Olympic Lifting: Building to a Strong Snatch

Mattie Rogers USA Weightlifting Team Trials:  zimbio.com

My first exposure to Olympic lifting came through CrossFit and I was immediately hooked.  Regarding the two Olympic lifts, the snatch and the clean and jerk, I quickly became obsessed with the snatch.  The snatch is a slow yet explosive multi-component movement; the marriage of movement science and physics.  When executed properly, its complexities give way to simplicity, beauty and elegance.  I can endlessly watch video clips of USA Weightlifting members snatching or Instagram clips posted by HOOKGRIP of people from all over the world seamlessly nailing snatch after snatch, their foreheads gracefully pulling under the bar within millimeters.  Oh, how drastically different and disappointing my own attempts at the snatch have been.  In this vein, I found some comfort in reading the following just the other day, “The human brain is an amazing machine, functioning 24/7 from the moment we are born.  It functions non-stop; except for when we are snatching.”  This sentence hit to the heart of my issues with snatching; too much thinking about all the moving components and not enough strength and confidence in those pieces to assemble into graceful movement under load.  So, I decided to take action.

In general, I enjoy breaking down complex movements such as the snatch into fundamental components; focusing on building skill and strength with these fundamental movements before assembling back into the whole movement under load.  With the snatch, it was glaringly obvious that I needed to build strength in my overhead squat prior to really attempting much load in a full squat snatch.  The overhead squat itself is another powerfully athletic movement and at my CrossFit box the frequency with which overhead squats is programmed is few and far apart.  So to build strength in this movement, I decided to follow a Wendler 5/3/1 based program of overhead squatting.  If you’ve never heard of Jim Wendler or his strength program check out more info here:  https://jimwendler.com/   The basic tenant of the program is building strength in your chosen lift based on 90% of your 1 rep maximum.  For my overhead squat this number equated to 65 pounds.  Training 4 days a week the program I followed is shown below:


        Week 1         Week 2         Week 3          Week 4
         Set 1       65% x 5       70% x 3       75% x 5       40% x 5
         Set 2       75% x 5       80% x 3       85% x 3       50% x 5
         Set 3       85% x 5+       90% x 3+       95% x 1+       60% x 5


Currently, I’m finishing up Week 4 of this cycle which has me performing overhead squats with lighter loads but greater rep frequency.  For each session, I warm-up with the Burgener Warm-Up (find here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5YFU_iuwJ4) using first a PVC and then again using an unloaded bar.  If my hips are particularly tight, maybe due to training that week, I’ll also go through several iterations of reverse lunges, buddha squats and very light wall balls.  Then it’s on to the prescribed load and rep count with the overhead squat.  Upon completing the overhead squat work, I then work through several reps of both muscle and power snatches with a relatively light load (~50% of 1 rep max) primarily to groove and neurologically reinforce the movement pattern of the snatch.  The purpose here is focused on engraining the proper neurological aspects of the movement rather than how much load I’m lifting.  Thus far, I’ve enjoyed this cycle of training the overhead squat.  Week 4 will wrap up here shortly and then we will see how I have progressed strength wise by performing a simple 1 rep max test!

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