4 Common Mistakes in The Barbell Snatch
There are numerous errors that occur due to the complex nature of the Olympic lifts. The best
way to identify problems and the corrections for those problems is with an Olympic weightlifting
coach! I have, however, compiled some common errors and possible corrections. This is not
meant to be an all inclusive or exhaustive assessment of errors and corrections for the snatch,
rather some suggestions for improvement.
1. Jumping Forward In the Catch
This is problematic because it throws the lifter off balance as the body is launched forward under
the weight. It makes it very difficult to stabilize the weight overhead at heavy loads. A common
cause of this error is hitting the bar horizontally with the hips and launching the weight forward
in an arc. I do believe that for a snatch to be done properly, you must hit the bar at full hip
extension. However, the bar must remain close to the thighs (brushing the thighs) so that it does
not move horizontally, as it does more commonly when hit from a distance. Think jump not
bump. When athletes focus on the bump they tend to project the bar horizontally. Equally
important is using your latissimus dorsi (the muscles of the back that look like wings) to keep the
bar pressed close to the body.
The Fix: Work snatch pulls and high pulls keeping the bar close to the body.
2. Failure To Drop
Dropping under (pulling under) the bar is necessary in both the power snatch and squat snatch,
just to a greater degree is the squat variation. Oftentimes this is caused by an underlying fear of
dropping beneath heavy weight. That is a natural tendency but must be overcome to effectively
snatch heavier weight. This can also be the reason why the weight must be pressed out rather
than having full arm extension in the catch. Another cause could be disconnecting from the bar
(load). Think of pulling yourself under the bar while maintaining a connection to the bar rather
than dropping with a free fall.
The Fix: A) Work tall snatch to work on pulling under the bar. B) Work heavy snatch
push press to get used to having heavier weight overhead.
3. Arms Bending Too Early
This is very common because we are used to lifting things with our arms. The majority of
vertical drive on the bar is from the hips (hip extension), therefore it is vital to keep tension in the
arms in order to maximize this drive. Think of your arms as ropes with hooks attached at the
end. If you flex or bend the ropes, you can lose the tension on the bar that you created from the
pull, if the arms start to restraighten. This in turn weakens the vertical drive on the bar. Ideally
the arms should bend at the end of full hip extension, in order to pull the body under the bar.
The Fix: Work on snatch pulls, making sure to keep the arms straight.
4. Stripper Pull
This is when the butt rises faster than the shoulders in the first pull from the floor. They must
rise at the same time until the bar passes the knee. Besides looking like you are showcasing for a
night job, another detriment to the stripper pull is that it puts slack in the system (body structure),
decreasing the vertical drive of the bar in the first pull. It’s like letting out some of the tension
that you created to lift the bar. If I maintain a flat back and the shoulders and hips rise at the
same time, I create momentum in the first pull, which leads to a better second pull and overall
The Fix: Work halting snatch deadlifts.
There are many other errors including but not limited to: scraping the shins, shoulders not over
the bar, elbows pointing back instead of out (laterally), landing on the toes, and missing full hip
extension. If you are unfamiliar with the recommended exercises your best bet is an Olympic
weightlifting coach. Catalyst Athletics also has a great free online library of videos. Stay strong!
Dr. Tony Lamanna has his Doctorate in Chiropractic Medicine, a Masters in Human Nutrition, and teaches college Anatomy & Physiology and Nutrition. He has 4 different Olympic Weightlifting certifications including USAW Advanced Sports Performance Coach, a powerlifting certification (USAPL), and is a Corrective Exercise Specialist (NASM). Dr. Tony is also a US National kettlebell champion in the kettlebell clean & jerk, national silver medalist in the kettlebell snatch (IKLF), and a World silver medalist in the kettlebell clean & jerk (IKLF), as well as holding several AZ state records in Powerlifting (USAPL).