Performing the snatch in CrossFit is one of those movements you *unfortunately* can’t just muscle your way through. You’ll need a bit of finesse, patience, and mobility to be able to properly move the weight from the ground to overhead. While the snatch is an expression of explosiveness, athleticism, and strength, if you can’t do it (or do it well), the snatch can be a fast track to feeling like a dumpster fire. Yikes. If you’re tired of not hitting it, crushing the weight, or feeling snappy in the catch, keep reading because we’re going to teach you how to master the snatch in CrossFit so well you’ll be surprised it's even you.
What Is The Snatch In CrossFit
The snatch is a movement used in CrossFit training and competitions. You can perform a snatch with a barbell, kettlebell, or dumbbell, and there is a few different snatch variations including as power snatches, hang snatches, pause snatches, squat snatches, and more. The movement recruits muscles across the whole body and is a test of agility, strength, and coordination. The snatch is performed in CrossFit training, Olympic Weightlifting, and general training. It’s a technical floor to overhead movement that requires practice to master.
What Muscles Does The Snatch Work
The snatch is a full body movement recruits a wide variety of muscles, balance, and ability. The posterior chain (aka your back, hips and hamstrings) is going to absorb most of the work throughout the movement in order to generate the power required for the movement achieving the triple extension. When moving the bar from the hips to overhead, the recruitment of the upper body (specifically the upper back and shoulders) increases to move the load into the overhead position.
In Short: Traps, Delts, Spinal Erectors, Core, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings, Quads and Calves
What Are The Benefits Of The Snatch
Performing the snatch whether at a regular gym or in CrossFit presents an opportunity to work the whole body as compared to an isolated or small group of muscles throughout one movement. Regarded as a complex and dynamic movement, when performed correctly, you’re going to be able to achieve the wide variety of benefits of the snatch.
1. Overhead Strength
The snatch requires that the athlete moves the barbell overhead to complete the movement, but with a poor overhead strength ability, you’re not going to be able to progress very far (or very fast) in the snatch movement, until you increase it. The good news is that no matter what weight you’re starting with, the snatch movement itself will help you generate more muscular development and strength so that overtime you can get the bar overhead with more ease (and confidence). While many other movements will require the barbell to be overhead, unless performing a squat, but trust us when we say that you’ll see significant performance improvements from practicing this overhead movement. Think other movements like wall balls, thrusters, and hand stand walks/holds/push ups, for example.
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2. Improved Proprioception and Coordination
Proprioception is a fancy word for the awareness of our bodies as they are and move through the space around us. Improved proprioception means less injuries and better, more fluid movement, as the brain directs the body to move. As you practice movements, especially bigger, more demanding movements, like the snatch, you’re able to become more efficient and fluid at moving your body to not only lift the weight but swiftly sit underneath it when the overhead position is achieved.
On the other hand, when you improve the awareness of your movements, you also improve your overall coordination. This means you become more precise on where the bar path is and where it is going to go, in order to perform the lift with that snappy, powerful, and forceful way that you see the professionals do it with. Going back to our original point about not being able to just muscle through the movement, you’re going to have to practice, practice, and practice, to improve your body’s proprioception and coordination so that you have not just strength or power, but finesse.
3. Improved Athletic Performance
When moving the barbell through the snatch movement you’re adding resistance to a ton of different muscles throughout the body. This resistance creates strength and piling on top of our previous point, it also creates agility, coordination, speed, mind-muscle connections, and power being generated from the hips, the most powerful area of the body when it comes to weightlifting. Where am I going with this? It all means this - by practicing the snatch in CrossFit or just in general you’re going to see some serious improvements in your overall athletic performance, whether you’re training to become the Fittest On Earth or to just break a sweat on a Tuesday.
4. Increase Stability and Posture
Going back to the posterior chain, when you develop the muscles of the back, core, and lumbo-pelvic-hip complex you’re going to see those gains translate both in and out of the gym. You’re going to experience serious improvements in stability and posture, whether you’re free standing or inverted in your hand stand walks, or even when you’re doing accessory work with front rack reverse lunges. Naturally, improvements in these muscles will improve your upright posture, keep the shoulders retracted, and keep the ribs from flaring forward, creating a curve in the lumbar/lower spine (lordosis anyone?).
5. Increased Force Generation
The hips are the most powerful are of the body and the snatch movement relies heavily on the force generated during the movement to get the weight on the barbell into the overhead position. When working on performing the snatch correctly you’re also going to be working on increasing your force generation which translates into peak power output. The more force you produce over time, the more power you achieve, meaning you can move quicker, jump higher, and snatch more weight than ever. Not only are you going to reap the benefits of a bigger snatch, you’re going to be able to see the force and power output gains translate into all other areas of training.
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How To Snatch In CrossFit
The snatch is a technical movement with lots of moving parts (no pun intended) so you’ll want to break down the movement and master each step. Sure, you can throw it all together, but the more patient and precise you are, the bigger gains you’re going to make.
1. The First Position
Approach the bar with it over mid-foot. With your feet about hip width apart, bend over and grip the bar. Place your hands in a snatch grip with the fingers over the thumbs in a hook grip position. From here, look down in front of you, rotating the elbows forward, and straightening the back, activating and pulling down the lats for a strong kinetic chain. Then slowly bring your eyes forward as you sit into the first position.
2. The First Pull
From the first position simply raise the bar closely up the shins without changing the first position. Your weight is going to be in the mid-foot and your eyes are going to be forward, keeping that tight back and lat tucked positioning. The chest and the hips should rise together and you’ll continue to pull straight upward over the knees.
3. Meet The Hips To The Bar
Notice how it says ‘hips to the bar’ not ‘bar to the hips’? There’s a reason for that. Once over the knee, this is where the hips are going to come to the bar as the bar keeps a straight upward path. Using those powerful lats and back muscles you’re going to pull the bar into the hip pocket while making contact with the bar to have that powerful force generation in the triple extension position. The movement of the bar from the knee to the hips is faster than the first pull. From here, you’re going to want to fully extend the hips and the legs driving that upward momentum.
4. Extension and Pull Through
As you extend the hips and legs your arms are going to pull the bar upward and back as you reach that full extension, or the triple extension. Next? You’re going to want to pull through or pull under the bar, once the bar reaches about chest height, or the final position in the overhead squat. You’re going to want to be intentional on the bar placement and pulling under, so that you catch the weight and the weight doesn’t crush you, instead.
5. The Catch and Finish
The catch refers to the position in which the bar has stopped moving and you are in the overhead squat position. This is a strong, firm, stable position, where there is significant tension and tightness throughout the entire body to support the load overhead. The knees are pressing outward, the core is tight, the shoulders are strong, and you’re not bottomed out. From here, you will stand up in a controlled motion and finish the movement altogether.
FAQ: How To Find Snatch Grip Position
If you’re unsure where to hold the bar with a snatch grip, grab an empty barbell and try this. Put your hands wide on the bar and stand with the bar at hip level. The bar should fit right in your hip crease, so that you can march and your legs don’t hit the bar. If you’re unable to bring the knee to 90 degrees, then you need to widen your grip. If you’re above the hips too far, you’re going to need to bring the snatch grip in. This is the ideal place to have your hands in a hook grip for the snatch movement.
The snatch in CrossFit is a great way to put together all the different dimensions of your training efforts into one explosive, impressive, and gratifying lift. Since you can't just muscle your way through the movement, we encourage practicing with low weights until you feel the fluid movement of the bar from the ground into the overhead movement before just slamming weights on. Also? Pay attention to how the snatch improves other areas of your training, like speed, power, coordination and balance.
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