Overhead Bar Positioning in the Snatch

For many years the main emphasis of teaching proper technique in the snatch has centered around getting height on the bar during the pull (Actually the emphasis should be on getting speed on the bar as speed translates into height).  This is certainly a valid concern, however there seems to be little attention paid to bar placement.

The Problem:  This challenging aspect of snatching involves moving a maximum weight with the greatest velocity possible, allowing it to loop back and catch it within a very narrow space where a deviation of more than a centimeter or two can result in a failure.  With the current emphasis being placed on pulling technique and getting into a solid squat position under the bar, the majority of snatches are missed because of faulty bar positioning—losing the bar forward or backwards.

The Target Range:  The range of position is only a few centimeters.  Just a touch ahead or behind and the weight cannot be supported.  The goal of the lifter should be to position that bar in exactly the right range every time or as many times as possible.  There are several factors that affect this positioning and it is only in the proper combination that a successful snatch can be performed.  Let’s take a look at them.

Starting at the Power Position:  For the purposes of this discussion we will begin at the power position.  Keep in mind that this is not the same for everyone.  Torso length, arm length, thigh length and grip width all come into play.  The BAR DOES NOT NEED TO BE IN THE HIP CREASE!

The Role of the Hip Extension:  The hip extension accompanied by the knee extension provides the majority of the propulsion of the bar.  Both joints must extend fully which means that there must be a complete plantar flexion of the ankles.  Failure to extend the hip joint can and often does result in an incomplete looping of the bar pathway with a resultant forward loss. 

The Role of the Arms:  The role of the arms has been greatly overlooked.  This is due to the efforts of many coaches’ attempt to eliminate pre-mature arm pull and in the process have discouraged any involvement of the arms during the pull.  This is incorrect.  By elevating the elbows immediately following the hip extension, the arms add speed and keep the bar pathway from deviating too far forward. 

During the descent under the bar, the lifter should quickly move the elbows forward and push the body straight down under the bar.  This helps with two aspects: it influences the bar into the proper overhead position and keeps contact with the movement of the bar so that there is very little unlocking taking place.

The correct pathway for the arms is that employed in the performance of the kneeling snatch.

If the grip width of the lifter is too great, the arms cannot be brought into play to affect the bar pathway. 

The Role of footwork:  The feet must move as the lifter descends into the squat for two reasons—1)the lifting of the feet from the substrate unlocks the hip joint and encourages hip flexion (which is a key to moving quickly under the bar) and 2)premature foot movement while the hips move forward will cause the athlete to jump forward and lose the bar behind. 

Diagnosis: An astute coaching eye can determine which of the aforementioned factors or which combination of them is causing a distortion of the bar pathway.  Then some attention must be given as to which exercises will help to correct the problem.

Practice: The lifter should then diligently practice the exercises while maintaining a conscientious effort to feel when and where the pathway is distorted, and how to effect a corrective move.  Elite weightlifters have practiced for years to feel every nuance of the bar pathway and their own kinesthetic sense in order to correct any deviations.  What makes weightlifting so challenging is the amount of kinesthesia involved in lifting a maximal weight overhead.