The snatch pull is one of the ultimate strength builders for the primary Weightlifting muscles. The legs and the back. So much so, that you’ll often see snatch deadlifts being performed by Powerlifters and other athletes because of their effectiveness.
So how do you perform the snatch pull and when should you use it as a Weightlifter?
How To Perform The Snatch Pull
The Starting Position
The setup for the snatch pull will be exactly the same as your snatch. Starting with the feet, your bodyweight should be through the middle of your foot allowing you to push with your full foot.
Your shins will be lightly touching the barbell once you are fully set in position. Your hip position will be dictated by your limb proportions where you will need to strike the right balance between having your hips too high where you can’t push with the legs or too low where your knees will be in the way.
To complete the tight setup, a big chest and tight lats are needed to keep the barbell close when the pull is initiated. Think about holding tennis balls under your armpits. The elbows should point directly out to the side.
The pull is initiated by the push of the legs where the knees will travel slightly backward while maintaining the same back position as the initial setup. This is vitally important to the success of a well-executed snatch pull.
The knees moving slightly backward allows the barbell to travel in a straight line. The back position will be maintained for as long as possible as the barbell passes the knees. Once past the knees, the shoulders will start to rise to bring the hips towards the barbell.
Depending on your limb proportions, you will either make contact with the bar at your hips or just below at the upper thighs.
When contact is made, you will need to continue pushing with the legs into a triple extension position of the hips, knees, and ankles while shrugging the shoulders. These actions synced together are what provide the violent acceleration of the barbell from the hip to overhead when performing the snatch.
Common Snatch Pull Mistakes
These are common snatch pull mistakes that will be in sequential order from the starting position through to the full extension.
Setting Up With The Weight Through The Heels
When being taught to deadlift for Powerlifting, this is a key component of that lift. However, in Weightlifting, your bodyweight should never be back to your heels in the starting position.
Doing this takes you from a position over the bar to behind the bar especially when initiating the pull. The back angle will be one of the first things to change when starting the pull when your bodyweight is toward your heels.
Pulling With The Back First
When the back angle changes from over to becoming more upright, you end up behind the bar instead of over it. Being behind the barbell puts you in a disadvantageous position when trying to maximize vertical bar velocity.
The only way to continue accelerating the barbell when you are upright too early is to pull and lean further backward which is what creates the bumping off the hips and looping motion of the barbell when snatching.
This will be evident in the snatch pull as instead of seeing the barbell pop straight up from the hips, it will pop out in front.
Pulling Around Your Knees
The path of the barbell during a snatch pull should be a subtle curve with the barbell slightly coming towards the body as it gets to the hip. This is very subtle and the barbell mostly travels vertically compared to horizontal movement.
When the knees get in the way, the barbell has to travel away from the body instead of staying close. This becomes a problem leading into the second pull where the bar needs to be brought back close to the body creating a looping motion.
Further, the barbell traveling around the knees is usually a sign of not staying over the bar.
Yanking The First Pull
If you don’t take the slack out of the bar during the setup, which is the small space between the barbell and the plates, you will inevitably yank the bar off the floor.
Because if you haven't taken the slack, it means you haven't created any tension or tightness in your setup, and the slack causes a small movement of the barbell before the plates come off the floor potentially kicking you out of position.
A tight setup allows the whole body to move at once. Whereas a yank will often send the hips up first losing the power of the legs.
Bouncing The Bar Off The Hips
As mentioned in the previous mistakes, the barbell bouncing in front of the body when making contact is often a symptom of other faults made before the bar reaches the hip. However, many beginner Weightlifters can do everything right and still bounce the barbell in front at contact.
Often, this is caused by losing tightness in the lats. Even when performing the shrug, the lats need to stay tight to keep the barbell as close to the body as possible. When they become relaxed at hip contact, nothing is keeping the bar close to the body causing the loose bump forward.
Why Use The Snatch Pull?
Specific Strength Exercise For The Snatch
Just like how the clean pull strengthens the pull for the clean, the snatch pull does the same for the snatch. As it replicates the exact positions as the snatch, the carryover of strength is maximized compared to a similar movement like the good morning.
Teach The Line Of The Pull
Beginners will struggle to coordinate the full snatch movement from floor to overhead. And you can only do so many snatches in a session before the monotony becomes too much. The snatch pull allows the snatch to be broken down into a smaller part being just the pull.
This lets a beginner Weightlifter focus on the first and second pull without having to coordinate the rest of the movement.
Reinforces Full Extension Of The Pull
Some Weightlifters struggle to coordinate the finish of the pull during their snatches. Often, they’ll cut the pull short and because they are very fast or strong, they can quickly pull under the bar making a successful lift.
However, this severely limits the potential loads that can be lifted. To snatch big weights, finding the patience to fully extend before pulling under the bar is vital.
Which Muscles Does The Snatch Pull Work?
The snatch pull works the entire posterior chain from the calves up to the upper traps building tremendous strength in the whole back, glutes, and hamstrings.
When To Use The Snatch Pull
Firstly, the snatch pull is mainly performed after the main movement of the session. Usually a snatch variation. For example, a session may go power snatch, snatch pull, back squat.
Secondly, a snatch pull may be used in a complex with the main movement to correct technical faults. For example, a snatch pull + snatch.
How Many Sets and Reps Of The Snatch Pull?
Generally, you will perform 4-6 sets of 3-5 reps at approximately 80-110% of your snatch 1RM. The lower percentages are for emphasizing speed and technique. While heavier percentages are pure strength builders to strengthen the specific positions of the snatch.
Snatch Pull Variations
From Hang or Block
Using hang or block variations emphasizes the second pull. If the second pull positions need addressing, then the snatch pull can be prescribed in this fashion. Further, snatch pulls from the hang creates constant tension throughout the back musculature so can be a great way to strengthen those muscles.
Pauses during the upward or downward phase of the snatch pull help to reinforce the position and strengthen those positions. You can pause just off the floor, below the knee, at the knee, above the knee, mid-thigh, and in the high hang position.
A maximum of three different positions should be used when performing pause snatch pulls. Pauses should last 2-3 seconds and the positions should be selected based on where the Weightlifter needs reinforcement.
Performing the snatch pull with a tempo on the lowering phase is another way of reinforcing and strengthening positions as you need to hold them longer. 3-5 seconds during the lowering phase is usually a good place to start.
Partial snatch pulls are often used to reinforce a certain technical attribute. Most commonly, this is using the snatch pull to knee. Only the first pull is performed to teach the Weightlifter the feeling of pushing with the legs without a change in back angle.
Adding a deficit to the snatch pull makes the pull longer than if standing on the floor. This forces the Weightlifter to stay over the bar for longer. For those struggling to stay over the bar, the snatch pull from platform is a simple way to train the feeling that can carry over to the snatch.