Mar 8, 2017
Snatch & Clean
Loren Z.F. Chiu and Brian K. Schilling

Weight training has many benefits, from developing strength to improving coordination. But it’s critical that exercises are done correctly. Here’s a breakdown on how to teach athletes to perform a snatch and clean.

The snatch and clean can be broken into three components, which individually, have distinct adaptational benefits. These are

• the first pull

• the second pull (including the preceding double knee bend)
• receiving the bar

The first pull involves removing the barbell from its static position on the floor until the bar passes the knees. In this component, the angle of the torso relative to the floor is more horizontal than vertical. Thus, in addition to the primary movement produced by the knee and hip extensors, the spinal extensors, scapular retractors, and shoulder extensors are also involved.

The spinal extensors create posterior shearing forces to oppose anterior shear from gravitational forces, which, along with the compressional forces generated, increases spinal stability. The scapular retractors and shoulder extensors keep the barbell close to the body.

In this position, the lifter can apply large forces. However, heavy loads cannot be moved at high velocity. Pulling the bar from the floor thus contributes to the training of starting strength, where starting strength is the ability to generate high forces from the onset of muscle activation in a very short period of time. Starting strength relates to the initial defensive positions for sports such as football and volleyball.

As the barbell passes the knees, the knees shift forward and the barbell and hips move towards each other. This motion initiates a stretch-shortening cycle and repositions the lifter-barbell system so that the lifter is in joint positions with advantageous leverage to impart a large force to the barbell rapidly, resulting in a high power output.

As this large production of power is considered to be the primary benefit of the snatch and clean, strength and conditioning programs typically involve exercises that isolate this component of the lifts. These include lifting from the hang, lifting from boxes, and high pulls.

While it is indeed advantageous for athletes to utilize these exercises, the second pull is not the only important characteristic of the snatch and clean exercises. Perhaps the most overlooked characteristic of the snatch and clean is receiving the bar, whether overhead or on the shoulders. In weightlifting circles, this is performed by “meeting the bar,” or actively resisting the downward momentum of the barbell. This requires activation of the agonist muscles in an eccentric and isometric fashion.

The difference between eccentric actions during weightlifting as opposed to weight training (for example the negative phase of a squat) is that overcoming the downward barbell momentum requires a greater opposing impulse during weightlifting. Thus, the rapid production of force in an eccentric manner is necessary, similar to plyometric movements, such as depth jumps. This is also called yielding strength and con- tributes to reactive strength, the ability to rapidly reverse eccentric to concentric motion.

While plyometric exercises are widely used in strength and conditioning, the landing phases of these exercises are associated with injuries, primarily at the knee and ankle joints. The snatch and clean exercises are a safer, and perhaps more effective, method of training yielding strength, whereas the jerk exercise can be used for training reactive strength. In properly trained individuals, the vertical ground reaction forces produced in receiving the bar are lower than those produced when landing from jumping and during depth jumps.

This article was originally published on the website of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is being used with permission from the organization.

Loren Z.F. Chiu, MS, CSCS, is affiliated with University of Southern California, and Brian K. Schilling, PhD, CSCS, is affiliated with the University of Memphis.

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