The Snatch Balance for Confidence, Speed, Footwork, and Strength

By Matt Walter
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Learn how to correctly perform and program the snatch balance

The snatch balance is a key exercise in Olympic weightlifting. It teaches proper positioning, how to maintain balance during the snatch, and helps improve snatch technique. We will provide step-by-step instructions on how to perform the snatch balance. We will also discuss why it’s useful, and provide video demonstrations of how to do it properly.

By the end of this article, you will understand how to perform the snatch balance, why it is such a useful exercise, and how to fit it into your programming.

We will cover:

  • How to perform the snatch balance
  • The purpose of the snatch balance
  • How to program the snatch balance
  • Tips for improving your technique
  • Snatch balance variations

Let’s get started!

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Video: Sage Burgener Demonstrates the Snatch Balance

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

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

Step 1: Place a barbell in a rack as if you were going to do a standard back squat. Rack the barbell behind your neck, high up on your traps. Move your hands out wide to your personal snatch-width grip and set your feet in the pulling position (usually hip-width apart).

Form Tip: Your elbows should be pointed down toward the ground. Otherwise, your risk pushing the barbell forward into your head instead of in a straight line up, over your head.

Step 2: Make sure your knees are in line with your hips, and that your torso is upright. Dip your knees slightly, similar to performing a jer, and then drive your feet and legs against the floor to generate upward momentum on the bar.

Step 3: Jump your feet off the floor and slide them out to your squat stance. Continue to push aggressively against the bar and push your body down into an overhead squat position.

Step 4: With your arms fully straight and elbows locked, catch the bar in the overhead position while your body is continuing to lower toward the ground. You should catch the bar in a low power snatch position. Absorb the impact and downward force of the bar as you continue to move into your full squat position.

Step 5: Secure the barbell overhead, make sure you are well balanced and stable, and stand to a fully upright position. The lift is complete when all of your joints are fully stacked (wrists over elbows, elbows over shoulders, shoulders over hips, and hips over ankles).

Exercise Tip: The goal is to elevate the barbell as little as possible from its starting point on the shoulders and to move the body down under it as quickly as possible. Not to push the bar high overhead and catch it standing tall or in the power receiving position.

The Purpose of the Snatch Balance

There are many reasons to introduce the snatch balance to your training, including boosting your confidence in the receiving position of the snatch, improving your overhead strength, and perfecting your footwork and timing.

Confidence in the Receiving Position of the Snatch

The snatch balance focuses on the catch position, or catch, of the snatch. Unlike the overhead squat, the snatch balance is a dynamic exercise that adds elements of speed, timing, and precision to the receiving position, similar to the actual snatch.

This is a great exercise for increasing your comfort, confidence, and commitment to getting under heavy loads, which is essential for the snatch.

Overhead Strength

Because you will likely be able to handle 100 to 110% of your best snatch, performing multiple sets at high loads is a great way to increase your overhead strength for the snatch and overhead squat.

Footwork and Timing

The snatch balance will also help improve your footwork, which is an essential element in Olympic weightlifting, but one that is often overlooked by newer trainees.

Video: Dmitry Klokov Teaches Footwork

Here’s my favorite tip for improving your footwork and speed.

Speed Under the Barbell

The snatch is all about speed! The more explosive you are the higher the barbell will travel, but even the best can only elevate the bar so high. Ultimately, you have to be fast getting under the bar. Speed and timing have to be practiced, just like any other skill. And the snatch balance is ideal for this.

Programming the Snatch Balance

The snatch balance should be performed with multiple sets of 1-3 reps.

Most athletes will use 70-100% or more of their best snatch.

For working technique, speed, and footwork: use loads in the 50-80% 1RM range

For working strength in the overhead position: use loads in the 80% or higher range.

Most athletes should be able to lift more than 100% of their 1 rep max. A good general guideline is 100 to 110% of your 1RM snatch.

Once you are above 85% of your 1 rep max snatch I recommend using singles only. If snatches are a new exercise for you, your 1RM is likely not very high, so multiple reps is probably fine. But multiple reps require the barbell to be dropped from the overhead position back to your shoulders between each rep. Otherwise, every rep after the first is an overhead squat, not a snatch balance.

Once you are stronger, however, high percentages will mean a significant amount of weight must be dropped from overhead back to your shoulders. Do what you want, but I prefer and have had my trainees, in the past, stick with singles and drop the barbell to the floor between sets once the weight is heavy. I just don’t think the risk is worth the reward.

Use the Snatch Balance as a Warm-Up

The snatch balance can be incorporated into light warm-up sets or done with an empty barbell on a daily basis to get ready for snatch sessions.

Use the Snatch Balance as a Snatch Primer

After a general warm-up, perform snatch balances with light to moderate loads (40-60% of 1 rep max snatch) as a primer for your snatch. This is especially helpful for lifters who need focus and work on overhead receiving mechanics, speed, or confidence receiving the snatch in a deep overhead squat position.

Use the Snatch Balance as Part of Snatch Complexes

I love complexes! And snatch balances can fit into snatch complexes well.

Try these!

Or create your own complexes!

As a general rule when creating complexes, keep the total rep per complex between 2 and 5. The first complex above has 3 reps and the second and third complexes each have 5.

Start light and work up in weight, typically ending with loads in the 85-90% 1RM snatch range.

Use Snatch Balances in the Middle of Your Training Session

This is my favorite place to do snatch balances! After performing the snatch or its variations. You will be fresh enough to have the balance and coordination necessary for the movement, and will still be explosive enough to treat the snatch balance as a speed training exercise. Then, finish your workout with heavy strength work, using exercises such as pulls and squats.

Snatch Balance Tips

Use a hook grip! The snatch balance is intended to work on various aspects of the snatch. So use the same grip that you would use for the snatch! A hook grip will also help your hands stay in place. The last thing you want is one of your hands sliding toward the end of your barbell mid-movement.

Variations of the Snatch Balance

The drop snatch and the heaving snatch balance are two variations of the snatch balance. They are often confused with each other or used interchangeably as if they were the same movement. They’re not. These are three different exercises!

The Drop Snatch

The drop snatch is similar to the snatch balance, but without the dip and drive phases of the lift. The barbell will not elevate above your shoulders in this lift. You just drop as fast as you can underneath of it.

The lack of the dip and drive phases makes this a very challenging exercise!

You want to improve your speed under the bar, here’s your exercise!

Your footwork will greatly improve with this exercise as well. Just think about how fast you have to be to get your feet off the platform and slide them out to your squat stance without driving the barbell overhead!

The Heaving Snatch Balance

Set up just like the snatch balance, with your feet already in the overhead squat stance. In the heaving snatch balance, your feet will not move! Think of them as being glued to the floor.

Everything else, however, is the same as the snatch balance, including the dip and drive phases of the lift.

This exercise increases your ability to stay vertical in the receiving position, as well as your speed and timing dropping beneath the bar.

Learn more about the drop snatch and the heaving snatch balance by following the links to their articles.

Snatch Balance Pauses

Pauses are a useful variation of the snatch balance. The movement is performed exactly as detailed above, but you will pause at the bottom of the squat for a prescribed amount of time. Anywhere from 3 to 10 seconds is common. This helps build mobility, balance, and comfort in the bottom receiving position of the snatch.

Gear for the Snatch Balance

I started buying equipment for my home gym in 2012. I still have every piece I’ve ever bought. Yes, it’s more expensive in the beginning than having a gym membership. But it’s also an investment. I don’t have to pay for a gym membership, I can always sell my equipment if I can’t work out anymore (yeah right!), and I can work out any time I want. 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 Snatch Balance

The snatch balance is a movement that can be used to target weaknesses, improve snatch technique, and increase confidence and aggression getting under the bar. It can be performed with light loads, making it a good choice for speed training, or heavy loads to increase strength in the overhead position. Pauses at the bottom of the squat can also be used to build mobility, balance, and comfort in the bottom receiving position of the snatch.

Where do you like to program your snatch balances?

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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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