WORK YOUR WEAK AREAS
PART V: STRENGTH – Snatch Overhead
Leo Totten, M.S., USAW 5
No matter how strong your pulls and squats are, you need to be able to hold the weight over your head in a solid, strong manner. If you can’t do this pretty comfortably and the overhead part of the lift is your “weak area”, then it is important to include a lot of overhead work into your program. Remember, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so if staying tight and strong overhead in the snatch or jerk isn’t happening for you, then that needs to be fixed!
Overhead Squats: This is a mainstay in our programming. This exercise has many values from core and shoulder stability, balance, strength and confidence, all characteristics for the perfect catch after a strong pull. From a strength standpoint, we usually look for the athlete to be able to do at least 10% more in the overhead squat than they expect to snatch. This is a rough figure but seems to hold pretty true overall. Some lifters are able to overhead squat way more than that so strength isn’t the issue for them, but rather some other part of the lift – is the pull in the right position, are they getting under the bar quickly enough, is the top pull quick and efficient? A good coach will be able to pinpoint the issue and address it in their programming. We try to keep the reps per set to no more than 3 as the wrists tend to take a beating with the bar overhead for longer periods of time. We use the percentage of the 1RM in the snatch for training purposes of the Overhead Squat.
Snatch Balance: This is an exercise that we include often in our programming and it is a strength as well as speed exercise. Like the Overhead Squat, we expect the athlete to be able to do a proper Snatch Balance with a minimum of 5% more than they plan on snatching. But what is a “proper” Snatch Balance. The whole goal of the exercise is to work on speed and timing going under the bar and catching it in a solid, tight bottom position, pressing the body under the bar without it “crashing” on them. Many times I have seen videos of athletes doing the exercise where it looks more like a “push jerk plus overhead squat” where they catch it high and then ride it down. Instead, we want to see the arms locked out at the same time they hit the bottom. Start with the bar on the shoulders, give it a little knee kick (to simulate the triple extension at the top of the pull), but “press” yourself under the bar quick and tight. Again, we keep the reps per set to 3 or less to be able to keep them sharp and quick. Like the Overhead Squat, for training we use the percentage of the 1RM in the snatch for the Snatch Balance.
Snatch Grip Push Press: For great lockout and shoulder stability, the Snatch Grip Push Press is one of the best exercises. Start with the bar on the shoulders behind the head with a snatch grip, dip and drive and then finish with a strong press out keeping the knees straight after the initial drive. For this one we don’t work off of percentages but just sets and reps, typically 5-6 sets of 5-6 reps with a weight that can be done with proper form and drive.
Snatch Grip Push Jerk: The dip and drive are similar to the Snatch Grip Push Press, but now the knees bend to receive the bar overhead in a quick, powerful movement. It is important to keep the core tight all the way through the movement, focusing on a quick, tight catch. Usually we use 5-6 sets of no more than triples with weight that can be done with proper form and drive.
Muscle Snatch: We don’t utilize this exercise too often, but when the need arises we put them in to serve the purpose. We could put this into the strength of the pull category as well, but it fits just as well in with the Overhead strength movements. If an athlete has trouble keeping the bar close throughout the turnover part of the snatch, it is often a flexibility issue that we have to focus on. But often it is an upper back/shoulder strength issue that is the cause of the bar not finishing properly overhead. We start with the bar either in the power position or at the knees, then pull as if a regular snatch will be performed. But after the complete extension, the knees do not rebend to catch the bar overhead. Instead, the upper back and shoulders finish the pull with the elbows lifting up (not back), turning under and pressing the bar overhead. It is important to keep the torso as vertical as possible with the bar as close as possible throughout. In fact, the bar should pass right in front of the face with as little “looping” of the bar as possible. Don’t worry about trying to hit big weights on this exercise as the form with definitely suffer and the purpose of the exercise is missed. No percentages on this exercise, just 5-6 sets of 5-6 reps with weights that can be handled in good form.
In the next article on Work Your Weak Areas, we will hit on Strength JERK Overhead.