Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Developing the Two Hands Snatch - Peary Rader (1957)

Originally Published in This Issue (February 1957) 


At long last we have some of the major contest reports out of the way and can return to a discussion of the Snatch lift. As we promised in the September (1956) issue, we will talk a little about how to avoid injury in performing the two hands snatch.

It is obvious to anyone that not all attempts to snatch a record weight will result in a success. A great many such lifts are failures and when you miss a snatch you have to do something with the weight before it has a chance to do something to you. See! Peary had a nice dry sense of humor. 

Usually when attempting a record or high poundage snatch you force yourself into a very low position. A record holder is often a man who takes great chances. He often throws all caution to the winds, so to speak, and makes every effort to get the weight up and hold it there for the count. If he doesn't quite make the lift he sometimes finds himself in a  very low position and quite frequently a cramped, awkward position where he finds it difficult to avoid injury from the falling weight, for it is sometimes difficult to control the direction of the weight's fall due to the fact that he has lost control of it.

Now, an injury from a falling weight doesn't do either the lifter or the game any good and we very seldom find lifters suffering injuries of any consequence from lifts. However, it can happen, and in order to minimize the possibility of it happening to you, you should give some thought to ways and means of avoiding it.

You can never make high poundage snatches if you have the slightest fear of a falling weight injuring you, so you must overcome any fear you might possibly have acquired in this respect. This is why we have strongly favored catchers, especially for beginners, and even for advanced men. The champs  use catchers in training as you will observe from photos of the world championships and Olympic training quarters. They do not feel it is worth taking a chance on. Some of them have dropped weights across their legs, etc., bruising them, and are therefore more careful. Catchers are allowed in minor contests but not in National and World caliber events.

So, in training, our advice to you is to use catchers as the champs do. Only by so doing will you have the confidence to learn very low styles. I know in my own case I could never have lifted without some fear of the dropping weight, had I not used catchers in training. They should be men you can have utmost confidence in or they will drop a weight on you and then you will have an incurable fear complex.

If you plan to lift in world and national contests you will have to learn to lift confidently without catchers, so some of your training should be done in this manner, but only after you have perfected your form so that every movement is perfectly performed without conscious thought.

Now, suppose you are in a big contest or a situation where catchers are not permitted or available to you. You are trying a personal record snatch and you get it almost up but you can't lock the arms to hold it out. You are in an extremely low position. Your best bet is to push it forward as it comes down so it will strike in front of you while at the same time jumping back from it. You will notice this method in a photo with this article (above, click to enlarge).

If the weight goes to arms' length but is too far forward you  can still keep it far enough in front to miss you and jump back whether you are in the split or squat. There are times when, if you're not practiced at this, the bar may come down across your thigh if you're a splitter, but you MUST learn not to let this happen. A squatter has less difficulty with this trouble. It can happen in the clean but we are not discussing the clean just now.

If you get the weight too far back and can't hold it then you have a more dangerous condition. We recall a lifter in Cleveland at the Nationals who used the low squat and got the snatch to arms' length but too far back. In trying desperately to save the lift he hung on too long and his elbow joint was dislocated as the weight went on back. This is the only serious injury we have seen, and he was okay the next day.

At the Junior Nationals in Tucson, Arizona, Paul Ash was attempting a 260 snatch when his foot slipped in the low split throwing him on his face, with the bar down across his neck. That was a scary one but fortunately did no harm other than to bloody his nose. He got back up and went on to finish the lifts. Even had there been catchers there would have been no time to catch the weight for it happened very quickly.

With a weight too far back there is only about one thing you can do and that is to drop it. This isn't bad if you're a squatter, but if you are a splitter you have your leg stretched out back there and unless it is low with the knee touching the floor the bar may strike it, causing a very painful bruise or even a fracture. I've never heard of a leg being broken this way but I've seen some bruises. Usually this sort of a drop causes more alarm to the audience than to the lifter. If the lifter will remain in the low position until the weight hits the floor he will seldom be in danger for the 18-inch plates hold the bar high enough to miss the leg. Some men will jump forward as soon as they release the weight and this usually works but you have to be fast.

Another method for avoiding injury is to catch the weight behind the neck as shown in the photo above. If the weight is too far back this doesn't work, however. All these photos were taken at the recent World Championships and show the way the champs drop their weights.

Sometimes a weight will go sideways but this is usually only with beginners and happens because they have not developed a proper sense of balance. In this instance you have better do some fast work to get out from under the weight. No matter which direction the weight goes, always try to push it as far from the body as possible and you will usually avoid injury. Sometimes a bar will rebound and come down again and catch you on the second bounce. Often it will bounce back and skin your shins if it is in front of you.

Just remember that you must learn control of weights which you fail with for if you don't you will develop a fear of the weight which will not allow you to go into low positions or exert your full power in lifting. Your movements will be inhibited and restricted. A champion must be completely without fear of the weight, able to concentrate his whole attention and energy on the lift. Often the difference between a champion and a mediocre lifter is the ability to apply himself in deep concentration on the lift. We will discuss this at great length in the next issue when we start talking of training routines.

Training Methods for Developing High Poundage Snatches

When we begin talking of training methods we again encounter a field in which there is much variation of opinions among the top lifters and trainers.

There are three or four qualities a top lifter must have if he is to attain the best lifts. Above all, a lifter must have power [here he refers to strength]. He therefore must use exercises and training routines that will develop the utmost strength of which he is capable. A good snatcher must also have great flexibility so that he will want to practice work which will produce this flexibility to the ultimate. A lifter must have great speed if he is to reach the highest possible snatch, for he must pull a weight fast and he must get under fast. Without speed he will have trouble with top snatches. His style must be as nearly perfect as possible. Every movement must be timed to perfection and every position must be most efficient for what he is trying to accomplish. A lifter must have great mental control or he will fail to achieve his best results.

There are a number of exercises we must use for developing the necessary power in the snatch. One of the most important is the dead lift, but we don't want to do the regular slow dead lift as the rules give it. What we want is fast dead lifts. To do this we will use somewhat lighter weights. That is, if your best regular dead lift is 500 lbs., you will want to use about about 350 or 400 for this. Instead of just standing erect with the weight you will  come up fast, using the same position of arms, hands, and feet, as well as back and legs, as you will use in the snatch. Usually 350 will be enough, for you will want to do several reps. You will pull it as fast as possible and as high as possible with the same procedure as if you were going to snatch this ponderous weight. If your regular dead lift is only 300 you will of course only use about 150 in this exercise, but if you can only dead lift 300 pounds you should not be specializing on lifting but should still be doing preparatory bodybuilding.

Now, on this "fast dead lift" we recommend that you do several sets of 3 reps. Then reduce the weight somewhat - say to 300 - and do more sets of 2-3 reps. This time because the weight is lighter you should be able to pull it much higher. Incidentally, in doing these reps do not allow the weight to touch the floor on the second rep, but when the bar goes below the knees start the second rep. In other words, use the "dead hang" method of reps. It is much more result producing than starting each rep from the floor.

Cut the poundage again and this time you will be able to pull still higher. After another session with this you can cut the weight still more but this time with about 200 pounds you should be able to pull the weight above snatch height. Try to get it just as high as possible and you should able now to flip it over to straight arms' length. In other words you will now be doing power snatches. You should do a lot of these power snatches at every workout. They will not only help your pull but they will also help in flipping over the wrists to the locked arms. You should pull this weight with all the power and speed possible. Most lifters use these power snatches as a separate part of their workout and generally begin their workout with these and start with a very light and then work up to heavy weights. It also acts as a good warmup in this manner.

In training you will find that if you have a rather poor grip you will strengthen it by using the regular grip rather than the hook grip you may use in a contest. These repetition pulls will place a lot of strain on the grip and cause it to be greatly strengthened. In fact, if you have a poor grip you will find that one arm cleans, one arm snatches, and one arm dead lifts will do a lot for it.

Of course we must give plenty of attention to the legs, for much of your pulling power will come from  them, as well as the back. We recommend that you do a lot of heavy squats, starting from nearly full squats and going to half and quarter squats. You won't need to go over 8 reps for power, and some can be done for about 3 reps.

You should also do some squat jumps for fast power with weights that will allow you an explosive type of jump. This should be made from low squat positions as well as from the half and quarter squat positions. Now, some of these exercises for power will overlap your power training for the other two lifts. For instance - the fast dead lifts will be the biggest aid for your cleans and the squats will likewise aid both the clean and the jerk. Some of the power exercises used for the press and the clean and jerk will likewise aid the snatch. For that reason we feel that no further power exercises need be given for the snatch.

No one should specialize on the snatch alone, or rather, expect to lift on the snatch alone, for in any contest you are expected to, and should, lift on all three lifts. So, the snatch is only a part of a whole of three lifts. Of course, you will need power for coming erect from the low split or squat position of the snatch but you will obtain this power from your squats as well as from your clean and jerk training.

Next issue we will discuss the development of other qualities needed in the snatch, such as speed, correct style or positions, flexibility, timing, etc.                 

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