Olympic weightlifters have a toolbox of lifts to choose from when determining the best approach to increase one of their competition lifts (snatch and clean and jerk) and/or complete totals (snatch + clean & jerk).
Two common snatch variations to increase the pulling power (increased bar height on pulls), upper body strength (increased height on pulls and turnover performance), and help athletes who may lack the necessary “finishing the pull” abilities are the muscle snatch and the power snatch.
In this article, I will break down the muscle snatch vs. power snatch, how to perform them, and what are the specific differences and unique applications in which they can and should be programmed.
The Muscle Snatch
The muscle snatch is often programmed in the beginning of a lifting session to prepare athletes for snatch work. In an earlier article, Yasha Kahn discussed the “Soviet Muscle Snatch”, which slightly differs from the standard muscle snatch often known by many. Key differences between the standard “light muscle snatch” versus the “heavy muscle snatch” is that in the latter, (1) lifters take a hookless grip, (2) allow no contact with the hip, and (3) can often have the elbows drop slightly in the turnover of the barbell to allow for a snatch press to finish the lift.Regardless of which muscle snatch variation one chooses, the purpose is to:
- Warm up necessary upper body muscles for heavier snatches.
- Teach a lifter to stay active onto the barbell during the finishing of the hips and throughout the turnover phase of the snatch.
- Increase pulling trajectory and pulling mechanics to optimize the terminal height of the barbell.
Muscle snatches are often paired with other movements, such as overhead squats, snatch balances, and/or even power snatches during warm up sets to maximize lower and upper body pulling mechanics needed for heavier snatch training. Loading intensities are often seen between 40-60% of a lifter’s best snatch.
The Power Snatch
The power snatch is an effective movement to:
- Increase speed and force production during the second pull and transition phase (3rd pull) in the snatch.
- Effective exercise used to increase the terminal height on the barbell at the end of the pulling phase, which will increase the amount of time a lifter should have to get fixated into a rigid squat positioning in the snatch.
- Can be used during lighter/deloading sessions to allow for snatch training yet also adequate recovery from heavier loads.
- Can be used a a regressed snatch lift for athletes who may not be able to sit into a full overhead squat.
Which is Best For…?
Below are four common purposes/scenarios in which the muscle snatch and power snatch can be used.
Increased Pulling Strength
Both movements increase pulling strength of a lifter, however when looking at the overall demands on pulling abilities, the power snatch is supreme. As discussed above, power snatches can be used with lifters who have poor terminal height on the pulls and/or fail to have maximal bar velocities in the second and third pulls. The muscle snatch does offer plenty of benefit, especially is lifter’s have sufficient upper body strength and pressing abilities to finish lifts and/or have slow/weak turnovers. Coaches and athletes can best maximize performance by performing muscle snatches prior to power snatches as a warm-up movement.
Generally speaking, technique can be mastered by coaches and athletes best individualizing exercises most needed by an athlete based upon faults, weaknesses, or learning phases. Both movements (as discussed below) can help beginners and all level lifters increase pulling mechanics, turnover strength and trajectory, and improve the terminal height in which the barbell finishes, deeply impacting performance.
The application of power snatches to the snatch, in my opinion, is larger in the long run for most athletes, as the bar velocities, timing, and strength/power capacities needed are very similar. While this is not to say the muscle snatches are not vital (muscle snatches are a fundamental movement), they do offer less transferability to heavier snatches (due to timing, bar speeds, loading, etc). To maximize performance muscle snatches can however, be done prior to power snatches as a priming movement to as well.
Both movements offer beginners (and all levels) the opportunity to refine technique, barbell trajectory, and enhance snatch performance. When first teaching beginners, I personally feel that both movements are very effective and can be used simultaneously to fast-track lifters towards the full squat version.
The muscle snatch can be taught from day one to help lifters understand the basic bar path and fluidity of the snatch. While many coaches teach the “top down method”, as I often do as well, the muscle snatch can be used to increase vertical pulling mechanics and strength in early stages. The power snatch can be a very effective exercise when teaching the “top down method”, which simply means having the lifter first perform snatch variations from a starting position that is closest to the hips, as this is generally thought to be a less complex movement.
When paired in a training program (the muscle snatch and snatch, on separate days or same), both movements can enhance the learning curve and performance for beginners. Increase the effectiveness and transferability further by combining these movements with other fundamental movements, such as overhead squats, snatch balances, snatch push presses, and more.
Overall Snatch Performance
The best way to increase snatch performance is to master the basics of snatching, the positions, and be consistent. That said, both movements offer a unique benefit to lifters of all levels. Personally, I believe that coaches and athletes can implement these movements on a weekly basis throughout their lifting careers (recreational and/or competitive) to have great success in both the movements as well as overall snatch performance.