Monday, March 23, 2009

The Olympic Snatch

The snatch is one of the two current Olympic Weightlifting events (the other being the clean and jerk). The essence of the event is to lift a barbell from the platform to locked arms overhead in a smooth continuous movement. The barbell is pulled as high as the lifter can manage (typically to mid chest height) (the pull) at which point the barbell is flipped overhead. With relatively light weights (as in the "power snatch") locking of the arms may not require rebending the knees. However, as performed in contests, the weight is always heavy enough to demand that the lifter receive the bar in a squatting position, while at the same time flipping the weight so it moves in an arc directly overhead to locked arms (the quick drop). When the lifter is secure in this position, he rises (overhead squat), completing the lift.

The lift requires not only great strength but also a high degree of shoulder flexibility, excellent balance, and speed.

It is executed in a single movement. However, for coaching purposes, it is divided into two phases.

  1. Approach the bar and with back straight, crouch low and grasp the bar with it positioned over the balls of your feet. Legs should be bent with the buttocks close to the heels. Any kind of grip may be used, however it is standard to use a wide grip, with the hands near the ends of bar. A hook grip is normally used in competition. The chest should be puffed out and the shoulders slightly forward of the bar.

  2. Begin lifting. The hips, shoulders and bar should move at the same pace. Push from the toes and slowly transition the weight into the mid-foot as you lift. The angle of the torso relative to the ground should remain constant.

  3. Keep the bar close to your legs as you lift - this ensures proper alignment of the body. The bar should brush your legs a little on the way up.
  4. When the weight is at mid-thigh, accelerate the bar upward by powerfully extending the knees and hips ( and to some degree the ankles) until the body is fully erect. At the same time, shrug the shoulders. This part of the lift is known as the 'scoop' or 'second pull'. Often, a lifter will bend the knees slightly and bring their torso to vertical before the second pull. This is called the 'double knee bend' style of lifting.
  5. At the apex of the bar's height, pull your body underneath the bar, catching it with locked arms overhead while squatting. This part of the motion requires a developed sense of timing and coordination, and is the crux of the entire lift.
  6. Lock your arms with the weight overhead and stand up from the squat position.

This lift requires coordination, torso (core) stability, and explosive power of the legs to generate the upward momentum required to snatch hundreds of pounds overhead. Tremendous speed is required to get underneath the bar after the second pull.


Breathing is very important. Breath deeply a few seconds before the lift. It adds oxygen to the system and helps reduce mind disconcerting stress. Do not hyperventilate or you will become dizzy and lose all important balance. As you lift, exhale strongly, then explosively as you perform the 'drop under'. As you squat, inhale strongly, then, again, exhale explosively as you drive into an upright position. The best way to keep that solid finish and balance is to be certain both sides of the body are doing the same amount of work and that you focus directly forward toward the neutral visual point you began with. Never, never hold your breath. Success in this lift is fluidity, speed and balance, not brute strength. This, to me, is the most beautiful of the two lifts and reveals the skill and talent of the lifter.

More Tips:

  1. The key to this lift is in the quick "flip" when the bar reaches shoulder height. A fast lifter who can get under the bar is in good position to lift the weight.
  2. Make sure you feel comfortable before you lift. That's half the battle.
  3. This is a very difficult procedure, so be sure to use the proper technique.
  4. Attempt this lift only with proper supervision.
  5. Lift only weights that are within your capabilities.

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