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CrossFit Skills – Olympic Snatch (week 3)

Posted 15th July 2014 by Josh Schouten

Position, movement, speed, load.  Performing a correct movement from an incorrect position is impossible, because it is, by definition, a different movement, and the introduction of excessive speed or weight before the development of sound movement is counterproductive, because again, we’re simply practicing an incorrect movement.” (Greg Everett, Olympic Weightlifting, A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches)

In week 1 we focused on the overhead squat (OHS) and improving the receiving position of the snatch.   We talked about the flexibility and strength components of the movement and how an individual can improve the position and movement.  In week 2 we progressed to the snatch balance sequence and introduced movement and speed under the bar. This was an opportunity for some athletes to add weight and for others to continue practicing their movement.

This week we are going to start focusing on the second pull of the movement.  The hierarchy should already be clear, as we will start by establishing the position and then introducing movement before increasing the speed.  With the following progressive drills we are attempting to mimic the actual movements towards a full snatch.  The drills are a way of teaching the components of the snatch and helping athletes recognize where certain errors can occur in the complete movement.


Before we get started you need to know the mid-hang position for a number of these drills.  The mid-hang position is when the bar is at approximately the level of mid- to upper-thigh (i.e. the start of the second pull).


Shins are approximately vertical and the weight is balanced over the front edge of the heel

The lifters knees should be bent slightly with the back set tightly in extension.  The lifters shoulders should be slightly in front of the bar and the knees.
The lifters knees should be pushed out to the side slightly, not straight forward.
The bar should be in contact with the upper thigh (active lats, pulling the bar in)
The lifters arms should be relaxed and straight, with the elbows turned out to the side while keeping the shoulder blades neutral or slightly retracted
The lifters eyes should be fixed on the horizon

To Jump or Not to Jump?

Many Olympic lifting coaches us “Jump” as a coaching queue for the snatch and the clean, I use this and jumping drills to help teach a new lifter how to extend their hips with speed.  The jumping drill should not be misinterpreted to mean that the athlete should jump up into the air when lifting.  The drill helps new lifters establish the feeling of extending the knees and the hips at the same time with an explosive effort.  The finish of a snatch pull or clean pull does not mimic jumping up into the air, but it does require an explosive knee and hip extension.  “The height of the jump is secondary to the speed of the movement” (Greg Everett, Olympic Weightlifting, A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches).

Mid-Hang Snatch Pull

Teaching a lifter to push hard against the floor by extending the knees and the hips explosively without jumping.

Start in a mi-hang position holding the bar with a snatch width hook grip
Perform an explosive jump (hip and knee extension) without lifting the feet off the ground.  If the lifter rises up onto the balls of their feet it should not be with intention.  The explosive extension should be the cause of the elevation.
Use the lats to push the bar back against the body throughout the movement
Extend the hips aggressively and think about driving against the ground as hard as possible.
Do not pull the bar up with your arms.  The arms should remain straight and the lifter should return immediately to flat feet after the full extension.

Never should the bar be allowed to swing away from the body either before or after it’s contact with the hips 

Tall Muscle Snatch

Teaches a lifter the movement of the arms during the third pull under the bar.  There is no downward movement, it is simply the arms pulling and pressing the bar to the overhead position.

Begin standing tall with a snatch width hook grip on the bar.

The arms should be relaxed and straight with the elbows turned to the sides.

Lean the torso back slightly and pull the elbows up as high as possible and out to the sides to keep the bar close to the body

As the elbows reach maximum height (bar should still be below elbows), rotate the bar overhead while driving the bar up.  The bar should brush past the lifters face (i.e. keep it close)

As the bar turns over, flip the wrists, relax the hands, and drive the heels of the palm up

Remember to always secure the overhead position with full retracted shoulder blades, aggressively extended elbows, and relaxed hands with no hook grip.

See video here


Scarecrow Snatch

Teaches a lifter to pull under the bar with proper mechanics.  The movement introduces the feeing of turning over the bar while transitioning the feet as will occur in the third pull of the snatch.

The lifter will begin standing with the feet in the pulling position (hip width) and a snatch width hook grip on the bar.
The lifter will elevate the elbows as high as possible and out to the side.  The bar should be in contact with the chest and the elbows should be above the bar (do not start the turnover just yet).
The lifter will then initiate the transition of the feet from the pulling stance to the receiving stance, pulling him- or her-self under the bar while performing the upper body movement of the muscle snatch to pull under the bar.
Complete the turnover of the bar as quickly as possible and ride the OHS to the bottom fluidlyTry not to pull with the arms first.
Secure the bar aggressively in the OHS.


Tall Snatch

The tall snatch is identical to the scarecrow snatch with the exception of the arms being extended at the beginning of the movement.  Its aim is to teach both speed and accuracy under the bar.

The lifter begins standing tall with a snatch width hook grip on the bar
The lifter then initiates the movement of the feet from the pulling position to the receiving position while performing the upper body movements of the snatch.The lifter should pass through the scarecrow position during this movement
Receiving the bar in the overhead position and at a comfortable squatting depth. Once the tall snatch can be performed well at the quarter squat depth, the lifter can progress to receiving the bar in a full OHS.
See video here


Mid-Hang Snatch

Brings together all elements of the above sequence.  This movement can either be performed as a power snatch or a full squat snatch.


Begin with the bar in the mid-hang position with a snatch-width hook grip on the bar.
Extend the hips explosively (i.e. jump) while pushing the feet into the floor, and actively pushing the bar back into the hips (keep it close)
Be patient and allow the hips to snap open before transitioning the feet immediately into the receiving position while pulling aggressively under the bar.
Remember to pull the elbows up and out to keep the bar close to the body
Secure the bar overhead aggressively in the OHS
Mid-Hang Power SnatchMid-Hang Snatch


Keep it simple stupid!  Often we see lifters trying to sprint before they can walk.  Position, movement, and speed need to be learnt and practiced before we should consider adding load.  Olympic lifting is the most complex weightlifting movement an athlete can learn.  Breaking the movement down into sections is by far the best way to teach and learn the movement.  Athletes should be comfortable performing the mid-hang snatch before progressing to the floor.  Gradual steps-by-step progressions are going to help a new lifter learn the lifts more efficiently than going straight to the full snatch.

WOD time is NOT the time to learn a movement

CrossFitters love to WOD and the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) and sometimes the pressure of keeping up with other members in a class can lead to poor decision making.  The WOD is NOT the time to learn how to snatch, clean or do any other movement that you are not confident and capable of.

Each CrossFit class is divided into sections of “Strength”, “Skill”, “Capacity” or “WOD.”  The ONLY time to learn and practice movements is during the strength or skill section of the class.  These sections allow you to rest between sets, and give you time to stop and think about the positions od the movements.  It is also the best time for coaches to watch over you and give you advice.

3,2,1… GO!  WOD time is the time to use the strength and skills you have mastered.  If you’re not confident performing a snatch during the strength section of the class, there is NO reason for you to even consider performing the snatch in a WOD.  There is always an alternative movement on offer and athletes must learn to scale the movements to suit their levels of skill.

Many of us would love to be better at CrossFit and be able to snatch heavy, clean heavy, thruster more efficiently, master the muscle-up, and pump out endless strict handstand push-up, but everyone needs to lean to swim before jumping in the deep end.