Power Snatch or Squat Snatch?

Jordan snatch starting position

Can you power snatch more than you squat snatch? Such is the case with many CrossFitters, but this is the opposite of truly proficient lifters. A really smart Russian guy once found that proficient lifters power snatch only 81% of their full snatch. Let’s examine why this reversal happens and figure out what we can do about it.

First, a word of caution. Some athletes have legitimate restrictions that make the full snatch a bad idea. This includes athletes with limited shoulder, thoracic spine, and hip mobility. You are probably not one of these exceptions. You are probably a normal athlete that has always done power snatch when given the choice, because that’s how you are comfortable moving the most weight. But if you are genuinely one of these exceptions, then please talk with your coaches before doing full snatches. The split snatch or the power snatch may be the right answer for you. In this video Josh Everett explores this issue and demonstrates the split snatch.

Now let’s turn to the majority of athletes that have adequate mobility and simply need experience with the full snatch…

Solving this problem requires confronting several truths. First, if you want to ever snatch truly heavy loads that challenge your genetic potential, the full snatch is required. Humans have been working hard for a very long time to figure out the best way to snatch, because they have a vested interest in winning that pinnacle of national schlong-measuring contests, the Olympics. The full snatch is the way humans snatch the heaviest loads. Period. If you know of a better way for homo sapiens to snatch, then please contact me. We will be famous.

Second, no amount of power snatching will solve it. The full snatch requires strength, power, and flexibility that the power snatch does not develop. Power snatch is an assistance movement in weightlifting programs. The goal is the full snatch, because that’s the way to move the most weight. You will be stronger, faster, and more powerful in the long term by cozying up to the full snatch. Take it to dinner, friend it on Facebook, and take it on some romantic walks on the beach. Get comfortable with it, because that’s where your greatest potential lies.

Finally, you can indeed become more comfortable in the full snatch than the power snatch. I promise. It can happen. It takes a lot of time under the bar. I only arrived at that point after performing full snatches three times per week for three months. But now I prefer the full snatch. I perform the full snatch much more often than the power snatch, so my body is now tuned to the movement pattern of the full snatch. I’m not claiming I snatch impressive loads. I am claiming that my training has drastically shifted my preferences in a way that I never dreamed possible when I was a devotee of the power snatch. The same can happen for you.

Justin snatch

So how do you make the change and start working towards long-term proficiency in the full snatch? You have to start performing full snatches—often. Relax, this can be done inside a normal athlete’s schedule. First, whenever snatches arise in a WOD, perform them as full snatches unless your coach specifically directs otherwise. Does that mean you’ll have to reduce the load or move more slowly? Perhaps, gasp, you won’t even be able to complete the workout as prescribed? Doesn’t matter. Drop the load, slow down, and train the full movement.

Second, perform the Burgener warmup and skill transfer exercises with an empty bar almost every training day. This literally takes about two minutes. I even condense the Burgener Warmup and skill transfer exercises to seven core movements that give you the most bang for your buck.

Here’s the progression I use:

  • Dip and drive from high hang (Down and Up)
  • Dip and drive from high hang followed by a high pull (Elbows High and Outside)
  • Muscle snatch from high hang
  • Snatch grip behind the neck push press
  • Overhead squat
  • Snatch balance (no heaving)
  • Squat snatch from high hang

You may not be familiar with all of those movements, but the progression is actually easy once you learn it. This short video explains each movement. Have your coach at CrossFit Impulse run you through this drill a couple times and you’ll be rocking it from memory in no time.

Using an empty bar, perform three reps of each movement, in the sequence listed above. Then rest about 30-60 seconds and repeat it once more. Total time invested: two minutes on each training day. Total reward: huge. This simple drill performed consistently will solidify the movement patterns of the full snatch in your brain.

Nate Snatch

Finally, if you don’t have time or inclination to add more heavy, full snatches to your training, then try this: A couple days per week after your two minutes with the Burgener warmup, snatch three sets of three reps at 50% of your maximum full snatch load. This is an extremely light load, and you won’t have to rest very long between sets (no more than a minute). You also won’t have to perform any additional warmup to do it safely, other than the Burgener warmup you’ve already completed. Now total time invested is less than 10 minutes on two training days per week. Not bad, huh? The 50% 1RM load doesn’t have to be exactly 50%. Just choose a load that’s close enough to get loaded onto a bar easily. Don’t fuss with the 2.5 lb plates or the fractional plates. The point of this drill is to make it easy and fast so you’ll perform it often.

I hope you can now see the long-term benefit of improving the full snatch and making it your preferred way to snatch. I’ve also given you some tools to help improve your full snatch. Practice the full snatch, and practice it consistently. Don’t follow this advice for two weeks and then declare, “The full snatch still feels horrible! I’m going back to power snatch!” Follow this advice for at least two months and then decide if you’re moving in the right direction. You can improve even more quickly by adding full snatches to your training at loads heavier than 50% 1RM. But if you can only make time for the drills above, you’ll still make incredible improvements.