The power snatch is an awesome weightlifting accessory exercise to help build power and fluidity for the more traditional full snatch. In the context of a training program, the power snatch can be a useful accessory for snatch technique work, improving power output, and building upper body pulling mechanics in the snatch.
To execute great power snatches, it’s important to pay attention to the subtle details of this exercise as they’ll help to maximize the benefits for technique work and physical adaptations. Personally, I like to use power snatches in my programming when I want to build snatch pulling power. Plus, the power snatch variation is not as technically driven as the traditional snatch, which requires a deeper squat under the loaded barbell, so the variation is a tad easier to program more regularly.
Let's break down how to perform muscle snatches, muscle snatch benefits for your training plan, and common muscle snatch mistakes so you can determine whether the exercise is right for you.
How to Do the Power Snatch
Assume a grip that is similar to your traditional snatch, holding the barbell with your hands outside your hips. An easy means to find your grip is to stand with the barbell and assess where it's positioned. If you hold the bar around your hip crease, then your grip is likely in a good spot. If you hold it on the thigh, then widen your grip slightly, and if it’s above the hip, bring your grip width in a tad.
Set the hips and back like you would for a traditional snatch. The hips should be set below the torso and you’ll want to maintain a rigid torso position to create tension prior to the pull.
Once you’re set, brace accordingly for the load at hand and begin the pulling phase with the elbows in an upward orientation.
As the barbell starts to pass the knees, you’ll continue into the transition phase and into the second where a majority of your power and force are developed.
In the second pull, think about driving the elbows upwards, then initiate the turnover phase and drop under the barbell once the barbell starts to feel “weightless” as this typically indicates that the barbell has reached a point in which you can feasibly get under it to execute proper power snatches.
Once you’re in this turnover phase and begin to drop under the barbell, the feet can move slightly based on your snatch mechanics and what feels most comfortable. Now that you’ve caught the weight overhead you’ll continue driving upwards and stand up.
Remember, power snatches are only power snatches if the weight is caught when you're above a parallel squat position. If you’re dropping any lower, then you’re not performing power snatches and you may want to drop the load slightly to improve power snatch mechanics.
When performing and programming power snatches, you'll generally want to use lighter weights than you would doing full snatches. Since we’re catching the weight higher, we have less time to get under the barbell, so lighter loads are usually prescribed for this exercise. The percentage of weight used will be contextual towards your training goals, needs, and skill level.
Power Snatch Benefits
There are a few key benefits that come along with the power snatch and these benefits will be contextual based on your needs and application of this exercise.
1. Great for Technique Work
If you’re newer to snatching and you have trouble being patient with your final pull and punch, then the power snatch can be a great tool to help teach you patience with your snatch.
Since we’re actively trying to finish in a taller/higher catching position in regard to the hips, we’re going to be forced to be hyper-cognizant of what’s going on during the final 30 percent of our pull in relation to our speed under the barbell, a.k.a. improving the authority of our turnover positioning.
2. Good for Warmups
On top of technique work, power snatches can also be a good upper body warmup drill to prep for full snatches. Since you’ll be using a lighter load, power snatches can be useful for prepping the musculature needed for catching and stabilizing snatches.
3. Decent Option for Non-Weightlifting Athletes
For the small subsection of lifters that want to perform snatch variations without doing full snatches, the power snatch can be a good option. This is often why we’ll see the exercise programmed into functional fitness workouts and collegiate training settings.
Power snatches are loaded lighter than traditional snatches, don’t require nearly as much technical focus throughout the full kinetic chain, and are still challenging to achieve some upper body pulling benefits.
The Most Common Power Snatch Mistakes
There are two common power snatch mistakes that beginners and non weightlifting-focused athletes tend to make with the muscle snatch.
1. Going Too Heavy—Power or Nah?
The first and common mistake is going too heavy. If you’re having to bend and catch the weight in a full snatch position (below a parallel squat position), then what you’re really doing is a snatch. That being said, this is why it’s important to let your skill and current strength dictate the load of this exercise to ensure you’re catching the weight high enough.
If you’re not performing power snatches with a clear intent of catching them in a taller position, then you won’t be getting the full benefit that they can provide in regard to power production.
2. Not Being Patient
On top of going too heavy, another mistake you’ll see with the power snatch is rushing the turnover of the pull. This will present itself as a lifter breaking at the arms far too soon, then being in a position where their mechanics are disadvantaged to finish the turnover with a taller catching position.
It’s important to remember with power snatches to make the primary intent being strong fast with the second pull and turnover phase, then actively focusing on catching the weight slightly higher than traditional snatches.
When performing power snatches, remember to let your abilities dictate the load on the bar. If you’re having to bend to catch weight, then you’re not getting the full benefit of this exercise.
Power snatches are awesome for working second pull and turnover technique in the snatch and can also be a great snatch variation for non-weightlifting athletes that want to practice this movement, but not dive into full snatches.
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