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Power Snatch


Power Snatch


The power snatch is an assistance movement performed by weightlifters to develop power and strengthen the second pull, or the portion of the lift from above the knee to completion. It is also used to train the snatch while limiting lower-body involvement. This lift can be used by many other athletes to build strength, explosiveness, develop the upper back and strengthen the external rotators. In many sports that feature extensive throwing, the benefits of the power snatch nicely offset some of the imbalances that develop over time in competitive sport. Athletes who participate in sports that feature a great deal of swinging or stick-handling such as baseball or hockey will often have external rotators that are stronger on one side than the other, and the power snatch can help correct this imbalance. Throwers often over-develop the internal rotators and the external rotators get neglected. The power snatch can build strength while correcting this and developing power.

The usefulness of this exercise cannot be under-stated. The power snatch not only works your upper back, it specifically strengthens your external rotators. This is critical for most athletes, but even more so for throwers and anyone who develops any sort of imbalance. An excellent exercise for rowers, the power snatch can serve as a mainstay exercise in the program of nearly every athlete. Having some of the same benefits with respect to improving the vertical jump as the power clean, volleyball players in particular can benefit from this exercise. This exercise is no more difficult to learn than the power clean, and teaching by any reasonably competent coach can provide all the guidance you need to get started in one or two training sessions.

Like the full lift, the power snatch is broken down into phases, starting with the set-up and the pull. Each phase of the lift must be correct before moving onto the next phase, or your lift is far less likely to be successful. There are six phases in the pull, and you must connect the phases, like dots, in order to successfully receive the bar. Think of each phase of the lift like a picture, and each picture or position needs to be technically correct for maximum power and minimum risk of injury. While some people can lift weights with bad technique, they are not only lifting below their potential, they are increasing their risk of injury.

The lift starts by pulling the bar from the ground. The different phases of the pull are critical, and each phase must be correct or the next phase will be off. The pull alone is broken down into six phases, with the last phase ending when you have secured the barbell overhead. At this point all you must do is straighten your legs to complete the lift. Since the initial aspects of the lift are identical to the full snatch, the set up and execution will be discussed in roughly the same manner. If your power snatch does not duplicate, or at least very closely mimic, your full snatch, you are not getting as much out of the lift as you could. Many muscles generate power in this lift, but most notably the hip extensors. Weak hips cause your legs to work harder and increase the strain on your knees. This can also lead to a decrease in power between the 1st and 2nd pull.

Pisarenko showing how to finish the pull:

1st phase: Set Up:



Your feet should be approximately shoulder-width apart, toes turned outward slightly. If you stand approximately in the same position you use to execute a vertical leap, you are off to a good start. Line the bar up with your metarso-phalangeal joints, which is where your toes meet your feet. Incline your shins forward as you reach down to grab the bar, with your hands at least one-and-a-half times the width of your shoulders. You should grip the bar with a hook grip, which is an overhand grip where you wrap your first or first two fingers around your thumb. Keep your arms straight, and lightly flex your triceps to ensure your elbows remain straight. Rotate your elbows so that they point out to the sides. Your elbows will continue to point out during the first four phases of the pull. Your shoulders should be either above or slightly forward of the bar. Your knees should be flexed approximately 75 to 90 degrees. Arch your back and stick your chest out. Either keep your head in line with your torso or look up slightly. This should result in your torso being no more than 50 degrees from vertical.

When you first grip the bar, lightly flex the muscles of your back and legs. Keep your chest, shoulders and arms tight and take a deep breath. Do not attempt to suddenly rip the bar from the floor, use the tension you build up to provide power for when you ease the bar from the ground.

2nd Phase: Preliminary Acceleration:



During this phase you ease the bar off of the ground - do not attempt to rip the weight up. Move the weight by straightening your legs and keep your torso angle the same. There should be no movement at the hip joint during this phase. Keep the arch in your lower back and do not allow your upper back to round. During this phase the bar should move in towards you slightly, but not excessively so. If you attempt to drag the bar up your legs like it is a conventional deadlift, you will bang that bar with your knees and disturb your bar path while slowing down the speed of your bar. Your latissimus dorsi contract heavily to help pull the bar in and your weight shifts slightly back on your foot. This phase continues until your knees have straightened to approximately 150 degrees.

Phase Three: Rebend:



The purpose of the third phase is to allow you to set up for a more efficient second pull. Your torso straightens slightly during this phase, which causes your hips to move forward. Continue to pull the bar into you and allow your knees to relax, moving forward slightly. This should occur when the bar passes your knee joint and is about one-third of the way up your thighs. This allows the bar to be closer to your center of gravity while your torso is straighter, both of which greatly increase your leverage.

Fourth Phase: Final Acceleration:



At the start of this phase, your shoulders, the barbell, and the MP joints of your feet should all be in the same vertical plane. Your hips snap forward explosively as your body extends. You may or may not rise onto your toes during this phase, and triple extension is a subject of much debate. If you can get under the barbell without the extra motion, there is no need to extend at the ankles. You should finish this phase with a powerful shrug, but your shrug must occur naturally. If you attempt to force the shrug, when you finish the pull your shoulders will be stiff and inflexible. Your elbows must remain rotated outward during this phase. If your elbows rotate back, you will pull the bar back into you, when instead the bar should arc outward slightly. Your body may be slightly hyper-extended during this phase, which helps balance the barbell. This is your last attempt to increase the force you are applying to the bar - make it count. Your elbows should be bent slightly at the completion of this phase.

Fifth Phase: Unsupported Squat Under:



Pull your upper arms out and up, as if you were a scarecrow or marionette. Your knees bend slightly as the bar continues to move upward. You do not exert significant force on the barbell during this phase, you simply maintain control. Your feet leave the platform slightly. The barbell should pass your head during this phase. Your elbows move down under the bar as you rotate at the shoulders, and your wrists turn over.

Sixth Phase: Supported Squat Under:



Your feet move outward slightly, and your toes may turn outward slightly. You firmly re-plant your feet, with your heels solidly contacting, or stomping the platform. Your heels should remain under your hip joints. Your torso will tilt forward, but keep your lower back tight. Your arms straighten and your shoulders must tighten. Do not lock your knees, keep them slightly soft. A slight relaxation of your knees and hips allows your legs to take some of the strain of catching the barbell, easing the stress on your shoulders and elbows.

When you catch the bar, it should be in line with your hips. The lower you catch the bar, the further it will be behind your head. Your elbows should rotate outward slightly, and to maintain tension in your upper back, attempt to pull the bar apart with your hands as you stabilize it during this phase. Your legs straighten, and you stand up completely, bring your feet into line with your hips and the barbell.



Common Mistakes in the Power Snatch

  • The most common problem in the power snatch is receiving, or catching the bar. If you find that you are needing to step forward to maintain control of the bar, your posture is off in one of the previous phases. Should this occur, to catch the bar raise your hips slightly and push your shoulders forward to get the bar in line with your hips as quickly as possible. If you over-pull the bar, and it winds up behind you, you can drop your hips slightly to bring your torso under the bar. Additional knee bend may help with this as well.


  • Premature arm-pulling occurs when athletes bend the elbows early. This not only costs you power, but increases your risk of injury. The phrase - when the arms bend, the power ends - is still around because it is true. To avoid this, flex your triceps. If you continue to have a problem with this, rotate your elbows and wrists out a little more, and concentrate on pulling with your arms locked. Extra work using just pulls from the floor can help correct this by allowing you to focus on pulling without worrying about catching the bar.


  • Poor bar path can occur for a number of reasons. While the bar will never be pulled in a straight line, exaggerated s-pulling costs you power and makes the bar more difficult to control and catch. In elite athletes, horizontal displacement of the barbell still occurs, but decreases with the amount of weight lifted. If your weight shifts forward over your toes during the second phase, the bar will move either straight up or away from you, instead of in slightly. This is why the bar is pulled in slightly - your goal is to get the bar over the middle of your foot, even though it does not start out there. If not, and your rise up on your toes too early, your hips extend too quickly, which costs you power. This also increases the distance the bar will swing away from you during the fourth phase. This will require you to move forward significantly when repositioning your feet, decreasing your ability to control the bar.


  • Variations of the Power Snatch

    The lift can be started above the ground, from anywhere just below the knee to a dead hang, with your hips straight. The higher you start your pull, the harder the lift becomes and the less weight you can use. You can allow the bar to hang, supporting the weight with your arms, or you can pull from boxes or pins. Whatever method you chose, ensure you start your lift in the correct position. Do not assume a position that does not directly relate to your pull on the snatch, or you will build bad habits that result in bad technique.

    From the hang: Pulling from the hang can be done anywhere, but mid-thigh level is a common starting position. This forces you to work on your second pull and can also give your lower back something of a rest if you have been training it heavily. If you pull from mid-thigh, this is similar to the bar starting between the third and fourth phase. You do not have much momentum going into the final acceleration, and must snap your hips explosively and shrug hard to generate power. The lift proceeds as normal from that point. Avoid leaning forward at the start of the lift or bending your knees to generate power. Whatever position you decide to start from, start from a fixed position. Bending down or leaning forward to crank the weight up with your lower back defeats the entire purpose of the exercise.

    From pins: Pulling from pins or boxes makes it a little harder to cheat at the start of the lift, and ensure that the bar is stationary at the start of your extension. When pulling from pins it can be easier at first to set up with your knees and hips at the incorrect angle, so if you lack a coach, take a few videos of yourself from the side and compare them to your full lift. It can be easier to accidentally bend your arms at the start when pulling from a fixed position, so take care to treat this lift just as if you were pulling from the floor.

    Training and Programming

    The technical nature of the power snatch makes it ill-suited for high-repetition work. Most weightlifters rarely do more than triples, and sets of only one or two repetitions are common. The power snatch uses a great many muscles, and not all of them fatigue at the same rate. Having smaller muscles fatigue during an long, extended set not only results in sloppy technique which can lead to bad habits, it increases your risk of injury. If you are just learning the lift, stick with three repetitions per set. As you need more volume to get better at the lift, you will need to do many sets. As a beginner, if you find yourself making mistakes due to fatigue, it is probably best to stop practicing the lift for the day. There will be other days where you can train with greater skill, greater intensity and less risk of injury.

    Programming Goals

    If your goal is to improve your second pull and catch on the snatch, you should not do more than one or two repetitions per set. If your goal is to strengthen your upper back, build power and explosiveness, and possibly increase your athletic ability, you can do three repetitions per set. To improve your conditioning, keep your rest periods between sets short, and perform a high number of sets. You can perform five, eight or even ten sets of three if your conditioning allows it. Like the novice, should your technique start to get sloppy it may be best to call it day. A few missed reps may be irritating, but far less irritating than an injury.

    Specific Notes on Position

    The following tables are for advanced athletes and coaches, and are guidelines for athletic and barbell positions in various phases of the power snatch. While these numbers are not absolute, they are taken from the compilation study of national data performed at the Soviet Institute for Physical Culture, and represent the closet we have to extensive data on the subject.

    First Phase:

    First Phase
    Angle Minimum Maximum
    Knee Angle Start 45 90
    Knee Angle Finish 80 110
    Arm Angle 50 65
    Torso Angle 25 50


    Second Phase:

    Second Phase
    Angle Minimum Maximum
    Knee Angle Start 80 110
    Knee Angle Finish 145 150
    Torso Angle 30 32
    Hip Angle 85 90
    Time .4 sec. .55 sec.
    Bar Speed 1.3 m/s 1.6 m/s
    Bar Height 46.5 cm .58.9 cm
    Bar Shift Toward Athlete 5 cm 10 cm


    Third Phase:

    Third Phase
    Angle Minimum Maximum
    Knee Angle Start 150 155
    Knee Angle Finish 120 125
    Torso Angle 55 60
    Hip Angle 105 110
    Time .12 sec. .125 sec.
    Bar Speed 1.2 m/s 1.5 m/s
    Bar Height 52.5 cm 66.5
    Bar Shift Toward Athlete 6 cm 12 cm
    Fourth Phase:

    Fourth Phase
    Angle Minimum Maximum
    Knee Angle Start 120 125
    Knee Angle Finish 175 180
    Torso Angle 0 10 back
    Hip Angle 180 180+
    Time .18 sec. .2 sec.
    Bar Speed 1.8 m/s 2.05 m/s
    Bar Height 97.5 cm 123.5
    Bar Shift Away from Athlete 2 cm 4 cm
    Fifth Phase:

    Fifth Phase
    Movement Minimum Maximum
    Feet Stay in Place .1 sec. .15 sec.
    Feet Reposition .15 sec. .33 sec
    Total Time .25 sec. .48 sec.


    Links

    NSCA Training Video

    Catalyst Athletics Power Snatch Video

    Gayle Hatch Power Snatch Video

    To discuss this article, please click here The Power Snatch

    Written by: Eric Brown
    MS, RCEP, CSCS, CCN
    With assistance from: Teh Munchinator

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