There are a number of possible causes for pressing out snatches or jerks, and in order to fix the problem, you need to determine why it’s happening. Following are the most common causes and fixes.
You may have elbows that anatomically don’t extend completely. Test this by extending the elbow with your arm at your side—if you can lock out completely at your side, but not overhead, the issue is restricted mobility, not anatomy. If you do have anatomically limited extension, you need to invest more time into building overhead strength, and be even more aggressive and forceful holding weights overhead.
Inadequate strength is almost never the issue. First, holding a bar in a locked-out overhead position doesn’t actually require much pressing strength. If you can do an overhead squat or jerk support with more than your best snatch or jerk, you’ve ruled this out. Moreover, if you’re pressing out, that means you actually have enough strength to complete the final range of a press with that weight, which is more than needed to simply hold it locked out.
As the grip narrows from snatch to jerk width, the overhead position demands more mobility. This is why a given lifter may lock snatches out well but struggle with jerks. This restriction provides resistance against a quick and complete lockout, causing a press-out or bouncing overhead. The real solution is to improve mobility, but widening the jerk grip somewhat can help in the short term.
Locking out a lift requires you establish the overhead position forcefully before
the full weight of the bar is pushing down on you. It has to be proactive as part of a continuous, committed motion—you can’t wait to feel the weight and then react to it. Make it a focus on every lift to never let up on pushing up against the bar, and to lock in your shoulder blades forcefully for a solid base to prevent bouncing.
As weights increase, lifters have a tendency to quit the effort to elevate the bar and exaggerate their movement down . In both lifts, never let up on lifting the bar—it should be a continuous, aggressive effort. Even when squatting or splitting, you need to be actively pulling or pushing the bar up. Train push press + jerk and snatch from power position.
Poor Overhead Position
We can achieve the strongest overhead position by locking the shoulder blades together and against the ribs with retraction and upward rotation, and positioning the bar over the back of the neck with a slight forward lean. If the trunk is too vertical or leaned back and the bar is therefore in front of the neck, the integrity of the position is compromised. Train the proper position with push presses and jerks behind the neck, snatch push presses and snatch balances.
Pushing the bar forward in the jerk or stopping short in the snatch turnover will place the bar too far forward to establish the proper overhead position and prevent solid lockout. Fix the source of these problems.
In the jerk, a short-step in the split will prevent a complete lockout due to both depth and position. This is usually inadequate drive up, not a direct footwork problem. Train push press + jerk and pause jerks for drive, and drop to split for footwork.
Poor Hand & Wrist Position
If we hold the bar too far back in the hands so the wrists are forced to hyperextend, that creates softness in the system that itself can create press-outs. Additionally, this forces the arms to be farther forward to balance the weight, which prevents the proper shoulder blade position and bar placement relative to the body, which further reduces the ability to create a solid structure. Train and strengthen the correct position with all lifts, but also add jerk supports, overhead squats and other overhead work to get more exposure.
Excessive Grip Tension
Squeezing the bar too tightly can slow down and limit elbow extension. Grip the bar only as tightly as needed to maintain control and the proper hand and wrist position. Practice with all pressing and overhead exercises to make it habit.
Lack of Aggression or Commitment
Finally, sometimes it’s nothing more complicated than that you’re just being a bit of a diaper baby. Successful heavy lifts demand aggression and commitment—any lingering doubt or a reluctance to lock a lift out immediately and forcefully is going to result in a soft overhead position. Figure out the cause of that fear or reluctance and train it out of yourself, and also perform every single lift, no matter how light, with maximal aggression overhead to build the habit.
Find mentioned exercises in the Exercise Library