Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Two Hands Snatch - George Popplewell

The Two Hands Snatch
by George Popplewell
(The Reg Park Olympic Courses)


The rules for the “two hands snatch” state:

“The bar shall be placed horizontally in front of the lifters legs. He shall grip it with both hands and pull it in one movement from the ground vertically above the head to the full extent of the arms, while either “splitting” or bending the legs. The bar shall pass with a continuous, non-stop movement along the body, of which no part other than the feet shall touch or graze the ground during the execution of the movement. The weight which has been lifted must be held to two seconds in the final position of immobility, with the arms and legs extended, the feet on the same line with a maximum separation of 15¾ inches. The distance between the hands is optional, but they may not, in any case, move along the bar during the execution of the movement.

Important remarks – In this lift, of which the fundamental principle is to allow only one simple movement, no delay shall be permitted in the extension of the arms after turning over the wrists, which must not occur before the bar has clearly passed the top of the lifter’s head. As soon as the lifter’s are extended, he must recover his legs to the erect position as quickly as possible.

General Remarks

In effect, the snatch is a very fast two-handed pull with a quick split or squat under the bar, followed by quickly straightening the legs and bringing them level under the bar. No pressing out is permitted after the lifter hits the “bottom position” of this movement.

Speed, technique, strength, timing and determination are essential attributes for good snatching. These qualities are usually found with a positive state of mind. THROUGH PROPER TRAINING THESE QUALITIES CAN BE DEVELOPED. Correctly graded training, along the right lines, can bring about confidence, style, power.

The two hands snatch is the quickest of the classic lifts. Performed by an expert technician, the full movement takes only 4.98 seconds to execute, with a further 2 seconds for lowering. The lift is dynamic and any fault in technique, whether it be wrong positioning of the body, or mis-timing, can very easily result in a ‘lost’ lift.

There are two categories of style: namely the ‘split’ style where the feet move to positions fore-and-aft of the barbell, and the ‘squat’ style where the lifter sits low under the barbell. There are, however, many variations within these two classifications. It has been found that all accurately performed snatches contain common features. This course will tell you about these features.


It is essential that a lifter grasp the fundamentals of correct technique from the start. Incorrect technique can set up barriers to progress and dangerous habits are formed which are difficult to remove at a later stage. So make up your mind to start correctly right from the beginning. If you are an experienced lift with faulty style, then relearn the movement from the beginning, pay attention to detail and work on correct form. BECOME TECHNIQUE CONSCIOUS.

Basic Essentials

First, the proper grip and hand spacing has to be decided. This will depend on the lifter’s gripping power and physical proportions. Most snatcher’s use the “hook” grip, where the fingers wrap around the thumb as well as the bar. This is not essential if the lifter has a very strong grip. Lifters with big hands and fingers often take a normal grip, locking the thumbs outside the first two fingers. The hand spacing should be such that when the bar is on the way overhead and the upper arms are held horizontally, the angle between the forearms and upper arms should be between 90 and 135 degrees. Squatters usually take a handspacing which is fairly wide, wider than most splitters use, but the angle mentioned should not be exceeded otherwise several disadvantages are encountered. Those with a 6-foot arm span can safely grip with hands against the collars.

Starting Position

After the correct grip and handspacing has been determined, the starting position at the bar has to be adopted. The shins should be touching the bar, with the feet hip width apart and the toes POINTING DIRECTLY FORWARD. The head is kept up, while the back is flat. The hips should not be below knee level. The shoulders should be slightly forward over the bar. Arms are kept straight.

The Pull

The start of the pull is caused by straightening the legs. As the bar is lifted above knee level, the head acts as a lever and is thrown back. At the same time the arms begin to pull. At this stage the lifter rises on his toes and pushes his hips forward. The bar should continue to be pulled to the height of the nipples, at which point the lifter is positioned ready to split or squat under the bar.

The Split

If the split lunge is used to catch the bar overhead, both feet leave the platform simultaneously, while the hips move forward under the bar to preserve balance. The feet then land in a deep split. The arms drive vigorously upward and the wrists turn back helping to firmly lock the bar overhead in a balanced position. The feet when splitting should not be in line, otherwise an unbalanced position is struck. They should be offset by about a foot. The weight of the front foot is on the ball of that foot. Often the toes are turned slightly inwards to enable the lifter to pivot on the balls of his feet. Many a wrongly executed snatch has been saved through doing this. However, it should not be overdone.

When the lifter has performed the split, the hips sink lower than knee level and drive forward behind the front foot. The head is kept erect and the erector muscles of the spine are firmly contracted, together with a high chest. Where the bar is slightly forward of the lifter’s center of gravity, the head is pushed through to counteract the fault.

Recovery From the Split

To recover, both legs are straightened. The bar travels back slightly with this maneuver. The back leg straightens first and is kept rigid while the front leg continues to push upwards. The rear leg is then brought in line with the front one. The arms, back, hips and thighs are firmly locked under the bar until the referee gives his signal for lowering.

The Squat

Where the lifter squats instead of splitting, he usually takes a slightly wider grip than a splitter of the same physical makeup. This allows the arms to travel back further, being necessary for control. The height of pull is lessened by this procedure.

The pull is similar to that described already. When the bar reaches nipple height approximately, the lifter throws his head back, pushes his hips forward, rises on his toes and squats low.

The bar is thrust back by wrist action, while the hands pull along the bar so as to lock the elbows. The feet, after a strong jump, move out to the sides with the toes turning out to help balance. In addition to this some lifters jump forwards.

The head is pushed forward while the bar is caught well back. Should the bar be caught forward then the lifter lowers his hips, if possible, and lifts his head upwards. If the bar is too far back, the hips are raised and the head lowered. Where the bar has gone too far back and control is lost, he arms drive back and downwards, so the bar can be dropped down behind the lifter.

Recovery From the Squat

To recover from the bottom position in the snatch, a simultaneous extension of the legs is made. When the legs are fully straightened and the bar is held firmly aloft, a slight step to one side follows so as to narrow down the foot position.


Most lifters breathe in prior to commencing the pull and they breathe out when the squat or split is made. This is, perhaps, the best rule to adopt. In all cases the breathing should be both free and natural, with plenty of air being taken in on inhalation.

Summary of Movements in the Snatch

1) Approach – steady, unhurried but firm and definite.
2) Position of the bar – correct handspacing and strong grip; shins touching the bar; thighs parallel with floor; back flat and head up.
3) Start of pull – straighten the legs firmly and get the head back.
4) Finish of pull – continue to throw head back and thrust the hips forward while rising on toes. Keep the bar traveling straight upwards. Boost the pull with arm and shoulder power.
5) The split or squat under weight – vigorously cock the wrists back with a mighty flick, then quickly and fiercely jump to squat or split under the bar.
6) Recovery – if squatting straighten both legs quickly, then narrow down the foot position and brace the knees.
– if splitting get forward into the weight; use the rear leg as a prop and drive back with the front knee. Bring rear foot alongside. Push the head forward until recovery is completed.

Technical Exercises for the Snatch

1) Power snatch from the hand with no foot movement. Then from the floor. Concentrate on a fast wrist turnover and pushing the head through for balance.
2) Feet placed in a squat of split position, according to whether you are a squatter or splitter in the snatch. Take bar from stands across shoulders or sternum and take the snatch handspacing. Dip under the bar while catching it at arms’ length overhead. Then, recover and repeat.
3) Squatting in split or snatch position with bar held overhead with handspacing for snatch.
4) Snatching bar from wooden blocks. Use varying heights. This is a fine exercise for improved timing. It can also be used as a power builder.

Use 5 sets of 3-4 repetitions when doing these technical exercises. Never incorporate more than two of these exercises at once in your snatching schedule.

Power Exercises for the Snatch

1) The Half-Snatch to Shoulders – take up a position at the bar as for a proper snatch. Drive off with leg power then concentrate on rising on the toes, throwing the head back, thrusting the hips forward and keeping the bar close to the body. Boost the pull with arm and shoulder power. Pull the bar to shoulder height, and hold it there momentarily with cocked wrists. Lower and repeat. Breathe in just before the pull.
2) The Power Snatch – Position at the bar as for normal snatch. Pull the bar straight upwards to arms’ length overhead without moving the feet and with only a slight knee dip to make the movement quick and smooth. Lower and repeat. Breathe in prior to initial pull.
3) High Dead Lifts with Snatch Handspacing – Position at the bar as for normal snatch. Handspacing as for your normal snatch. Pull the bar to waist height, rise on toes and thrust the hips forward. Lower to floor and repeat. Breathe in prior to initial pull.
4) Upright Rowing with Shoulder-Width Grip – Pick up the bar with a grip of shoulder width. Keep the body straight and bend the elbows, keeping them high while pulling the bar upwards to shoulder height. Lower to hang and repeat. Breathe in and repeat.
5) Snatches from the Belt – Rest the bar across the lifting belt. Then make a ferocious pull with combined leg, arm, shoulder and back strength. When the bar is pulled to its highest point quickly squat or split underneath it. Stand up, lower the bar to the floor, place it on your belt again and repeat. Synchronize your inhalation with your coordinated pull.
6) Power Clean with Snatch Grip – Stand at the bar as if ready to perform a snatch. Take your snatch grip and handspacing. Pull the bar to your shoulders, then without movement and only a little knee dip catch the bar across the clavicles and anterior deltoids as in the clean. A great deal of wrist and forearm power is needed for this exercise. Lower to the floor and repeat. Breathe in just before the pull.

Perform one or two power exercises per workout, according to your snatch weaknesses. Do 2 sets of 5 repetitions, then increase the weight and do 3 sets of 3 repetitions.

Wrist Strengthening Exercises

Strong hands, wrists and forearms are essential for snatching heavy poundages.
From time to time practice ONE of the following exercises, 5 sets of 5 repetitions.

1) Reverse Curls
2) Cleaning thick-handled dumbbells
3) Pinch gripping heavy plates and tossing them from hand to hand
4) Wrist curls with barbell
5) Wrist roller work
6) Leverage bell work for ulnar and radial deviation.

Training Schedules

A Beginner’s Schedule
Several repetitions are needed to improve technique, so the following routine is recommended.

50 lbs. below best snatch – 3 sets of 5 reps
40 lbs. below best snatch – 3 x 4 reps
30 - 3 x 3
20-25 – 2 x 2

For Those Past the Beginner’s Stage

50 lbs. below best snatch – 5 reps
40 lbs. below best snatch – 4 reps
30 – 3 reps
20 – 2 reps
15 – a single
20 – a single
30 – 2 sets of 3 reps

For the Experienced Lifter

50 lbs. below best snatch – 5 reps
40 – 4 reps
30 – 3
20 – 2
10-15 – 5 singles
25 – 2 sets of 2 reps

The preceding schedules should be performed at least twice weekly, plus at least one assistance exercise. The press and clean & jerk should receive similar attention. However, if your snatching is weak, then three workouts weekly can be devoted to this lift.

Russian Routine

When training on classical movements the weight is gradually increased from 60% to 90% of best lift, the repetitions never exceeding 3. (This is to conserve energy for heavy work.) Where power and technical exercises are used, 3 to 5 sets of 3 to 4 repetitions maximum per set are used.

The following routine is based on these principles:

60% of best snatch – 3 reps
70% - 3 sets of 2 reps
80% - 2 x 2
90% - 2 singles

“Power System” of Snatching

35 lbs. below best lift for 6 sets of 3 reps. Work with this weight until 7 sets of 3 reps can performed, then 8 sets of 3 reps, then 9 sets of 3 reps . . . until 10 sets of 3 reps can be performed.

Then take 35 below best lift for 6 sets of 4 reps. Work up to 10 sets of 4 reps, then increase the poundage 5-10 lbs. and go back to 6 sets of 3 reps. Continue this way for no longer than 3 months. About 5 minutes rest is needed between sets on this schedule.

Training Just Before a Contest

About 20 to 25 days before an important contest, relatively heavy poundages must be used.

6-8 sets of 2 reps are to be used during the first week of this heavy training period. Then up to 4 days before the contest, work up to 10 single snatches with your proposed starting poundage. This builds confidence and integrates all the factors necessary for good snatching in competition.

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