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Heaving Snatch Balance: I'm Sorry for Doubting You
Greg Everett
October 27 2011

Until maybe a year ago, I typically wrote off the heaving snatch balance as more of a piece in a teaching progression than a useful exercise. But in the last year, I've started using it more and more with some of my lifters and have decided it's actually one of my favorite exercises.

First, for those of you not familiar with the exercise, it's pretty simple: Start with the feet in your squat position and the bar on your back with a snatch grip. Dip at the knees smoothly and heave the bar up slightly so you can punch down under it into an overhead squat position. The feet remain flat on the floor. This ends up being somewhat of a hybrid between a snatch balance and a snatch push press + overhead squat.

There are a couple reasons why I've become so fond of the exercise. First, maintaining a connection to the platform with the feet means that it's a good exercise to force lifters to feel the proper placement of the feet for receiving their snatches and it serves as a good hip and shoulder flexibility exercise because there's no moment of slack for body parts to move in ways they shouldn't. This connection is also good for lifters who have a bad habit of picking up the feet too much during the transition from the pull to the turnover of the snatch--this gives them the opportunity to feel what it's like to be reconnected and be able to actually push up against the bar and resist it rather than having it fall on them.

In addition to this, the lifter can benefit from the active stretching and overhead strength and positioning elements of overhead squats without the strain on the wrists that accompanies overhead squats for reps and is usually the limiting factor. And the lifter gets the benefit of explosive punching under the bar you would get from the snatch balance without the potential for squirrelly foot placement accompanying the foot transition of the snatch balance.

I like doing sets of 2-5 reps and not necessarily aiming for huge weights, but being more interested in smooth movement, quick elbows and perfect balance and posture. This can be done as an auxiliary exercise for the snatch near or at the end of a workout, or with lighter weights at or near the beginning to loosen up and reinforce proper balance and positioning for forthcoming snatches or snatch-related training.
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Mike H
October 27 2011
Yeah Buddy! Being a taller lifter HSB's help this boy out tons!
October 27 2011
Never really understood the difference between heaving and snatch balance. I have a tendency to mule kick and land a bit wide in the bottom, so this sounds like a great movement for me to add in. Should allow one to handle more weight than a snatch balance?
Thanks Greg
Matt Foreman
October 30 2011
Interesting exercise. I remember a lifter I used to train with who decided to play around with this lift in the gym. His best snatch at the time was around 135 kilos, and he did a 160 heaving snatch balance the first time he did them. His bottom position was definitely the strongest part of his technique, so he was able to handle a lot of weight because the lift was basically a wide grip BTN squat jerk. I've never used them. I used to do snatch balances (we called them drop snatches) in the early days but I liked doing them from a dead stop, with no dip-drive from the legs at the beginning. I couldn't use much weight, but it was good practice for snapping those elbows to lockout.
Greg Everett
November 1 2011
TP -

You'll probably be able to handle more weight in a snatch balance than in a heaving snatch balance because you can get more speed under the former, but it will also depend on how good your footwork and timing is.
April 12 2014
Greg - Wondering about the last comment. "You'll probably be able to handle more weight in a snatch balance than in a heaving snatch balance"
I always saw it like Matt "the lift was basically a wide grip BTN squat jerk"
I have usually found that the "heaving snatch balance" allows much more weight due to the dip and drive (like a jerk), so I almost always found that I could HSB anything I could CJ.
Again, like Matt said, " I used to do snatch balances (we called them drop snatches) in the early days but I liked doing them from a dead stop, with no dip-drive from the legs at the beginning. I couldn't use much weight"
April 15 2014
The biggest limiting factor from me increasing my snatch weight is that I can't seem to support the weight when I'm at the bottom of the squat. My left elbow and/or shoulder just seem to give way under heavy loads; therefore limiting me from going up in weight. I've completed several cycles of strength training and I've seen an increase in my snatch dl and my pulls, but continue to hit the ceiling when it comes time for the snatch.

Part of my problem is poor shoulder mobility/structure so I continue to work on increasing my ROM. But I was wondering if you think the heaving snatch balance is a good exercise to increase my strength/stability at the bottom of the OH position. Are there any other exercises you recommend to develop this deficiency?

On another note, I bought your Olympic Weightlifting book a year ago and every time I open it I find new information that I didn't seem to catch before. Just wanted to say thank you for providing such a depth of knowledge!

Keep up the good work. You're on another level with everything that you're doing with Catalyst Athletics!
Greg Everett
April 15 2014
Haven -
Snatch push press, heaving snatch balance, press in snatch and overhead squats, including clean/jerk-grip overhead squats, will all help with the strength and mobility of both your shoulders and upper back. Also make sure your ankle and hip mobility isn't part of the problem.
Greg Everett
April 15 2014
A snatch balance does have a dip and drive just like a heaving snatch balance - only difference is that the feet stay connected to the floor in a heaving SB and they move in an SB. I would call what you're describing a drop snatch. I consider those 3 completely distinct exercises. See here.