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

By Matt Walter
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Learn how to perform the snatch

The snatch is one of the most complex Olympic weightlifting movements. It is also one of the most effective exercises for developing explosive power.

And there’s nothing like hitting a perfect snatch! When you’ve worked and worked and finally the bar just sails overhead and you magically catch it overhead as you drop into a full squat. Perfection. And worth every training session.

The sport of Olympic weightlifting consists of two lifts: the Snatch and the Clean and Jerk. The snatch is the first of the two lifts performed in competitions. to successfully complete the snatch, the athlete lifts the barbell from the floor to overhead in one smooth, explosive motion.

In this blog post, we will discuss how to perform the snatch correctly, and provide step-by-step instructions on how to do so. We will also provide tips on improving your snatch technique. Let’s get started!

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Table of Contents

Video: CJ Cummings Explains the Snatch

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

Step 1: Stand in front of a loaded barbell with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointed out slightly, and your weight evenly distributed across your entire food (tripod foot).

Step 2: Bend and grab the bar with a snatch-width grip (see the Tips section below to learn how to find your snatch grip).

Form Tip: Your shins should not touch the barbell when you are standing. Instead, line the barbell up with the horizontal first shoelace nearest your toes. As you squat down to grasp the barbell, your shins will naturally come in contact with the barbell. But as you stand, your shins will push back to where they started, which will allow the barbell to pass your knees without having to move forward. This helps keep the barbell moving in a straight line at all times throughout the lift.

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 flor, maintaining the same back angle until the bar reaches mid-thigh.

Movement Tip: Keep the bar very close to your body, but do not let it contact your shins or knees. The bar will brush your thighs after it passes your knees, as you continue to extend to a fully standing position.

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.

Form tip: keep your arms straight throughout the entire movement. As soon as your elbows bend you lose your power!

Step 6: Jump your feet off the floor and slide them out into your squat stance. Simultaneously pull yourself underneath the barbell and drop into a full squat by shrugging your shoulders and pulling your elbows up and to the sides (like an upright row) aggressively.

Technique tip: As the bar passes your head, think of quickly turning your wrists over so your palms are facing the ceiling. Catch the barbell with locked arms by driving upward with your shoulders and triceps.

Step 7: Continue pushing the bar overhead as you sit into the squat.

Step 8: Stabilize your body under the barbell, and then stand with the bar overhead. Establish control while standing with the barbell overhead, and then return the bar to the floor.

The Snatch Broken Into Phases

The First Pull: This is the portion of the snatch where you transition from the ground to mid-thigh. The First Pull begins with the barbell on the ground and ends when the bar reaches mid-thigh. Unlike deadlifting, the first pull is the slowest portion of the lift.

The Second Pull: This is the portion of the snatch where you transition from mid-thigh to full extension. The Second Pull begins with the bar at mid-thigh and ends when you reach full extension (jumping off the floor). The second pull is faster than the first. As the barbell passes your knees, increase your acceleration and drive forcefully with your hips. This is known as the Power Position. Explode with your hips and jump your feet off the floor!

The Third Pull: This is the final portion of the snatch where you pull yourself underneath the barbell and catch it in a squatting position. The Third Pull begins with you jumping off the floor, and ends when you catch the bar in the squat position.

Video: Oleksiy Torokhtiy Completes a Snatch

The Purpose of the Snatch

Competitive Weightlifting:

The snatch is one of the two competitive lifts in the sport of Olympic weightlifting. Those who complete in the sport will spend a significant amount of time with this exercise, perfecting every aspect of the lift. Training technique, strength, speed, and automaticity with the lift are of paramount importance. If you’re going to compete in Olympic weightlifting, this movement needs to be automatic.

But not everyone wants to compete in weightlifting. Still, the snatch is one of the best movements you can do for any sport. It is a total body explosive lift that will increase power and athleticism. The snatch should be a staple in your program if you want to improve performance in any sport or your overall fitness.

Sports Performance:

The snatch is a pure demonstration of power. The skill, speed, and timing needed to drive a loaded barbell from the floor to overhead, while simultaneously squatting and catching the barbell translates to all sports.

Snatches can be used to teach athletes how to effectively recruit and activate muscle fibers more quickly than any other training methodology. The power and explosiveness that result from this training are vital to all sports, especially those that require powerful full-body movements.

Programming the Snatch

Programming the snatch depends on many factors, including an athlete’s needs, proximity to competition, program focus, periodization, and age of the athlete.

Typically, sets should be between 1 and 3 reps, anywhere from 70-100% of your 1 rep max (1RM)

For technique or speed training: use lighter weights in the 65-75% 1RM range

For power training: use moderate loads in the 75-85% 1RM range

For strength training and testing: use heavy loads in the 85-100%+ 1RM range

Olympic weightlifting competition programs generally program some variation of the snath at least 2-3 days per week. And at least 1 of those days should use the full snatch. Other days may use power snatches, hang snatches, segment snatches, and pause snatches as deemed necessary.

Snatch Tips

The following tips will help you with your snatches.

Find Your Snatch Grip

If you don’t know where to grip a barbell for the snatch, grab an empty barbell with a wide grip and stand up with it. Adjust the width of your grip 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 an excellent starting point for your snatch grip. Keep an eye on where your hands are positioned relative to the knurl markings near the end of the bar. These will aid in ensuring that you grab the bar in the same position every time.

Use a Hook Grip

Wrap your first two or three fingers over your thumbs and pin your thumb between your fingers and the barbell. This gives you a stronger grip while also preventing the bar from slipping out of your hands.

Jump!

Yes, the snatch is a complicated movement to perfect, but we often overcomplicate it when working with new athletes. Think about simply jumping with the barbell. Stand and hold a barbell with your snatch grip. Don’t bend to a hang position, just jump straight up in the air. The barbell will push up and away from your body as you jump.

Try again, but this time pull your elbows high up toward your ears and feel the barbell brush against your shirt. Think about bringing the barbell directly underneath your chin.

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

Use Bumper Plates

The Olympic lifts start from the floor. One of the benefits of bumper plates is that all of the weights are the same diameter. So no matter how light of a weight you are working with, the barbell will always be the same height from the ground. This will help reinforce 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 floor or bar.

Use Caution With Straps

Straps can be especially helpful during multiple-rep sets. But If you are a beginner or need to work on your grip strength, I recommend avoiding straps. Wait to use them 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 first exercise. Then learn the hang power snatch, the power snatch, hang snatch, and finally the full squat snatch. Muscle snatches are great for learning how to quickly turn your hands over to catch the barbell overhead, and block snatches give you the benefits of hang snatches but from a dead stop.

Slow and steady wins the race here! Olympic weightlifters spend their entire lives learning to master 2 lifts! Give it time.

Prior to Learning the Snatch

You should be able to do an overhead squat with perfect technique before trying the snatch. You should also have adequate hip, ankle, and thoracic (upper back) mobility. And you should be able to sit in a full squat position, with just your body weight, and with your feet completely flat on the floor.

If you have those prerequisites, the snatch balance is another exercise that can help you learn how to catch a barbell overhead while simultaneously dropping into a squat. Learn the Snatch Balance with this article.

The Overhead Squat Video Demonstration

A Note on CrossFit

Love it or hate it, CrossFit has been instrumental in bringing the Olympic lifts to the mainstream public. CrossFit’s popularity has introduced the snatch, clean and jerk, and all their variations to people who never would have tried these movements. And CrossFit has helped to emphasize the importance of Olympic lifts for overall fitness.

A word of caution. Be careful with high rep Olympic movements or trying to lift too much weight too soon. Olympic lifters spend countless hours, months, and years with highly qualified coaches to learn to perform these movements correctly.

Done right, the Olympic lifts will build explosive power, strength, and muscle. Performed improperly, they can damage shoulder muscles, especially your rotator cuffs. Take your time, be patient, work with an empty barbell or PVC pipe until the movement becomes fluid and you are performing it the same way every time. Add weight to the barbell slowly! And get help from a coach if possible.

CrossFit regularly programs the Olympic lifts in WODs, often for high reps. Good CrossFit coaches will program this movement well, even at high reps, and will know each athlete well enough to tell you how to adjust the movement for the day’s workout.

But under no circumstances should you perform snatches or clean and jerks with poor form! If your form begins to break down, STOP! REST! IGNORE THE CLOCK! Do not risk injury with these complicated movements just so that you can have a better time and end up higher on the leader board. It’s just not worth it.

Video: Mat Fraser Snatches 315

Get the Gear for Your Home Garage

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.

Snatch FAQ

What is the Snatch?

The snatch is one of the two movements judged in competitive weightlifting. The objective of the snatch is to lift the barbell from the ground to overhead in one continuous motion.

What are the different types of snatches?

There are four main styles of snatch used are the snatch (also called the full snatch or the squat snatch), split snatch, power snatch, and muscle snatch. There are also hang variations of each of these lifts, where the athlete initiates the snatch with the barbell already off the floor.

What is a split snatch?

In the split snatch, the lifter lifts the bar as high as possible and pulls themselves under the bar similar to the squat snatch but in the split snatch the lifter “splits” their legs, placing one foot in front of them and one behind, allowing themselves to receive the bar lower as in the squat snatch.

What is the muscle snatch?

In the muscle snatch, the lifter lifts the bar all the way overhead with arms locked out and the hip and knee fully extended.

Conclusion: The Snatch

The snatch is a powerful and explosive lift that can improve athleticism and performance in any sport. If you want to learn how to perform the snatch correctly, start by breaking it down into its individual phases and mastering each one before putting them all together. Olympic weightlifters spend their entire lives learning to master this one lift, so don’t be discouraged if it takes some time for you to get it right. With practice, you’ll be snatching like a pro in no time!

How long did it take you to hit your first buttery-perfect snatch?

Learn how to correctly perform and program the snatch balance
Learn how to perform and program the power clean
Learn how to perform and program the hang snatch
Learn how to correctly perform the power snatch
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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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