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Ask Greg: Stabilizing in the Bottom of the Snatch
Greg Everett

Kamil Asks: Hey! I'd like to ask you how to work on stabilization in a hole of a snatch. I'm lifting for less than 2 years now, and my biggest issues are my shoulders and keeping a torso upright when receiving a snatch. I can pull the bar high enough and jump underneath without any major problems, however, I have a tendency to drop the bar in front of me very often, as I'm not stable enough, my shoulders and chest collapse and the bar waves like a flag. I'd appreciate any feedback. Cheers!
 
Greg Says: There are approximately infinity possible reasons for instability overhead in the snatch, so I’m going to try to organize the fundamentals rationally based on your question. The primary focus here is the upright torso, or lack thereof. This suggests a couple possibilities: either you have a lower body mobility restriction that is preventing you from sitting into a proper overhead squat, or you’re doing something(s) during the lift itself that place you in a poor position in which you’re leaning forward. Of course, there’s no rule that says you can’t have both problems.
 
If you’re leaning forward significantly with the bar overhead, I can be pretty confident that you don’t have a shoulder mobility restriction, because such a position requires more mobility than a more upright one. Without seeing the position, I can’t be totally sure—you may be finding a way to work around it with bent elbows or some other compensation—but I’m going to assume it’s a lower body problem if mobility is the culprit.
 
To help determine if it’s a mobility issue, run through a quick sequence of checks. Overhead squat with an empty bar with your normal foot position and hold the bottom for 5 seconds. Then repeat with the feet wider, and then wider with toes turned out to the sides more. See how that affects the depth, comfort and stability of the position. Then repeat this sequence with your heels elevated on a couple change plates. If the position is noticeably easier and more stable with the heels elevated, your ankle mobility is limited. If you’re not noticeably better, the issue is more in your hips or both ankles and hips.
 
If you find that a certain position is easier to hit depth and stay more upright in, but you feel equally unstable, you do have an actual stability issue to contend with.
 
The first check is to ensure you’re holding the bar correctly overhead. The bar should be positioned vertically over the back of the neck with the trunk leaned forward very slightly and the head pushed forward through the arms a bit. The shoulder blades should be fully retracted and upwardly rotated—squeeze the upper inside edges together forcefully. If you can’t create this stable base, you’re going to have stability problems no matter what else you do. Finally, the elbows must be completely extended—not straight, but extended to their end range—and the bar in the palms over the forearms, not way behind them.
 
Next—are you actually being forceful in your attempts to maintain your position and the bar’s security overhead? This may seem like a silly line of inquiry, but I assure you based on many years of experience, it is very necessary. That bar wants to be one place—the floor. It will not stay overhead without your aggressive, continuous effort to keep it there. This includes maintaining trunk stability with pressurization and muscular force. There is not one single part of the overhead position that should be passive. Practice this effort with overhead squats and snatch balances, both with 5 second holds in the bottom position before recovering.
 
Finally, what exactly is happening when you snatch? You say you pull it high enough and have no problem getting under, but if you’re unstable and frequently collapsing and dropping the bar in front of yourself, that may not be an accurate assessment. The height of the bar and the depth of your body are only two elements in a complex system. Most often this happens when the bar-body system is shifting forward during the lift, i.e. you’re allowing the bar to move forward and you’re chasing it with your body. The next most common reason is allowing the bar to crash down into the overhead position rather than staying connected to it during an active turnover and securing the overhead position soon enough.
 
Those questions you’ll have to answer by watching your own lifts. Make sure you’re not jumping forward, and make sure you’re staying connected to the bar in the turnover. Fixes for both problems are given in those linked articles.

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Greg Everett is the owner of Catalyst Athletics, coach of the USA Weightlifting National Champion team Catalyst Athletics, author of the books Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches and Olympic Weightlifting for Sports, director/writer/producer/editor/everything of the documentary American Weightlifting, co-host of the Weightlifting Life Podcast, and publisher of The Performance Menu journal. He is an Olympic Trials coach, coach of over 30 senior national level or higher lifters, including national medalists, national champion and national record holder; as an athlete, he is a fifth-place finisher at the USAW National Championships, masters national champion, masters American Open champion, and masters American record holder in the clean & jerk. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, and sign up for his free newsletter here.

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4 Comments
Kamil Ogorek 2018-05-28
Thanks Greg! I don't remember when I exactly asked this question, but I was able to fix the majority of the described issue by working on my positioning and t-spine/ankle mobility. I had to do this to survive "Alyssa's Heavy Single Nightmare"... Apparently, working with high-intensity weights, forced my body to get used to correct positions and I very rarely miss my snatches now. Cheers!
Jim Nonnemacher 2018-05-28
Doesn't the degree of forward lean in an overhead squat/snatch also have something to do with your anatomy? For example, would there be a difference for the lifter with a longer, or shorter torso. Also, I would think the length of the femur would also come into play here.
Yes, anatomy will influence joint angles. But there are certain pretty tight ranges that need to be adhered to - the physics of a situation doesn't change because you have long legs. YOU have to adapt to it. This usually means a greater demand on mobility (hip and ankle) for tall people, and sometimes adjustments to position to mitigate the complications of that anatomy.

Greg Everett
Jord Gabriƫl 2018-06-09
great article thanks!
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