Snatch Assistance Movements and Routines of the Champions
by Charles A. Smith
Assistance exercises have a definite place in Modern Lifting and greatly help the lifter to maintain basic power and increase it. Not only do they have strength-building qualities but they also build speed and suppleness. For instance, one of the main causes of a lifter’s inability to fix a heavy weight overhead or get low enough in a split is tightness of the shoulders or hips. With tight shoulders, the lifter cannot take the bar back and in line with the hips. With a position in which the bar is too far forward, the weight cannot be held and if the lifter does not have the experience to rock forward or bend back, the attempt is lost. Please do not misunderstand me. I do not recommend a back bend or rock forward since these only bypass the fault and don’t cure it. In the case of stiff hips, the lifter has the weight pulled high enough and gets it into correct position but cannot get low enough, and so presses the weight out. Here are some assistance movements to loosen tight shoulders and hips.
Illustration C - Shoulder Loosening - Dislocates
Use an ordinary exercise bar or wooden dowel. Hold it at arm’s length overhead with as wide a grip as possible. The bar should be just a couple of inches above the top of the head. From here lower it to the front so the bar rests across the top of the thighs. Keep the body upright and from this starting position swing it up and over the head in a complete circular motion until the bar is resting across the rear of the body. As the bar travels over the head, thrust the head forward and pull out on the bar without moving the hands. Swing the bar from the back to starting position again in front of the body and repeat. Gradually decrease the distance between the hands progressively each workout.
Illustration D – Hip Loosening
Here is an excellent movement to make the hips and thighs more flexible. Stand between a pair of squat racks, holding on to them with the hands at arm’s length. Split the feet, one to the front and the other to the rear. When you are as low as possible sway the body forward and back, making every effort to go lower into a split. Recover to upright position, take a brief rest and change position of the thighs, forward with the foot previously splitting to the rear and taking the foot previously splitting to the front, backwards. Rock the trunk backwards and forwards again.
Once you have perfected your style (and few have), the only thing that will help you is increased strength. First, you must examine your snatching with an impersonal and critical eye and see exactly what you need. You must determine if your pull is weak, if your thighs or lower back need more strength. Try the following exercises. Use them conscientiously and with plenty of determination to root out faults in style and muscle weakness, then repair and strengthen.
Illustration E – Developing First Pull
Start off with a weight you can handle for six reps. Grasp it with your usual hand spacing for the snatch. With all your power, pull it waist high and make every effort to hold it there for a short pause before you lower it to the floor again. Repeat the exercise 3 sets of 5 reps. Make every effort to increase the sets by one rep until you are using 3 sets of 7 reps. Then increase the resistance by 10 pounds, dropping back to 5 reps, 3 sets again.
Illustration F – Developing Second Pull
Strap a good lifting belt around you. The belt should have a large buckle. Take a fairly light poundage for a start. Use your normal snatch-width grip. Rest the bar on the buckle of the belt and from this commencing position – with no bending of the legs or back – pull the weight to arm’s length overhead, splitting or squatting in the usual manner under the weight as soon as it is sufficiently high. Don’t forget, the legs and back MUST NOT be used to start the weight on its way. Lower the bar to the buckle again and repeat. Start off with a poundage you can handle for 3 reps, 5 sets, and work up to 5 reps, 5 sets. Don’t try to use too heavy a weight on this exercise but concentrate entirely on developing the pull by handling a weight that will enable you to perform the exercise correctly.
Illustration G – Strengthening the Thighs
Developing dynamic power of back and leg, the kind of strength that is a blending of speed as well as force is another must for the lifter. While it is true the ordinary squat is extremely useful, the single-legged squat develops equal power in each thigh and thus acts to prevent over-pulling on one leg when snatching – a common fault. Stand on a box or exercise bench and place a piece of wood under the heel. Practice the movement for several sessions to get the groove, then try holding a dumbbell in one hand when you’re ready. Drop down into a deep squat, keeping the non-exercising leg from contact with the floor. Arise to upright and repeat. Start off with 3 sets of 8 reps and work up to 3 sets of 12 reps.
Illustration H – Strengthening the Lower Back
Back power plays an equally important part as thigh strength in the snatch, especially in the first phases of the pull where the muscles of the thighs coordinate with those of the lumbar region. Rest the bar on strong boxes. Take a snatch-width grip and, with the legs locked at the knees, lift the weight off the box until you are standing upright. From here bend forward stiff-legged, touch the box with the bar and recover to the upright angle again. Don’t bend the legs during the exercise. Begin with a light weight. The movement should be performed fast, with no pause between reps. Start off with 3 sets of 8 reps, work up to 3 sets, 15 reps before increasing the poundage by 10 pounds. Start light.
Exercise I – Developing Pulling Power
The High Deadlift Off Boxes is an excellent power movement, and has as great a mental value as physical. When you get used to handling well over your normal deadlift limit, a snatch poundage feels as light as a feather – a psychological benefit of immense value. This exercise strengthens the entire shoulder girdle and grip, builds up power in the back and thighs, and is one of the most valuable movements in the field of weight training. Rest the plates of the barbell on two boxes so the bar is knee high. Use your deadlift limit, you’ll find you can just about make 3 to 5 reps with it. Your hand spacing should be somewhat narrower than the snatch grip, with a reverse grip employed – one hand palm to the front and the other hand knuckles to the front. About shoulder width grip will be fine. Stand up close to the bar shins touching it, and from this position stand upright gripping the bar. Lower and repeat. Start off with 3 sets of 3 reps. Work up to 3 sets of 8 reps before increasing weight of the bar by 20 pounds.
JOHN DAVIS believes in building a high degree of explosive power for the pull and he advises the following schedule. Take a weight equal to 50% of the your best snatch and work out a series of 20 to 50 reps in sets of 3 or 4 reps. Start off with 20 total reps and gradually increase each workout until you are making 50 reps in sets of 5 reps. About three weeks before a meet start to use a fairly heavy poundage. With a 330 ¼ top snatch,
LOUIS ABELE, another man who totaled 1000 pounds, had an extremely severe training system. Abele spaced his training so that he worked out every day. He would press one day and snatch or clean the next, using a 5-4-3-2-1 combination of repetitions. Starting with 220 and performing every repetition from the hang, he made 5 reps with his starting poundage, 4 reps with 230, 3 reps with 240, 2 reps with 250 and a single repetition with 260. Then he would drop down to 235 for three hang snatches, then three more with 225 and a final three reps with 215.
Many lifters have found the Static Poundage system very effective, since it builds up not only power but endurance. Take a weight you can handle comfortably for 3 repetitions. Perform 6 sets of 3 reps with it. Each training period increase by one set until you are using 12 sets of 3 reps. At this point increase the reps to 4, dropping down to 6 sets again, working up to 12 sets of 4 reps. When you are capable of 12 sets of 4 reps, increase the repetitions to 5 and perform 5 sets of 5 reps. Increase the number of sets until you are making 10 sets of 5 reps. At this point increase the poundage by 10 pounds and drop back to 6 sets of 3 repetitions, working up in sets and reps as indicated above.
Another successful program for your snatch which can also be used to “rest” up on when advances come slowly with other routines is the following. If your top snatch is 150 pounds, start off with 100 pounds, 3 sets of 3 reps. Rest. Perform 3 sets of 2 reps with 110 pounds. Rest. Then 3 sets of 1 rep with 120 pounds. Drop down to 110 pounds for 3 sets of 2 reps. Reduce the poundage again for 3 sets of 3 reps with 100 pounds.
Another result producing program is as follows. Assuming your top snatch is 150 pounds, perform 3 sets of 5 reps with 100 pounds, 3 sets of 4 reps with 110 pounds, 3 sets of 3 reps with 120 pounds, 3 sets of 2 reps with 130 pounds, 3 sets of 1 reps with 140 pounds. Then 2 sets 2 reps with 130 pounds, 2 sets of 3 reps with 120 pounds, 2 sets of 4 reps with 100 pounds.
It is important to remember that hard work and determination to succeed are the greatest contributing factors to poundage increases. Patience, too, is an important factor. Keeping to a schedule, picking out each little fault in style and correcting it, working constantly to overcome bad lifting habits, approaching perfection as closely as possible . . . this is patience, the ability to stick at a task until the goal is reached.
Don’t be content with a good performance or a reasonable poundage. Always be ambitious, striving to improve form or workload constantly, and remember there are three main things that make a good lifter – Speed – Timing – Strength.