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Snatch Exercise: The Complete Guide To Snatch Workouts

WTF is a Snatch Exercise? I had the same thought…

Have you ever watched the Olympics and come across the ginormous athletes with muscles dripping off more muscles who somehow whip a bar with many multi-colored weight plates up off the ground and over their heads in one movement? 

That’s the snatch – a combination of art, strength, and power. The snatch exercise is one of the most challenging lifts to master because of its technical requirements, but it also has some of the most benefits in weightlifting. Read on to learn more!

What Are Snatch Exercises?

Snatch exercises are variations of the snatch and involve moving weight from in front of you at various heights, although typically from the ground, to over your head in one fluid motion. 

When done right, it is a thing of beauty. However, as mentioned, there are several snatch variations, so what you do and how you do it will differ slightly depending on your choice.

Snatch (Full Snatch) And How To Do It

The full snatch is what you see in the Olympics. Let’s review the four steps involved in a full snatch. Given the technical aspects of this lift, seek coaching before doing it for the first time.

Setting Up

When you are getting ready to lift, approach the bar with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend down and grab the bar with a wide overhand grip – this will help your shoulder mobility as you proceed through the lift. 

Make sure you do what’s called a hook grip. Put your thumb around the bar first, and then wrap your remaining fingers (mainly your index and middle fingers) over your thumb to create a tight, locking grip. You want to ensure that it won’t slip out of your hands when you pull the bar up.

After your grip is established, lower your butt, maintain a flat back, and lift your head and chest. You don’t want to arch your back and risk injury. Take your time with your setup because it’s essential for a good lift.

Explosive Pulling

After you find your perfect snatch starting position, you will slowly begin standing up while maintaining the form you established in your setup. Make sure you are lifting with just your legs at this point, not your arms.

As the bar passes your knees, engage your hips and shrug your shoulders, driving the bar upward while using your arms for guidance. Keep the bar tight to your body. You don’t want to loop it out from your body where your arms are doing all the work, and you could be at risk for injury. 

And don’t stop pulling too early since this is where the power is created, allowing you to lift more weight. 

Maximize the legs/hips/back power generator!

Catching The Bar

Drop into an overhead squat as the bar passes your chest and shoulders from the pull. Keep your arms straight and stabilize the bar. 

When you have a bar packed with weight, there is very little room for error because an inch in the wrong direction, and you will lose the bar either in front of you or behind you.

Standing Up

This is the most basic step in the lift. Once the bar is stabilized in the squat position, you just stand up and hold the weight.

Split Snatch

The split snatch is a variation of the full snatch, and all the steps are the same except when catching the bar. Instead of dropping into an overhead squat position where your feet are side by side, you use a split position, where one foot is in front of the other. Once the bar stabilizes, walk your feet back to a neutral position.

Power Snatch

Another snatch variation is the power snatch, which is almost identical to a full snatch. But instead of dropping into a full overhead squat when catching the bar, you drop into a partial overhead squat. So, you don’t go nearly as deep into a squat position – your butt stays above your knees. 

Muscle Snatch

The final barbell snatch variation is the muscle snatch, where there is no squat. Setting up and pulling are the same, but the bar goes directly from the floor to overhead in one movement while keeping your legs straight.

Dumbbell Snatch

If you don’t have access to a barbell or maybe just have a less complex setup, like a garage gym, a dumbbell snatch is a great alternative to the formal snatches mentioned above. 

The movement is essentially the same as in a power snatch. But instead of having both hands on a bar, you do the lift with one arm on a dumbbell. 


Kettlebell Snatch

Another barbell-free alternative, especially if you work out in a home gym, is the kettlebell snatch. It’s done slightly differently than the dumbbell snatch and utilizes a kettlebell instead of a dumbbell. Check out the video below to see how it’s done. 

An advantage of these one-armed lifts is that using your arms individually can build strength in both, including your naturally weak one. With a two-handed lift, like the snatch exercise, your strong arm may bail out your weak arm, keeping it weak. 

So make sure you work both arms for maximum benefit!

What Are The Benefits Of The Snatch Exercise?

Because of the many unique aspects of doing the snatch exercise, the list of benefits is long. But here are several to keep in mind when thinking about incorporating the snatch into your workout program.

  • Challenges The Body – It’s a complex movement that engages multiple joints and muscle groups
  • Challenges The Mind – Learning to master one of the most complex technical lifts will improve mental focus
  • Trains Core Stability – Your core is fully engaged throughout the snatch lift to help maintain balance
  • Faster Reflexes – The change in body position with the snatch exercise happens lightening fast, so repeating this lift will help your body respond quickly to any stimulus
  • Improved Posture – Perfect body position is required for this lift (proud shoulders, straight back, tight core), which enhances posture through muscle memory
  • Toned Body – Because of the speed, weight load, and number of muscles engaged, the snatch burns energy and builds muscle, which in turn amps up your metabolism and calorie-burning furnace
  • High force/High velocity – this is due to the speed required to lift a heavy load and is a combination that you don’t see in many exercises

4 Reasons You Should Try The Snatch Exercises

  • You want to improve overall athletic performance – when you do snatch exercises, you get faster, stronger, and more agile, so not only does your weightlifting improve, but if you play on a field, court, mat, or track, you will improve there as well
  • You want to prevent injuries – snatch exercises increase shoulder strength, core stability, and your body’s ability to absorb force, all of which can help avoid injury
  • You want to be more powerful – due to their complex nature and the multiple muscle groups activated, more power is a byproduct
  • You want to be more explosive – the speed and drive required to perform these exercises train your body to become more explosive across any sport you participate in

Final Thoughts

There you have it, the snatch exercise explained, as well as many benefits and reasons for doing snatch exercises. If you thought the snatch was just for weightlifters, hopefully, you’ll rethink that assumption. Because no matter what sport you play and how good you are at it, the snatch will make you better.