Monday 13 July 2009

Monday's mouth-watering guest article

Here is a guest article on the benefits of the Snatch Balance by Andy Murphy, who is a 77kg lifter--100kg/120kg-- and a professional strength and conditioning coach. He has a degree in Sport's Science from the University of Limerick, an IAWA Weightlifting Level One coaching certificate, and he also happens to have a very short memory. Just ask Eamonn "Deadman" Flanagan--who has also contributed a guest article which you can look at here.

The Snatch Balance.

The snatch balance is an assistance exercise for the snatch. The snatch balance enables the lifter to become more efficient at receiving the bar in the overhead squat position.

The bar is taken from the rack behind the neck and held is position with the lifter's normal snatch grip. The lifter stands up straight with their normal snatch foot position and rotates the elbows forward underneath the bar. This is important, as otherwise when the bar is driven overhead, the bar will be pushed out in front.

The lifter bends the knees and then forcefully extends, pushing the bar overhead, while simultaneously pushing themselves under and driving the feet out into their normal snatch receiving position.

The lifter, after stabilising the bar overhead, stands back up with the bar held securely overhead and either lowers the bar back down to shoulders behind the neck or drops it to the floor depending on shoulder health, weight lifted or reps to be performed.

Some common faults on the snatch balance are:

1. Driving the bar too high and riding the bar down. The bar should be driven just high enough in order to enable the lifter to push them underneath and secure the bar in the receiving position.

2. Not moving the feet out into the normal squat position of the snatch.

3. Driving the bar out in front. This can be cured by rotating the elbows underneath the bar and also be having a more vertical dip and drive phase.

4. The feeling of the bar crushing down on the lifter. This is due to either bad timing or due to the lifter driving the bar up forcefully and just flopping under the bar instead of actively pushing themselves under the bar.

The snatch balance is an important exercise for lifters that are uncomfortable in the receiving position of the snatch or that miss lifts due to a poor lockout in the receiving position.

The advantages of the snatch balance over other assistance exercises such as overhead squat and snatch drops are:

1. You are required to stabilise the bar at speed overhead as you are descending under the bar similar to the snatch.

2. You are required to extend the hips, knees etc and then forcefully rebend while pushing yourself under again replicating the snatch.

3. You become accustomed to stabilising and supporting weights in excess of your best snatch and thus when you come to snatch heavy the stabilising and supporting phase of the catch proves to no longer be the limiting factor.

4. For people with wrist issues there is less strain on the wrist than in an overhead squat due to the fact that the bar is not holding their wrist in the extended position for as long.

I have had reasonable success with the use of this exercise in my training. In my own lifting I find I have a strong pull but during the turnover and lockout the arms tend to be very lazy and almost soft in the receiving position. I find the snatch balance enables me to be much more stable in the receiving position and also much more confident with heavier weights.

I have used the snatch balance as my main snatch exercise in a session and I have also used it as somewhat of a warm up exercise performing maybe 5 singles around 80-85 % of my best snatch before some snatch or hang snatch. I have also used it in my normal snatch warm up with 40-50% of my best snatch and find it really enables me to find a comfortable receiving position. I have found that in my own training it works best when it is followed by some type of snatch movement.

I have used mainly singles in this lift due to the awkward starting position which I feel would not be the safest to perform with multiple repetitions. I think lifters who sometimes have a problem stabilising the bar overhead in the bottom of the snatch could benefit hugely from the addition of this exercise to their training toolbox.

Here is a short video of Andy performing the Snatch Balance. If you have any thoughts on the article or comments, please leave them below. In my own training, I worked out on Saturday and Snatched 100 for four singles missing the last and had a token session after that and also another shoddy enough session today. I am still recovering from the volume that my nervous system is not used to yet.


snatch_pete said...

Nice article.

I never got a lot out of this exercise (or overhead squats) but I do see the benefits for the lifters who do have trouble feeling stable under the bar in squat snatch. I had the guy I used to coach do them and he found them useful and I may have posted a clip on youtube at the time (similar memory problem that Andy has?).

When we did them we would start out as Andy described with the little push/drive up of the bar before going under to an exercise where we would remove the drive completely and just go under. Make you move that little bit faster as you have not as much time to get under bar. As Andy pointed out this will help alleviate potential riding down of the bar from too big a drive with legs.

Harry said...

Great article Andy, I think the process of catching the bar high and riding it down is is the major mistake made with this exercise.

There are subtle differences in the way people perform this exercise depending on the outcomes needed. Some differentiate by calling one version the Drop Snatch (which Pete described) which has no 'push-off' at the top of the movement, while they call the version that Andy describes the Snatch Balance.

To my mind they're just different ways of performing the same exercise depending on the outcome you want. The method Pete describes is excellent to improve reflex actions and is a great exercise to use before every single snatch session. There's a limit to the weight that's possible to use in this instance.

The method that Andy illustrates in his article, as he rightly describes, is great for lifters who have a problem engaging their arms (pushing up) in the overhead-squat position and for teaching lifters to use the arms to actively 'push' themselves under the bar.

Btw, I have a feeling that you didn't get a lot from this Pete because speed under the bar was never an issue for you! For me, unfortunately it was ;)

snatch_pete said...

Harry, could you expand on this 'for teaching lifters to use the arms to actively 'push' themselves under the bar'

Do you think this happens with max lifts or have I read this incorrectly which is a distinct possibility! I was in work today thinking about this and I had only access to two clips on my memory stick. Unfortunately it was only me at Arnolds 07 and not a world class lifter but with both the 105 and 108 snatch I was down in squat/receive position with arms locked and bar came down on me. I was just thinking if you are under the bar and had the time to push yourself down with arms would that not potentially you could lift more if you got down into squat position automatically with locked arm. My simple mind breaks it down into pulling hard enough to get enough height and acceleration on bar and then pulling under the bar fast enough so you are in full squat with locked arm to receive bar (without it crashing onto you).

Just wondering. Not criticising etc, just want to debate the mechanics of the lift or how you coach a beginner the thought process for the lift.

BTW, you can always get faster! Shreveport guys are like lightening. I always found this exercise sore on wrists and more stressful on shoulders for some strange reason and I could never get close to what I was snatching.

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