Power Snatch vs. Squat Snatch: You Decide

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A full snatch is one of the most technically demanding movements; they don’t call it “Olympic weightlifting” for no reason.
So which type of snatch did you use during CrossFit Games Open WOD 12.2? Did you use the power snatch during the light portion of the workout and then progress to a squat snatch as the loads got heavier? Did you start with squat snatches from the beginning during the light portion of the workout to grease the groove for the heavier portion of the workout? Which form of snatch do you find to be most efficient for met-cons like “Isabel” or “Amanda”? Read what these experts have to say about the two forms of the snatch.

Power snatches: A brief word of caution

Greg Everett from Catalyst Athletics , talks about the power snatch — that is, a snatch received with the legs above a horizontal position — and its role in the training of an athlete. While it can certainly play a role in an athlete’s development of landing in a full snatch position, coaches and lifters alike should be conscious of a few potential problems:

There are three primary problems with pushing the weights of the power snatch up high. First is that athletes will tend to throw the feet out much wider than their squat positions. Some coaches couldn’t care less about this and actually teach it. That’s fine, but the reason I don’t like it is simple: a miss in this position gets dicey because the athlete can’t simply ride the bar down into a squat and turn a power snatch attempt into a snatch. Instead, you end up with some unwanted stress on the hips and knees, and with the bailout, most likely some strain to the shoulders and elbows.

The two lifts should be identical and there should be no difficulty moving between them; this can only happen, however, if the two lifts are intentionally performed the same way.
Second, it’s very difficult to actually stop a squat at just above parallel, especially with a ballistic load. Athletes will naturally avoid bending the knees that much because their bodies know how rough it will be. To compensate for the lack of depth at the knee, the lifter will hinge forward more at the hip and bring the arms farther back behind the head to keep the bar in place over the feet. Not only is this putting the shoulders and elbows in a sketchy position and asking for injury, but it’s changing the mechanics of the lift, making the transition between power snatch and snatch more difficult. In my opinion, the two lifts should be identical and there should be no difficulty moving between them; this can only happen, however, if the two lifts are intentionally performed the same way.

Finally, the anticipation of getting the bar overhead so high with heavier weights can cause the lifter to tense up the arms rather than keeping them relaxed and focusing tension in the back. This makes the lift clumsy and typically slower, as well as causing the speed of the turnover and the aggressiveness of the punch up against the bar to suffer.

All of these potential problems can be avoided, but caution needs to be taken to do so.

Uses and benefits of the power snatch

The power snatch helps ensure new lifters extend completely and aggressively, it helps teach the effort to turn the bar over aggressively and fix it tightly overhead as quickly as possible, and it limits the number of details the athlete is thinking about at this early stage of learning.
Depending on the coach, the athlete, and/or the box, the amount of power snatches you perform may vary widely. There is no single “right” way to use — or not use — the power snatch in your training, assuming that you are being responsive to the needs and ability levels of each individual athlete and not simply adhering to a one-size-fits-all method. Greg Everett lays out how to use the power snatch effectively, in addition to using it to reduce intensity; make modifications for a new and/or less flexible athlete; and maintain variety in a training cycle:

Teaching

The power snatch can be used as part of a teaching progression for the snatch. I personally use it almost every time I teach the snatch at least briefly. How much it’s used and for how long depends on the athlete and the circumstances. But the power snatch is useful in this situation because nearly everyone is flexible enough to do it (which is not at all the case for the snatch), it helps ensure new lifters extend completely and aggressively, it helps teach the effort to turn the bar over aggressively and fix it tightly overhead as quickly as possible, and it limits the number of details the athlete is thinking about at this early stage of learning. As I’ve mentioned previously,

I believe the power snatch and snatch are no different technically, so an athlete learning the power snatch before the snatch should present no problems at all, particularly when the goal is to progress them to doing snatches as soon as possible.

One potential drawback of learning the power snatch first is that the athlete may develop a hesitation during the receipt of the bar before squatting. This is usually minor, temporary and can be combated quite well by making sure an athlete at this stage is also doing plenty of overhead squats and even snatches in addition when possible, such as in complexes of power snatch + snatch.

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