I want to explain further why I’m so mean about the muscle snatch.
I teach the muscle snatch with a much stricter execution than you’ve seen a lot of your favorite elite lifters perform—with the elbows remaining elevated and back through the turnover instead of being allowed to flip under and in front of the bar to press it up.
The muscle snatch is commonly used to train or test bar speed—that is, it’s figured that if the athlete is able to get the bar all the way overhead, they’ve generated adequate speed.
I have a few objections to this, all of which I will gladly share with you now:
We have an enormous list of exercises that train power in the pull, but very few that are useful for training the turnover. The muscle snatch is one of them, so I prefer to keep it as effective as possible for that purpose.
I find it inadvisable to train that motion in a way that doesn’t replicate the motion of an actual snatch third pull because it’s creating a motor pattern that can potentially interfere with what we want, and strengthening the body in a way that doesn’t support the motion we want, all to achieve something we can do with other exercises that don’t have the potential for creating problems.
There is also too much latitude in how a lifter can manage to actually get the bar overhead that doesn’t reflect its speed prior to that effort—lifters find impressive ways to bend and squeeze their way under the bar into a pressing position, and as long as you can get into that position, you just have to be a strong presser, and that motion is inherently stronger than external rotation. In other words, just getting the bar overhead isn’t a very accurate measure of the bar speed preceding the turnover.
The stricter execution I prefer arguably more reliably demands a given bar speed because it forces the lifter to rely on existing bar speed to complete the turnover with that weaker external rotation motion. That is, with inadequate momentum on the bar to carry it through, the motion is truly impossible, and it will either fail completely, or be quickly modified into a pressing motion to salvage—both clear indications of inadequate bar speed.
Now, is this method a perfect measure of bar speed? Of course not, because we can’t ensure the turnover position and motion is always identical. However, I’d say it’s more
accurate because of its intrinsic limitations and much smaller margin for error.
Of course, on top of that, we’re also training and strengthening the motion we want when pulling under a snatch. It’s what’s known by sports scientists as a double-whammy.
All of this said, I’d argue there are better ways to verify or train actual bar speed in the pull anyway—anything that objectively measures the elevation of the bar, such as touching it to a pipe set to a specific height, or a landmark on the body such as the sternum.
But, as I try to say as often as possible, lift and train the way that you find most effective for yourself, and don’t worry what I think if those things don’t align.