The competition movements of Olympic lifting require precision. The snatch and clean & jerk are composed of multiple parts that demand serious coordination from your body. As such, the Olympic lifts are rarely perfected in the first few weeks to months of practicing them.
You can, however, improve your snatch by breaking it into separate parts for isolated work. For example, the pull phase of the snatch has very specific positions and timing that you should practice independently from the catch phase of the lift.
Whether you are a new lifter or a trained professional, including the snatch pull in your workouts can help you smooth out the execution of your heavy snatches. Doing this exercise will warrant strength improvements through technique development.
In this article, we will go through everything you need to know about the snatch pull, including:
How to Do the Snatch Pull
The snatch pull exactly mimics the pulling component of the snatch. The barbell starts on the floor and is pulled to its maximum height in extension. This lift emphasizes the critical positions and speeds of the pull for the snatch.
Step 1 — Lock the Start Position
Stand with the barbell positioned over your shoelaces, with your feet hip-width apart. Grip the bar in a wide snatch grip. Look straight ahead, and keep your shoulder blades pulled together and back. With two straight arms, your back should be diagonal with shoulders above your hips.
Coach’s Tip: Your snatch grip should be wide enough that the barbell sits comfortably in your hip crease while standing. To find adequate hand placement, stand with the barbell at your waist and raise your knee up. Widen your hands enough that the barbell can sit in your hip crease while doing so. This will identify where your hands should go for every rep.
Step 2 — Push Off the Floor
Once the start position is set tight, push through your legs with your chest up to lift the bar off the floor. Keep your shoulders vertically stacked over the barbell. Your chest and hips should rise together. The barbell must stay close to your legs as it’s pulled past the knee.
Coach’s Tip: The wide grip causes your torso to start in a low position. Avoid letting your hips rise too quickly.
Step 3 — Pull to the Hip
After clearing your knee, accelerate the barbell with your legs towards a standing position. When the bar reaches your hip, make strong hip contact and rapidly extend your hips and legs. The hip contact should be fast in order to transfer your leg drive into the upward momentum of the barbell.
Coach’s Tip: Your arms should stay straight and relaxed in the pull until after you make hip contact.
Step 4 — Finish Tall
Upon hip contact, aggressively pull your elbows up and back as your ankles, knees, and hips drive you to total extension. Point your knuckles down at the ground for the entire pull. Aim to pull the barbell to your chest, but not any higher. You should be extended up on your toes at the top of your pull.
Coach’s Tip: For further positional practice, slowly lower the barbell back down to the floor in the correct positions.
Benefits of the Snatch Pull
Performing the snatch pull is a direct way to improve your snatch and other Olympic lifting movements. Pulling practice will transfer to your technique, and also help you prepare to put more weight on the bar in your future snatches.
You can practice the snatch pull to directly improve your snatch movement mechanics. The snatch has such a unique pulling component, which requires advanced muscular coordination, speed, and control. Through just working on your pull, you can improve your overall snatch technique.
Strength and Power
Doing snatch pulls with heavier loads can increase strength and power overall. When snatching, the weight you useis often limited by your catch position and overhead strength.. Practicing just the pull removes this component, allowing for more repetition of the just pull at heavier weights.
The snatch pull involves a major component of acceleration when the barbell passes the knee. The speed of the bar increases towards forceful hip contact and an upward drive. If you’re an athlete who wants to improve your force production and power potential, you should practice your snatch pull.
Muscles Worked by the Snatch Pull
Both the upper and lower body work together in this lift to achieve the goal of pulling the barbell as high as possible. Each part of the body has an important contribution to the successful completion of the lift.
Quadriceps & Glutes
The legs begin the lift by driving the chest and shoulders up. For the center of balance to remain with the barbell, the glutes and quads must evenly contribute to the pulling motion. The lower body aggressively drives tall to increase speed of the lift. A majority of the total power in the snatch is generated from the legs.
The snatch grip requires tension from the lats to keep the barbell close to the body. Since the torso is leaning so far forward at the start, the lats have to contract and pull the barbell in tight to the body when standing. Strong lats at the point of hip contact will also increase force output on the bar.
Traps & Shoulders
After hip contact, the traps and shoulders aggressively shrug to drive the elbows up and back. When practicing snatch pull, the upper body guides the barbell as high as possible to increase extension.
The snatch pull is an exercise that requires advanced core strength. Using the legs to drive the chest upward with the bar is done only with a rigid torso. A strong core is the connector of the many moving parts of this difficult lift.
Who Should Do the Snatch Pull
Any athlete with the goal of improving their snatch should do snatch pulls. Regardless of your experience level in weightlifting, the snatch pull is a universal tool for making progress.
Individuals that are new to weightlifting, specifically snatching, should practice the snatch pull to identify the correct positions of the lift. It is common for newer lifters to have to work through technique challenges when snatching. The snatch pull can be used for segmental introduction of the technique.
Experienced weightlifters use the snatch pull as a staple in their training to continue increasing the weight on the bar for their snatches. A heavy snatch can be greatly limited by the strength of the lifter’s pull. By practicing snatch pulls at a combination of both heavy and light weights, a lifter can both get stronger and develop better technique.
CrossFit athletes should include snatch pull in their training to prepare for WODs that contain snatching. When the snatch is practiced in CrossFit, it is commonly performed at a high volume of repetitions in a short time window. Outside training of the snatch pull can directly benefit snatch performance by enhancing both movement efficiency and energy expenditure.
Snatch Pull Sets and Reps
The snatch pull is a versatile exercise that can be used in various ways. Depending on your goals, there may be a specific way that is best for you to practice snatch pulls.
For Technique Development
When you’re using the snatch pull for the purpose of technique development, you should rely on higher volume for multiple sets. Training with more volume will increase your familiarity with the lift, while also establishing consistency and correctness of movement. You should use a combination of both lighter and heavier loads in the snatch pull to practice position and technique across different intensities.
To develop technique with the snatch pull, perform 3 – 6 repetitions for 5 – 7 sets total.
For Increasing Strength
To improve total strength in the snatch pull, you should perform the lift at a higher load more sets with fewer reps. For an adequate strength stimulus, it is best to practice snatch pulls at 90 to over 105% of your max snatch. This will help you adapt and prepare for heavier loads in the snatch itself.
Perform snatch pulls with 1 – 3 reps for 4 – 6 sets. At very heavy weights, it may become difficult to lift the bar as high as you would in an actual snatch. Committing to maximim bar height in every repetition will likely enhance your overall strength potential.
For Speed and Power
The speed of the snatch pull is a common area for potential improvement. When practicing for speed, the weight should be kept to a relatively lighter load to guarantee maximum acceleration. Repeated snatch pulls with a focus on moving the bar as fast as possible will enhance your power production and athletic ability.
To develop speed with the snatch pull, perform fewer reps with loads between 60 and 85% of your one-rep-max.
Snatch Pull Variations
The snatch pull is a lift that presents many different variations. Certain parts of the lift can be manipulated to target your specific goal.
Paused Snatch Pull
A pause can be incorporated at various points in the lift to exaggerate difficulty at a specific position. For example, a pause below the knee will force you to lift your chest up off the floor. A pause can also be added above the knee, at the power position, or even at the top of the pull.
For the ultimate challenge, add multiple pauses both on the way up and while lowering the weight back down.
Chinese Snatch Pull
The Chinese snatch pull, more commonly known as the panda pull, is a unique version of the snatch pull that includes a portion of the pull underneath the barbell. The pull to hip contact is identical, but then as the barbell travels upward, the athlete then bends their legs and pulls themselves down towards the bar.
Snatch pulls are sometimes done with flat feet for the purposes of practicing timing. Some lifters tend to rise up onto their toes in the snatch due to rushing their pull. This habit can limit the power production of the legs. Flat-footed snatch pulls can help the lifter stay connected and push through the ground with patience.
Block Snatch Pull
You can rest a barbell on two blocks to adjust the start position of the lift. This eliminates the component of the pull from the floor. Depending on how high the blocks are, different regions of the pull can be isolated for targeted practice. A higher start position can also be more advantageous for newer lifters who struggle to lift from the floor with good technique.
Deficit Snatch Pull
You can place a small board or riser underneath your feet to increase the distance of the snatch pull. A deeper start position adds an extra element of challenge to the snatch pull by making the pull even longer. The lower start position is extra challenging to hold, creating even more of a strength and posture requirement at the bottom.
Snatch Pull Alternatives
If the snatch pull is not quite the right style for your training, there are plenty more pull styles to practice. These are just a few of the alternative pulling methods that are similar to the snatch pull.
Snatch Grip Deadlift
The snatch grip deadlift is a standard floor pull performed with the iconic wide grip. This lift includes identical positions to the snatch pull, but stops at the hip, flat-footed. The lift is completed in a tall standing position with straight arms and no shrugging motion. Snatch deadlifts are great for developing lower body and upper back strength, without relying on an explosive component.
Snatch Grip Upright Row
The snatch grip upright row starts in a standing position with two straight arms at the hip in snatch grip. With knuckles pointed down, the shoulders and traps pull the elbows up and back to the chest line. It is similar to the snatch pull, but isolates only the upper body component of the lift. It can be used to both put on some extra muscle as well as practice your arm mechanics for snatching.
Like the snatch pull, the clean pull practices the first phase of a clean without requiring that you catch the bar. Since your hands are not placed as widely on the bar, you can maintain a more upright chest and taller torso. Improved leverages in the clean pull mean you can use heavier weights as well, which can lead to more strength gains — but you may not be able to pull the barbell as high.
Behind every good snatch is an even better snatch pull. Almost all lifters that execute perfect snatches in the gym or on the competition platform can attribute some of their consistency to repeatedly practicing their pulls. It may not be the most exciting thing ever to train just the pull, but it will definitely pay off later when it comes time to max out.
Doing your pulls will not only help you snatch better, but will also help you be more purposeful and dedicated in your training. Snatch pulls are a great way to overload both your body and your productivity in the gym, and can help you transform into a more experienced weightlifter.
While it may be a simple movement at a glance, snatch pulls have a lot of moving parts. As such, you might have some lingering questions.
What is “touch and go” style and when should I use it?
Lifters will sometimes practice pulls in a “touch-and-go” style, which is when repetitions are connected by tapping the weight back to the floor. The body never loses tension at the bottom position in order to string the reps together. This style can be used for different purposes, such as increasing absolute strength, eccentric strength, and developing coordination. It is also a good time-saver in the gym.
Newer weightlifters who are still developing their start position may want to avoid practicing with touch-and-go to reap the benefits of holding the start position isometrically.
What are pulling straps? Should I use them?
Pulling straps wrap around the wrist and help you connect your grip to the barbell. They may be used in training, but are forbidden in weightlifting competitions. Therefore, you should consider limiting your strap usage to when you’re working with very heavy weights. Straps are fantastic for increasing intensity and volume during your workouts by stopping your grip from becoming a limiting factor.
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