The snatch, either squat or power, is the trickiest of the Olympic weightlifting movements. The movement starts with the lifting pulling the weight from the floor, and ends with the weight directly overhead with arms locked out.
Before you even start moving the bar, the first thing to establish is the grip width. You grip should be wider than your shoulders, and will depend on your height and stature. A good way to find your grip width is to stand with an empty barbell across your hips. Inch both of your hands along the barbell, away from your body until the barbell hits where a belt or pockets would be on your pants. This is your snatch grip width. Another way to find it is to hold the barbell in the same position across your hips. Bend over slightly hinging at your waist. The barbell should be sitting right at the point where your hips crease. Notice on the barbell where your hands are. There are markings on the knurling (the rough part) to help you measure and remember your grip width.
The Set up
Start with the weight on the ground and start with a light weight if you are new to this movement. The set up is important to do correctly in order to establish safe a proper movement throughout the lift. Safety and accuracy start with a solid set up.
Approaching the bar: It’s important to establish a routine for approaching the barbell. Every time you approach the barbell you should approach it in a similar manner. Here is a sequence of events that can be used for approaching the barbell for the snatch.
1) Walk up to barbell and place the bridge of your shoes (the last laces nearest your toes) directly under the bar. When you do this, that bridge of your shoes should be hidden from your view when you look straight down.
2) Feet should be hips distance apart so that your heels are directly underneath your hips. Toes should be facing forward, or if you are a little taller than most, your feet can be slightly turned out.
3) Bend down and establish a grip on the barbell using the predetermined grip width.
4) Knees should be bent, with shins rather straight.
5) Hips should be either parallel with your knees or slightly above your knees. When you do this, you should feel your hamstrings and your glutes tight and engaged.
6) Shoulders should be directly above or slightly in front of the bar. Too far forward is not good, and behind the bar is also not good.
7) Arms should be straight and somewhat loose. They are not pulling on the bar to lift it from the ground, so keep them straight yet loose.
8) Abs should be tight to support your midsection.
9) Back should be tight and lats should be engaged pulling your shoulders back and down away from your ears.
10) Eyes should be looking either straight forward or slightly forward and down.
The last three points, 8, 9, and 10, are the most important part of the set up. This can also be cued as having a “flat back” or “neutral spine”. These cues help you set up a safe spine position, and this should be maintained throughout the entire movement. Not at any point throughout the movement is it acceptable to disengage your abs or your upper back. Doing so may lead to short or long term injury. If you find that you are disengaging these areas and your back is rounding as you pull or that its over extending as you catch, then lower the weight and practice keeping those muscle groups engage so that your back is protected.
The set up is not somewhere you want to hang out for a while. The faster you can establish a set up with the barbell the better. When you are bent down over the barbell you have a lot of muscles tight and active and it should be a tiring position to hold! Practice getting set up properly a few times if you feel uncomfortable with it. As soon you as you establish a brisk set up routine, move right into the lift. When you’re down there double check that you can wiggle your toes. This ensures that your weight is properly distributed in heels.
This movement occurs in what are called three pulls that all happen consecutively and quickly to be one full movement moving the weight from the ground to catch it over head.
The first pull indicates the movement that gets the bar from the ground to just over your knees. To do this, you must first establish your set up position with a flat back position. Then while maintaining that flat back position, push your weight through your heels by engaging the quads and glutes. You should feel the bar leaving the ground. The only joint that should be changing position is your knees, which should slightly straighten. Your butt and your chest should be rising at the same time, meaning that the angle of your back should not change. Your hips should not rise before your chest. For this pull, your lats should be tightly engaged, pulling the barbell close to your body as you rise. The barbell should reach the top of your knees. This is the end of the first pull.
The second pull starts with the barbell from the top of the knees to the hips. At the start of this pull, your shoulders should be slightly in front of the barbell, or directly above, and your back should be flat. Your knees should be slightly bent with the barbell just above the knee caps. The lats are engaged to pull the barbell close to your body. It should be close to your body if not touching it. Move the barbell up your thigh towards your hips by pivoting at the hips. Ensure that you maintain a tight midsection and keep the chest up. Your arms should be kept long and loose. Do not straighten the knees at this time. If your knees were a little too straight at the beginning of the pull so that you could get the barbell past your knees, they might even re-bend during this pull in order to get to a good power position for the third pull. Once the barbell reaches your hip crease the second pull has ended.
The third pull starts in the power position and ends with the lift landing underneath the barbell in the catching position. The power position is the barbell resting at your hip crease, back and chest are upright, shoulders directly over the bar, knees slightly bent. A common error occurs when a lifter does not reach this position by pulling too early with the arms in the second pull. Making sure that the barbell obtains this power position before pulling upward on the bar is important for having a powerful and efficient movement. From the power position, the lifter squeezes the glutes tightly to open the hips fully while firing the quads to extend the knees straight. This movement is much like a jump and should propel the lifter and the barbell upwards. The lifter’s feet may leave the ground completely or just slightly roll the weight to the toes. Once the hips and knees are full extended, the shoulders should shrug upwards to continue the movement of the barbell upwards. The arms should start to bend, sending the elbows out to the sides. The barbell should experience a moment of weightlessness at the top of the lifter’s jump. At that moment, the lifter will pull themselves under the bar so that the weight is directly overhead, and land the jump with knees bent and butt back. This is the squat position. The feet should have shifted to wider stance to accommodate the squat position. As the weight begins to fall back down towards the floor, the lifter should extend the arms with the inside of the elbows facing up and locked out and the armpits facing out. This should be a stable position to catch the barbell and is called the landing position. This is the end of the third pull.
The last thing the lifter needs to do is to stand up fully before dropping the bar. Make sure that the hips, knees, and shoulders are all aligned to finish the movement. This is the squat snatch.
The complete a power snatch, the lifter does not need to obtain a full squat position with the weight over head. The hips should be somewhere above the line of the knees to be considered a power snatch. To get a full squat snatch, the hips will need to descend to the height of the knees or below either after the catch or for the catch. The lifter cannot stand up with the weight before achieving the squat position. Once the lifter stands all the way up, the movement has ended.
Imagine that you’re standing on a trampoline, and the barbell is stationary. When you pull on the bar, imagine that it is not the thing that is moving but you are moving around the barbell. For the first pull, push your legs down through the floor like you were pushing them through the trampoline. On the third pull, when you pull your body under the bar, you’re not just dropping into a squat and letting gravity do the work, but you are pulling on the bar in order get underneath it.