The Ultimate Beginner Snatch Progression

Written By Ben  |  Snatch 

If you’re a CrossFitter, you’ll likely have come across the infamous snatch! It’s one of the more advanced movements in CrossFit and can take a lifetime to master. Olympic Weightlifters spend whole careers perfecting their technique in this lift so don’t feel disheartened if you don’t ‘get it’ after 3 months of CrossFit! 

ground to overhead

In CrossFit classes, you’ll probably be snatching a few times per month, depending on which days you attend. Realistically, it can feel like you’re starting from scratch with this lift every time it’s programmed. 

If you want to get better at the snatch, read on for an excellent progression that you can practice in open gym. You can repeat this session over and over again, increasing the load whenever it starts to feel really comfortable and you’ll be set up for success next time snatches are programmed!

Let’s dig into it! In my opinion, the two most important aspects of snatching are the receiving position (how you ‘catch’ the bar) and the bar path itself (what it does on the way up!). So with that in mind, here are my 5 best exercises for beginners, and you can go through them in this order.

You can go ahead and start off with a PVC pipe as a warm up, and move on to an empty barbell if and when you’re ready for that! If you’d like to follow along on video with this progression, and have Coach CJ talk you through it, follow this link for free access.

Or, watch me teach a total beginner how to snatch on YouTube, and pick up some tips and cues along the way:

1. Snatch Grip Strict Press

How to:

Begin with the bar on your shoulders, grip should be your usual snatch grip and your elbows should be down underneath the bar. Without using your legs, press the bar up until arms are fully locked out, armpits facing forward. The bar should finish over the base of your neck - not out in front, or back behind your body.

Why is this helpful?

This drill helps you to dial in that overhead position in standing before you add in anything dynamic. You create a strong and stable overhead position when you focus on facing your armpits forward. 

2. Power Snatch Balance

How to:

Assume the same position as the first drill, bar on shoulders. Now take a dip, then drive the bar up, extending your hips and knees before moving your body down to receive the bar in the power position. Take a pause when your receive the bar to build comfort in this position and ensure the bar is balanced.

Why is this helpful?

We’re adding a little complexity with this one, teaching our body how to both elevate the bar using our hips and move ourselves down underneath it at the same time, which is crucial for the snatch! It’s a great intermediate movement as we’re not yet adding the complication of having to receive it in a full squat.

3. High Hang Power Snatch

How to:

Start this one with the bar in the hip and again, grip should be wide as you would normally use for any snatch exercise. If you want to check it’s a good width for you, ensure the bar is sitting in that squashy part of your hip (below your hip bones but above your pubic bone).

From here, dip with a vertical torso, ensuring your weight is balanced across your whole foot. Next, extend your body by jumping vertically before pulling with the arms and punching out into your power snatch receiving position. Try to avoid swinging the bar out in front of you by keeping the bar close throughout.

Why is this helpful?

Starting from a high hang position rather than the floor teaches us how to use our hips to elevate the bar rather than only pulling with our arms. 

4. Snatch Balance

How to:

This one is exactly like the power snatch balance from above, only this time we’re going to catch as low as we can! This might not be a full squat for you, and that’s ok. Just work towards a lower receiving position over time, and try this one with a pause in the bottom to build comfort and stability here.

Why is this helpful?

This drill is excellent for learning how to move ourselves under the bar and work on a stable receiving position without the added complications of the pull and the turnover. It’s also a great one to help get over fear of diving under a heavy barbell at speed!

5. High Hang Snatch

How to:

Let’s tie it all together! Similar to #3, but this time we are pulling under into a full squat snatch. Use what you learned from the high hang power snatch and the snatch balance to dial in that bar path and full squat receiving position!

Why is this helpful?

We’re learning how to do a full snatch here but without worrying about the first pull. The pull is often the cause of most snatch mistakes so if we can get really good at the high hang snatch, it stands us in great stead for adding in the complexity of the first pull from the ground!

Remember, if you want to follow along with Coach CJ as you work through this progression, the video is available for you here, absolutely free.

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