The power snatch is one of the most criminally under-utilised exercises in sport performance. It’s an Olympic weightlifting variation with a huge range of motion that allows you to develop explosiveness and athleticism without hugely taxing your ability to recover.
In this article we’ll be providing a simple and actionable step by step guide to get you started, as well as looking at three of the main benefits, how long it takes to learn, plus some high-level tips on how to program the power snatch into your workouts.
Let’s get started, shall we?
How to Power Snatch: Step by Step Guide
Step 1: High Hang Power Snatch
First up, you’re going to want to get your grip and width of grip correct. You’re looking for a wide grip on the bar. If you stand up tall, the bar should be pretty much in line with your hip crease.
You’re also going to want to use what’s known as a ‘hook grip,’ where your thumb is in contact with the bar, and covered by at least two fingers (see image below).
From your standing position, all I want you to do is slightly bend your knees, and then ever so slightly hinge at the hips (push your bum back towards the wall behind you). You should find yourself in a position very similar to how you would prepare for a vertical jump, and this is known as your ‘power position’ or ‘high hang.’
Once you’ve found this position, you’re going to do an aggressive jump and catch, elevating the barbell and catching it above your head.
As you practice, aim to keep the bar close to your body, and make sure you don’t ‘starfish’ your legs by taking your feet out way too wide.
Power Snatch Drill 1
6 sets of 6 reps
Step 2: Knee Hang Power Snatch
For this step, you’re building on everything you did in step 1, only with a small change to your start position.
To start, find your high hang/power position from step 1, and then hinge much more at the hips so that the bar is now hanging about an inch below your knees. This is your knee hang power snatch position. You’ll know if you’ve found the right position because your shins should still be pretty much vertical.
From this new start position, you’re going to slowly come back up to your high hang/power position, and then jump and catch just like you did before.
As you practice, aim to be patient and wait until you’re in the high hang/power position (knees and hips slightly bent) before you jump and catch.
Power Snatch Drill 2
6 sets of 5 reps
Step 3: Power Snatch (From the Floor)
For your last step, you’ll be building on what you did in steps 1 and 2, only you’ll be starting from a lower position.
To find your correct start position with the barbell on the floor, begin by finding your knee hang position. Once you’ve found this position all you need to do is bend your knees until the bar is in contact with the floor. That’s it.
From this position, slowly come back up to your high hang/power position, and then jump and catch just like you did before.
As you practice more and more, you’ll find that you can naturally find your start position on the floor without needing to go through the process of lowering the bar from the knees. You’ll also find that you can lift the bar faster whilst still hitting your correct knee and high hang positions. With that said, if you ever get stuck or feel like something is off, slow the movement back down and reset your position using the steps outlined.
Power Snatch Drill 3
6 sets of 3 reps
Benefits of the Power Snatch
#1 Train Explosiveness and Rate of Force Development
Weightlifting movements and their derivatives have been shown to outperform vertical jump programmes (Tricoli 2005) and powerlifting programmes (Hoffman 2004) in terms of lower body power development, which makes them a fantastic tool for improving your sprints and jumps.
Plus it makes sense when you think about it; with the power snatch you’re combining the quick, explosive components of the vertical jump with the weighted, resistance components of traditional weight training.
#2 Great Introduction Step for People Wanting to Learn the Snatch (Especially those with Mobility Limitations)
The full snatch is a fantastic movement, but it’s also a complicated one that involves a significant change of direction followed by catching a heavy weight in an overhead squat. As a coach, I’ve found that for all but the most exceptionally natural athletes, this poses a significant movement challenge.
Plus, if you’re someone like a rugby player or a swimmer who has pretty immobile shoulders, having to descend into an overhead squat might be your idea of a nightmare.
The power snatch is a great solution to these problems as you catch the bar much higher, removing the complex change of direction and mobility demands.
#3 Teaches Experienced Athletes and Weightlifters to Fully Extend and Elevate the Barbell
Even when people have learnt how to snatch and clean, movement errors do tend to sneak in. A common one is to try and rush under the barbell to catch it, without fully extending at the hips and knees. For weightlifters, this is an issue because the bar will lack elevation, actually making it harder to catch. For athletes, this is an issue because full hip and knee extension is what makes the weightlifting movements carry over so well to sporting activities like jumping and sprinting.
With the power snatch, however, because you HAVE to catch the bar higher you’re forced to maximally extend and keep pulling on the bar.
How Long Does it Take to Learn the Power Snatch?
Some people will tell you that it takes weeks or months to learn how to power snatch. I say that’s nonsense.
I’ve taught dozens of people to power snatch within a single session, often within 30 minutes of practice.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean they’re masters at it, we’re not going to see them turning up at an international weightlifting event just to flex on the competition with insane power snatches…
But they were all competent, effective and safe enough to add some amount of load to the barbell.
How to Program the Power Snatch
Alright, you know the benefits and you’ve got a simple, actionable way to learn the power snatch within a few sessions.
But how do you work it into your programme once you’ve learnt it?
Since the power snatch is one of the more complex and explosive gym-based movements, I would recommend you put it right at the start of your workout so that you can practice it when you’re physically, and mentally, the freshest.
Sets, Reps and Intensities:
For sports performance and power development, I would use weights that are in the 60-75% range of your snatch 1 Rep Max. If you’re not sure what this is yet, aim for reps that are quick, snappy and explosive. Something in the region of 3 to 5 sets of 2 to 4 reps works perfectly.
For weightlifters looking to use the power snatch as a lighter day variation, I would use weights that are in the 70-80% 1RM range. Still snappy, but slightly closer in feel to a heavier lift. Something in the region of 3 to 5 sets of 1 to 3 reps works great.
Periodisation and Long Term Planning:
If you’re designing your own long term training plan, or you’re a coach looking to do so for your athletes, you can periodise power snatches according to the force-velocity curve.
For example, have a look at this data from Suchomel et al. (2017) on different weightlifting variations:
Check out our article on how to Power Clean
If you had a velocity based athlete (a sprinter for example) and had 12 weeks until their next competition, you would likely be best spending…
- Weeks 1-4 using high force, low-velocity movements like mid-thigh pulls, and snatch pulls from the knee.
- Weeks 5-8 using moderate force, moderate-velocity movements like power snatches from the floor or the knee.
- And then weeks 9-12 using low force, high-velocity movements like mid-thigh power snatches, high hang power snatches, snatch high pulls and snatch jump shrugs.
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By doing so, you’d be periodising training based around the specificity of force and velocity, meaning your athlete will be favourably ‘primed’ ready for competition.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Do a Dumbbell Power Snatch Instead?
Honestly, it’s not the best choice of exercise for a couple of reasons. First, it’s too light, you’ll only be using 10-30kg versus the 30-120kg you might use on a barbell. Second, almost everyone that dumbbell power snatches ends up using their arms WAY too much, making it far less useful for lower body power development.
What About the Snatch Vs Power Snatch?
Whilst I think the full snatch is a fantastic exercise, the technical demands and mobility/flexibility demands can be a substantial obstacle for a lot of people. The power snatch offers a simpler alternative that still has a huge amount of the same benefits.
What Is the Hang Power Snatch?
If you’ve not been into weightlifting for a while, there can be a lot of new terminology to learn. The hang power snatch is simply the second step that we discussed in our learning sequence.
Check out this article for answers to the most commonly asked weightlifting questions
Final Thoughts on Learning How to Power Snatch
So there you have it, you’ve got a simple, step by step process that you can put into action today to learn the power snatch and start reaping its benefits. You also know how to integrate it into your training programmes, with specific set and rep scheme recommendations.
Your next step is now to get in the gym and practice the movements two to three times per week, moving through the learning sequence with the sets and reps that I’ve recommended.
If the exercise feels a bit weird at the start, that’s a totally normal part of the process. Put in the work, aim to improve a little bit every session, and you might just find that the power snatch becomes one of your favourite exercises for developing explosive lower body power.
Go get after it.
Owner and Coach, Character Strength & Conditioning
British Weightlifting Tutor & Educator
References/ Further Reading
Suchomel et al. (2017) Enhancing the Force-Velocity Profile of Athletes Using Weightlifting Derivatives.
If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:
- Parry, A. (2021). The Power Snatch: Benefits, Step by Step Guide and Programming. Available from: LINK [Accessed dd/mm/yyyy]
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Alex is the Owner and Head Coach of Character Strength & Conditioning, and specialises in strength & power development for athletes.
He currently works as a Tutor & Educator for British Weightlifting, and has previously delivered S&C support to gymnastics and swimming talent pathways.