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Ask Greg: Issue 119
Greg Everett

Lauren Asks: I have a much higher Power Snatch than Snatch and find that my difficulty resides in catching the barbell in a low squat position. I have been doing snatch balance to help this, but am not sure if that is the fix or if I should be doing other things to improve my speed in the drop and confidence in the catch/lock out. I also wonder if this is simply a mobility issue considering I have tight reduced ROM in my hips and shoulder. So, my question is: Is there a good drill for this weakness and/or should I be focusing solely on mobility?

Greg Says: This is pretty common with non-weightlifters, and it can be the result of multiple issues, including limited mobility, but also a lack of confidence, which is usually the consequence of not snatching often relative to power snatching because of the limited mobility and discomfort. The avoidance of snatching because of the discomfort just exacerbates the problem, and causes more avoidance, etc.

Number one, you need to get your bottom position mobility up to adequate levels. No amount of drilling will overcome this problem—if you can’t comfortably sit into a full-depth, structurally-sound receiving position, you’ll never be comfortable and stable receiving snatches. Focus on ankle mobility in particular—sit into a squat position and rest your forearms on one knee, leaning all of your bodyweight on that knee and trying to close that ankle as much as possible while keeping the foot flat on the floor. If you can’t easily hold this position, do it in a lunge position instead of a squat. Hold it for 30 seconds or so and do it as frequently as possible throughout every day. For hip mobility, try spiderman lunges held in the static position, trying to keep your back arched somewhat and pushing the hips down toward the floor rather than leaning your chest. For thoracic spine mobility, foam rolling with the roller perpendicular to your spine, then holding at a few spots along the T-spine and trying to relax over the roller for 30 seconds will also help. For shoulder mobility, hang from a pull-up bar with your toes in contact with the floor (or a box or bench) a foot or so behind the bar so you can both hang and lean forward through your arms. You can get more mobility ideas for the overhead squat in this article.

Number two, exercises and drills. You can and should be working on these simultaneously with the flexibility work—you don’t need to wait until you’re perfectly mobile to start this part. Any overhead squat-type exercise will be helpful. This includes the overhead squat, snatch balance, heaving snatch balance, drop snatch, pressing snatch balance, press in snatch and push jerk in snatch. A couple of those may not be possible for you right now depending on how limited your mobility is, but you should work toward being able to do all of them. All of these exercises can be done daily as flexibility drills and confidence exercises—do one or two different ones each day. You can do them during your warm-up, or you can do them at the end of your workout. I would suggest doing one at the beginning and one at the end each training session.

Next, hold all snatches and overhead exercises for 2-3 seconds in the bottom position or even longer if you can stand it. This will not only help with flexibility, it will help with your strength and stability and comfort in this position. The goal is to make the receiving position as normal and comfortable as sitting in a chair.

Finally, work on snatch exercises that focus on the movement under the bar. This includes hang snatch variations, block snatches, dip snatches and tall snatches. These exercises will force you to pull under farther and more aggressively. Cut way back, or even eliminate, power snatches for a while. If you do power snatch, always follow every rep with an overhead squat or snatch balance.

Andrew Asks: Hi Greg, my snatch from hang position either mid thigh or knee is doing pretty good, but when I do it from the floor, I can’t get it right, I keep thinking about shoulder over the bar, shins vertical, weight on heels. When I'm doing from hang position, I'm already in the right position. Is there any drill or tips for pulling from the floor without over thinking everything?

Greg Says: The best correction for over thinking is practicing until you don’t have to think. Of course, the trick to that is knowing what and how to practice. In this case, it sounds like what you need to work on is moving from the floor into the proper position at mid-thigh. You seem to know that correct position when you enter it from the hang.

Snatch segment deadlifts and halting snatch deadlifts will probably be the best exercises for this. Make the top pause position for both mid-thigh—the point at which you’ll ideally initiate the final upward explosion (second pull). In this position, your shins should be vertical, shoulders at least slightly in front of the bar, back arched tightly, head and eyes forward, and weight slightly behind the middle of the foot—don’t get all the way back on your heels. Often athletes get their weight too far back in this position, and it results in a few potential problems, such as shifting too far forward in compensation, jumping back out from under the bar, or sweeping the feet back and landing on the toes.

For segment deadlifts, hold 1 inch off the floor, right at the knee, and at mid-thigh. At the 1 inch position, your shoulders should be directly above the bar and your weight slightly more on the heels than the balls of the feet; at the knee, the shoulders should still be directly above the bar and weight slightly more on the heels than the balls of the feet; and at mid-thigh, the position should be the same as described above.

Hold all pause positions for 3 seconds, and don’t rush the movement between pauses. A controlled speed will ensure you’re moving correctly and that constant tension will strengthen the positions and teach you awareness of those positions better.

Then, use complexes to train the lift itself. The first you can try is a 3-position snatch starting from the top down—do the first rep from mid-thigh, the second from the knee, and the last from the floor. This will start you off in the most comfortable position for you, then gradually add more distance.

Another is a 2-position snatch, or hang snatch + snatch, again at mid-thigh first, then the floor.

Then you try segment snatches. Perform a halting snatch deadlift to mid-thigh and hold for 3 seconds, then snatch from this mid-thigh position. I recommend following any segment snatches with a normal snatch to help avoid the development of any hitching from the exercise. For example, do 1 or 2 segment snatches + 1 snatch each set.

A final exercise is the slow-pull snatch. You can think of this as basically a segment snatch without the pause. You will simply move very slowly into the mid-thigh position and then snatch without pausing.


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