Common Faults in the Snatch and How to Fix Them

If you are familiar with the world of CrossFit, then you know terms like ‘WOD’, ‘snatch’, ‘jerk’, ‘AMRAP’, etc. For most CrossFitters, when they hear or see the term ‘snatch’ they inwardly, if not outwardly, cringe. The snatch is one of two movements used in the sport of Olympic weightlifting and is a common movement practiced in the CrossFit community. Essentially, it requires an individual to take a barbell from the ground directly to the overhead position. Of course, there is a little more to it than that which is why it is one of the most technical movements in CrossFit and leaves athletes frustrated and defeated. However, there are several common faults in the snatch that can be easily fixed and lead to improved performance of the snatch.

    One common fault seen when performing the snatch is the lack of full hip extension. You’ve probably heard your coach yell something similar to “Extend your hips!” but what does that mean? Achieving full hip extension means that your ankles, knees, and hips are fully locked out and your glutes are squeezed together (essentially you should be on your tip toes with legs straight and butt squeezed). This is the point of the movement that occurs right before you pull the bar up (into a high pull) and then immediately drop under it. Oftentimes athletes pull their bar too early, often making contact with their legs right above their knees or at mid-thigh, resulting in a loss of power and the tendency to miss the lift in the catch.

One way to correct this fault is to simply be more patient on the pull. Once the barbell has cleared the knees, the athlete should actively pull it in towards their body as they continue to extend their hips and only make contact with the bar once they’ve fully locked out their knees and the bar is at their ‘pockets’ (hip crease). At this point, the athlete has reached full extension with their hips and they are then ready to pull themselves under the bar to receive it in the catch position. Athletes can correct this error by practicing snatch pulls – from the floor (mid-shin) and from the hang position.

    Another common fault seen in the snatch is an athlete incorrectly performing the high pull portion of the movement. Oftentimes, athletes approach the snatch with fear because they are uncomfortable in the overhead position and do not trust themselves to hold the weight over their heads. Therefore, they do whatever they can to get the barbell overhead. This often results in athletes keeping their arms straight throughout the entirety of the movement instead of bending them in the high pull position. When the arms remain straight, the barbell is pushed way too far out in front of the athlete’s body, and as the weight gets heavier, it becomes impossible to catch.

This mistake goes hand in hand with another common fault in the snatch: bumping the barbell out away from one’s body with the hips. This often occurs because an athlete is trying to fully extend their hips but instead of pulling the bar up (high pull), they actually bump it away from their body. Once again, when an athlete reaches heavier weights, it becomes impossible for them to catch the barbell in the overhead position. They then have to jump forward to catch the barbell as it is moving out and away from them. An easy drill to fix this issue is practicing snatch high pulls. The athlete should focus on keeping the top of their knuckles pointed towards the ground throughout the entire pull. This will force them to keep the barbell close to their body once they have made contact at their hip crease.

Lastly, many athletes suffer from the common fault of the “stripper pull”. This occurs when an athlete’s hips rise first, before the rest of their body. This results in the athlete’s chest falling forward and facing toward the ground instead of facing outward and rising with the hips. The first pull of the snatch is then broken up into two separate movements (the rising of the hips and then the rising of the chest) instead of being one fluid movement. The “stripper pull” makes it impossible to complete the rest of the snatch properly, therefore losing an incredible amount of power and ultimately resulting in failed lifts at heavier weights. One simple drill to help reverse this mistake is to practice snatch-grip deadlifts and negative snatch-grip deadlifts.