Power Snatch (Excerpted from Chapter 5 - Assistance Exercises for the Snatch and Clean and Jerk)

Purpose(s): The power snatch is used primarily to develop pulling power for the snatch. Since the lifter does not have to lower his or her body significantly after the pull, the movement is simpler than a full squat snatch. The power snatch therefore places less stress on the nervous system than full snatches, and therefore maximums can typically be achieved more frequently in the power snatch than in the classical snatch. Stress on the knees and hips that arises out of assuming a low squat position in an explosive manner is less than in the squat snatch, as is stress on the shoulders, wrists and elbows. The exercise is also useful for the beginner because it is simpler than the squat snatch and because it is a motion that can be practiced by a lifter who is too stiff to assume a low squat position while the lifter is building the flexibility to execute the full squat.

Description: The bar is pulled in the same way as in the classical snatch. The legs are bent somewhat to catch the bar overhead. There is some controversy over how much a lifter can bend his or her legs and still be performing a power snatch (as opposed to a full or squat snatch). Some feel that anything deeper than a quarter squat position is too low, others term a snatch to that position as a "flip" snatch. However, most lifters agree that when the lowest part of the thigh (the underside) is above an imaginary line drawn at the level of the athlete’s knee and parallel with the platform, the lift is a power snatch.

Effectiveness: The power snatch can be a very effective means of improving a lifter's pulling power. As indicated above, it can be a useful exercise for the beginner. It can reduce the stress on the nervous system of the more advanced lifter and can provide variety. In addition, some research suggests that practicing movements at a faster than normal tempo carries over well to movements at a somewhat slower tempo, and the power snatch fits that description admirably (because lighter weights are used in the power snatch than the full snatch, and they can be moved faster).

However, despite the benefits of power snatches, there are a number of cautions to be observed when prescribing them. First, the lifter must be sure to place the feet in a position identical to that used for a squat snatch when the bar is caught in the partial squat position. One technical error that must be guarded against in the power snatch (and any other "power style" lift) is jumping the feet under than the position that is used in the full lift. A wide stance is artificial and places unusual stress on the knee joints. The simplest way to avoid this error is for the lifter to think of vigorously replacing the feet in the same position as they would be placed for the squat lift. Too many lifters "float" under the bar in the power style exercises. The issue here is not simply a matter of replicating the classical lift in every way possible (an important consideration), but enabling the lifter to comfortably lower his or her body into a full squat position when the bar has not been pulled to sufficient height for a power snatch.

Second, when doing power snatches, the lifter has a tendency to stop the downward motion of the body as quickly as possible in order to be "credited" with a power snatch. Such stopping short can place significant strain on the knee joints, particularly the muscle-tendon unit of the quadriceps. Over time this can lead to tendinitis or even to more serious tendon damage in some lifters. Therefore, the lifter should be encouraged to gradually reduce the speed of bar when it is caught in a position lower than a quarter squat, even if this means "riding" the bar down into a position that is lower than an acceptable power snatch. This does not mean that the lifter goes under the bar slowly, but, rather, that he or she does not attempt to stop very short once he or she has locked it out. It also means that if the power snatch causes discomfort, its use should be limited.

Third, the lifter must make every effort to pull the bar in a way that is similar to what is done when squat snatching. That is, the lifter must not get into the habit of delaying the explosion phase of the pull or remaining in the extended position too long, lest an artificial pulling style, relative to the pull timing that is used for the squat snatch, be cultivated.


Copyright 1998 A is A Communications. All rights reserved.
Revised: February 15, 1998