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