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5 Tips To Improve Your Snatch For the CrossFit Open

The snatch is the most beautiful and difficult weightlifting movement in my opinion. When executed well, it is fast, explosive, exciting and simply incredible to watch...when done poorly, it makes me wince, cry, pull my eyes out and basically pray for the shoulders of the athlete. Contained within are my suggestions for the CrossFit Open - however, there are some tips here that will help your Snatch even if you don't do CrossFit.

Firstly, a political point...

Sometimes weightlifters (Olympic Lifters) get upset that in CrossFit, the Clean and Jerk and the Snatch are being used with high reps at load. I fully appreciate the point that to perfect the Clean and Jerk and Snatch for the Olympics or purely for Weightlifting competitions, it takes a long time and dedicated practice.

Having said that, I don't think there is anything wrong with other sports like CrossFit, Football, Rugby etc taking advantage of the benefits that these lifts confer. My key priority has and is always about the safety of the athlete: Their technique, their consistency and their ability to perform under fatigue.

My mate Brent Fikowski pointed out to me recently that CrossFit workouts of a similar nature often draw different responses... for example, if a workout has 30x32kg KB swings in it (say 3 rounds of 10x32kg KB swings, 400m sprint), then no one really bats an eyelid... if it was 3 rounds of 10x30kg snatch, 400m sprint, suddenly all that is pure and right in the world is ending.

The Snatch is a complex movement but it can be done for reps, under fatigue with load...you just have to train for it and understand that the risks of injury are always higher when the intensity is higher (load and speed). So, please keep to the following Tips to improve your Snatch for the Open and in general.

Snatch1. Keep Your Technique/Form Solid Throughout

I cannot overstate this. A breakdown of your technique will simply lead to an increase risk of injury. These include but are not limited to...ankle sprains, knee injuries, hip labral tears, SIJ sprains, low back disc herniations, rib sprains, locked necks, dislocated shoulders, elbow overuse injuries, wrist fractures and sprains.

Last year, the Snatch featured in the first workout. 13.1 was a combination of 12.1 (7mins of burpees) and 12.2 (10mins snatch ladder). The first weight was relatively easy with only a small number of people unable to complete just one snatch - you could basically just muscle it up there (30kg for men, 20kg for women).

During those first 30, fatigue is likely to set in because of the high number of repetitions. It isn't that you can't do the lifts, it is just that the small muscles that control your joints are likely to become just a little inefficient.

You need to keep your back straight and get your shoulders over the bar. You need to ensure that you bend your hips to get to the ground, not just bend your back.

If you need to, and you aren't trying to make it into Regionals, take 5-10secs rest to refocus and let the body catch up so you can get the technique right. Don't try to string too many reps together if your form is suffering - live to fight the next workout.

In preparation for high rep Snatches, You should practice them now - 30 reps at 35/20kg is what it has been the last 2 years. In 2011, it was 30 double unders, 15 Power Snatches at 35/20kg. But when you practice, try to focus on keeping your technique. Think of it as neurological/CNS training rather than cardio or strength training. Video yourself and critque yourself...if you don't know how to do that, send me a link and I will help you 🙂

2. Keep Your Feet On The Ground and At The Same Width

Just like the Clean and Jerk Tips, keeping your feet down and not jumping up nor out will help your speed.

Every time you jump, you are likely to land with your feet wider...that is classic Olympic-style weighting technique. However, in CrossFit, you want to keep your feet on the floor and keep the feet the same distance apart at all times. This is because moving your feet back underneath you costs TIME...something you don't have much of if you are trying to make it to Regionals!

Jason Hoggan demonstrates this nicely here at 35kg...then he starts to head towards a more conventional technique as the weight gets heavier.

3. Consider a Narrower Grip

This is the sport of CrossFit, not Weightlifting! The rules last year stated that the bar couldn't touch your shoulders or head - you can "press out" during the lift (something you can't do at the Olympics or Weightlifting competitions).

So take advantage of that. If you can't get under a heavier snatch but you are strong enough to muscle it up there, narrowing your grip with almost a clean and jerk in one smooth motion was allowed (check with your coach and CFHQ if you are unsure!). Just follow the rules and complete the work!

snatch014. Think of "Starting" Every Rep From the Hang Position

Once you have pulled your first Snatch off the ground, you will be able to bring it down and start the next rep. Instead of dropping the bar or returning the bar to the ground, consider setting yourself up (especially when it gets heavier) in the hang position, lowering to the ground and then completing the rep as per usual.

This has the added advantage of loading up your hamstrings with setting your back in a good position. Then, by lowering, touching the ground and then going for the next rep, you can benefit from the stretch-shortening cycle which might let you get some extra reps out.

Apparently you can pull off the ground and provided you don't go past the knees, you can return to the ground to start the lift without penalty (at least I am told that is the case in Weightlifting). If you can and you are struggling, consider pulling off the ground to your knees and then using that momentum and stretch-shortening cycle to fire up the next rep!

IMG_93115. Read About How To Improve Your Overhead Squats

The mobility restrictions in Overhead Squats often affect your ability to Snatch well. Address those issues and the other issues will improve!

You can also learn the Snatch Balance drill to help progress into the dynamic Snatch positions.

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6 Tips Common to All Movements 

Basically similar to my blog on preparing for the Open...

1. Practice your technique NOW

  • Feel comfortable in practice with competition technique and Range of Motion (ROM) and it will feel comfortable in competition.
  • Good technique is the most efficient way to complete the reps. For most movements, keep your back straight for crying out aloud!!
  • Motor patterns are strengthened with perfect practice - the more reps you do perfectly, the more likely you will do them

2. Continue your strengthening program (or start NOW!)

  • There are still 5 weeks before the Open starts and 11 weeks until it ends - there is time to make gains!
  • If you just get one more rep out because you are just a little bit stronger or you get a PB because you improved enough to achieve it, there is no better feeling in the Open. Last year, I got a 135lbs snatch 4 times - I got my first the day before I did 13.1. I also got my first CTB pullup during the Open. Strength helps!
  • If you are a Regionals athlete, the Open should just be a speed bump in your training program.
  • I have never heard anyone say "If I was only a bit weaker for that workout, I would have done better"!

3. Get your Coach to help identify and rectify your weaknesses

  • Most coaches are happy to tell you what to work on and will give you accessory (additional) exercises to do after your workouts.
  • Most coaches will have some form of one-on-one coaching sessions they can do with you - these are worth it for beginners and experienced athletes alike
  • If you do ask your coach for help and you DO NOT do what they say, then please DO NOT ask them for more help until you have done what they told you to do already!! Nothing is more frustrating to a coach than someone who asks for help but then doesn't do it.
  • If you have done everything you are told to do and your coach doesn't want to help you, ask yourself if you are in the right box or asking the right person...this should be extremely rare...in general and basically every box I have been to (over 20) and coaches I know (well over 50) have had coaches that are willing to help the athletes and care about their safety.

4. Sort your niggles out

  • One of the most common comments I hear is "If I had known how much better I would feel, I would have come sooner"
  • 'Nuff said!

5. Don't push to failure

  • Rich Froning rarely fails a rep. Don't waste your energy on failed reps. Rest and just concentrate on making good reps. Pushing to failure is a waste of time and energy and significantly increases your risk of injury...

6. Lose the "sins of Christmas" - get that body fat% down!

  • This one is for my friend John Z - all the bodyweight movements in the Open will get better if you are carrying less fat.

I am always keen to hear tips from other athletes, coaches and health professionals. Leave your comments below!