Reconstructing the Snatch from the Ground Up, Part 2; The Second Pull

Day two, pull number two. Yesterday, I talked about some things that can happen from the time the bar starts on the floor til the time the bar gets to the knees. This is a very important part of the lift, however the magic happens once the bar gets above the knee. This phase of the lift is where explosive power is generated by the hips in order to generate force into the bar, and harness that force into a vertical pull. The power generated by this pull will determine whether the bar travels high enough for the lifter to move underneath the bar and receive it.



1.) Not completing the pull. 

This one seems to be slightly self explanatory but is one of the most common reasons for a missed lift. The reason for this mistake usually boils down to the fact that the lifter is in too much of a rush to get under the bar that they do not go into full hip extension, thus not completing their pull. Working technique at submaximal weight, as well working on hang pulls and shrugs are two of the most effective ways to correct this problem.


2. Tossing the head back at the end of the pull.

Second pull whiplash as I like to call it. This is the over compensation for correcting the problem of not completing the pull. Any force produced will create an equal and opposite force. Bring the head or shoulders back, and the bar will move forward and swing away. So, the objective here is simple: try to produce as vertical of a pull as possible, and stay way from over extending. Compensation at the neck and head will not create a higher pull, but will instead create the reaction of the bar moving away from the body.


3. Coming up on to the toes too soon.

This is usually done with the intention of generating vertical momentum with the hips (like a jump). However, this will more times than not create a forward push of the bar, thus causing the same swinging effect that we spoke of earlier. One of the best corrections for this problem is the “no feet drill”. This drill is done by concsiencely keeping the feet in contact with the floor while doing a Snatch.


One thing I would like to cover is the “bump”. This is when the bar makes contact with the body somewhere between the thighs and the hips in order create an upward “scoop” of the bar. At some point the bar MUST make contact with the body in order to achieve maximal force when the bar is as close to the body as possible. HOWEVER, this is not the most important mechanic of the lift and I feel like sometimes beginning lifters put too much emphasis on achieving the “bump” that they lose sight of the mechanics of the lift. Learning timing, elbow mechanics, feet placement, hip mechanics and pulling technique should be the primary focus of the lifter that is just starting out. Some people will get the bump sooner than others, and for some it will happen naturally, but it should be a goal after achieving the timing and mechanics described above.


Reconstructing the Snatch from the Ground Up, Part 1;The Ground.

Alrighty, back to blogging… It’s been a while! So, let’s cut to the chase and get to what this post is about: the Snatch. More specifically, it is one entry in a series of 3 articles where I will be going in-depth on problems that occur during the lift. The utmost goal of the Snatch is to pull weight from the floor to above the head in one fluid motion, and for our intents and purposes, receiving the bar in an overhead squat. Not too tough of a task when you have a piece of PVC in your hands, but load the bar with some poundage (or kiloage) and things get very serious very quickly.

In this series, I’m going to be reciting some simple corrective strategies for improving your Snatch based on certain breakdowns in technique and strength in different positions of the lift. Today, let’s break down the first pull (from the floor to above the knee), some things that can go wrong, and how to fix them.



1. Coming up on the toes, or lifting the hips way too early.

This problem will usually lead to the bar swinging away from the body during the second pull/hip extension phase. This will lead to either a miss forward, or a chase forward to get under the bar. Maintaining active shoulders and lifting the chest at the set up position will increase the likelihood of the hips rising at the proper rate along with the bar. An outward rotation of the elbows throughout both pulls will also help keep the bar closer to the center of mass.
2. Rushing the First Pull

This is as much a symptom as it is a cause of the above problems. The purpose of the first pull is to gather momentum while preparing the bar and body for the violent hip extension and pulling that occurs at the second pull (knees to full hip extension/bar height). One of the first mistakes that lifters make is to want to yank the bar off the floor, thus pulling the bar way too hard and creating a suboptimal situation for the most important part of the lift. The correction for this is easy; when pulling from the floor, think “patience, chest up, drive the knees back.” Doing these 3 things will help put you in the best position to drive the hips into the bar and harness that momentum into an effective pull.


3. The hips are too low in the set up position.

This one is a bit tricky, as it tends to be an over compensation for correcting the two problems listed above. If the hips are too low, the weight will be pushed too far back onto the heels. Ever heard the phrase “getting caught on your heels”? This is not a very advantageous position to be in, as this will create poor hip drive due to a lack of balance from the onset. The shoulders should stay over the bar as long as possible, and sitting back too far will cause the shoulders to shift behind the bar. The solution for this is easy; shift the hips up a little bit more, and work on active shoulders from the beginning.


Here’s a quick cheat sheet of sorts to help you with your set up and first pull mechanics:

-Bar over the laces (Center of Mass) during set up position.

-Weight distributed throughout the mid-foot, not on the toes or on the heels.

-Hook grip (LEARN IT), wide hands, elbows rotated outwards, and shoulder blades pinched back and down (think like you are bending the bar around your shins).

-Valsalva Maneuver!!!! (Big deep belly breathe, deep abdominal contraction, and stabilize the spine… LEARN IT)

-Patient and strong off the floor… The battle is won or lost once that bar passes the knees, so don’t blow it by rushing the first pull!!!


So there you have it, some first pull problems, as well as some first pull solutions. The next post we will go over problems and solutions of the second pull!