USA Weightlifting

Let’s face it. The snatch is just about the hardest movement you can do in the gym. So many people see the movement pattern done  by professionals and try to emulate it as best they can, but they simply don’t have the correct motor program  to perform  like the pros.

Im going to give you four easy tips to get you on the path to looking like a pro.

 1. Fix your grip

If you’ve studied any lifters with decent technique, you’ll know that when the hips fully extend in the snatch, the bar should be in the crease of the hip, touching the body. Having the bar in the crease of your hips is going to be where you want to end up after the second pull.  Therefore, the first thing you’re going to do is pick up the bar and stand at attention.

World Weightlifting Championships 2010

To get the right grip width  for the snatch move your hands in (to lower the bar on the hips) or out (to raise the bar to the hips) so the bar rests in the crease of the hips on extension.

 If you’re unsure about whether the bar is in this “crease” or not, put your hands where you think they should be. Now, pick one knee up so the hip is at about 90 degrees.Your leg should not move the bar.

If your leg makes the bar move, then your hands are too close. Keep moving them out until your leg doesn’t make the bar move when picking it up.

This is where your hands should be when you snatch.

2. Tighten up your set-up!


Starting with a rounded back is the most common problem we see when in a  lifters sets up.  Typically the lifer doesn’t get tight before the lift starts and consequently isn’t tight throughout the whole lift.

Not getting set or “tight”,  causes the entire lift to be sloppy and usually results in missing the lift forward.

Looking at the picture to the left, we can see that the back is nice and flat.

There are essentially two causes for a rounded back during the set up.

The first one is that the lifter simply hasn’t been cued into the right position. Typically we’ll give the lifter several cues to see if we can verbally get them where we want them.

We will cue the athlete with “Chest up”, “Stick your butt out” or “Shoulders back”. After a few sessions of really reinforcing the good setup, it usually becomes second nature, assuming they have the mobility to get into position.

Which brings me to my next point.

The second most common reason a lifter can’t get into a good setup is because of a lack of mobility. It takes a lot of hip and ankle mobility to get into a good setup, especially in the snatch. If this is the problem, we’ll prescribe mobility drills based on the individual.


You can see above how the back isn’t tight and the shoulders are rounded forward.  I lack ankle mobility and it prevents me from getting in the best position possible.  Athletes like myself are going to spend more time fixing movement limitations before actually completing full lifts.

Although this may seem counterintuitive it actually saves the lifter time and head ache in the long run.  Do not be in a hurry to complete the full lifts if your body isn’t ready.

3. Keep the bar close

If you have studied the technique of top lifters, you’ll notice that the bar is always as close as possible to the lifter’s center of gravity. Generally, the straighter the bar path, the better.


If you look at a lift directly from the side, typically you want to see as straight of a line as possible, like the one to the right. This is an elite level lifter and it should be noted this takes some serious practice.  Perfecting the bar path takes time.

What we see in a lot of lower level lifters, however, is the bar swings away from the lifter and makes a big C, especially upon extension of the hips.

There are a few reasons that this happens.

1. The lifter allows the bar to drift away from them on the first and/or second pull.

-This is a big problem that we see in lifters that have a hard time activating their lats and sweeping the bar back into them. If the bar is too far away from you from the ground to the hip, the athlete will tend to slam the bar into their hips at the last second in an attempt to get the “pop” off their hips. Rather than directing the bar upwards with their hips, the bar bounces off their hips out in front of them and makes a big C pattern.

2. The lifter picks their hips up before their shoulders.

-This one will be a bit more controversial due to the different number of techniques utilized. In the technique that we use, which is a hybrid of the RDL and catapult techniques, we want to stay as upright as possible during the lift. In our style as well as catapult, picking the hips up first is a no go.

When we’ve been training to stay as upright as possible and we allow our hips to come up first, the positioning makes it much harder to “sweep” the bar into the hips, keep it close on the second pull, and keep it right over our center of gravity. The end result is a lift that has a tendency to slam the bar into the hips, rather than brush up against the hips.  This uncontrolled crash into the hips cause the bar to swing aways carelessly.

3. The lifter doesn’t break the elbows back after the bar leaves the hips.

-This is something that is obvious once you think about it, but it passes over a lot of lifters minds. Due to the explosive nature of the lift and the aggressive hip extension, no matter how upright you are, the bar is going to want to travel forward, even if just a little bit. If the lifter lets the bar go wherever it wants, it will go forward and the lift will be missed forward. For this reason, we need to break the elbows BACK after the bar leaves the hips. This will allow the bar to stay right over the center of gravity, keeping a vertical bar path and allowing for a much better catch position.

Eliminating the C curve on a lift is one of the biggest things that will allow you to lift more weight. It will not only lead to the bar having that “weightless” feeling while it is in the air, but it will also set you up for a great catch position. That leads us to our fourth problem we usually see.

4. Improve your bottom position now.

Similar to the start position, we typically see two kinds of lifters that have bad bottom positions. We have the lifters that haven’t been cued to the right position and the lifters who simply don’t have enough mobility, usually in the hips, shoulders, and ankles.

For the lifters that have the mobility, but haven’t been cued correctly, we usually tell them to get their back tight, chest up and press up into the bar. This position should feel relatively comfortable. It will take the energy out of you if you have to sit there, but you should feel comfortable and stable in this position.

With lifters that don’t have the mobility, we’ll give them similar mobility drills to help open up their ankles, hips and shoulders.


Above, you can see how rounded the back is as well as how internally rotated the shoulders are. Not only is this position very unstable and unsafe, it’s extremely hard to hold even with 40 kg!


Now, this is how we want the catch position to look. The back is in a safe, neutral position and the shoulders are externally rotated. This is a much more safer, more energy efficient position.

For either lifter (one with bad mobility and one who just needs to be cued into the right position), we will have them do a lot of snatch balance. This is an exercise where you start with the bar on your back with your hands in a snatch grip. You will dip down and back up (the same as a jerk dip and drive) and drop under the bar, catching it in the same bottom position as your snatch.

By doing this, you not only strengthen and lengthen the muscles that need to be to get in the correct bottom position, but you drill the ability to get under the bar quickly–get tight at the right time to catch the bar.

Other than snatch balance, we will also have some lifters pause at the bottom of their snatches to get the same feeling. They need to get used to going directly to the position that is most stable for them, rather than having to fight the bar to get it where it needs to be.

Remember, weightlifting is an extremely technical sport. If one thing goes wrong, it can throw everything else off. A bad start position can lead to a bad first and second pull, which will lead to a bad catch position. This will ultimately lead to missed lifts and plateaus.

Fix these problems and it will have a dramatic effect on your performance and consistency in the snatch.

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