The Power Snatch: Step-by-Step Instructions and Video Tutorials

By Matt Walter
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Learn how to correctly perform the power snatch

The power snatch is an Olympic weightlifting movement that is used to develop power and speed. It is similar to the full squat snatch, but the power snatch is performed without a full squat underneath the bar.

In this blog post, we will discuss how to correctly perform the power snatch, as well as its purpose in a training program. We will also provide video demonstrations of the power snatch, and show you how to program it for different goals. Let’s get started!

The power snatch is the most basic variation of the snatch; the only difference is the height at which the bar is received.

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Table of Contents

Video: Christian Thibaudeau Explains How to do the Power Snatch

How to Perform the Power Snatch: Step-by-Step Instructions

For this exercise, you will need a barbell and bumper plates.

Step 1: Stand in front of a loaded barbell on the ground. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and toes pointed slightly out.

Setup tip: do not let your shins touch the bar while you are standing. Instead, line up the horizontal shoelace nearest the toebox of your lifters directly under the bar. This will allow the bar to pass your knees during the lift, without having to move forward away from your body.

Step 2: Bend your hips and knees to lower your torso and grab the bar with a snatch grip. I’ll explain how to find your snatch grip below. Use the wide knurl lines to help orient and standardize your snatch grip. And use a hook grip.

Setup tip: keep your back straight as you bend down to grab the bar. Do not round your back at any point during this movement. Your head should be up, proud chest, hips higher than your knees.

Step 3: Rise to your starting position. Your back should be flat, knees pushed out and in line with your toes, arms straight, elbows pointed forward, and your hips higher than your knees. Maintain a proud chest and look forward.

Step 4: Drive your feet through the floor, maintaining the same back angle until the bar reaches mid-thigh. Keep the bar close to your body. Explosively extend your hips, knees, and ankles. The bar will brush your thighs after it passes your knees, as you continue to extend to a fully standing position.

Form tip: keep your arms straight throughout the movement. Do not let your elbows bend at any point during this movement.

Step 5: Continue accelerating aggressively and extend your hips, knees, and ankles (this is why we call it Triple Extension) violently. Keep the bar close to your body and allow it to contact your hips as you reach full extension, rising up onto your toes.

Step 5: Once you have reached full extension and have raised up onto your toes, jump your feet off the floor and slide them out into your squat stance. Simultaneously, pull yourself under the barbell quickly and aggressively by bringing your elbows high and wide toward your ears and catching the barbell in a partial squat position.

Technique tip: think about turning your wrists over aggressively as the bar passes your head. You want to turn your palms so they are facing the ceiling. This will help speed up your catch.

Step 6: Catch the barbell over your head with your arms fully extended (locked) and with your legs in a partial squat position.

Step 7: Punch straight up against the overhead barbell, and end your squat with your thighs above parallel. Recover to a fully standing position with the bar overhead.

Step 8: Return the bar to the floor.

The power snatch is an excellent exercise for boosting strength and speed. It may be used as a primary or supplementary movement in your training regimen. Select the proper weight for the power snatch according to your objectives.

Video: Oleksiy Torokhtiy Power Snatch Demonstration

The Power Snatch Broken Down Into Phases

The Setup: The barbell should be over your midfoot when you crouch down to grasp it with a wide overhand snatch grip. Arms straight, wrists down, and elbow pits facing out. The longer your arms, the wider your grip.

The First Pull: unlike the deadlift in powerlifting, the first pull off the ground is the slowest of the three phases of the lift. Maintain a neutral spine before you begin your first pull from the floor to your knees. Your hips and chest should rise at the same time.

The Second Pull: the second pull begins when the barbell reaches your knees. This is known as the power position. Your arms should be locked straight and the bar should brush your thighs as it passes your knees. Your ankles, knees, and hips continue to extent forcefully. The second pull is slightly faster than the first pull.

The Third Pull: the third pull is the fastest, most explosive phase of the lift. The third pull begins when the bar reaches your upper thigh/hips. Keep the bar close to your body. Triple extend and jump your feet off the floor as you shrug your shoulders and pull your elbows high and to the side.

The Turnover and Catch: Pull yourself under the barbell and turn your wrists over quickly. Catch the barbell overhead with your arms straight at the same time your feet hit the platform, in a partial overhead squat position. Stabilize the barbell and come to a fully standing, supported position.

Power Snatch Notes

Any Olympic lift where the athlete catches the barbell and the hips are higher than the knees, or the thighs are horizontal or higher, is considered a power lift.

Often you will see athletes catch the power snatch with their feet much wider than normal. This prevents them from dropping into a full squat if the bar isn’t lifted high enough. Many will call this the “starfish” position. Done correctly, it’s a useful way of getting low under the bar, but not completing a full squat. Done incorrectly, the knees cave inward, causing pressure on both the knees and ankles.

The Purpose of the Power Snatch

The power snatch is completed with the barbell overhead and the legs in a partial squat. Because you are not dropping into a full squat you have to focus on pulling the bar high and quickly changing direction. This can help you work on force and speed production in the second and third pulls, especially the turnover and catch portions of the snatch. This movement can greatly improve your ability to aggressively accelerate the bar overhead.

It’s also a great choice for lighter exercise days if you want to perform it instead of the heavier snatch. The power snatch, like the power clean, can be used as part of a learning progression for beginners or as a substitute for those who aren’t mobile enough to sit into an overhead squat.

The power snatch is also a great exercise for teaching new athletes how to snatch. Typically, athletes will start with snatches from a hang position, which limits the distance the bar has to travel. This allows you to work on portions of the lift, before putting the whole lift together.

The full squat snatch is a very complicated movement. Pulling yourself underneath a moving barbell and catching it overhead, with locked arms, and in a full squat position requires incredible timing, balance, and coordination. The power snatch can help new athletes learn how to perform the snatch correctly and improve their coordination before moving on to the full squat snatch.

Programming the Power Snatch

Power snatches can be performed at near maximal effort for training or testing. Even at near PR loads, the power snatch can act as a light snatch day exercise between full heavy snatch days. This allows you to increase your training volume with the snatch with less risk of overtraining.

Power snatch sets should generally consist of 1 to 3 reps.

For speed and technical training: use 60-75% of your 1 rep max (1RM)

For light training days: use 70-80% of your 1RM

Variations of the Power Snatch

Hang power snatches and power snatches from blocks are the most common variations of the power snatch.

Power Snatch Tips

The following tips will help you with your power snatches.

Find Your Snatch Grip

If you do not know your snatch grip, grasp an empty barbell with a very wide grip and stand up with it. Adjust your grip width until the barbell sits comfortably in your hip crease with your arms fully locked and your lats and upper back muscles fully engaged. This is a very good starting point for your snatch grip. Pay attention to where your hands are in relation to the knurl marks near the end of the barbell. These will help you grab the bar in the same place every time.

Use a Hook Grip

Wrap the first two or three fingers of your hand over top of your thumbs so that your thumb is pressed between your fingers and the bar. This creates a stronger grip and prevents the bar from slipping out of your hands.

Jump!

Jump with the barbell! We often overcomplicate the snatch and its variations when working with beginners. Think about holding the barbell and jumping straight up in the air with it. Hold the barbell with your snatch grip and the bar at your hip crease. Without bending to a hang position, jump straight up in the air. You’ll notice that the barbell will push up and away from your body as you jump.

Now try the same jump again, but this time let the barbell brush against your shirt by pulling your elbows high and toward your ears. Think about trying to bring the barbell directly up under your chin.

Try one more time, but this time drop under the barbell when it is at or near your chin. This is the foundation for performing the snatch.

Use Bumper Plates

The bar should begin on the floor. All bumper plate weights have the same diameter, so these are especially useful for Olympic lifts. Even with light weights, such as having one 10-pound bumper plate on each side of your barbell, the barbell will be the same height from the ground as with heavier weights, say 135-pounds. Using bumper plates and beginning every rep from the same height off the floor will help solidify your technique.

Bumper plates have the same diameter and are designed to handle being dropped to the floor

Bumper plates also allow you to drop the weight from overhead without damaging your flooring or barbell.

Straps Can be Used

Straps may be used when performing the snatch. These can be especially helpful during multiple-rep sets. If you are a beginner or need to improve your grip strength, however, you should avoid using straps. Do not use straps until you are a more advanced lifter.

Tips for Beginners

Work on each portion of the snatch one at a time. The snatch grip deadlift is a great place to start. Then the hang power snatch, followed by the power snatch, hang snatch, and finally the full squat snatch. Muscle snatches can also help you to learn how to quickly turn your hands over to receive the barbell overhead, and block snatches help you learn to pull the bar from different heights.

The hang power snatch takes the first pull, from the floor, out of the movement. By starting from a hang position you get to focus on moving the barbell to full extension and snapping and catching it overhead. These are complicated movements and positions, and learning them is key. And, for new lifters, getting the barbell into the correct position to begin the second pull (above the knees, barbell close to your body, back flat, head up) is another difficult step all on its own. Learn the hang power snatch first, and then add picking the barbell up from the ground.

The overhead squat will help you get comfortable holding a barbell overhead with a snatch grip and moving it through space. Start your overhead squat by only squatting to parallel. When that’s comfortable, add in the full squat. Just make sure you have adequate hip, ankle, and thoracic (upper back) mobility.

This gradual approach allows you to master each phase of the snatch independently before trying to put it all together. Slow and steady wins the race here! Remember, Olympic weightlifters spend their entire lives learning to master 2 lifts!

The Overhead Squat Video Demonstration

Attempting to learn how to snatch on top of a poor foundation is a recipe for disaster!

A Note on CrossFit

CrossFit is one of the most influential health and fitness movements in recent years and has brought the Olympic lifts to the mainstream public. It has introduced the snatch, clean and jerk, and their variations to many who never would have tried them. And CrossFit has helped to emphasize the importance of Olympic lifts for overall fitness.

Just be careful with high rep Olympic exercises or trying to lift too much weight too soon. Olympic lifters spend years learning this movement under the supervision of highly qualified coaches.

CrossFit regularly programs high rep Olympic movements. Good coaches will program these movements well, even at high reps. And your coach should know each athlete well enough to help you adjust the movement for the day’s workout.

The Olympic lifts will build explosive power and strength. But they are complex, dynamic, and carry a higher risk of injury than man other exercises. Take your time, start with an empty barbell or PVC pipe, and learn the movement patterns for the Olympic lifts before adding weight. Add weight to the barbell slowly! And seek the help of a coach if possible.

And never perform snatches or clean and jerks with bad form! If your form starts to break down, STOP! REST! IGNORE THE CLOCK! Do not risk injury just to have a faster time or place higher on the leader board. It’s just not worth it.

Gear Recommendations for the Power snatch

I love having my own garage gym. I started small, one piece at a time, and built up over the past decade. I still have every piece I’ve ever bought. I’ve spent more over that time than it would have cost to me to just have a gym membership. But it’s all mine. And the convenience of being able to work out any time I want can’t be overstated. In the long run, it’s cheaper and it’s far more convenient!

Bumper Plates

Titan Fitness 230-pound Economy Bumper Plate Set – This is the set I have at home.

Rogue Crumb Bumper Plates – Crumb bumpers are amazing for home gyms! They are incredibly durable and are much quieter than typical bumper plates. And, if you plan on training outside at any point, these are the plates you need.

Titan Fitness 230-Pound Elite Bumper Plate Set – This set is more expensive than the last, but they are incredible.

Barbells

Again Faster Team Barbell 2.0 – This is the barbell I have and use at home.

Rogue Bar 2.0 – This is another incredible all-purpose barbell. Some of my closest friends own this one and use it as their daily bar.

Titan Fitness Olympic Barbell – My local CrossFit gym has this barbell and I use it often. It’s a great all-purpose barbell.

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.

Power Racks

Titan Fitness Power Rack – this is an inexpensive power rack that will do everything you need, and it has pins in the back for weighing down with plates.

Titan Fitness Bolt-Down Power Rack – this is very similar to the rack I have at home, which I bought through a local company near my house. If you are going to use your cage for dynamic movements like muscle-ups, get one that can bolt to the floor.

Titan Fitness Folding Power Rack – these are amazing space savers! And this rack is perfect (review coming!).

Conclusion: The Power Snatch

The power snatch is an Olympic lift that can be used to improve force and speed production in the second and third pulls, as well as to teach new athletes how to snatch correctly. It can be performed with 1-3 reps at maximal effort or 60-75% of your 1RM for speed and technical training. On light training days, power snatches can be performed at 70-80% of your one-rep max. The most common variations of the power snatch are the hang power snatch and power snatches from blocks.

Now that you know how to correctly perform the power snatch, as well as its purpose in a training program, start incorporating it into your own workouts! And don’t forget to properly warm up and cool down before and after each session. Stay safe and happy lifting!

Let us know how you’re doing with the power snatch in the comments!

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AUTHOR

Matt has been a personal trainer for more than 18 years. He is also a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, has a master's degree in teaching, and is a former competitive powerlifter and CrossFit athlete. His passion is helping others get in shape from mid-life and beyond.

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