and I agree) that you have to feel heavy weight to lift it. I did 92.5 kg for three singles and hit 95 kg for a single plus two overhead squats. Then, almost 4 weeks to the day after starting this program, I got the chance to go up to Burgener’s to lift. For me this is a special gym and a special place to lift, so I was pumped. Having a bunch a people there I really respect was also very motivating. In short, my warmups felt great, Coach B was coaching me and I kept my focus on speed. The result was a pretty solid snatch at 100kg (220 lbs). I immediately got on the scale, which read 217.8 lbs (with shoes). Mission accomplished!

Hopefully, somewhere in this article, there is a little nugget of information that will help another lifter in some way. Good luck with your training!

Stephane Rochet was hired as the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at the University of San Diego in January 2007. Prior to this, he was a strength coach at UCLA, Indiana University and UCR. His training philosophy has been heavily influenced by Coach Burgener, Josh Everett, Ethan Reeve and CrossFit.

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