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Need to Fix Your Snatch? Start By Addressing These Common Errors

Behind all the grace and glamor of the two competitive movements in Olympic lifting lies hours upon hours of technical practice. The snatch is simple enough at a glance — you must lift the barbell from the ground to overhead in one swift motion. With a wide grip and strong legs, a long and vast pull sends the bar to arm’s length. The snatch is irreplaceably effective for maximizing your power production.

The lift is enjoyable when things go right, but the particular technique of the snatch comes with plenty of challenges. Common technique errors occur in the performance of a snatch for both new and veteran lifters alike.

To perfect your own technique, take stock of these common snatch mistakes and learn how to fix them:

woman performing snatch extension
Credit: Photology1971 / Shutterstock

Common Snatch Technique Errors

Inconsistent Setup

The snatch begins when the weight is still resting on the ground. Your setup should be the same every time in order to produce force in the right direction and maintain consistency from rep to rep. It’s all too easy to rush through the beginning of the movement and create problems down the line, so don’t overlook the importance of a good setup.

How to Fix It

Refine your start position by paying extra attention to getting set. Pull your shoulders together and back with straight arms, and set your hips to the correct height. Become aware of how your legs, arms, and torso feel while you’re preparing to initiate the movement. Your arms should be straight but relaxed, while your legs, hips, and trunk remain taut and engaged.  

To improve tension off the floor, use a static start position. Do so by holding still in the set position for 1-2 seconds right before the bar comes off the floor.

To improve the balance of your lift-off, push through your whole foot at the start and maintain a forward gaze. A combination of these two things will help you cover the bar with your shoulders and balance your pull correctly.

To improve strength off the floor, include a combination of partial snatch deadlifts and snatch pulls into your training. To perform snatch “lift-offs,” lift the barbell from the start position up to the knee and pause. This, along with different variations of pulls, will increase your comfort and strength.

Not Staying Over the Bar

When snatching, you have to stay close to the bar. This is done by covering over the bar with your shoulders for as long as possible throughout the pull to increase your leverage and create a more forceful extension.

Since the barbell is located in front of your center of gravity, it can be all too tempting to “sit back” and adjust your posture in a way that compromises your force output. This is called “getting behind the barbell.”

How to Fix It

Don’t let the barbell dictate your posture in the pull. Push through your whole foot and make sure your shoulders are over the bar as you lift it. After passing your knees in the pull, keep your knees back and stay patient as you continue to rise to a standing position and prepare to extend your legs

To stay over the bar, your chest and hips should rise together and at the same rate in your pull. Make sure your shoulders are higher than your hips in your start position and maintain this alignment as you lift. Your butt shouldn’t pop up, nor should your shoulders fall backward at any time. 

To improve your pulling posture, control your lift off the floor and past the knee. Once the barbell clears knee-level, you should begin to rapidly accelerate your movement and apply explosive force as the bar approaches your hips. Avoid “going too early” and using too much speed in the beginning. 

Incomplete Extension

The pull phase of the snatch requires a strong and powerful finish when the barbell reaches your hips. A strong finish, with straight legs and hips, will elevate the bar and allow you to move underneath to receive it. It’s tempting, though, to “cut your pull short” and not extend your legs as hard as you can once the weight gets heavy.

Cutting your pull reduces the height the bar travels to, making it that much harder to get into low a squat

How to Fix It

A complete extension begins with forceful contact at the hip. Once the bar makes contact with your hips, powerfully extend your ankles, knees, and hips in unison. This “triple extension” is the magic that makes the barbell fly without having to rely on your upper body strength

To properly finish your pull, have patience all the way to the top. Make an effort to “get tall” by pushing directly into the floor with your legs. You should end up a couple of inches higher off the ground than you would be whilst standing normally. 

To improve the timing of your pull, make sure the barbell comes all the way into the hip before you extend. Hip contact will transfer the power from your legs into the turnover of the lift. If you’re unsure of what exactly happens at hip contact, include drills such as snatch pulls and hang snatches in your training.

To keep the barbell close to your body, make sure that your upper back, especially your lats, are working to pull the bar close to you. This will become especially important as the weight gets heavier and there’s a greater tendency to kick it forward. 

A Loose Catch

A strong overhead squat secures the snatch. Transferring your body from pulling to catching has to be fast, precise, and connected. The correct position of the catch requires a strong brace from head to toe. The barbell wants to obey gravity and fall downward, and you’ll have to use all your might to resist its attempts to compress you. If you fail, so will the lift itself. 

How to Fix It

Ensure a tight catch in your lift by pushing up against the barbell as you sink into your squat. When you pull yourself underneath, drive your head all the way through between your arms. Your torso should be as upright as possible, arms tightly locked, and the barbell stacked vertically atop your upper back. 

To improve overhead stability, catch your lift before you reach the bottom of your squat. If you can get there fast enough, you can comfortably “ride” the bar to the bottom of the squat, instead of waiting for it to crash on top of you. 

To improve balance in your catch, be patient before standing up. Secure your balance in the bottom of your squat to guarantee that you can recover the lift overhead to straight legs. If your catch feels unfamiliar, train this part of the lifts by doing hang snatches, overhead squats, and snatch balances

Rushing the Recovery

Your snatch isn’t considered complete until you hold it overhead with two straightened legs. Even if everything goes right from pull to catch, there are still some potential pitfalls you can run into at the end if you’re not careful. 

How to Fix It

You can guarantee a successful recovery by making sure that your body is balanced before you try to stand up. If you’re swaying front to back in the squat, don’t rush to stand up just yet. Take the time to find your center and then push through your whole foot. Hold the lift motionless overhead for a moment or two before dropping it to make sure you have full command of the weight

To ensure a solid recovery, continue pushing up against the bar with your arms and shoulders as your legs straighten. 

To maintain your balance, keep your gaze fixed straight ahead as you stand. Avoid letting your eyes come down to the floor. since your torso may collapse forward accordingly. 

To recover an errant lift, you might sometimes have to take a few steps forward or backward when standing up. This is still considered a good lift, as long as you bring your feet back together before you drop the bar. This is especially relevant for weightlifting competitions, where you’ll receive an invalid attempt if you drop the bar before your feet are aligned and your body is motionless. 

How to Do the Snatch

All the technical review in the world is no good if you don’t know how to snatch properly in the first place. To that end, you can freshen up on the step-by-step of the lift below. 

Step 1 — Set the Start

Snatch Step 1
Credit: Riley Stefan

To get set for the lift, stand with your shoelaces under the bar and find a wide grip. Pull your shoulder blades together and back and cover your shoulders over the bar. Set tight in the start position with straight arms before lifting from the floor.

Step 2 — Push Past the Knee

snatch step 2
Credit: Riley Stefan

Once set, push through your whole foot to lift the barbell off the floor as your knees are pushed out of the way. Your chest and hips should rise together here to maximize leg power in your lift. 

Step 3 — Finish Your Pull

snatch step 3
Credit: Riley Stefan

Pull through a standing position to a tall extension. As you stand up, make noteworthy hip contact while extending up onto your toes by straightening your legs. 

Step 4 — Catch and Recover

snatch step 4
Credit: Riley Stefan

After extension, quickly pull under the bar to a tight overhead squat. Try to drop tightly but forcefully so your body is under the bar before it begins drifting back downward. Lock your arms hard and secure your balance in the squat, then firmly stand up. 

Benefits of the Snatch

There are a wealth of benefits to your strength, flexibility, and overall technique on offer if you dedicate your time and attention to mastering the snatch

Power Production

When compared to many other barbell lifts, the snatch teaches you to produce tremendous amounts of power. The bar must travel a great deal of distance in a blink of an eye. In order to move a heavy weight quickly, you must call upon every ounce of your athletic strength, especially at heavier weights. 

Overall Strength

Practicing the snatch naturally means spending more time with a barbell in your hands. Increasing your time under tension in the snatch will help you develop overall strength across your lower body and upper back, which should transfer over to other exercises like deadlifts or front squats

Overhead Stability

A good overhead squat is a must if you want to be a proficient weightlifter. The wide grip and low hips are unique to the snatch, and demand far more of your stability than many other overhead movements. The snatch is therefore an excellent option for developing ironclad stability overhead. 

Mobility Gains

Hand in hand with stability, the snatch screens your flexibility like nothing else. Your shoulders, trunk, hips, and ankles are all tested in a sound snatch, and regular practice will force your body to unlock your range of motion potential. 

Snatching presents a constant challenge, regardless of your experience level. Novice trainees and world-record holders alike have to work on their technique day in and day out to stay ahead of the lift. If you get your technique right from the get-go, there’s a chain reaction that carries you from the floor to overhead. Mess up anywhere along the way, and you’ll stray from the path before you know it.

Even if you can’t nail down every aspect of perfect technique on the first — or fifth — try, there’s still plenty of value in working towards improving your form. Mistakes in the snatch are common because they can sneak up on you without you realizing it.

By being mindful of your form at all times and dutifully paying attention to your technique on each rep, you’ll become a more purposeful and accomplished athlete overall. 

Featured Image: Photology1971 / Shutterstock

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