Article written by Fletcher Pierce
I want to preface this article by saying this is a not a description of how to introduce the snatch to a new athlete, and there won’t be a detail explanation of the progression you take to introduce the movement. This article is a step-by-step explanation of the snatch itself, from the perspective of one lifter/coach. There are different variations of the snatch and anatomical differences in each athlete will lead to slight changes to this technique which can be validated on an individual basis.
Believe it or not, developing a good starting position can be difficult for a lot of lifters. In competition you must enter the platform from the back. When you reach the bar, set your feet at approximately shoulder width apart. A good way to judge the proper foot width for yourself is to imagine you are jumping up to rebound a basketball. Whatever foot position you naturally use for jumping will be close to, if not exactly, where you will want to place your feet in both the snatch and the clean and jerk. Some athletes have a wider stance, this is where individualization comes into play. Once your feet are set, reach down and grab the bar with a wide grip. Hand width can be an issue but that is something that must be adjusted on an individual basis as well. At this point I set my core, some set their core before reaching down but that is completely up to the athlete. Your shoulders should be positioned directly above or even over the bar, so your arms are in line with the bar. The bar should be close to the shins with your knees extended past the bar, directed outward. Your hips will be higher than your knees. The next part is one of the most important because it is easy to fall apart, especially for newer lifters. Turn your elbows out, away from your body (this helps prevent the bar from drifting away from you during the second pull). Once you are in this position you want to tighten everything up and prepare yourself for the first pull.
The first pull should be controlled, to ensure that you are in proper position for the more explosive second pull. Make sure your shoulders stay over the bar, your elbows stay turned out, and that you make sure to maintain a consistent back angle. The focus should be on pulling the bar straight up with a slight backward sweep. In order to achieve this, your knees must go out and back slightly. Trying not to overthink it can be difficult but being controlled is the key. That being said, there are lifters that have a very explosive first pull, i.e. Kendrick Farris or Ian Wilson, and it works well for them. Their level of efficiency and years of developing muscle memory in the pull allows for that, the typical athlete should probably go with a more controlled approach.
Once the bar clears the knees the second pull begins. As soon as it is possible, you begin pushing your knees under the bar while accelerating upward. You should feel the bar on your thigh throughout the second pull, it is not a simple slam with the hip like many seem to think. As the bar moves up your thigh, make sure your shoulders stay over the bar and your elbows stay turned out. Your back angle will quickly work into a more upright position. The thigh bounce isn’t a slamming motion but actually a natural meeting of your hips with the bar from completely extending. This obviously leads to the triple extension, in which the the athlete is on their toes hips fully extended and shoulders shrugged (all of which happens in a fraction of a second). At this point the pull is completed, the bar will float briefly if enough force is applied during the acceleration phase of the second pull. Do not try to continue the pull beyond this point, you will only hurt yourself. It is also important to make sure you don’t try to pull the bar up with your arms at any point in the pull. Your arms should hang like ropes and stay in a turned out position.
Turn Over and Catch
After the triple extension is achieved you will begin the turnover phase. I mentioned that is it important not to pull the bar up with your arms and that is because it tightens up your muscles and tendons which makes it more difficult to move freely into your bottom position. During the turnover, you must guide the bar as close to your body as possible and pull yourself under the bar as quickly as possible. Your feet will move out slightly. Some people do a donkey kick type maneuver, but it is important that you limit that as much as possible because it simply wastes time. Some coaches will say it is more like sliding your feet into a wider position, I see it as a small jump or almost a quick fall because you are transitioning your feet from being on your toes during the triple extension. Your arms should lock out at about the same time you reach your bottom position. In order to maintain a stable position you need to be sitting as upright as possible with your knees forward and pressure on the bar with it directly overhead. Make sure you keep your head level with your eyes straight ahead if not slightly upward. That being said, those are ideal conditions and you will often find yourself too far forward or back. If you drop the bar in front, there is a good chance you cut the pull too short, your chest was too tight, or you let your head go down (which is a common mistake that is easy to fix). If you drop it behind, you may want to focus on keeping the bar close to your body and your elbows turned out so the bar will not have as much backward momentum.
On a side note, if you are having difficulty sitting upright with a snatch, it is important that you work on your bottom position. Without a stable and consistent bottom position, the turnover phase will always be inefficient and will ruin a lot of lifts.
Stand Up and Finish
Pretty self explanatory. Make sure you keep pressure on the bar, keep your head up, and your core tight. Remember that there is room for alterations in an individuals technique, as long as you follow the basic guidelines and accept suggestions from credible coaches, this will hopefully get you on your way.