Ask Greg: Issue 135
Greg Everett

Emma Asks: Hi Greg, I am a massive fan of weightlifting, I LOVE to lift. I was wondering if you have any tips on over coming the fear of catching the snatch overhead when it gets heavier, I've been stuck on the same weight for months. I know I need to man up but its really holding me back. Any tips or advice I would love. Thank you.
Greg Says: First of all, don’t beat yourself up too much over it; it’s a very common problem, and every lifter experiences that fear at some point, sometimes for no obvious reason.
There are a few potential elements to a fear of receiving heavy snatches: weakness or instability in the overhead position; poor mobility preventing a solid, comfortable receiving position; technical problems earlier in the lift leading to unstable or painful receipt of the bar; previous injuries of the wrists, elbows or shoulders.
Any of these things can influence your confidence and the way you handle heavy snatch attempts mentally, and often they may do so without your being consciously aware it’s happening. The first step to solving the problem, then, is to try to diagnose the cause.
For overhead weakness or instability, trust the basics like overhead squats and snatch balances. While it’s by no means necessary to be able to overhead squat more than you can snatch, it builds confidence without a doubt. Even better is to be able to snatch balance more than you can snatch, knowing that not only can you support the weight overhead, but you can receive it dynamically. Exercises like snatch presses, snatch push presses, presses in snatch will help with reinforcing the proper overhead position and stability.
For mobility, take a look at the lower body as well—poor ankle mobility in particular, along with limited hip mobility, will force poor trunk positioning and consequently poor structure overhead.
If there are problems with the lift that create imbalance or crashing of the bar in particular, this will destroy your confidence with heavier weights. Figure out the problems, then the causes, and then work to correct them. Eventually every snatch, from your first warm-up to your max attempt, should be essentially the same. Consistency is imperative for confidence with heavy weights, and any concerns about pain or loss of control need to be eliminated.
Finally, if you’ve had a previous injury from snatching (for example, due to the previous), you’ll likely guard the problem area unconsciously by not committing to heavier lifts and bailing out partway up. This can be a tough problem to resolve, but all of the previous suggestions about strengthening and improving the stability of the overhead position will help, as will improving your technical consistency and proficiency.
A last suggestion for actually working to heavy snatches is to use waves rather than a linear progression. Let’s say you start having problems at 60kg and your plan is to work to a heavy single. Rather than simply increasing the weight progressively from start to finish, such as something like 48-52-55-57-59-61, sneak up on that threshold with progressively increasing waves—something like 48-52-55-52-55-57-55-57-59-57-59-61.
Matt Asks: Amongst others issues I'm trying to fix (jumping forward being one), I have a habit of throwing my head back as I hit full extension. This is pretty well engrained in me and I have just recently started making a concerted effort to fix it.
I have painted an X on the wall and am concentrating on fixing my eyes on that for every pull, lift etc. This is helping, but whenever I go above 80% (rarely at the moment, as I'm trying to focus on technique) I still revert back to the head throw. Firstly, is it a major issue that I should focus on fixing? If so, have you got any other fixes for this?

Greg Says:
It may or may not be an issue that needs to be corrected. I don’t like lifters to do it because typically it causes the hips to travel too far forward through the bar, which then disrupts the bar path, and can create imbalance and slow the transition under the bar.
Having said that, if it’s not creating any problems for you, it may not be worth trying to correct. If it is causing problems, you’re going to have to knuckle down and work on it. Like many things, it’s going to take a while and it’s going to be frustrating. Using something in front of you to focus on is the best place to start. Other options are using the snatch pull + snatch complex to allow you to work on extension in the pull with the desired head position in the pull first and then try to recreate it in the snatch—sets with 1-3 pulls + 1 snatch would be where I would start. Dip snatches or snatches from power position may also help to get you focused on a more vertically-oriented extension, which can reduce the compulsion to throw the head back, as that motion is associated with hip extension.

Anthony Billington April 2 2016 4:09 pm
Thanks for these Greg, the wave loading comment in particular. Would you generally recommend this approach for working up to a Heavy Single for the day, and for both lifts? Many thanks.
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