Staley Training Systems

Getting Started: The Two-Arms Power Snatch From The "Hang" Position

Once the jump drill has been mastered, it's time to learn the power snatch from the hang position.

The transition from the jump drill to the hang snatch should be pretty easy. Once again, there are two aspects to the movement: the dip (which will be a little deeper this time) and the "jump." It's not really a jump, but I want you to think of it that way.

The dip:

Keep your low back arched, think "big chest," and keep the bar against your thighs as you lower it to a point just above your knees. Weight is toward your forefoot, shoulders are out in front of the bar, and your butt is pushed as far behind you as possible. Arms stay l-o-n-g and stretched out, and your knees should be just a little bent as the bar reaches its lowest point. Now you're in the "power position": the posture that provides you with the best possible leverage and joint angles for an explosive pull.

The "jump":

The moment the bar reaches it's lowest point on your thighs, reverse the motion by rapidly extending your hips, knees and ankles in one smooth, coordinated effort (sometimes called the "triple extension" by weightlifting coaches). Toward the top of the extension you'll also shrug violently as you allow the bar to rise all the way to your fully extended arms.

Notice that word "allow". When you did the jump shrug drill, the bar couldn't rise because you were keeping your arms straight and locked. It wanted to fly straight up, however. So now you're going to let that bar just fly all the way up until you "catch it" on your fully extended and locked-out arms.

Getting Serious: The Power Snatch

The only difference between this and the last variation is that now you'll start with the loaded barbell resting on the floor.

This can present a challenge for some lifters.

First, unless you have specially made "bumper" plates (which are the same diameter as standard 45 pound plates but might weigh as little as 11 pounds), you won't be able to start with the bar at the proper height unless you can snatch at least 135 pounds. In other words, if you're using say, 85 pounds of conventional plates, the bar will be too low when resting on the floor. This can be remedied however– simply elevate the barbell by placing small blocks or aerobic steps under the plates on either end of the bar.

Secondly, the start position for the power snatch requires a fair bit of hip, knee and ankle flexibility– a lot more than a deadlift or a clean since you're using a wider grip. However, this is one of the distinct benefits of the exercise– the attainment of total-body mobility. If you find that you can't get into the proper start position for the power snatch, try performing overhead squats.

Overhead squats, in addition to improving snatch-specific flexibility, also improve your ability to squat deeper as you receive the bar on heavy snatches.

With those preliminaries taken care of, here's how you perform the power snatch:

The Start:

Address the barbell by standing immediately behind it such that your shins are touching the bar and your feet are slightly less than shoulder distance apart with toes turned slightly out. Squat down, take a wide grip on the bar using a "hook" grip.

Once your grip is established, go through the checklist:

The "First Pull":

(It's really one single pull, but the first pull refers to the pull that will take you into the power position–discussed in the hang snatch description above–and the second pull refers to the pull that takes you from the power position to the lift's completion). From the floor to the power position, the key phrase is "find the position." So don't just yank the hell out of the bar....instead, squeeeeeeze it off the floor, keeping your butt back, weight on balls of feet, arms l-o-o-on-n-n-g, and shoulders out in front, ahead of the bar.

The "Second Pull":

Once the bar reaches the power position, smoothly and continuously pick up speed as you execute the triple extension mentioned in the hang snatch description provided earlier. If you did it right, the bar pretty much just flies to the top where you receive it on straight arms.

At this point, I need to mention a phenomenon that occurs during the proper performance of both snatches and cleans. It's called the scoop. Weightlifting coaches disagree as to whether or not the scoop should actually be "taught," as it should be the natural outcome of good snatch technique. But I'm gonna teach it anyway, so here goes:

The scoop is the term used to describe the phenomenon where the bar brushes against the thighs during the performance of the lift. Virtually all experienced weightlifters (meaning Olympic style weightlifters) demonstrate the scoop, but novice lifters usually do not. In any event, the scoop occurs as the result of complete hip extension during the lift. It's very similar to flipping a ball off of your biceps muscle.

Okay, when you do the biceps maneuver, the ball is propelled off of your biceps due to the fact that you rapidly and fully extended your elbow. On the snatch, the bar brushes against your thighs and is propelled upward due to the fact that you rapidly and fully extended your hips. Got the picture?

Some lifters experience a form of irrational exuberance when they first figure out the scoop and end up SLAMMING the bar against their thighs during the Olympic lifts– you don't want this– the scoop should help the bar travel upward, NOT forward.

The Catch:

There are at least two important maneuvers that determine your ability to snatch big weights: the pull, which we've just covered, and the catch. And by the catch, I'm talking about finding a way to lower yourself as you receive the bar. After all, if you can get lower as you catch the bar, you won't need to pull it as high, right?

There are three basic ways to get low for the catch: the squat, the "pop out," and the split.

The squat is pretty simple– at the top of your pull, once you're unable to impart further pull to the bar, you simply begin to squat under in preparation for the catch (remember the overhead squat? Work on that– it'll help).

The pop out is actually a semi-squat– you just pop your feet out to the sides, which will lower your body a bit. Only problem is, you can't get particularly low with this technique.

The split:

The split allows a lower position than the pop out, but not as low as the squat. Play around with all three methods on your snatches and you'll find the best approach for you.

Getting the bar back to the floor:

Okay, you completed the snatch, now what?!? Well, if the weight's pretty light, there's not much of an issue. And of course, if you've got bumper plates, you can just let go and step back. BUT, if you're using a decent weight and you don't have bumpers, here's what you need to do. It's basically a thigh catch– almost the reverse of the scoop when you think about it. Keeping the bar close, allow it to fall downward and then "catch" the bar on your upper thighs, bending at the hips and knees to soften the blow.

Getting Primal: The Dumbbell Snatch

This might be the simplest snatch maneuver of all. If you're a member of 24 Hour Fitness, check out your membership contract. On page 4, third paragraph, it states "Any member found performing dumbbell snatches will have his or her membership immediately terminated." So right there, ya know it's a cool exercise. You can perform this from the hang, or less commonly, from the floor. Biomechanically, it's the same deal as the barbell snatch, so don't make it complicated.

Getting Creative: The One-Arm Barbell Snatch

Now THIS really gets attention down at your local Bally's studio, and it's not really as insanely difficult as it looks. You can do these from the floor or from the hang, but either way, the trick is to get a perfectly centered grip and unlike the two-hand snatch, you'll want to use a LOT of speed right from the get-go.

Getting Soviet: The Kettlebell Snatch

Kettlebells provide a unique loading opportunity for the shoulders, since, unlike a barbell or dumbbell, the kettlebell's center of gravity isn't located within its handle.

Getting Air: The Overhead Weight Throw

This is one of the contested events in Highland Games competition. I wasn't able to come up with a video since it's currently 156 degrees here in Phoenix, and at that temperature, electronic equipment like video cameras tend to melt. But imagine a dumbbell or kettlebell snatch where you simply let go of the implement, seeking maximum height. If you can get an appropriate outside venue, play around with these!

SIDEBAR: Tips & Troubleshooting

• The biggest coordination error that novice lifters make with snatches is "premature elbow bend." Although far less humiliating than another condition by a similar name, bending the elbows prior to full trunk/hip/knee/ankle extension will take 20-30 pounds off of your snatch. The solution? Plenty of jump shrug drills. And also remember the point of "allowing" your elbows to bend. The bar travels upward due to full body extension, NOT arm pull. Finally, anything that improves your grip will tend to reduce premature elbow bend. Chalk, the hook grip and/or straps will all help.

• Sometimes, you won't get enough zing on the bar and you'll end up "pressing it out" at the top. Don't do that at a weightlifting meet– you'll get red-lighted. For the rest of us though, it's not a crime, but try to snap the bar straight to the top with no press out.

• If your gym's manager tries to kick you out of the gym for doing snatches, try this little trick I perfected some years ago. It goes something like this: Pull the guy to the side, and in hushed tones say, "All right Robert, I was hoping not to have to do this, but I'm from headquarters. It seems like we've had a number of sexual harassment complaints from this gym– staffers pinching the female trainers on the butt, that kind of stuff. So I was sent here on an investigation, and frankly, it's even more of a problem than we had thought. Now, I'm hoping we won't have to make a scene here, so if you'll just leave the premises right now and go home, we'll have a representative call you shortly. Oh– I AM sorry about this, I hope you'll be able to maintain your position here once the investigation's been completed."

This is really a cool trick, and the terrified looks you get are priceless!

The Escalating Density Training Snatch-Intensive Cycle

You've learned the lifts. Now let's put 'em to use.

This cycle utilizes four sessions that can be performed as a 3 or a 4-day a week program. "A" exercises are most important, followed by "B" exercises, and finally "C" exercises, which are considered optional on this cycle. Regardless of whether you use 3 or 4 days a week, repeat each workout 4 times– meaning this cycle will take 4-5 weeks to complete. After you're done, go do one of Waterbury's cycles for a while. Tell him I sent ya.

This program will dramatically improve your snatch efficiency; it'll make you lots of friends at the gym; you'll get stronger, faster, more flexible; and you'll also have a lot of fun in the process. Enjoy...

Day One

Pre-Event

5-10 Minutes of aerobic activity followed by warm up sets for your first exercise of the day.

First PR (Personal Record) Zone (15 Minutes)

A: Power Snatch From Hang: Use a MODERATE weight and perform 15 singles with 60 seconds of rest between each single. If this is a new exercise for you, use an easy weight. If you're experienced however, use approximately 85% of 1RM.

Second PR Zone (15 Minutes)

B: Snatch-grip Deadlift: Perform a ladder protocol with a 5-8RM load (if you're new to this exercise, lean toward 8RM).

Here's how to perform ladders. First, no warm-up– you're already warm from the hang snatches. Load the bar and perform one rep. Rest anywhere from 10 seconds to 14 minutes (kidding– just be intuitive about rests, but don't exceed 15 minutes) and perform a double. Rest again, and do a triple. Continue in this manner until you're about 2 reps away from failure. Then start over with a single. Then a double. And so on. At the end of the 15-minute PR Zone, you'll have a number. Next time you do this, beat it, without exceeding the 15-minute PR Zone.

NOTE: If you don't have sufficient ROM to perform this movement in good form, narrow your grip (which will reduce the ROM requirements of the exercise) until you do. Gradually work to increase your grip width as your ROM improves.

Third PR Zone (15 Minutes)

C-1) Stability Ball Crunch

C-2) Standing Calf Raise

Loading: No warm up. Select a 10-12RM load for each exercise. Working back and forth between the crunches and the calf raises, perform multiple sets of 5 until the PR Zone elapses. At the end of the 15-minute PR Zone, you'll have a number. Next time you do this, beat it without exceeding the 15-minute PR Zone.

Day Two

Pre-Event

5-10 Minutes of aerobic activity followed by warm up sets for your first exercise of the day.

First PR Zone (15 Minutes)

Standing Barbell Military Press: Use 85% of 1RM and perform 15 singles with 60 seconds of rest between each single. If you make the 15 singles, add 5 pounds the next time you repeat this workout. If you don't make 15 singles, subtract 5 pounds the next time you repeat the workout.

Second PR Zone (15 Minutes)

A-1: Left Dumbbell Snatch

A-2: Right Dumbbell Snatch

Loading: No warm up. Select a 8-10RM load. Working back and forth between left and right sides, perform multiple sets of 5 until the PR Zone elapses. At the end of the 15-minute PR Zone, you'll have a number. Next time you do this, beat it without exceeding the 15-minute PR Zone. Focus on coordination and technique here.

Third PR Zone (15 Minutes)

C-1: Plate Raise

C-2: Lying Dumbbell Triceps Extension From Floor

Loading: No warm up. Select an 8-10RM load for each exercise. Working back and forth between the two exercises, perform multiple sets of 5 until the PR Zone elapses. At the end of the 15-minute PR Zone, you'll have a number. Next time you do this, beat it without exceeding the 15-minute PR Zone. If you beat the number, add 5 pounds the next time you repeat this workout. If you don't, subtract 5 pounds the next time you repeat the workout.

Day Three

Pre-Event

5-10 Minutes of aerobic activity followed by warm up sets for your first exercise for the day.

First PR Zone (15 Minutes)

A: Back Squat: Use 85% of 1RM and perform 15 singles with 60 seconds of rest between each single. If you make the 15 singles, add 5 pounds the next time you repeat this workout. If you don't make 15 singles, subtract 5 pounds the next time you repeat the workout

Second PR Zone (15 Minutes)

B-1) Supine Leg Curl Machine

B-2) Leg Extension Machine

Loading: No warm up. Select an 8-10RM load. Working back and forth between the two exercises, perform multiple sets of 5 until the PR Zone elapses. At the end of the 15-minute PR Zone, you'll have a number. Next time you do this, beat it without exceeding the 15-minute PR Zone. If you beat the number, add 5 pounds the next time you repeat this workout. If you don't, subtract 5 pounds the next time you repeat the workout.

Third PR Zone (15 Minutes)

C-1) Seated Calf Raise

C-2) Jumps In Place

Loading: No warm up. Select an 8-10RM load for each exercise. Working back and forth between the two exercises, perform multiple sets of 5 until the PR Zone elapses. At the end of the 15-minute PR Zone, you'll have a number. Next time you do this, beat it without exceeding the 15-minute PR Zone. If you beat the number, add 5 pounds the next time you repeat this workout. If you don't, subtract 5 pounds the next time you repeat the workout.

Day Four

Pre-Event

5-10 Minutes of aerobic activity followed by warm up sets for your first exercise of the day.

First PR Zone (15 Minutes)

A: Weighted Pull-Ups: Use 85% of 1RM and perform 15 singles with 60 seconds of rest between each single. If you make the 15 singles, add 5 pounds the next time you repeat this workout. If you don't make 15 singles, subtract 5 pounds the next time you repeat the workout

Second PR Zone (15 Minutes)

B-1) Dumbbell Incline Press

B-2) Incline Hammer Curls

Loading: No warm up. Select an 8-10RM load. Working back and forth between the two exercises, perform multiple sets of 5 until the PR Zone elapses. At the end of the 15-minute PR Zone, you'll have a number. Next time you do this, beat it without exceeding the 15-minute PR Zone. If you beat the number, add 5 pounds the next time you repeat this workout. If you don't, subtract 5 pounds the next time you repeat the workout.

Third PR Zone (15 Minutes)

C-1) Barbell Wrist Flexion

C-2) Barbell Wrist Extension

Loading: No warm up. Select an 8-10RM load for each exercise. Working back and forth between the two exercises, perform multiple sets of 5 until the PR Zone elapses. Don't be aggressive on these exercises– just get the work in.

Finishing Up...

I hope I've inspired you to consider some of the many snatch variants in your own training. In my own case, snatches have transformed me from an uptight geek with no caves into a virtual babe magnet. Imagine what it can do for you!