Ask Greg: Can't Receive the Snatch Low with Heavier Weights
Steven Asks: I'm teaching myself the snatch, with your videos and book, and have a technique question. With a stick or empty bar I receive the bar in a decent squat, but as I put weight on the bar, or as I get tired, I receive higher and higher. My lift turns into a power snatch unintentionally. I'm lifting half my bodyweight, and can do overhead squats with the weight, or actually snatch a dumbell as just as heavy. Any advice on correcting this? Thanks.
Greg Says: If you can sit into a good overhead squat without weight, it’s clear flexibility is not the problem (although it may very well not be perfect—if not, keep working on that). This kind of thing is nearly always the result of a lack of confidence under the bar; that is, you’re simply not allowing yourself to pull under the bar (probably unconsciously) because you’re not convinced you’ll be able to support it.
The most basic thing you need to do is spend more time in the bottom position. Warm-up with overhead squats and snatch balances. Stop power snatching intentionally and only do snatches. The times when you do power snatch unintentionally, squat it after you receive it. Hold the bottom position for two to three seconds every time. The idea here is not just to prepare you physically for the receiving position, but mentally to make it so routine and comfortable that you never think about it or hesitate to put yourself there.
If and when your overhead squat is sound and comfortable, begin doing more snatch balances. Force yourself to receive them in as deep of a squat as possible. Do this by using a slow, smooth dip and a minimal push with the legs—just barely enough to give you time to get under the bar. Focus on the speed of the punch down under the bar, not on the leg drive. Again, hold the bottom position for two to three seconds every time. In your case, I would make the goal overhead squatting and snatch balancing at least a few more kilos than what you can presently snatch (or power snatch). For people who don’t have the problem you do, often the snatch is heavier than either of these exercises. But for you, pushing your ability in the exercises should help with your confidence in the snatch.
You can also use some snatch variants to emphasize the pull under the bar such as high-hang snatches, tall snatches or snatches from high blocks (e.g. mid-thigh). Focus on an aggressive pull with the arms, elevating the elbows as much as possible before turning the bar over. This will allow you to really feel the acceleration down under the bar and make it routine rather than something you have to focus on during your snatches.