How To Snatch More Weight – Part 1, by Coach Bud Henry
Hey everyone. This is part one of a three part series on the snatch. In this post, we’ll be reviewing the technique for the snatch, specifically from the setup position with the bar on the floor, until the start of the extension of the hips. This phase of the lift is commonly referred to as the “first pull.”
When we set up for the snatch, we want to start with our feet underneath the hips. Some athletes will benefit from a slightly wider start position, but no wider than the shoulders. Our hips are sat low, and the eyes are looking straight ahead. One of the cues you’ll hear often is that you’re trying to expose the bottom of your chest to someone standing across the room. Our knees should be actively driving out, trying to tuck into our elbows. This will keep the lower back tight and arched, primed to lift heavy weights off the floor. The bar should be touching our shins, with our knees covering the bar. The grip should be set at minimum outside the rings on the barbell, and taller athletes with larger wingspans will need to set their hands even wider.
Common Errors in the Setup Position
1. Setting the feet too wide or too narrow:
Generally, the feet should be set no wider than the shoulders, and no narrower than the hips. A good cue to determine correct foot position is to take a stance that you would jump from, then turn the toes out slightly from there. If the feet are set too wide, we lose vertical power that is necessary to elevate the bar later in the lift. If the feet are set too narrow then we are unable to maintain tightness in the back and hips, leading to a weak and inconsistent pull.
2. Not creating tightness in the back:
Ideally, the lifters spine is neutral or slightly arched in the setup position, which is an an active position that engages the muscles of the back before the lift begins. Good cues to create this position include thinking of sticking your tailbone back and up, shoving your knees out to your elbows, and lifting your chin so you feel the skin under your jaw begin to stretch out.
3. Starting without the bar touching the shins:
The bar must touch your shins at the beginning of a snatch or clean. This is because the lifter and the bar are a system that needs to stay balanced over the middle of the foot. The further forward the bar is, the more forward the lifter will be pulled, and the further away from this center of balance they will be. The idea of balance being centered at midfoot is a central concept that I’ll refer back to consistently in future posts.
The First Pull
The main goal of the first pull of the snatch is for the athlete to set themselves up for an effective extension by keeping the bar/body system balanced over the midfoot. The athlete should break the bar off the floor by straightening the legs, pushing the knees back and out. At the same time, they are pulling the bar close to their body by straightening their arms and ‘“swinging” the bar back towards the legs. By keeping the bar back, the athlete is able to maintain the upright posture of their chest. The spinal angle of the athletes back to the floor shouldn’t change from the setup position until the end of the first pull, when the athlete begins their extension.
Common Errors in the First Pull
1. Losing posture off the floor:
The angle of the back to the floor should stay the same from the setup position all the way until the lifter ends the first pull and begins to extend their hips. Most commonly, losing posture will happen when the weight is heavy off the floor and the lifters hips will rise up faster than their shoulders. Less commonly, lifters will attempt to pull their shoulders behind the bar as soon as the bar leaves the floor, causing the back angle to actually become steeper over the course of the first pull. In both cases, the result is the same; the bar loses closeness to the body, causing a loopy bar path at extension. Good cues to prevent this error are: thinking about keeping the chin and chest up off the floor, thinking about pulling the bar back to the shin, keeping equal pressure on the floor throughout the foot, and “squatting” the bar off the floor with the legs instead of yanking it up using the hips.
2. Letting the bar drift away from the body:
The bar should be as close as possible to the legs during the first pull, without excessive dragging or slowing of the bar trajectory. If the bar drifts away, the balance of the bar/body system shifts towards the front of the foot, meaning that the bar trajectory after extension is once again looped out in front of the lifter, instead of a near-vertical line to the catch position. Good cues to prevent this error include: swinging the bar back to the body with straight arms, driving the legs upwards to the ceiling, and turning the hands over such that the knuckles of the first finger are pointed at each other.
That’s all folks! Join us next time when we discuss extension and the catch position of the snatch.