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Weightlifting and CrossFit - The reason you might hate the snatch

When you first start CrossFit, it is an extremely exciting time. For most people, there are upwards of 50 plus new movements to learn. Some of them are simple and easy to pick up, others can feel impossible. The important thing to remember is that not all movements are created equally. 

To start with, let’s take the Push Press. This is a barbell movement that is performed by taking a bar from your shoulders, and driving it overhead. The movement begins with a dip of the legs, then the bar is launched off the shoulders with a powerful leg drive. Once the legs have driven the bar as high as it can get, the arms seamlessly take over and complete the movement by fully extending with the barbell overhead. 95% of people can perform this movement to some degree after 1 or 2 sessions. 

But what about the Snatch? Now I’m talking about the Full Snatch or Squat Snatch as it is also known. Once again this is a barbell movement, once again this finishes overhead, so surely this is quite simply just “another movement”. Not quite. 

Whilst a Push Press does test the mobility of somebody’s overhead position, it is not to a great degree. The Snatch on the other hand not only considerably tests your overhead mobility, but it also tests your mobility around most of the major joints around the body. Ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, if you don’t have adequate range in any single one of these joints, you’re going to have an absolute nightmare every time you try to catch a bar in the bottom of an overhead squat position. 

So, let’s say you have a gymnastics or dancing background, and you are able to perform a beautiful overhead squat, you’re still not going to be able to Snatch properly after 2 sessions. You will have a much more enjoyable time, but it won’t be perfect. The Snatch itself is the most technical lift that we can perform with a barbell. To become proficient at Snatching you’re looking at well over 5 years of training, and if you’re aiming for stage like the Olympics, it’s more like 10 years plus. 

Now to be extremely good at Snatching, you’re looking at 10 years of practice. But if you’re partaking in CrossFit for GPP or to potentially compete, you don’t need to be throwing up Olympic level numbers. So, the question now is how long does it take to become competent at Snatching? 

If you are a weightlifter and you Weightlift 5 times per week, you’re going to become proficient at Snatching in 18 months to 2 years, depending on the person. If however you do CrossFit 5 times per week, it’s going to take much longer. Whilst the weightlifter will be Snatching 2-3 times per week, and general CrossFit programme will rarely be doing that amount in a month. Now there is good reason for this, CrossFit has an incredible amount of movements to master, whereas Weightlifting is much more specific. 

The main take home from this is that the Snatch is an incredibly challenging movement, and takes thousands and thousands of reps to master. If you want to improve your Snatch, my advice would be to work on your mobility, in all areas, and spend more time practicing the movement itself. 

Further Reading:

Top 5 Supplements For Weightlifting

5 Tips When Starting Weightlifting and CrossFit

Happy lifting folks!

Josh Summersgill (@joshsummersgill)
Weightlifting Coach