In weightlifting, the snatch is always the first movement in competition. It involves the weightlifter moving the barbell off the ground to an overhead position. As easy as it sounds, when actually trying to do this, it is more difficult than it actually is. However, here are a few points to slightly ease the learning process and not always end up losing the weight in front or falling on your bum.
1. Learn to move up and down fast.
Some coaches may not agree with me, but the easiest way to teach someone the explosive portion of the weightlifting movements is to "jump" the weight up. I still use the word "jump" but I also explain it as a push from the legs in a upward direction. More importantly, I do not tell them to jump and produce as much airtime as possible as though you are a baller trying to go for a dunk. The point I am emphasizing is you are trying to produce as much upward movement as possible, and the moment you are done, you should be making your way under the bar as quickly as possible. At this point, I use the word "catch". Again, some coaches don't like the word "catch". But my emphasis here is for the individual to picture the bottom of an overhead squat position immediately and not be performing the eccentric portion of an overhead squat. Technically that's your catch position. I do not want you to think of how you are going to get to that position (i.e. extend my arms, bend my legs down etc.). By the time you are done thinking of all that, you would have lost the bar. I would rather you think of that catch position and letting your body move into that position. The only thought you should have is to hit a very solid catch position. So if you can get the idea of moving up fast and hitting that switch to move down faster, the battle of learning the snatch is almost won.
Being fast and accurate in the upward-downward motion fast is key. Excuse the poor back position in the first shot. This was ages ago!
2. Get the deadlift right.
Technically, the first portion of the snatch is a snatch-grip deadlift. For the gym junkies, it's just a very-wide-grip deadlift. So the concepts to be applied to a deadlift are to be applied here. Another way I look at it, which was passed down by my coach as well as my mentor from uni, is the analogy of you pulling your pants up. Let me explain to you why this analogy is excellent in teaching the deadlift portion (or as we call it the first pull) of the snatch. Firstly, when you wear your pants, you don't wear it in front of you right? thus, this allows you to keep the bar close to you. Secondly, when you are pulling your pants up, is it easier to pull your pants with your arms when your legs are still bent or is it easier to wear them by straightening your legs? The reason why weightlifting movements are utilized so commonly (and easily misused) in the strength & conditioning world is because of its ability to build lower body strength and power. So the movement should be initiated by your legs. Once you get the deadlift portion right, you are giving yourself the best possible start for the lift.
A stronger position as the bar get lifted off the ground gives you a better chance of success in a lift.
3. Stick to the first two points in sequence then worry about squatting.
Why is it important to stick to the first two points in sequence? The explosive bit, the dynamic bit, is in fact Point 1, the second pull we call it. Also, being dynamic during that bit in pulling ourselves down into the catch is also why Point 1 is about. If you don't do that well enough, no point moving onto Point 2. The whole movement of the snatch is a sequence of events happening. Point 1 wont work without Point 2 and Point 2 wont work without Point 1. Moreover, some of us are going to start with the lifts being really inflexible. To the point where we cant even get into a good deadlift position without rounding our backs. Might as well stick to getting the essence of the lift right first then get the small technical bits corrected. When learning movement, always get the general motor pattern sorted first (in this case, the upward-downward transition). Then from there, you can add in the finer details based on your physical characteristics and all that. That's where the squat and all that come in. Being comfortable at the bottom of the overhead squat is going to build your confidence in having any weight on the bar and catching it at the bottom. But like I said, if you dont get Point 1 right, no point getting to Point 2 and even more so Point 3.
Until you get your start and pull right, then think of catching it in the best possible position.
So you may ask.. what if I am not very flexible in the shoulders for an overhead squat? then you start with catching the weight higher and slowly decrease the catch height bit by bit. This has worked for me really well when teaching the snatch. I had someone who was really tight through the shoulders and did not have the flexibility to perform a solid overhead squat. so we started with catching the weight high. Along with stretching his lats and shoulders out, to this date, he just did his best full snatch. still abit high in the catch but his thighs are below parallel and he will sit into it one day. Plus, I like to think that if you have weight pushing down on you, it will sit you down into that position. Also, the snatch is more forgiving than the clean in a sense that with a clean, you need more structures in your body to be flexible (i.e. your wrist, your elbows, your lats, your thoracic spine, your shoulders) to adopt that rack position. In a snatch, with the wide grip and your arms locked out, you need your shoulders, lats and thoracic spine to be flexible. Less things to worry about.
This is just the way I think about teaching the snatch and it has worked for me all this while. This is just the bare minimum you need to achieve to understand the movement. But there are so many finer points to take note of when you start adding the weight on. But hopefully, I have given you an idea of how to approach picking up a bar, or even a broomstick, and thinking of the movement. Just my attempt to get more people interested in the snatch at the end of the day.
Stay Strong and Keep Snatching,
The Training Geek.