Snatch Exercise: Form Guide, Common Mistakes and Effective Variations

Learn how to perform the Snatch with this step-by-step guide.

The Snatch exercise—and its variations—is among the most effective lifts for improving explosive power for athletes. It's also one of the two lifts that athletes compete in at the Olympics—why it's called an Olympic lift.

What makes the Snatch so effective—and challenging—is the distance the barbell travels in the lift. In a single movement, the bar moves from the floor to over your head—the farthest the bar travels in any exercise. Not only does this require a great amount of strength, you need to move with a high degree of explosiveness to create the speed needed to propel the bar overhead.

To get a sense of the difficulty of the Snatch, watch this record-setting lift of 477 pounds—a fairly impressive weight for a Deadlift, nevertheless hurling the weight overhead.

As you can see, the Snatch is a complicated lift. Many things need to go right to catch such a heavy weight overhead. Not only do you need to triple extend your hips, knees and ankles to create power, you also need excellent core strength, hip mobility and shoulder mobility to catch the bar.

You have to remember that Olympic lifting is a dedicated sport. Athletes who specialize in the Snatch spend years drilling their technique, the same way you might spend years honing your jump shot or improving your route running.

Over the years there have been some derivatives of the full Snatch that are a bit easier to perform. One such lift is the Power Snatch, which is virtually the same exercise but the bar is caught in a quarter-squat position, not in a full squat. It's not possible to lift as much weight because the bar has to travel even farther than on a traditional Snatch, but it's a highly effective way to get more powerful.

To help you master this complicated lift, Cleveland-based strength coach Mike Anderson provides a step-by-step guide on how to perform the move. You can also see the lift in action with Anderson's tips in the video above.

How to Do the Power Snatch

Step 1: Setup

snatch exercise

Begin with the bar on the floor positioned close to your shins over your shoelaces. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, reach down and grab the bar with a wide overhand or hook grip. Use this guide to find your ideal snatch grip width.

Sit your butt down and stick your chest up. Pull your shoulder blades down and back and tighten your core. Your elbows should be rotated out to the sides with your arms completely straight. Look straight ahead.

Step 2: First Pull

Pull the bar off the floor by powerfully extending your legs, keeping your back flat and your chest up. The bar should travel vertically in a straight line, not into you like during a Deadlift.

Step 3: Scoop and Second Pull

snatch exercise

Once the bar is above your knees, shift your torso to a vertical position and rebend your knees slightly. This is the scoop.

Now initiate the second pull to propel the bar overhead by violently jumping straight up, fully extending your hips, knees and ankles (triple extension), while simultaneously shrugging your shoulders. Keep the bar as close to your body as possible as it travels overhead.

Step 4: Catch

snatch exercise

Land on the ground with your feet shoulder-width apart. As the bar moves overhead, quickly drop into a quarter-squat position with your back straight, and hips and knees slightly bent. Catch the bar overhead with your elbows locked and the bar just behind your head in line with your hips.

Step 5: Drop the bar

snatch exercise

From this position, carefully drop the bar to the ground in front of you, but only do this if you're using bumper plates and ideally you're on a lifting platform. If you're using a light weight, you can lower it to the ground as shown in the video above.

Common Snatch Form Mistakes

Mistake 1: Landing With Your Feet Too Wide

Anderson explains that landing with your feet too wide—a common mistake—limits your hip mobility and makes it more difficult to properly drop under the bar. The fix is simple. Land with your feet in the same position you'd use for a Front Squat. If you have trouble perfecting this technique, check out Anderson's drills here.

Mistake 2: Not engaging your back and core before a rep

It's crucial that your back is not rounded during this lift. Engage your back and bring your shoulder blades down and back and tighten your core as if you're about to take a punch. This ensures that your back and core are set and reduces your risk of injury.

Mistake 3: Pressing the weight overhead

The Snatch is not an Overhead Press. Your legs and hips should generate enough momentum to carry the bar overhead without having to muscle it up. If you find yourself having to press the bar, then use a lighter weight or reassess your technique to ensure you're producing max power.

Mistake 4: Swinging the bar

The further the bar gets away from your body, the harder it is to control. And you end up wasting energy swinging it outward rather than using that force to propel the bar vertically. The bar must travel as close to your body as possible if you have any hope of reaching your true potential in the Snatch.

Mistake 5: Forcing the overhead position

The Snatch requires decent shoulder mobility to properly catch the bar overhead. If you lack the necessary mobility, your ribs will flare out and your lower back will arch. This compensation will put stress on your lower back and again limit how much weight you can safely lift. If you find that you have trouble getting overhead, spend extra time working on your shoulder mobility.

Power Snatch Alternatives

Here are four effective Power Snatch alternatives.

Hang Snatch

Full Snatch

Dumbbell Snatch

Kettlebell Snatch

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Topics: BARBELL EXERCISES | POWER | SNATCH | OLYMPIC WEIGHTLIFTING