Hang snatches and cleans are handy variations of the classic lifts, but there are also an extensive number of variations of lifts from the hang, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Following is a list of hang positions used for the snatch and clean with their definitions, purposes, benefits and drawbacks.
Just off the Floor
This would be the hang position used in a floating snatch or clean—basically as close to the floor as you can get the plates without allowing them to touch. Most likely this hang lift would follow an initial snatch or clean from the floor, but it also may follow a pause in the hang position after an initial break of the bar from the floor.
This hang variation is practically an entire snatch or clean, but what it adds is greater tension in the starting position than would exist with the bar actually resting on the floor in a nearly identical position. This can help the lifter improve his or her starting position by naturally forcing a position with the proper balance and posture, which may not be easily found by the lifter with the bar on the floor.
It will also create more work for the back in particular, and require lowering the bar in cases of multiple reps, providing improvements in postural strength and stamina for the maintenance of back extension. In practical effect, it’s a combination of a snatch or clean and a snatch or clean deadlift when performed for multiple reps.
The hang position below the knee should place the bar just under the tibial tuberosity—that bump at the top of your shin that your patellar tendon inserts onto. This position still allows for quite a bit of space and time to accelerate the bar, and so lifters will be able to manage relatively heavy weights.
This hang position is good for practicing and reinforcing the proper posture and balance in the snatch and clean as the bar is passing the knee—lifters who tend to hit the knees, push the knees too far back, or initiate the second pull too early will usually find this variation helpful.
It can also be used as a way to reduce the work of the legs somewhat if needing to cut back a little during a period of partial recovery, injury, etc.
This is the hang position everyone loves—it’s a good balance between a comfortable position off the floor and enough space and time to move heavy weights—and probably the most commonly used. In fact, if I write “hang” on a program with no other qualifier, this is the hang position I’m referring to. I consider this to include a bar position directly on the kneecap to immediately above the kneecap.
The reason for the frequency of this hang position’s use is that it provides a good balance in the things that we’re most often looking for in a hang lift. It shortens the time and distance the lifter has to accelerate the bar, forcing better acceleration and aggression; it has a large enough distance and time to allow the use of relatively heavy weights (in fact, certain lifters at certain times will actually be capable of lifting more from this position than from the floor); it focuses on a point of the pull in which posture and balance is critical; and it somewhat limits the demand on the legs and back to make it useful for reduced overall workload.
This is the height at which the complaining usually begins. I happen to love this hang position and use it extensively, particularly as part of my process of teaching the snatch and clean. The key to the mid-thigh position is that this is approximately the point at which I want the lifter to really initiate the second pull—the final upward explosion to accelerate and elevate the bar. Often this action occurs far too early in the lift and creates numerous problems from preventing maximal speed to shifting the balance undesirably.
For technical work on the second pull in particular, this is a solid go-to hang position. For teaching, it’s ideal as at least a starting point to reinforce the importance of the position and timing of a snatch or clean from the floor.
High-hang is a bit tricky, as the definition varies among coaches and lifters. For me, high-hang means upper thigh with both the hips and knees bent, albeit not a lot. This is an extremely abbreviated lift, and forces a great deal of aggression and speed not just in the upward extension, but also in the change of direction at the top of the pull and the pull under the bar, and this is where its primary value lies.
High-hang snatches and cleans are also good substitutes for power snatches and power cleans when at least one of the goals is to force a reduction in loading, yet there is also a need to work on aggression and the pull under the bar. The lift is self-limiting for most athletes in a similar way as power variations, meaning you can still force hard work without the possibility of exceeding a certain percentage of the lifter’s best snatch or clean and creating too taxing of a session.
The hip hang position also varies a bit depending on who you ask, but in any case, the bar needs to be in the crease of the hip. I consider the movement to still involve a bend in both the hip and knee; that is, the trunk is inclined forward somewhat. Basically, it’s a high-hang that’s as high as it can get; the bar doesn’t move down the thighs during the countermovement, but stays in place against the crease of the hip.
Hip snatches are pretty common, but hip cleans less so, largely because most lifters can’t put the bar in the crease of the hip with a clean grip without bending the arms or performing some other unwanted compensation.
I don’t find hip snatches and cleans particularly useful, but generally their purpose is to force more aggressive extension and movement under the bar, and will also be helpful to reinforce the proper bar-body contact position.
Snatches and cleans from the power position are our first variation that involves no inclination of the trunk—now we’re onto bending only at the knees. Staring from a standing position with the bar at arms’ length, you bend at the knees while keeping the trunk vertical in the same way you would in the dip of a jerk. Like in the hip snatch or clean, the bar will remain against the crease of the hip rather than move down the thighs.
Snatches and cleans from the power position are also done from a static position—there is no countermovement. The athlete bends the knees to set the position, holds, and then lifts with a drive of the legs and the little bit of hip extension he or she can get.
This variation is useful for retraining lifters who don’t stay flat-footed long enough during the second pull, shift too far forward in the top of their second pulls, and/or don’t have adequate leg drive against the ground in the second pull. The static start limits the possible weight somewhat, which is where the next variation comes into play.
The dip snatch and dip clean is really just a lift from the power position but with a countermovement. I call them “dip” because the movement should mimic the dip and drive of the jerk. That is, you start standing tall with the bar at arms’ length, bend smoothly at the knees only, keeping the trunk vertical, then without a pause drive back up to lift the bar.
Dip snatches and cleans have essentially the same purposes and benefits of the snatch or clean from power position, but allow a lifter to handle more weight because of the countermovement. I use these frequently as technique primers, as substitutes for power snatches, and to improve leg drive aggression and timing in the second pull.
It’s a bit of a stretch to include tall snatches and tall cleans into a list of hang variations, but for the sake of thoroughness, I’m going to sneak this position in.
The tall position is exactly what the name suggests—the lifter standing tall with the bar at arms’ length. From this position, the lifter lifts and transitions the feet into the receiving position while pulling with the arms to move down under the bar. While the bar will of course be elevated during this movement, the goal is for the athlete to pull down under the bar with as little elevation of the bar as possible.
Tall snatches and cleans are the perfect exercise for improving the mechanics, speed, aggression and timing of the third pull.
What About Blocks?
Essentially, the effect of any block position is the same as its hang equivalent. The primary difference between lifts from the hang and lifts from the blocks is that the former begins with pre-tension on the muscles at minimum, and a full stretch-reflex from an initial countermovement at maximum, while a the latter largely cannot exploit these things (a lifter can still cheat somewhat on the blocks with a dynamic start).
As a consequence, lifts from the blocks are somewhat better at increasing rate of force development relative to lifts from the hang (even if the hang lift is performed from a dead stop rather than with a countermovement). The primary drawback, however, is that because the bar is supported by the blocks rather than by the lifter in the starting position, the lifter is not feeling and practicing the proper balance like they need to when holding a bar in a hang position, which more accurately reflects what they will be feeling in the classic lift.
Both certainly have their place in most lifters’ training programs, but they should be implemented according to how well they address the present needs of a given lifter.