If you’re learning the Olympic lifts, your grip placement is crucial for success. In the case of the barbell snatch, in order to snatch correctly, you must find and perfect your snatch grip.
The snatch grip is the widest possible grip you can take on the barbell while still maintaining full contact with your palms. This will be a very different position than your normal deadlift or clean grip.
Widening your grip may not seem significant, but it can have a big impact on the feel, complexity, and benefits of many barbell exercises.
By the end of this article, you will have found your perfect snatch grip, you’ll know how and why you should add it to other barbell movements, and you’ll be able to make adjustments based on your own physical proportions.
I will cover:
- What Is the Snatch Grip?
- How to Do the Snatch Grip
- Benefits of the Snatch Grip
- Factors to Consider
- Snatch Grip Tips
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What Is the Snatch Grip?
The snatch is an Olympic weightlifting exercise in which the barbell is snatched from the ground to overhead in one continuous motion. The snatch grip is the grip that you use for this exercise.
The snatch grip is a wide grip that places your hands outside of your legs.
As with all things in weightlifting, small changes can make a huge difference. And there are few exercises that are impacted as dramatically by small changes as the snatch.
Still slamming the barbell against your upper thighs during your hip drive? How about racking yourself if you keep the bar close like you’re supposed to?
Finding your perfect snatch grip is key to getting the barbell into the right position for your hips to scoop and send the bar flying (up, up…not away).
The snatch grip varies from weightlifter to weightlifter since their natural proportions differ. Taller people with longer arms will generally need a wider grip, closer to the collars, in order to make hip contact during the second pull.
My own grip is incredibly wide! I’m only 5’10”, but I grip almost all the way to the collars because of how long my arms and femurs are (yeah, I’m not built for this lift at all!)
The wider grip not only helps get the barbell into the hip crease, it improves shoulder stability and allows you to keep your shoulders over the barbell during the first pull, which is important for proper form.
Video: How to Find Your Snatch Grip
How to Find Your Perfect Snatch Grip Step-by-Step Instructions
For the following tutorial, you’ll need a barbell or PVC pipe.
There are several complicated ways to determine snatch grip width. I don’t find that any of them are worth the time and effort.
There are only two factors that really matter for the snatch grip (as far as using it for the barbell snatch is concerned).
- Can the bar clear your head during the pull under the bar?
- Can the bar hit your hip crease, or high enough to be propelled upward?
The following method is simple and takes very little time! This will set your grip for the snatch and will translate to other exercises as well.
Step 1: Grasp an empty barbell or PVC pipe with a wider-than shoulder-width grip and stand tall.
Step 2: Set the barbell or pipe into your hip crease and hinge forward, trapping the bar in place.
Step 3: Relax your traps, engage your lats to pull your shoulders down and back, and lock your elbows. Slide your hands out to the sides as far as you can while still allowing your full hand to grasp the bar. Now twist your arms so that your elbows are pointing forward (think of opening a jar with your right hand, and tightening one with your left).
Step 4: Drive your hips forward and extend your back, returning to a fully standing position.
With your arms straight and your lats fully engaged, the bar should rest comfortably against your hips, just above the groin.
This is the position you are looking for and is where the barbell should meet your body when you reach full triple extension at the end of the second pull.
The instructions make it sound more complicated than it is. Watch the video.
To secure the bar in your hands, you’ll need to use either a double overhand grip or, better yet, a hook grip.
Do not try and use a mixed grip. I’m not really sure how that would work, but I thought I’d mention it.
The Snatch Grip for Unusual Proportions
You may need to adjust slightly wider or narrower depending on your specific proportions.
If you have long arms and a short torso, your grip may be so wide that it’s too stressful on your wrists. If this is you, bring your grip in slightly. This may mean that the bar hits a little lower on your hips, but you’ll save your wrists.
If you have short arms and a long torso, your grip may be too narrow to control well overhead. Try widening your grip slightly until you find a good balance between overhead mobility and contact point during the second pull of the snatch.
Benefits of the Snatch Grip
Obviously, this is the grip you are going to use for any variation of the barbell snatch, snatch balance, and overhead squat. But that’s mechanical and part of the lift. The snatch grip has several other unique benefits that may convince you to add it to other lifts as well.
Improved Grip Strength
The wider you grip a barbell, the harder the bar is to hold. The further out you grip the more acute your wrist angle becomes, forcing more of your grip to rely on the thumb side of your hand.
This is why I always tape my pinky fingers when I do high rep snatch work. There’s less strength to the grip on the pinky side, which tends to cause blisters.
This wide grip will force your forearms to work much harder to maintain your grip on the bar.
Add a snatch grip to the traditional deadlift or overhead variations of carries, lunges, and squats to improve your grip and forearm strength.
Increased Range of Motion
In a deadlift, you usually want your arms perfectly vertical, making them as long as possible. This decreases how far you have to lower your body to get ahold of the bar.
So the snatch grip is counterintuitive. It dramatically increases the range of motion. In order to reach the bar for a snatch grip deadlift, you’ll have to sink much lower than normal. This will increase leg involvement, especially from your quadriceps, which are more activated the lower your squat.
Yes, you’ll lift less weight. But you’ll activate and strengthen the deadlift through a longer range of motion, making this an ideal accessory lift for powerlifters.
I don’t normally recommend using the snatch grip for the Romanian deadlift, because an exaggerated range of motion isn’t the purpose of the exercise. You shouldn’t use the RDL to overstretch your hamstrings. Go to the point of maximum stretch, pause, and then return to standing.
However, if have the flexibility to lower your barbell to the ground during an RDL, the snatch grip RDL is a way to increase your range of motion. Or you could stand on a plate.
Varying your exercises makes training fun and engaging. But if you don’t regularly train specific movements you won’t get better and stronger at them.
A snatch grip allows you to continue training certain movements, like a conventional deadlift, but from a new angle and with a new challenge. Keep your neurological efficiency and muscle fiber recruitment high, while enjoying the benefits of variation.
Factors To Consider When Using a Snatch Grip
The snatch grip can be used for many different exercises, or to improve or change your overall exercise routine. Knowing your own limits and goals will determine how, when, and where you use it.
The snatch grip is excellent for developing bone-crushing grip strength.
Due to the wide hand placement, the weakest part of the grip (pinky and ring fingers) is placed in a disadvantageous position. So your forearms and stronger part of your grip have to work much hard to keep hold of the bar
Although this grip limits how much weight you can handle on the bar, the snatch grip can be a wonderful supplement to other forms of training if your grip limits your overall workouts.
Goals of Your Training
Using a snatch grip is a great way to address possible gaps in your training and physique.
Applying the snatch grip to your workout can help you autoregulate your training, especially in the deadlift. By adding some snatch grip work into your workouts you’ll focus on weak areas that may be holding you back, including your grip, range of motion, and upper back muscle strength and development.
The wider grip puts your upper back muscles in a weaker position. This will force them to have to work harder to maintain position even when training with light weights.
Wider vs. Narrower Snatch Grip
There are a few advantages and disadvantages to slightly adjusting wider or narrower than your baseline snatch grip width. This choice will influence the degree of difficulty as well as certain benefits gained from using the grip.
Wider Snatch Grip
A Wider snatch grip translates to a shorter distance for the bar to travel and a quicker turnover. But it also means more stress on the wrists and grip and less stability in the shoulders.
Adjusting your hands wider than your baseline snatch grip will help keep your shoulders over the bar during the first and second pulls. This can be a huge advantage if you struggle with this! If you notice yourself constantly banging the bar off your mid to upper thighs, this can help.
A wider grip also makes it easier to throw the bar over and through during the third pull of the barbell snatch due to a shortened range of motion.
But a wider grip is also a weaker grip. This is great if you need to work on grip strength, but it’s going to limit how much weight you can handle in the snatch.
Narrower Snatch Grip
A narrower snatch grip is easier on the grip and wrists and creates more stable shoulders. But it translates to a longer pull, slower turnover, and an overall longer distance for the bar to travel.
A grip that is slightly narrower than your baseline snatch grip may be more comfortable and stable, but it’s a fine line. Don’t go too narrow. Just try holding an overhead squat with a clean grip. That’s tough!
But I always choose a slightly narrower grip for overhead squats, especially if I’m doing them for reps. It’s a bit more stable and definitely more forgiving on my wrists.
A narrow grip can also identify mobility issues because you’ll have to be more mobile in your shoulders and mid-back to secure the weight overhead.
The biggest downfall to a more narrow snatch grip is that it creates a longer bar path. The bar will hit lower on your thighs and have to travel further above your head.
Snatch Grip Tips
Perfecting the hook grip, maintaining shoulder function, mobility, and stability, and regularly practicing the snatch grip will reap benefits in your training for years to come.
Solidify Your Hook Grip
The snatch is a quick and violent movement. The last thing you want is for the bar to slip out of your hands during the third pull.
A proper hook grip will ensure that the bar stays glued to your palms even when your hands are sweating bullets.
Instead of your thumb wrapping over your fingers, you pin your thumb between your index and middle finger and the bar (you can get your ring finger on top of your thumb, even better!). This allows the bar to rotate in your palms during the Olympic lifts and is by far the most secure barbell grip.
Maintain Shoulder Mobility and Stability
The snatch is a full-body movement, but the shoulders play a vital role. And the snatch grip places your shoulders deep into internal shoulder rotation. You need to maintain good shoulder mobility to get into the correct position for the snatch, as well as good stability to finish the lift overhead.
If you don’t have adequate mobility or stability in your shoulders, you’ll either miss the snatch or be forced to compensate somewhere else in the movement, which can lead to injury.
Warm up well before performing the snatch grip with any exercise. Movements like the bottoms-up kettlebell waiters carry, the CrossOver Symmetry preparation flow, and plenty of reps with an empty barbell will prime your shoulders for the movements to come.
Perfect practice makes perfect.
The secret to improving any exercise, movement, grip, technique, or pose is to consistently put in the sets and reps.
To improve your snatch grip, make sure it’s in your routine so you can build up more sets and repetitions to fine-tune the skill and strength that it demands.
The Best Barbells for Your Needs
I use each of the barbells listed below on a regular basis. They are incredible all-purpose barbells at great prices.
Again Faster Team Barbell 2.0 – This is the barbell I have and use at home. I love it. You can get this in both 20kg and 15kg versions.
Rogue Bar 2.0 – This is an incredible all-purpose barbell, and is one of the bars used at the CrossFit Games. In my humble opinion, this is the best barbell that most people can buy (along with the Bella bar for women).
Rogue Bella Bar 2.0 – Modeled after the Rogue Bar 2.0 but designed for women with a 25mm shaft and 15kg (33lb) weight. This is an incredible all-purpose barbell and is the bar the women use at the CrossFit Games.
Rogue IWF Approved Olympic Weightlifting Bar – if you need a true, dedicated Olympic lifting bar, you won’t be the quality or price of this one. It comes in both 28mm and 25mm shaft diameters, designed for male and female competitors.
Conclusion: The Snatch Grip
First and foremost, remember that in weightlifting mobility and flexibility in both the upper and lower body is extremely important. Not only for performing the lifts correctly but for your overall safety and longevity in the Iron Game.
By this point, you should have all the information you need to find your perfect snatch grip. Don’t overthink it! Try the technique listed above, and adjust to fit your specific proportions as necessary. Add the snatch grip to your training, and not just for the Olympic lift of the same name! Use it to strengthen your grip and create longer ranges of motion in some of your favorite lifts.
Go to it!