How Do You Choose Your Accessory Lifts?
Written by Cody Burgener

Nobody is perfect. Everyone has weaknesses and room for improvement. When it comes to the Olympic lifts, there is always one weakness that sets you back from making personal records. So the question I’m asking is, “how do you go about improving upon that weakness?”

For example, one common problem that lifters have is receiving the barbell in the bottom of the snatch. They will often attempt to remedy this by training more overhead squats to strengthen their overhead position. Is this the best way to approach it? Overhead squats will certainly improve their overhead position, but is it the best accessory lift to address their specific problem? Can you guess which accessory lift might better address the issue?

Ok, time’s up. Snatch balance would be my first thought. Many times lifters who are having difficulties receiving the barbell are failing to stay tight when receiving the barbell deep in an overhead squat. They can often overhead squat well because they initiate with and maintain stability throughout the movement. Kelly Starrett calls this “staying connected” throughout the movement. He also notes that these movements are less complex than movements that require us to start from a position of high stability, lose connectedness, and then have to regain a position of high stability. Check it out here. For most athletes, the problem comes with this more complex movement when they have to disengage to be fast under the barbell and then get tight again to receive the load.

Snatch balances give athletes the feeling of driving themselves down underneath the barbell, and requires that they get tight upon receiving the barbell at the bottom of the overhead squat. In other words, it mimics the same pattern as is experienced in the snatch; where the lifter is starting from a position of high stability, disengaging from that position, and then regaining a position of high stability under the barbell. Simply put, it is often a more effective tool to fix the specific problem that is limiting the lifter who struggles receiving the barbell.

An added benefit of the snatch balance is that it can help athletes build confidence in their abilities. Athletes should be able to and almost always will snatch balance more than their 1-RM snatch. That means that they get experience feeling heavier weight overhead, and they gain confidence knowing that if they can pull themselves under that weight in the snatch, they will be able to stabilize and stand up with it.

Oh yeah, and I happen to know that Aja Barto (pictured above) did plenty of snatch balance work over the last several months . . . and he did ok on the snatch ladder over the weekend.

If you are having trouble figuring out what your weaknesses are and how you can improve your lifts, just send me a video or swing by the Invictus Olympic Lifting club. I can help you assess what types of accessory lifts would most specifically address your weaknesses and help you set new personal records.

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
May 2, 2012 7:29 pm

Coach Bergner Teaching (us) the Snatch Balance:

Jaimie Bougie
Jaimie Bougie
May 1, 2012 8:35 am

Haha he did “ok” on the snatch ladder over the weekend?!

For some unknown reason, the snatch balance scares the crap out of me so it’s my most disliked/feared lift. Guess I should work on that, eh?