Articles




Missing Snatches Behind: Diagnosis & Correction
Greg Everett

We’ve all done it—missed a snatch behind and reassured ourselves by saying a miss behind is better than a miss in front. I would agree that in some cases this is true, but definitely not always, and the causes of a miss behind need to be identified and corrected just like any other miss. Following are the most common reasons for misses behind and ways to fix them.
 
 
Excessively Wide Grip
 
One of the simplest reasons for frequent misses behind that is commonly overlooked is an excessively wide grip. The wider the grip, the more easily the bar can continue moving past the proper position and point at which the lifter can still control it. A simple illustration of this idea is the shoulder dislocate—the tighter your shoulders, the wider you have to take your grip to get the bar behind your head. Take your grip in narrower and the bar won’t go backward no matter how hard you try to pull it. In the same way, a wider grip in the snatch means that if the bar has backward momentum on it during the turnover, it will be much harder to stop it from continuing backward past the point of no return the wider your grip is.
 
Obviously fixing this problem is not necessarily as easy as narrowing the grip—presumably the grip width was chosen for a reason (if it was chosen arbitrarily, just take it in narrower and be done with it). The wider the grip, the quicker and easier the turnover tends to be, and this is a tough thing to argue with, especially for a lifter who is accustomed to lifting this way. However, if the lifter is missing frequently enough, it should be an easier case to make for a narrower grip.
 
If grip is excessively wide to account for the lifter’s proportions (short torso and/or long arms) and bring the bar higher into the hip, this can also be accomplished through some elevation and retraction of the shoulder blades during the second pull, and waiting longer to initiate the second pull (that is, staying over the bar longer with the shoulders / waiting until the bar is higher on the thigh to initiate the final upward explosion).
 
If for some reason the grip absolutely can’t be narrowed, emphasis on strengthening the overhead position and the ability to maintain the position of the bar in the slot needs to be made. Snatch push presses, overhead squats, push jerks in snatch, presses in snatch and snatch balances will all be helpful, along with holding the bottom position of all snatches and overhead exercises for 2-5 seconds before recovering. The advice in the following sections about controlling bar and body positions during the lift will also help.
 
Make grip width changes incrementally. Making a dramatic change is a good way to create new problems and possibly earn some new wrist and elbow pain. 
 
 
Poor Overhead Structure
 
The structure of the overhead position is critical for its security and stability. While we do want a very slight forward inclination of the trunk to place the bar over the back of the neck and create a stable base with the shoulder blades, any lean farther forward of this begins to reduce the integrity of the structure.
 
The farther the overhead position deviates from this ideal structure, the harder it is for the lifter to maintain the bar’s position overhead. The more forward the torso, the farther back the arms must be angled to maintain balance over the feet, and the more angled the arms, the more the bar wants to fall backward.
 
This weak overhead structure is occasionally the product of bad habits or not being aware of the proper position, but more often, it’s the unavoidable consequence of limited mobility. The biggest culprit tends to be the ankles. Limited range of motion in the ankles means the knees can’t travel forward far enough, which means the hips can’t move in toward the feet enough, which means they’re behind the base and to balance the system, the trunk must lean forward, which finally means the arms must angle backward excessively.
 
After the ankles, a tight and excessively kyphotic thoracic spine is the next place to look. This forward rounding of the upper back shifts the shoulders forward (the base of the arms), which again means the arms need to angle back farther than normal, which exacerbates the other problem of not being able to secure the shoulder blades in a strong retracted position to create the stable base necessary.
 
You can get some mobility ideas for the overhead squat in this article
 
 
Diving the Head & Chest
 
The turnover of the snatch needs to bring the lifter into the correct overhead position immediately in order to allow the lifter to secure the structure and stabilize the bar. For this to be possible, there needs to be adequate space and time—that is, the bar must be lifted high enough before the lifter moves under it. Very common as snatch weights increase is diminishing confidence and the consequent premature pull under the bar. Because it’s early, there either isn’t adequate time and space (or the lifter believes there isn’t), and the lifter will tend to try to sneak under the bar by diving under it—ducking the head and chest forward and down to be shorter and squeeze under the low bar. This results in the same poor overhead structure discussed in the previous section.
 
The most important correction is focusing on proper timing—completing the upward extension prior to pulling under the bar, but never hesitating before changing directions or pulling too far. The lifter should also focus on squatting under the bar just as he or she would in an overhead squat or snatch balance, maintaining the proper upright posture and sitting the hips down instead of back. Finally, the upper body mechanics of the third pull need to be correct—the elbows moving up and to the sides to maintain the proximity of the bar and body.
 
 
Swinging the Bar
 
Related to the last point is the problem of swinging the bar out and around during the third pull. A forward swing of the bar during the pull under will produce a backward swing overhead. While a mechanically sound pull under does involve the bar moving slightly forward and then backward into the overhead position, this horizontal movement is minimal and doesn’t produce much horizontal momentum. In the case of the bar swinging forward excessively, the backward momentum is also increased, meaning that rather than the bar moving down into the slot, it wants to move backward through it. With the wide grip discussed previously, this can be nearly impossible to control. With a more conservative grip, it will still be more difficult to stabilize the bar. Such a swing can also produce excessive forward leaning of the trunk in reaction, leading to the problems described previously in the diving section.
 
Forward swinging of the bar can have a few sources. First is stiff arms—while we want the arms straight during the first and second pull, this elbow extension should be passive, not active. If the elbows are being actively extended, there will be a delay in pulling the elbows up and out in the third pull. Because the bar has upward momentum from the pull, it has to go somewhere. If the arms are stiff, the only place it can go is forward. Start the snatch with the elbows turned out to the sides (arms internally rotated) and the back arched tightly with the arms relaxed.
 
Next is too large of a collision between the hips and bar in the final extension. This is the result of allowing too much distance between the bar and the body prior to their connection. The athlete should keep the bar as close to the legs as possible until it connects with the hips in the final extension by maintaining active lats right from the beginning of the lift and in particular as the bar passes the knees.
 
Finally is excessive or improper extension of the hips and knees. Viewing an athlete standing from the side, imagine a vertical line passing through the ankle, hip and shoulder. The hips should never cross forward of this plane during the final extension of the pull (understand I’m talking about the hip joint approximately, not the front of the body at the level of the hip; in other words, the hips in the pull don’t move farther forward than they are in this vertical standing position)—that means at the top of the pull, the legs should be approximately vertical when viewed from the side. If the hips travel farther forward of this, too much forward force is put into the bar. While the hips need to be hyperextended in the final extension of the pull, it will be by bringing the shoulders behind the hips rather than by pushing the hips forward of the shoulders and ankles. The best way to correct this problem is to continue driving against the ground with the legs as long as the hips are extending.
 
 
Premature Lift of the Feet
 
The issue of leg drive against the floor leads us into the final topic—prematurely lifting the feet. If the pressure against the floor is released too soon, the lifter’s balance will shift forward or backward depending on how they’re extending. With very explosive lifters, it will usually result in the lifter moving forward under the bar. This has the same result of the bar moving too far backward overhead—the bar is behind the lifter’s base and can’t be supported. Maintain the pressure against the platform throughout the pull by continuing to drive down with the legs as the hips complete their extension.
 
 
Makes, Not Good Misses
 
An occasional miss behind is nothing to be concerned with, but when it happens frequently, it’s a problem requiring diagnosis and correction. Use this information to help figure out the source of the problem so you can make yourself feel better by making snatches rather than calling your attempts "good misses"


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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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5 Comments
KF 2014-11-24
Funny enough, I recently narrowed my grip and eliminated a good 80% of my missing behind! Excellent article, Greg!
Matt Foreman 2014-11-24
Good stuff. John Thrush always said, "If you live by the swing, you die by the swing." True dat, along with all your other points.
Joshua Davis 2014-12-02
I'm in KF's boat. I narrowed my grip by about an inch each side and didn't lose a single snatch in my last few workouts, which is odd for me.

I'm one of those guys that pretty much arbitrarily picked a width and the wider grip gave me a stronger pull, but a really poor receive.
Nakki 2017-08-09
What about missing behind when wearing straps? Will the straps loosen in that position so a person can release the grip off the bar? Thanks
Nakki - If used correctly, the straps should release with your grip on the bar. You don't want to wrap your hands up so tightly that they do not release easily, because that would be a safety hazard. Here is a good video on how and when to use straps: http://www.catalystathletics.com/video/1083/How-When-To-Use-Weightlifting-Straps/

Hope this helps!

Alyssa Sulay
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