Power Snatch Guide: Technique, Workouts and Crossfit Variations
The power snatch is a fantastic exercise for power, explosiveness and weightlifting technique development. In this comprehensive power snatch guide, we're going to cover...
Let's jump right in...
What is a Power Snatch?
The power snatch is a weightlifting movement in which the bar is lifted from the floor to an overhead position in one fluid motion. Typically, this is performed with your hands in a wide grip.
Weightlifters often use power snatches as a technique development movement, or as a variation to use on lighter training days.
*Video Demo from Catalyst Athletics - They have a fantastic exercise library
Power Snatch vs Snatch
One of the biggest questions I get asked when delivering weightlifting courses...
"Is there a difference between snatch and power snatch?"
The major difference is that a power snatch is any snatch that is caught above a parallel squat position. So if you look at the picture below, you'll notice that the lifter on the left has their hips above their knees (power snatch) whereas the lifter on the right has their hips below their knees (snatch)
What's harder snatch or power snatch?
In terms of the technique, the snatch is harder. It requires better timing, a more aggressive pull under the bar, and the mobility and stability to catch the bar overhead in such a deep squat position.
With that said, in a power snatch you have to lift the weight higher in order to successfully catch it, which makes it a harder lift just in terms of the physics of having to move the bar further. This is why every high-level weightlifter competes using snatches rather than power snatches.
How to Power Snatch
Step 1: Start Position
Get yourself set up with your shoulders over or slightly in front of the bar. Your back should be tight and your abs should be braced.
Step 2: First Pull
Initiate the movement by pushing the floor away with your quads. Aim to have your shoulders and hips rise at the same rate, so that your torso angle remains the same throughout this stage of the lift.
Step 3: Transition and Second Pull
Once the bar is an inch or two past your knees, begin posturing upright and raising your chest, whilst still pushing against the floor. As the bar approaches your hip crease, accelerate rapidly by aggressively driving your feet into the floor, almost as if you were trying to do a vertical jump.
Step 4: Third Pull / Pull Under and Catch
Now that the bar is heading upwards with momentum, you need to start pulling yourself actively underneath the barbell and into a partial overhead squat position. Since this is a power snatch, you can choose how far you pull yourself under the bar, so long as you catch the bar above a parallel squat position.
Step 5: Recover
Once you've caught the bar overhead, stabilise yourself and stand fully upright to complete the lift.
Power Snatch Technique Tips
From years of coaching and lifting, I can offer 3 major tips to improve your power snatches. If you can do these three things consistently, you'll be well ahead of 90% of people doing the movement.
1) Keep the barbell close to your body throughout the lift.
2) Maintain a strong, flat back position and good brace throughout the lift.
3) For almost the entirety of the lift, your balance should be over your midfoot.
Power Snatch Benefits
Broadly speaking, the power snatch has 3 major benefits:
1) Develop Explosiveness and RFD (Rate of Force Development)
When it comes to lower-body power development, weightlifting movements and their derivatives have been shown to outperform vertical jump programmes (Tricoli 2005) and powerlifting programmes (Hoffman 2004) making the power snatch a great tool for athletes and sportspeople.
2) Easier and More Accessible than the Snatch
The power snatch reduces both the complexity and the mobility demands required of the snatch, making it a more accessible movement for most beginners, as well as for people with limited mobility, or athletes with banged up shoulders (rugby players and swimmers, I'm looking at you)
3) Teaches fully extension and barbell elevation
A common error for early-intermediate lifters in the snatch is to try and rush under the barbell to catch it, without fully extending at the hips and knees. This results in the lifter not producing enough speed and power, the bar not getting high enough, and the lift being missed.
We can use the power snatch to address these issues as it forces lifters to catch the bar higher, and gives them more time to really focus on achieving full extension without worrying about having to get down under the bar so soon.
Power Snatch Muscles Worked
Loads of people ask this question, but it's sort of a weird thing to ask because you can't really apply a bodybuilding type of question to a weightlifting type of movement. It's sort of like asking your local doctor or GP "what illnesses do you treat?"
The power snatch is a full-body movement that uses a wide range of muscle groups, so it doesn't really target any specific muscle.
Your quads and glutes will be the main drivers of knee and hip extension, and so will likely do the most work, but they will also be heavily assisted by your spinal erectors and hamstrings.
Then your calves will assist with ankle extension, your traps will assist with an aggressive shrug during the second pull, and your upper back and shoulders will be tasked with supporting the bar once it's overhead.
Is power snatch a good exercise?
For power?: Yes, absolutely
For strength?: Not really, though it might help a little
For hypertrophy: No (not enough focused muscle tension, no eccentric)
Power Snatch Crossfit
The power snatch is also a popular move within crossfit. Everything we've talked about above still applies, the only major difference is the context in which power snatches will be performed within crossfit.
Crossfit power snatches will often be performed under fatigue, and often for higher reps than in weightlifting workouts. For example...
Weightlifting power snatch workout: 5 sets of 2 reps at 70% of 1rm
Crossfit power snatch workout: HeroWod Randy: 75 Power Snatches for Time at 75lb or 55lb
This also means that rep or bar cycling, essentially utilising momentum and bar bounce off the floor, can become an important part of competition, and is therefore a skill that you will need to practice.
Crossfit Hang Power Snatch
Another popular snatch exercise variation within crossfit is the hang power snatch. This is a power snatch that starts with you holding the bar at a position other than the floor. Common hang power snatch positions include...
Just below the knee
Just above the knee
At the power position
DB Power Snatch
Last but not least, the dumbbell power snatch is a popular variation of the snatch used both within crossfit, and within general fitness and athletic training.
The much lighter load allows for the dumbbell to travel quickly, whilst the one-handed nature of the lift makes it a good choice for general coordination and athleticism.
Expected to find the DB power snatch within various WODS, mixed with everything from handstand press-ups through to burpees and double unders.
Power Snatch WOD
For a huge list of power snatch WOD's for crossfit, check out this site right here.
My personal favourite is the "NokaBull 5" by Daniel Danao:
5 Rounds for Time
6 Power Snatches (135/115 lb)
25 calorie Row
Power Snatch Workout
For weightlifters looking to improve their snatch performance, I'm a big fan of the following power snatch workout, which uses a form of wave in loading.
3 Waves of:
All performed at 70-80% of your regular snatch 1 rep max.
Summary: Power Snatch
The power snatch is a full-body exercise that builds lower body power and can function as a technical or light day exercise for weightlifters.
It is simpler and requires less mobility than a snatch
The power snatch has 5 main stages and 3 key technical points that apply throughout the lift.
Crossfit often uses power snatch variations such as the hang power snatch and dumbbell snatch
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'Til Next Time
Alex Parry, MSc, BA
Alex is the Head content writer and coach at Character Strength & Conditioning, as well as an Assistant Lecturer and PhD Researcher at the University of Hull.
His experience includes 7+ years within professional strength and conditioning, as well as working as a tutor & educator for British Weightlifting.