Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What A Beautiful Snatch You Have!

Ah, the snatch.  It is, without a doubt, my favorite exercise to watch and perform.  The finely-tuned mechanics coupled with otherworldly raw power required to be the best in the world make it a spectacle to see.  In case you are unfamiliar, the snatch requires the lifter to bring the bar from the ground to overhead in one motion.  Here is Dmitry Klokov, one of the best weightlifters in the world, doing his thing with 205 kilos.  For all of us ‘Mericans, that’s 451 lbs.  Sheeeeit.

Up until my summer internship in 2006 at NX Level I was only somewhat aware of the lift.  I had never done it before.  Since we have our athletes perform the hang version I had to learn myself up quick.  I’m not afraid to say that I was definitely afraid of doing it with any kind of serious weight.  By then I had seen what could happen if you let an elbow or shoulder get a little lose during the lift.  But I started slowly with an empty bar and became mildly proficient at it to the point that I could teach it to athletes. 

We don’t test our athlete’s max on the lift however and never do the full lift (from the platform).  We use it as a means to an end.  From an athletic performance standpoint the snatch is great for teaching and developing explosive power through what is called the triple extension.  This is the rapid and forceful straightening of the hip knees and ankles.  This is what happens in the lower body during a jump, acceleration, and a bone-jarring tackle.

In the little over five years since I first started doing the lift it has come and gone a couple of times in my training.  Because of this there is one definite that I can tell you about the lift.  To be good at it you have to do it.  A lot. 

Performing the snatch doesn’t make you stronger, per se.  The weight is usually too low to get any kind of adaptation from it.  Performing the snatch relatively often in your training, like 2-5 times per week, makes you more efficient at the snatch.  Squats, dead lifts, and presses will make you stronger in the positions that you are put in during the execution of the lift.  Snatching and becoming more efficient ensures there is no wasted effort or faulty mechanics that will cause a missed lift.  My best effort in the lift came when I was practicing it three times per week (100 kilos or 220 lbs. in case you were wondering!).  To me that’s why I like it.  It requires great efforts of strength, technical prowess and concentration.  It’s a lifter’s lift.

If you are thinking about using the snatch in your training or want to see what kind of weight you can do I would strongly urge you to seek out a coach who can teach you the proper way to perform the lift safely.  There is even a chance that the snatch will not be a lift that you can perform safely due to underlying movement dysfunctions whether it be immobile hips or tight shoulders or some other contraindication.  If you don’t get a qualified coach you could end up like these clowns.  That would be bad.

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