The snatch is the first of the two lifts contested at weightlifting competitions. Compared with the clean and jerk, it is lighter in weight but more technical, and takes the bar from the floor to overhead in one smooth movement, opposed to two. The snatch can be seen as a test of speed, core stability, flexibility and power. It is a very useful tool for developing power in athletes of all sports, but can be slightly overlooked due to the technical complexity.
This article is intended as a guide to the main technical points we would be looking for through the stages of the snatch. This guide cannot account for athletes’ individualities. The exact positions of each stage will vary depending on the anatomical proportions, technical style and even previous injuries of each lifter so please keep this in mind when reading. We recommend learning the movements with a coach for the safest and most effective learning process.
Some time ago we wrote a similar guide for the clean, which can be found here
This is when you will get yourself into the best position to initiate the lift, preparing to shift a heavy weight overhead.
Hook grip the bar at ‘snatch width’
Hook grip: hook your thumb around under the bar and grip over it with (ideally) your index and middle finger, locking your grip in place - this can take practice and can be hard for lifters with smaller hands but it is important to learn.
Snatch width: hands roughly far enough apart that when standing the bar sits at your hip crease - this width varies from lifter to lifter depending on several factors, it can require some tinkering. Coaches can provide guidance to adapt this position to find what is best for you.
Bar over the midfoot, and almost against the shin. Feet about shoulder width apart with toes pointing forward or slightly out (no more than 45 degrees)
Weight sits in the midfoot - it helps to try to push down through whole foot
Hips higher than knees, shoulders higher than hips, with your armpit directly above the bar
Knees pushed slightly outwards, towards the inside of the elbow
Shoulders pulled back and down, chest up - so that it is visible from the front
Keep spine neutral, head up, eyes forward - it helps to focus on a point in the distance infront of you
The bar's movement from floor to knee level.
Feet remain flat on the floor and arms remain straight
Tighten muscles, breath in and hold it, brace trunk
Knees extend initiating the pull, the hips and shoulders rise at the same rate to keep the back angle the same as in the start position
Knees move back or outwards as the bar approaches to move out of its path - the bar should never be moved around the knee - the bar hitting the knees is an indication of error
The movement should be slow off the ground and gradually accelerate as the bar rises - it is important to not yank the bar quicky off the floor
Bar remains close to shin
Chest up & eyes looking ahead
Armpit remains above the bar or slightly ahead of it
From the side view the shins should be roughly vertical at the end of the first pull
Weight shifted slightly towards the heel
Moving through the 'power position' into 'triple extension'.
Power position technical points
After the first pull ends at the knee, hip extension begins bringing the torso more upright and the bar in contact with the upper thigh (power position). The bar continues to accelerate as it raises
Flat back, shoulders behind bar and level with hip, centre of shoulder behind knee and over centre of ankle
Arms straight, feet flat - common error is to pull too early with the arms or to go on to toes too early
Weight in mid foot
Athlete's must be able to consistently hit power position. This position sets you up for the most explosive part of the lift (triple extension), putting the body in position to produce the most concentric force, so it is a good position to learn early on. A great method for reinforcing this position is picking snatch variations that start with the bar in power position, or pull variations which pause, end or start at power position.
Triple extension technical points
Sometimes called the second pull.
This is an explosive extension of the ankles, knees and hips (jumping action) which is accompanied by a fast shoulder shrug
Arms remain straight for as long as possible
Keep back flat, shoulder behind hip, shin angle near vertical, weight in front of foot for full extension on to toes
Head in neutral position, eyes forward
Common errors are leaning too far back, pulling early with the arms instead of relying on power of legs, or driving the hips forward into the bar
Catch (or receiving position)
Where the bar is received overhead, in a full overhead squat.
At the peak of the triple extension the elbows must flex and continue to travel upwards to around chest height, pointed out along the bar in order to keep the bar nice and close to the body
As the bar moves upwards the body moves downwards, quickly. Simultaneously, once the bar is around chest height the elbows extend, locking out into an overhead squat
Being on the tiptoes at this point helps to quickly drop down into position, momentarily leaving the floor to jump the feet out slightly wider (about a shoes width) helps allow for balance in the squat
This is the point where hookgrip is important as it allows a secure grip on the bar but a looseness in the arms, which makes this ‘turn over’ phase easier
The overhead squat is a test of balance, core strength and flexibility. The bar must sit directly over the centre of gravity or else it is easy to fail the lift. The athletes flexibility can be a major limiting factor at this point
Arms locked out strongly - actively pushing up on the bar
Feet flat, in similar possition to back squat
Bar directly above feet
Balanced and stable position, chest up, back flat, core engaged, look ahead
Returning to standing, with the bar overhead.
Before initiating this movement ensure that you are very balanced in your overhead squat - a lack of balance here can make it easy to drop the bar on your way up
Re-extension of the legs to return to standing
Lead with the chest, continue to look at a point ahead of you
Continue to push up with the arms against the bar, strongly
Push through whole foot
When fully standing the feet should be in line with each other - this is a competition requirement
Exhale at the top
It is crucial that you do not slack here, you can still lose the lift in the final stages, e.g. arms loosen or your back rounds. You should be strong in this position (remember that at competiton the officiators can make you hold this position until they are sure you are stable in order for the lift to count)
British Weightlifting (2017) Olympic Weightlifting Technique Handbook
British military fitness (2015) Level 4 Award in Strength and Conditioning
Chavda, S., Martin, S., Hill, M., Swisher., A., Haff, G., Turner, A. (2021) ‘Weightlifting: an applied method of technical analysis’, Strength and Conditioning Journal
Eleiko education (2018) Eleiko Strength Coach Level 1 International Qualification Handbook
Gregg Everett (2016) Olympic Weightlifting: A complete guide for athletes & coaches
Haff & Triplett (2016) Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. NSCA. Human Kinetics
John Lear (1991) Skilful Weightlifting. A&C Black London
Tamas Feher (2019) The Weightlifting Book
USA weightlifting (2014) Advanced Weightlifting & Sports Performance Coach Manual