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Snatch: Common errors and how to fix them

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For the past four weeks, our Olympic lifting focus has been on the snatch. In the process, most of you have figured some things out and also probably discovered a few problems you didn’t know you had. Welcome to the life cycle of the snatch!

As we transition into more clean work, it’s important to keep practicing your snatch, either during open gym, after class or at home with a PVC pipe. You’ve all heard me say things like “Drive your heels into the floor,” “leave the arms long on your pull,” “punch the bar through on your turnover,” etc. Think about what your individual problems are (there might be more than one), and use this guide to figure out how to fix it.

Problem: Early pull/early arm bend

Fix: Incorporate some snatches from the power position. They will help you understand proper leg drive and explosion without using your arms. Be sure to pause in the power position and initiate the movement by driving your heels into the ground.

Block snatches are also helpful for fixing an early pull. Start high (mid-hang) without any pre-loading of the legs. This will help you focus on allowing the lower body to do more work and not muscling the bar overhead.

Problem: Bar path

Fix: Fix your third pull. Try some snatch high pulls — keep it light and focus on pulling the bar into the body and driving the elbows up and back. Once you’ve mastered the high pull, you can incorporate a snatch complex, such as snatch high pull + snatch. This will help develop consistency in your pull. Power position snatches (see above) will help with keeping the bar close as well.

Problem: Slow turnover

Fix: Muscle snatches will help develop speed, efficiency, and strength in your turnover. Focus on keeping the elbows high and outside the body, not allowing the bar to swoop around the body as it elevates.

Power snatches are also helpful in developing speed in the turnover, as well as building force production throughout the pull due to the higher elevation necessary to get the bar overhead.

Problem: Overhead stability

Fix: If a solid overhead position is a problem, try a behind the neck snatch push press. They will help build the scapular strength and stability to feel more comfortable in the receiving position. Do these with moderate to heavy weight in sets of 3-5.

Problem: Lack of speed under the bar

Fix: Tall snatches are great for working on getting under the bar quickly. Be sure to start standing up tall and initiate the pull not by bending your knees, but by driving the elbows up as high as possible and dropping into the overhead squat.

Snatch balances and drop snatches are also very helpful in developing speed under the bar, as well as power and aggressiveness in the lockout. They can also help develop proper foot movement and placement in the receiving position. Just remember: The drop snatch is meant to be a light, snappy technique exercise. You can utilize the dip-drive in the snatch balance, therefore it’s possible to go much heavier once you become proficient.  

Working on weaknesses can be frustrating, but you’ll find addressing your weak points is worth the effort. Consistent snatch work — even with a PVC pipe in your living room  — will go a long way in helping you build confidence, iron out technical issues and stay fresh when snatches pop up in workouts. Questions? Need help assessing your form? Email or ask a coach.