The snatch high pull serves multiple purposes for the Weightlifter to the general athlete. Specifically, it trains speed and power-specific snatch postures to transfer to the snatch. Most importantly, it reinforces the triple extension of the ankles, knees, and hips. Here’s how to perfect the snatch high pull.
Table of Contents
- How To Snatch High Pull
- Common Snatch High Pull Mistakes
- Snatch High Pull Benefits
- Which Muscles Does The Snatch High Pull Work?
- When To Use The Snatch High Pull?
- How Many Sets And Reps Of The Snatch High Pull?
- Snatch High Pull Variations
How To Snatch High Pull
The starting position of the snatch high pull is the same as the snatch. Your bodyweight must be through your entire foot and not toward your toes or heels. This way, you can maximally recruit the legs while maintaining a position over the barbell.
As you hook grip the bar, pull yourself down into position, creating a big chest with tension in the lats. Since you’re doing pulls, a hook grip is not necessary as you can use straps to save your hands and fingers from rough knurling.
Pulling yourself into position will remove the slack from the barbell vital for a smooth start. The slack is the movement of the bar before the plates leave the ground.
Your elbows will point out toward the plates with your head facing forward and eyes fixed on a point above your head.
To initiate the pull, push with the legs. This will ensure you maintain the same back position from the floor to the knees. The first pull (floor to knees) is essential to get right for a technically sound snatch high pull.
The angle from the hips to the shoulders should not change. Once you pass the knees, raise the shoulders and bring the hips forward simultaneously. During the second pull (knees to hips), you mustn't stop pushing with the legs while working toward a vertical torso.
The bar will make contact with the hips and brush vertically. Extend the hips, knees, and ankles simultaneously to propel the barbell upward. This is known as triple extension. Perform a big shrug with the shoulders and pull the bar to nipple height as you extend.
The bar should stay close to your shirt as you point your elbows toward the ceiling. Just like you would when performing an upright row.
Common Snatch High Pull Mistakes
Non-weightlifters often use the snatch high pull as a more accessible version of the snatch and by Weightlifters as a snatch accessory. However, this doesn't mean mistakes are avoided. Here are common mistakes in order from the floor to the finish.
Having Foot Pressure Too Far Forward or Back
Having pressure through the whole foot is crucial for maximizing the involvement of the legs. You will be set behind the bar if your bodyweight is toward your heel. This means you'll need to clear the bar around your knees, negatively affecting your bar path and causing it to loop.
This will cascade up the chain to more errors I'll cover below. Having your bodyweight toward your toes makes it challenging to push with the legs as you get past the knee. You may even find the barbell drifts forward from the floor, negatively affecting the straight bar path.
Pulling With The Back To Initiate The Pull
This is a common mistake among regular deadlifters who come to Weightlifting. The goal of the deadlift is to load the hamstrings and glutes from the floor and get the hips through as quickly as possible once the bar passes the knees.
If you pull with your back, your shoulders will rise, causing you to be behind the barbell as you pass the knees. Unfortunately, the only way to accelerate further is to lean back, causing the bar to loop or get away from you.
Not Staying Over The Bar
As mentioned above, being positioned behind the bar will cause the bar to loop or kick in front. This happens either from being out of position during the first pull or rushing the second pull. This is why coaches will often use the cue "patience" to keep you over the bar.
Bouncing The Bar Off The Hips
Contrary to what is sometimes taught, the bar should never be bashed by the hips. It should make contact. But this contact must propel the bar vertically. When the bar is bounced off the hips, you will severely limit the weight you can high pull and reinforce bad habits for the snatch.
Bending The Arms Early
This is a form of rushing the pull. Your arms should be like ropes and relaxed with the tension placed on your lats. They must stay extended until after contact with your hips when you pull the bar to nipple height.
Bending the arms early means you no longer have any finishing power as you can't pull from a bent elbow position.
Reverse Curling The High Pull
The reverse curl motion can be a mobility issue. However, it’s more often than not a technical issue. When the elbows face back during the pull, the only way to bend is a reverse curl motion. The bar can only move vertically by maintaining the elbow position pointing toward the plates.
Snatch High Pull Benefits
Reinforces Full Extension Of The Snatch
The snatch high pull is an excellent exercise to reinforce the patience of the bar and the full extension at the top of the snatch. If you cut the pull short or are out of position, you will feel it as you won't be able to pull the bar as high.
Once the weight gets heavy enough, you won’t be able to perform the high pull if you are out of position creating great intrinsic feedback.
Teaches The Correct Bar Path
Beginners can also reap the benefits of the snatch high pull. It's an excellent regression for the snatch to teach the correct bar path from the floor to the pull without complicating the exercise by removing the overhead portion.
It becomes more digestible for the beginner Weightlifter to navigate so they can transfer the feeling over to the snatch.
Specific Exercise For The Snatch
If we take a look at the force-velocity continuum, we see that from fastest to slowest, the exercises go:
With heavier loads, the snatch high pull gets close to power snatch speeds. Typically, you will train the snatch high pull with loads slightly above your power snatch so you can transfer the speed from heavier loading to the snatch.
A Snatch Alternative For Athletes
Athletes love to use the Olympic lifts for speed and power development for their sport. However, the overhead position can be difficult for some with niggly injuries or mobility restrictions. The snatch high pull removes the need for complexity but still allows athletes to work with heavy loads at fast speeds.
Build Huge Traps
In my experience, the snatch high pull is one of the best exercises for upper trap development. And even overall back development. It’s what I’d consider a “power look” exercise that creates a wide, dense frame.
Upright rows are already an excellent exercise for the upper traps. The snatch high pull puts the upright row on steroids by dramatically increasing the load pulled by the traps. If you've never done these, prepare to have the sorest traps the following day.
Which Muscles Does The Snatch High Pull Work?
The snatch high pull is a total body exercise that works almost every muscle minus the upper body pressing muscles. That is mainly the calves, quads, hamstrings, erector spinae, lats, lower and upper back, shoulders, traps, and biceps .
When To Use The Snatch High Pull?
The snatch pull is typically used after the snatch or power snatch as an accessory movement to build specific strength in intermediate to advanced Weightlifters. It can also be placed within a Weightlifting complex during a volume phase to strengthen the back and legs for the snatch.
Beginners may also use the snatch high pull within a complex to feel the correct bar path before snatching. Further, it is used as a regression to the snatch to teach a beginner Weightlifter the bar path from the floor to full extension.
How Many Sets And Reps Of The Snatch High Pull?
Typically, you will perform 3-6 sets of 2-5 reps at approximately 65-80% of your snatch 1RM. This is much lighter than your traditional snatch pull since the focus is on speed, not load.
Snatch High Pull Variations
There are many ways to perform the snatch high pull. Here are a few common variations.
Snatch High Pull From Hang
The snatch high pull from hang isn't so common in the sport of Weightlifting but is often used within athletic populations. Since the second pull elicits the most significant speed and power outputs, athletes will take advantage of this by only performing the second pull.
It also makes the exercise easier to teach and learn since there are fewer moving parts. It also removes the necessity for good mobility as you don’t need to be in position from the floor.
Snatch High Pull From Blocks
This is my favorite variation for building huge traps. Going off the blocks reduces the stress on the lower back but still places strain on the upper back. It’s also a great tool to teach patience over the bar.
Snatch High Pull From Riser (Deficit)
Going from a deficit lengthens the pull, forcing you to stay over longer. The idea is for this feeling to transfer to the snatch, so you stay over for longer. This is especially useful for impatient lifters who can't find their position over the bar.
Snatch High Pull With Pause
If you want to level up the snatch high pull to work the back muscles, pause at the knee during the exercise. This will force your back to work overtime to maintain the position, strengthening it for the snatch.
The snatch high pull can be used by athletes for strength and power development or by Weightlifters to strengthen specific positions in the snatch. But don’t forget physique athletes can take advantage of this exercise to build the upper back.
1. DeWeese, B. H., Serrano, A. J., Scruggs, S. K., & Sams, M. L. (2012). The clean pull and snatch pull: proper technique for weightlifting movement derivatives. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 34(6), 82-86.