Ask Greg: Issue 105
Greg Everett

David Asks: My question is should snatch attempts be received at the highest position possible or the lowest? A brief recap of my situation is that I own and coach at an Oly lifting gym in Olympia, WA. I use your book for my technical reference text.

I have about 20-25 beginning (as in don't lift national qualifying totals yet) lifters. All have varying degrees of difficulty with the lifts, as is expected.

As I study your book, practice my lifts, coach the other lifters, watch at meets, talk with other coaches and lifters, I get different messages about the main theory of performing the snatch. The two concepts are: 1: receive as high as possible, or 2. receive as low as possible.

The book addresses both theories. In one place the book says the explosion should always be maximal and the relative masses of the lifter and bar determine the height of the receipt. As the weight of the bar increases, the height of the receipt decreases. This sounds like receiving the bar as high as possible.

In another place the book talks a lot about the aggressive third pull under the bar. To me, an aggressive third pull mean to receive as low as possible.

Please help!!

Greg Says: I can see where the confusion arises from, but it’s actually a lot simpler than it evidently seems. First, an aggressive and fast third pull doesn’t necessarily mean you end up in a particularly low position. Consider the turnover of a power snatch, for example; you receive the lift in a high position, but you weren’t slow or unaggressive turning the bar over. If you have a light weight, the turn over won’t move you down as much as it moves the bar up; if you have a heavy weight, the turnover will move you down more than it moves the bar up. In other words, a given turnover effort with 50 kg will have a different result in terms of your receiving depth than that same turnover effort with 100 kg; in the former case, the bar will continue moving up more than in the latter case.

The only way to change the receiving height at the same weight is to change how much upward acceleration is placed on the bar prior to the turnover. If you put maximal effort into the second pull at 100 kg and equally maximal effort on the third pull, you’ll end up at a certain height. If you want to receive the bar in a deeper squat, you’d need to reduce the effort on the second pull so that the bar has less elevation and upward acceleration as you enter the third pull.

I often say I want a lifter to secure the bar overhead as high and as soon as possible. What this means is that I don’t want them dropping out from under the bar and having it crash down onto them. If you put a lot of upward acceleration on the bar, it’s going to continue moving to relatively high position; if you then jump down into as deep of a squat as possible, you’re dropping out from under the bar—you’re not staying connected to it in order to receive it securely. This is where you get a lot of instability.

Note that this doesn’t mean you’re power snatching every lift—you’re still squatting all the way to the bottom position, but you’re fixing the bar into a secure overhead position as soon as possible during that process. You can try receiving all of your snatches as low as possible, but again, the only way to do that is to limit the power of the second pull. Of course, this does need to be done to some degree with lighter warm-up weights, and that’s discussed in the book. But I don’t believe it’s a good practice because I think it creates a bad habit of not finishing aggressively. You don’t get to choose an aggressive second pull or an aggressive third pull—both are required.

Kim Asks: What is usually the cause of the lifter jumping forward receiving the bar? Thanks!

Greg Says: Probably the shortest question with the longest answer ever in this column. There are numerous possible causes of a forward jump, but all come down to the weight of the bar-lifter system being out of balance forward at some point. In other words, something is happening during the lift to shift the balance forward over the feet rather than it remaining approximately centered. Watch the lifter and try to identify the moment this occurs, and you should be able to diagnose the cause.

Some common causes are 1) not shifting the weight back toward the heels during the initial move of the bar off the floor, 2) shifting the hips forward to the bar as it passes the knees rather than actively moving the bar back to the hips, 3) bouncing the bar off the hips/thighs and letting it swing forward, 4) having the arms stiff at the transition between second and third pulls, which forces the bar to swing forward, 5) shifting the hips up too quickly relative to the bar/shoulders during the first pull.

Three of those issues can be addressed with pull and deadlift variations. To really focus on the proper position and shifting of weight during the initial pull, snatch or clean deadlifts to the knee are helpful. You can also do segment or pause deadlifts with multiple stops. I like 1 inch off the floor, knee and upper thigh to force the athlete to feel each position as it should be. A 2-3 second hold at each position is good.

To help learn to not bounce the bar off the hips, the athlete needs to ensure that the bar is in immediate proximity to the body just prior to contact and that he/she is driving against the floor with the legs as the hips open with the final explosion. Halting snatch or clean deadlifts to the hip or upper thigh coupled with the lift can be helpful for bar proximity: for example, snatch deadlift to the hip and hold that position for 3 seconds (shoulders slightly in front of the bar, bar in contact with the hips, knees bent slightly, shins vertical), bring back to the floor, then snatch. Leg action can practiced with dip snatches or dip cleans—the lift starts in the tall position and the athlete bends only at the knees, keeping the trunk vertical, then snatches or cleans without stopping in the bottom of the dip (it’s the same basic dip/drive movement used in the jerk). The bar needs to be in contact with the body during the dip and drive.

To help get rid of stiff elbows, the athlete needs to learn to engage the lats tightly in the starting position and during the pull and internally rotate the arms fully. This can be practiced with deadlift and pull variations as well.

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