How to Become Snatchtastic
Written by Michele Vieux
Pretty much everyone I know asks about how they can become more snatchtastic i.e. better at snatching. Since the snatch is so complex and each person’s needs are different, the prescription is rarely the same across the board. Hopefully this article and it’s list of progressions will help you decide where you could focus some effort to improve your snatching. You might need a combination of these drills so try them out to see which you think might be most useful for your needs.
Mobility is the Key to Life and the Snatch
Tight ankles, shoulders and thoracic spine can all cause major problems for snatching and it’s skill transfer drills like overhead squat, snatch balance and tall snatches. Actually, tightness anywhere can be a problem as the overhead squat tends to expose any immobility we have. Do not neglect your mobility – it’s really easy to injure yourself in the positions required by snatching and it’s counterparts if you are tight. Here are some resources for your mobility work.
Snatch Skill Work and Progressions
These can be worked into your warm-up on snatch days or your supplemental work at other times during the week. If you struggle with snatches, you might consider modifying the workout to one of these movements when snatches come up until you are more comfortable with the positioning.
Grease the Groove with the Overhead Squat
Start with practicing your overhead squat (OHS) because it forces you to focus on positioning without having to worry about the technique of Olympic lifting. It will also help you “grease the groove” which means become comfortable and confident in the receiving position (bottom of the OHS) and recovery (standing from the OHS) in the snatch. Keep the weight light at first – usually just the empty barbell or even a PVC pipe – until you are super comfortable in all parts of the movement before adding weight. DO NOT MOVE TO DYNAMIC PROGRESSIONS UNTIL YOU ARE COMFORTABLE AND PAIN FREE IN THE ENTIRE RANGE OF MOTION FOR THIS MOVEMENT! If it hurts now, imagine how bad it will hurt when you throw weight into the air and then try to catch it in these painful positions.
Stay Tight & Press Down with the Pressing Snatch Balance
Once you are good-to-go with the OHS, it is time to start thinking about pushing yourself down and under the bar. Enter the pressing snatch balance. In this movement, you don’t need to worry about moving your feet or anything else that a snatch requires – only the idea of staying tight as you press your body under the bar (versus pressing the bar over your body). The bar starts on your back for each rep and your feet will stay in your squat stance while you press yourself under the bar into the bottom of your OHS. The bar should never go higher than its starting position on your shoulders since you are pressing yourself down and under it. Again, this drill only needs to be done with an empty barbell or PVC.
Time to Get More Dynamic with the Heaving Snatch Balance
Good to go with that? Great! Now let’s make it a little more dynamic by adding a dip-drive and turning it into a heaving snatch balance. Use the same set-up as the pressing snatch balance but give yourself the SAME dip-drive you use for your push press (which is also the same as what you should use from the high hang position of the snatch or clean). Everything else stays the same – the feet, the recovery, the positioning of the body – but now you have to focus more control on keeping the bar exactly where you want it. No need to add too much weight here either. It’s just skill work and perfect for your warm-up.
Master the Snatch Balance to Build Confidence Under Heavy Loads
All good with the heaving snatch balance? Time to start incorporating the feet! The only thing we change between the heaving snatch balance and the snatch balance is that we start with our feet under our hips (jumping position) and move them to our squat stance when we get under the bar. The snatch balance is the perfect drill to start practicing your PUNCH under the bar and fast feet. Put the bar exactly where you want it – don’t let it control you. Another great thing about the snatch balance is that it gives you confidence getting under heavy weight so this is a great drill to add into your routine if you notice that’s an issue of yours. Once you become proficient with the barbell, then start adding weight to this movement as you are able. One day, maybe next week, maybe years from now, it would be awesome if you could snatch balance more than you can snatch. Just think of the confidence you’ll have as you approach your snatch bar KNOWING you can catch and stand with that weight!
Develop Speed While Pulling Yourself Under the Weight with the Tall Snatch
Another great drill to build confidence and speed in getting under the bar is the tall snatch which focuses on the turnover plus the punch under the bar by having you start in the fully extended position (triple extension) and pulling then punching yourself under the bar. Since the dip is eliminated and you are on your tippy-toes, you have to be fast, confident and in the perfect position.
What’s Missing Here?
Notice what all of these drills have in common? NONE of them come from the floor. Typically we ask athletes to work from the hang or on skill transfer drills and perfect these BEFORE taking snatches (or cleans) from the floor which adds a whole other level of complexity to the lift as it sets up the proper (or improper) bar path and positioning. Follow the steps – don’t be too eager to progress! It is ok to modify your snatch session to skill transfer drills or snatches from the hang. You will thank yourself later for working on developing good technique and habits.
How to Scale Snatches for Metcons
When snatches come up for the metcon that the prescribed weight is higher than your 85% of your 1RM, reduce the load to the 65-75% range for now so that you can get more comfortable with the movement. You might even consider eliminating them from your metcons until you are super proficient. Bad habits are hard to break.
How to Cycle Snatches
Cycling snatches is a whole different ball game and bad habits and injuries are more likely to occur when we are moving quickly with lack of oxygen to the brain. Check out these blog posts when you get a chance for some strategy in that arena.
Practice, practice, practice! Become a position perfectionist – chest up, abs tight and actively set shoulders throughout the movement. Again, you might need a combination of these drills so try them out to see which you think might be most useful for your needs. Don’t hesitate to reach out for coaching by posting the the comments below!
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