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A technical breakdown of the snatch

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

Start position

This is when you will get yourself into the best position to initiate the lift, preparing to shift a heavy weight overhead.

Technical points

  • 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

First pull

The bar's movement from floor to knee level.

Technical points

  • 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

Second pull

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

1 Comment

David Mannion
David Mannion
Apr 18, 2021

A brilliantly researched article showing the novice (and some experienced lifters), "How to Snatch", with excellent still photos showing you the positions to look out for. One needs good coaches to stop you from developing bad habits such as stopping the bar or using the arms too much which one sees in CrossFit gyms! If one perseveres one can aim to snatch bodyweight if you are male or 70% bodyweight female in about 12-18 months training. For more advanced lifters they might try 1.2 times bodyweight men and 80% bodyweight women. Lets hope after COVID we can start to lift in competitions before the end of 2021!

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