Photos By Martin Wiosna

Snatches: Waiting to Launch

Like any Olympic lift, the snatch is a technical lift with many little piece that need to go (as close to) right in order to lift the weight. When the weight is relatively light some individuals can muscle it up and rely on their strength over explosive power. As we reach near max loads, however, the technique we use, or don’t use, determines if we make the lift or not. It took me over a year to feel comfortable with the movement and only in the last 6 months or so have I been gaining confidence in the squat snatch. There’s a lot to think about and the best way to approach it is to break the lift into pieces and concentrate on one at a time to really hone in on making that one aspect better.

There are a series of 3 pulls in the snatch and this post is going to focus on the second pull. I’ve attached the picture below for you to reference as we go.


Photo Courtesy of:

You will see during the second pull the model goes from a 1) hips back, knees bent, bar above the knee position, to a 2) vertical torso, knees bent, bar in the crease of her hips position, and then from there 3) extension. This is where many people get excited and extend, or launch, from mid-thigh instead of waiting to pull the bar into their hip crease. In Mike Burgener’s article from Crossfit Journal’s March 2007 issue on “Pulling Positions for the Snatch”, he cites the second pull as the most important pull because of the violent extension that will temporarily make the bar weightless for the athlete to get under. Having a hard time with the squat snatch? This movement will help you here as well.

High Hang
Practicing snatches from the high hang position will help in the triple extension needed for full power output. This snatch position would be the middle image in the second pull phase on our diagram. Here the bar is in the crease of your hips and has nowhere else to go upon extension but up. If you’ve ever heard someone tell you to bend the bar in the snatch this is probably the position they are referring to. “Bend the bar” is a cue for you to put pressure on the bar backwards. So if the bar is resting in your crease, you would press it into your body as if you were going to wrap it around you, engaging your back muscles to help keep it in. Both of these will help keep the bar close to your body and travel up in a straight line, and hopefully pull your shirt up when you “launch”.

This video of Olympian Cara Head Slaughter working with Crossfitter Christy Phillips Adkins puts all those words above into a nice practice session for us to mimic in our own gym.

As you move on form the high hang to mid-thigh, above the knee and so on, keep in mind the high hang drill. It will become a scooping motion into your hips and should become your cue to extend and hoist the weight. Watch any quality lifter’s slow motion video of a snatch and you [should] see them pulling the bar into their hip crease before extending. Not before. Not after. But in the crease. Extend.

Practicing this piece is a great way to start your snatch practice for the day. Light weight repetitions done properly build muscle memory and proper recruitment patterns. Over time you will find you can continue to maintain certain positions because you’ve made a neuromuscular connection- your body is doing what your brain wants it to. This is why it is stupid to do things poorly over and over with a heavy weight. I said it. Stupid. You will teach your body bad habits like that one time you fed your dog filet mignon from the table.

Learning this piece of information drastically changed my snatch. I really recommend taking a look at your own lift and seeing if this is something you can benefit from as well. Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest difference. Especially when you’ve got the possibility of 90 snatches in your future…..