Get it Behind Your Neck: Improving the Snatch and Jerk Overhead Position
Greg Everett

The overhead position for the snatch and jerk is critical both for successful lifting and safety. Lifts from behind the neck can be a big help in improving these overhead positions through increased strength, mobility and consistency in position.

Overhead lifts starting from behind the neck allow a straight bar path to the overhead position, simplifying the movement and making it easier for the athlete to get the bar into position properly. This helps ingrain the feeling of the correct position overhead and helps lifters get the bar there more consistently when lifting from the front. This starting position also forces the upper back to extend and the shoulder girdle to open in order to press.

For the snatch, the primary choices are snatch push presses (always from behind the neck), snatch press (seated or standing), and what I incorrectly but stubbornly call a snatch Sots press for convenience (really the Sots press is a jerk-grip press from the bottom of a front squat)—a snatch-grip press behind the neck in the squat position is too long of an exercise name for my taste.

For the jerk, you have the press and push press behind the neck, split push press behind the neck, jerk behind the neck, and power jerk behind the neck.

With regard to mobility, the trick is that the athlete must be mobile enough to perform the movement safely. The extremely inflexible will not even be able to get the bar past their heads from behind the neck—trying to perform these lifts in these cases will just beat up the shoulders. In some cases, though, light push presses may be possible because of the leg assistance through the lower portion of the pressing movement. Stay light and make sure all reps are smooth through the bottom and middle—there should be no grinding here.

As mobility improves, the loading of these exercises can be increased to provide more strengthening for the upper back to allow the proper supportive structure for overhead lifts.

Beginners with mobility issues can and should (barring pain) be doing some kind of behind the neck pressing exercise every day. As they advance, the frequency can be reduced as the loading is increased. More advanced lifters may still find loaded behind the neck work beneficial early in each training cycle as a way to fortify the foundation for the rest of the cycle.

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Greg Everett is the owner of Catalyst Athletics, coach of the USA Weightlifting National Champion team Catalyst Athletics, author of the books Olympic Weightlifting: A Complete Guide for Athletes & Coaches and Olympic Weightlifting for Sports, director/writer/producer/editor/everything of the documentary American Weightlifting, co-host of the Weightlifting Life Podcast, and publisher of The Performance Menu journal. He is an Olympic Trials coach, coach of over 30 senior national level or higher lifters, including national medalists, national champion and national record holder; as an athlete, he is a fifth-place finisher at the USAW National Championships, masters national champion, masters American Open champion, and masters American record holder in the clean & jerk. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, and sign up for his free newsletter here.

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Nem 2012-12-17
Any advice on receiving the bar behind the neck after the press, on multiple rep sets? Kinda tweeked my left wrist a few months ago when the bar started slipping off my back. And what rep range would you recommend?
Greg Everett 2012-12-17
Nem -

It's usually a matter of making sure you have your shoulder blades retracted and elevated slightly to create a solid shelf for the bar, and then being careful and consistent in guiding it into the correct place.

See this post for info on lowering the bar well.
Nem 2012-12-18
Thanks G! Thats a great video, I've been doing it all wrong!
Jerry Hill 2012-12-18
Hey Greg,
Any programming advice on incorporating some of these lifts as I see the need with my crew. I run a traditional CrossFit program. We rotate the lifts weekly on MON, Thurs, and Sat. I'm cautious about introducing these with intensity and volume. While I see the need, only my top 10% will be able to get in the position for the "the snatch-grip press behind the neck in the squat position". I have never done the Snatch grip press, would you put this as a priority over the front press if our goal is stronger shoulders for the overhead lifts? I'm guessing from a mobility standpoint the snatch grip Push press might be my safest option, catching the bar behind the neck will be tricky for most...are heavy singles OK or what do you recommend? Thanks for any direction you can give!
In Strength,
Jerry Hill
Greg Everett 2012-12-18
Jerry -

This is not really heavy single stuff, especially for your clients. Sets of 5-8 or so is usually what we'll do and loading such that there are no grinding reps. You may want to simply do something like snatch press (standing) as a warm-up for mobility. This does not replace the press as a strength exercise by any means - stick with that for basic pressing strength.
Jerry Hill 2012-12-18
Roger that, will pull it in as warmup work or even cool down. Thanks for the quick reply.
Mark 2013-12-19
I was just at one of the Klokov, Ilyin, and Polovnikov seminars. Interestingly, they recommended (and also called) snatch-grip behind the neck in squat position presses, Sots presses.
Karrie Gevaert 2014-01-05
I am one of those people with behind my neck issues.. What type of behind the neck exercises do u recommend? Just doing push presses behind your neck with a women's bar and no weight for example? Or just PVC? How many a day would u recommend for improvement? Thanks
Heather 2015-01-12
The post and video you refer to in the first comment above to Nem doesn't have any link taking me anywhere. Can you please tell me the link?
Greg Everett 2015-01-12
Heather -

Here is the link to properly lowering the bar between reps.
Heather 2015-01-12
Thank you!
Vibrators 2019-05-24
Lastly, this exercise delivers the exact dip and drive mechanics that are employed in jerking movements. This exercise can be used to help beginners develop a vertical bar path (as well as help intermediate and more advanced athletes continue to progress with heavier loads), overhead mobility, and ingrain jerking mechanics, as well as strengthening the muscles needed.
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