Posts Tagged ‘snatch’

The overhead squat is, in my opinion, one of the most challenging non-Olympic lifting barbell lifts which you can do. It requires a ton of mobility in several different regions of the body, as well as a ton of core strength and overhead stability. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the overhead squat, check out this video below.

Perhaps the first question which needs answering is: do you even need to overhead squat? I had this debate with an Olympic lifter friend of mine. His argument was that overhead squatting is unnecessary because the movement is covered when you snatch. I still felt the overhead squat was an important exercise to help create core and overhead stability. It took my thick head a couple of days to realize why we had differing viewpoints: he squat snatches, while I mostly power snatch. As a result, he gets a lot of full range overhead squatting in from his snatching, whereas I do not. This would explain in part why I struggle with the overhead squat: I haven’t really done it much.

Long story short, if you do a lot of squat snatching, you probably don’t need to program heavy overhead squats into your routine. If you mostly power snatch, I’d recommend programming in overhead squats to get you comfortable in the bottom position. And just to throw a little common sense at you: unless you are a CrossFitter training the overhead squat for its own sake, or an Olympic lifter training the overhead squat for snatching with a belt on, ditch the weight belt. Doing an exercise like this which demands a lot of your core with a belt on doesn’t make much sense.

What Does The Overhead Squat Do?

Believe it or not, the overhead squat, for most people, is not going to do a ton to build up lower body strength/power. Think of it this way. Let’s say you can back squat 300# for 3 reps, and overhead squat 250# for 3 reps. In both movements, your legs are displacing the same amount of weight. Since you can presumably overhead squat less than you can back or front squat, your legs will not be challenged in the same way that they would be if you back or front squatted.

The overhead squat is GREAT for core stability, upper back strengthing, mobility (especially when done lightly with an emphasis on perfect technique), and assessment purposes. If you want to see what’s wrong with a person’s body mobility-wise, watch them overhead squat.

As a bit of an aside, if you have never done the overhead squat, it may look like it requires a lot of tricep strength. While the triceps might be needed to press the weight into an overhead position, your elbows should be locked out when overhead squatting. There should be NO bend. If you find your triceps working a lot, you are probably doing the movement wrong.

Am I Ready To Overhead Squat?

Here is a guideline which I would suggest. Ever heard of the behind-the-neck Sots press? See the video below. If you can do this exercise properly and pain free with an empty Olympic bar, you PROBABLY (and remember, I’m not a doctor) have the mobility and shoulder health required to overhead squat.

My Sots Press Was Laughable. How Can I Get To The Point Of Overhead Squatting?

There are a number of things which can cause a poor Sots press. If you are an athlete and have been training using even moderately good programming and full range of motion, I’m going to go ahead and assume core stability and upper back/shoulder strength are likely not the reason your Sots press looks like you are bowing. Chances are the culprit is poor mobility.

If your torso inclines forward, you may have poor ankle mobility (focus on soleus and heel cord) or poor hip mobility (focus on piriformis, glutes, hams, etc.).

If you have pain in the knees or hips you probably have poor mobility in the knees or hips. Pretty self explanatory.

If you cannot push the bar straight up overhead, chances are one or several of the following areas need mobility work: upper traps, lats, pec minor, thoracic.

While I’m not going to go into how to fix all of those problems, check out the video below from Kelly Starrett which has some good overhead squat warm-up/solution info.

I’m Good To Start Overhead Squatting. How Do I Incorporate It Into My Programming?

Since this movement demands a lot of the core and a little bit less of the legs, I would definitely suggest doing it closer to the end of your workout. You definitely want to get your Olympic lifting and heavy squatting in first. Essentially, I would categorize this lift as an accessory movement. Don’t make it the focus of a workout.

I would not suggest going much above 6 reps per set on this exercise. It is a very complex movement that requires a lot of neural drive. High rep it, and small muscles like the ones in the upper back will start to fail, thus causing poor mechanics and increasing risk of injury.

The overhead squat is also a great warm-up for snatching. As well, as I mentioned earlier, it is a great assessment tool.

In Closing…

The overhead squat is an excellent exercise for any athlete who is not squat snatching. However, if you don’t respect how difficult and demanding it is and just try to jump into it, you are likely to hurt yourself. Check out your Sots press, and if you have issues which need some attention, fix them. Once you are ready to overhead squat, definitely consider making it a regular part of your routine. #allgo

Wrote up a program today which I thought some of you might enjoy. It is a one month program for a beginner-intermediate lifter. The purpose of the program is functional hypertrophy, meaning that provided proper nutrition and a reduction of conditioning work, you will put on some size and strength. The reason I suggest that this is appropriate for a beginner to intermediate lifter is that there are some challenging movements (like front squats and Turkish get-ups), but I have also opted to include clean pulls and snatch-grip deadlifts rather than snatches or cleans (the latter two being more complex).

The rep range is not super low, but low enough that I would not suggest doing this program unless you have done many of the movements before. If you are unfamiliar with these movements and you try to load them, you may injure yourself.

The program is 4 days/week. Ideally I would recommend training Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. Make sure to minimize other activities so that you have lots of time to recover. As well, eat lots of good food, drink lots of water, and get 8 hours of sleep per night.

During your workouts, your rest breaks between sets should be as long as you feel you need. This is not a fat loss program, so when in doubt, take a longer break. Aim for around 3 mins for the heavy compounds.

The program is designed in the following way. Week 1 is high volume, week 2 medium volume, week 3 very high volume, week 4 active recovery. Do NOT add or take away sets.

In terms of the notation used blow, 4S X 4R means 4 sets of 4 reps. If an exercise is just proceeded by a letter (ie. A), do all sets of that exercise before moving on to the next one. If an exercise is proceeded by a letter and number (ie C1), alternate each set with the corresponding exercise (ie C2).

I have included reference videos at the end for some of the lesser known exercises.

Lower Body (Day 1)

A) Clean Pulls
(Week 1: 4S X 3R, Week 2: 3S X 3R, Week 3: 5S X 2R, Week 4: replace with 4S X 4R broad jump)

B) Front Squats
(Week 1: 4S X 4R, Week 2: 3S X 5R, Week 3: 5S X 3R, Week 4: omit)

C1) Romanian Deadlifts
(Week 1: 3S X 8R, Week 2: 3S X 8R, Week 3: 4S X 6R, Week 4: 2S X 10R)

C2) Pistols (single leg squats)
(Week 1: 3S X 10R, Week 2: 3S X 10R, Week 3: 4S X 10R, Week 4: 2S X 10R)

D) Turkish Get-ups
(Week 1: 3S X 4R/side, Week 2: 3S X 4R/side, Week 3: 3S X 4R/side, Week 4: 2S X 4R/side)

Upper Body (Day 2)

A1) Barbell Rack Rows
(Week 1: 4S X 6R, Week 2: 4S X 5R, Week 3: 5S X 4R, Week 4: omit)

A2) Barbell Bench Press
(Week 1: 4S X 6R, Week 2: 4S X 5R, Week 3: 5S X 4R, Week 4: omit)

B1) Fat Grip (or tennis ball) Pull-Ups (or Pull-Downs)
(Week 1: 3S X 8R, Week 2: 3S X 6R, Week 3: 4S X 8R, Week 4: 2S X 10R)

B2) Single Arm Dumbbell Push Press
(Week 1: 3S X 8R, Week 2: 3S X 6R, Week 3: 4S X 8R, Week 4: replace with 2S X 10R dumbbell overhead press)

C1) TYIs
(Week 1: 3S X 12R, Week 2: 3S X 12R, Week 3: 3S X 12R, Week 4: 2S X 12R)

C2) Standing Cable External Rotation
(Week 1: 3S X 12R, Week 2: 3S X 12R, Week 3: 3S X 12R, Week 4: 2S X 12R)

Lower Body (Day 3)

A) Slightly Elevated Snatch Grip Deadlifts
(Week 1: 4S X 3R, Week 2: 3S X 3R, Week 3: 5S X 2R, Week 4: replace with 4S X 3R box jump starting from seated position)

B) Back Squats
(Week 1: 4S X 4R, Week 2: 3S X 5R, Week 3: 5S X 3R, Week 4: omit)

C1) Front Rack Reverse Lunges From Deficit
(Week 1: 3S X 8R, Week 2: 3S X 8R, Week 3: 4S X 8R, Week 4: replace with 2S X 8R walking lunge)

C2) Good Mornings
(Week 1: 3S X 8R, Week 2: 3S X 8R, Week 3: 4S X 6R, Week 4: 2S X 10R)

D) Standing Pallof Press
(Week 1: 3S X 8R/side, Week 2: 3S X 8R/side, Week 3: 3S X 8R/side, Week 4: 2S X 8R/side)

Upper Body (Day 4)

A1) Pull-Ups
(Week 1: 4S X 6R, Week 2: 4S X 5R, Week 3: 5S X 4R, Week 4: omit)

A2) Barbell Overhead Press
(Week 1: 4S X 6R, Week 2: 4S X 5R, Week 3: 5S X 4R, Week 4: omit)

B1) Neutral Grip Cable Rows
(Week 1: 3S X 8R, Week 2: 3S X 6R, Week 3: 4S X 8R, Week 4: 2S X 10R)

B2) Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
(Week 1: 3S X 8R, Week 2: 3S X 6R, Week 3: 4S X 8R, Week 4: 2S X 10R)

C1) Face Pulls
(Week 1: 3S X 12R, Week 2: 3S X 12R, Week 3: 3S X 12R, Week 4: 2S X 12R)

C2) No Moneys
(Week 1: 3S X 12R, Week 2: 3S X 12R, Week 3: 3S X 12R, Week 4: 2S X 12R)

Video References for Lesser Known Exercises

Barbell Rack Rows

Fat Grip or Tennis Ball Pull-Ups

Front Rack Reverse Lunges from Deficit
(This video demonstrates a reverse lunge from deficit. For our lunge, rack the barbell on the front of your body the same way you would for a front squat)

Box Jump Starting from Seated Position

No Moneys

Good luck! More programs to come… #allgo


CrossFit has gained a ton of steam as both a brand and an exercise methodology over the past few years. CrossFit is now partnered with Reebok, and the once modest CrossFit games have grown into an international phenomenon. I reference CrossFit frequently in my posts. There are things I think are great about CrossFit, and there are things which I think are terrible. This post is more opinion-based than many of my other posts. It’s only fair to inform the reader that I’ve never actually set foot in a CrossFit ‘box’ (the name of their gyms), but that I have done a fair amount of research on CrossFit, been in close contact with some CrossFitters, and done several CrossFit style workouts personally.

I pulled this definition off of wikipedia. Yes, wiki is a sketchy source at best, but it works for giving us a general definition here.

“CrossFit describes its strength and conditioning program as “constantly varied, high intensity, functional movement,” with the stated goal of improving fitness, which it defines as “work capacity across broad time and modal domains.”

Here is a video that expands a bit on that definition.

I’m going to get into some things I like about CrossFit, some things that I think are objectively not good about it, and some things that just generally annoy me about it.

Some things I like about CrossFit:

1) First and foremost, CrossFit advocates functional movements. Out of the hundreds of “WODS” (workout of the day) I’ve seen, I’ve only seen a couple workouts off of the Spartan Race twitter feed that involved bicep curls. Otherwise, they focus on squats, Olympic lifts, closed chain bodyweight movements, and other awesome exercises.

2) CrossFit encourages hard work. I’ve never seen someone doing a CrossFit workout who looked like they were slacking off, which is more than I can say about the hords of people I’ve seen on the shoulder press machine.

3) CrossFit improves general fitness, especially in the beginning. Chances are, if you are new to fitness, or if your ‘workouts’ consisted of a bunch of single joint movements and the treadmill, CrossFit will at least initially improve strength, flexibility, muscular endurance, coordination, aerobic conditioning, etc.

4) There is a focus on mobility. This one pretty much speaks for itself. On that note, Kelly Starrett is another great thing about CrossFit. If you haven’t checked out his blog, you should. The guy is a mobility wizard.

5) Thrusters. I’m not sure if this exercise predates CrossFit or not, but CrossFit has definitely popularized it in a big way. This exercise is incredible for conditioning. Period.

6) They have incredible facilities. Seriously, the gyms are like adult playgrounds.

Some things that are objectively not good about CrossFit:

1) One of the main, if not THE main focus of CrossFit is improving work capacity. My understanding of CrossFit is that they basically have two types of workouts. The first type of workout, which I have heard called “technique”, seems to focus on strength and power. The second type of workout, which I have heard called “met-con”, or “metabolic conditioning” focuses on work capacity. In met cons, you are generally either looking to complete the workout as quickly as possible, or you are doing an AMRAP (completing as many repetitions or rounds as possible in a pre-determined time period).

The problem with their conditioning workouts is that they include movements which should never be used in a conditioning workout. Ask any Olympic lifter about how many reps a set of cleans or snatches should have, and they will likely say 4 or less. John Broz would say 2 or less. The reason for this is two-fold. First, Olympic lifts are power movements. Doing high rep Olympic lifts improves muscular endurance, but not power. Logically, it makes no sense. Second, high rep Olympic lifts are dangerous. Because the muscles that make up the posterior chain fatigue at different rates, attempting to do 30 reps of 135# clean and press for time (the CrossFit benchmark workout known as ‘Grace’) will ensure you are lifting with a rounded lumbar. I shouldn’t have to explain why that’s bad. High rep snatches? Probably not the best idea if you like your shoulders intact.

2) Kipping/butterfly pull-ups. These are bad for your shoulders. Point blank. I dare any CrossFitter to explain how they’re not.

3) There is a lack of periodization/organization in CrossFit FOR THE MOST PART. I watched a video one time where a guy teaching a CrossFit programming course tried to explain that the WODS provided on the CrossFit mainsite were a lot more organized than people think. I looked at every WOD everyday for three months. Either I know nothing about fitness, or there was little or no organization.

Periodization and organization of your workouts is essential. Ask any Olympians if they periodize. Many high level CrossFitters such as Rich Froning, the current male CrossFit games champion, have recognized this. There is a documentary online where he explains how he organizes his workouts, specifically his strength/power workouts. Any serious athlete knows the value of periodization. You don’t need ‘constant variation’ to improve, and it can even be a hindrance.


4) For athletes who need to complete in a specific sport, CrossFit isn’t focused enough. If you are an average Joe or Jill looking to ‘get fit’, CrossFit is great. If you want to compete in the CrossFit games, you should be doing CrossFit. But, if you are a volleyball player, do a workout that is designed for a volleyball player. Even CrossFit has admitted in an indirect way that their system is not necessarily the best for athletes. The creation of “CrossFit Endurance” for endurance athletes and “CrossFit Football” for strength and power athletes suggests this.

5) At least from what I have seen, there is virtually no focus on prehab. No rotator cuff work, no upper back work, no glute med work. At least directly. Prehab is very important for injury prevention. Any program that ignores it, especially if the program has been designed for an athlete, is, in my opinion, incomplete.

6) When it comes to exercise, hard and good are not the same thing. If I did a half hour of leg extensions, I would be working hard. I would also be beating up my knees.

Some things that I just don’t like about CrossFit:

1) Some of the exercises don’t seem to make sense. Like medicine ball cleans. Whyyy?

2) The self-righteous attitude of the group. You didn’t invent circuits or cross-training, so calm down. Just because I’m doing burpees doesn’t mean I’m doing CrossFit.

3) Building on #2, the idea that CrossFit is the be-all-end-all of fitness. Just because you want to improve physically somehow doesn’t mean you should be doing CrossFit. Want to clean 300#? Spend your time cleaning. CrossFit met-cons will only slow you down.

4) I’m going to bring in my philosophy background here, so my apologies if I bore you to tears. The number of CrossFitters who fall victim to the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Roughly translated, that means “after this, therefore because of this”. I’ve heard more times than I can count the number of CrossFitters who said “I’m in the best shape of my life since I started CrossFit”. I’m glad to hear that, but is it because of CrossFit specifically? Maybe your problem was that you were slacking off. Maybe you have improved because you have been working hard and doing functional movements, neither of which are exclusively attributed to CrossFit.

And there you have it. That’s my opinion about CrossFit. My suggestion if you are an athlete is to take what is good about CrossFit and include it into your PROGRAMMING! Below are a couple of articles critiquing CrossFit if you would like a little more information. Now go do some thrusters. #allgo


MMA as well as many other sports require lots of different physical capacities for athletes. You have to be powerful to have a quick double-leg. You have to be flexible to throw a head kick. You have to have good conditioning to kickbox after shooting six times in a row. The more things you attempt to improve at once, the smaller the improvements in each individual area will be. Sure, you may be able to both snatch 200# for the first time and break a 20 minute 5k in the same month. However, chances are you would have seen greater improvement in one area if you had focused on that one area alone. Feel yourself being tossed around during grappling? Take the month off from conditioning and squat heavy several times a week. Breathing heavy after sprawling twice? Drop the heavy power cleans for a month and make friends with burpees. Yes, you can get stronger while doing some conditioning, but make sure your training has a clear emphasis. The more focused your training, the better the results will be. #allgo

Olympic lifters tend to snatch and clean on the same day. Since athletes have to worry about certain things Olympic lifters don’t, such as a lot of unilateral work (lunges, pistols, prowler, etc.), I would suggest having a separate snatch day and a clean day. Pair snatches with back squats and cleans with front squats, and always perform your Olympic lifts before you start your squats. What about overhead squats you say? Expect a full length post about that in the near future. #allgo


In the last post I discussed the basics of the clean and the snatch. This post will give you some tips about how to integrate them into your training routine.

1) Always do your Olympic lifts as your first heavy lifts of the day. Olympic lifts are power movements. Therefore, you will be using type 2B muscle fibers when you do them. Since your type 2B fibers burn out the fastest, you do not want to try snatching >90% of your 1 rep max after running for 15 mins. You will not get it. Always Olympic lift fresh.

2) Don’t do high rep Olympic lifts. There are lots of things CrossFit does well. High rep Olympic lifts are an example of something they do terribly. First off, doing high rep power movements makes no sense. I have discussed in earlier posts the difference between power and muscular endurance. There is no good reason to do a power movement for endurance. Not only is there no good reason to do high rep Olympic lifts, there are lots of good reasons NOT to do them. Your posterior chain muscles (glutes, hams, erectors) fatigue at different rates. Hence, while some muscles used in the snatch may stay fresher longer, other muscles will run out of gas quickly. Uneven fatigue of the musculature in a movement as complex as an Olympic lift can and will cause injury if high reps are performed regularly. Check out this video of Mikko Salo and Graham Holmberg, two top CrossFitters doing high rep snatches. Fast-forward to the last couple of minutes of the video to see them snatching with a rounded lumbar. Recipe for a lower back injury. (For the record, these guys are absolute monsters in the gym, and I mean no disrespect.)

3) Keep your Olympic lift sets between 1 and 3 reps to focus on pure power. John Broz, a proponent of the Bulgarian lifting method, recommended sticking to only singles or doubles for Olympic lifts. Don’t go much higher than that. Otherwise, you are not using maximal load and are therefore not improving your power as much as you could be.

4) Don’t waste your time with kettlebell or dumbbell Olympic lifts. The Olympic lifts are basically lower body movements. Yes, the traps are used, but for the most part you are using your lower body. Let me ask you this. What’s your max clean? 100kg? Awesome. Think you can clean a 100kg dumbbell? No chance. What about two 50 kg kettlebells? Maybe, but unlikely. Since Olympic lifts are lower body movements, and using unilateral implements reduces the amount of weight you can lift, why would you use anything other than a barbell? Answer: you wouldn’t…at least not after reading this post I hope.

5) Snatch. While many athletes perform cleans, the snatch is one that a large number shy away from. It could be because they require more hip and overhead mobility, or it could be because they are arguably more difficult to learn mechanically. Snatches are awesome for core strength, upper back development, and athleticism. While it could be said that the clean requires the more brute strength of the two Olympic lifts, it could also be said that the snatch requires more power, speed, and finesse.

6) Don’t do Olympic lifts in complexes. When I say complexes here, I mean complexes where you are really busting your butt on a conditioning day, rather than complexes which you use to warm up for Olympic lifting. Truthfully, I’m not quite sure how I feel about the latter.  This is a mistake I made for a long time which I have now corrected. I used to think “Well, I shouldn’t do high rep cleans, and I shouldn’t clean mid-complex, but what if the first movement of each complex is a clean, and I only do it for 4 reps? Should be okay”. Negative. I was wrong. First of all, I was still starting the complexes fatigued, meaning that my form was off, and therefore that I was increasing risk of injury. I rarely feel my lower back doing low rep high weight cleans, but I almost always felt it doing hang cleans with much lighter weight in complexes.

I also noticed that doing the cleans in complexes hurt my form on the days where I did them heavy. Because I was used to muscling them up and getting them done by any means necessary while fatigued, I was practicing poor movement patterns. I wasn’t until I stopped doing cleans in complexes and starting doing a lot of empty bar technique work that I was finally able to break through my 100kg 1RM clean plateau.

Hopefully these two posts have cleared up how you should and should not use Olympic lifts in your training. I now leave you with a video of Dmitriy Klokov snatching 192 kg, or 422.5#. If this doesn’t make you want to go pick up heavy things, you are dead inside. Seriously, the guy is like a freakin superhero. #allgo


This is going to be the first part of a two part series on the Olympic lifts. Part 1 will deal with why you should be Olympic lifting, and go into some key terms and distinctions. Part 2 will deal with how to properly program the Olympic lifts into your training.

First and foremost, if you are an athlete, you should probably be Olympic lifting. The Olympic lifts are great for building power and coordination, two things which are important in pretty much all sports. Also, to Olympic lift properly, especially in the case of the snatch, you will have to address imbalances and mobility issues in your body. See how well snatching goes if you have poor shoulder mobility from too much benching.

There are two Olympic Lifts: the snatch, and the clean and jerk. Check out the following videos.

Here is the snatch:

Here is the clean and jerk:

As you might notice, the clean and jerk is actually two movements. The clean and the jerk. While the jerk isn’t a bad lift by any stretch of the imagination, I would suggest that unless you are considering doing Olympic Lifting competition, just focus on cleans and snatches. While heavy overhead work is a great idea providing you have the mobility and are injury free, I’d suggest focusing on heavy push press instead, and doing them on a different day than your Olympic lifts.

It is important to understand that there are lots of variations of these lifts. For the sake of simplicity, I will only discuss the snatch here. All of the statements that I’m making, however, also correspond to the clean. If someone simply says “snatch” you should assume the bar starts on the ground. If they say the word “hang” before snatch, the bar starts somewhere around the knees. The terms ‘power’ snatch and ‘squat’ snatch refer to what position the lifter is in when he or she catches the bar. For the squat snatch, the bar is caught in an overhead squat position below parallel. For a power snatch, the bar is caught in an overhead squat position somewhere above parallel. Once again, all of these qualifying terms work the same with with a clean.

You may have also heard about snatch pulls and clean pulls. The pull variations of the Olympic lifts mean that the bar is not actually caught. For example, in a power clean, the lifter catches the bar in the front rack position which you also use for front squats. In a clean pull, the clean motion is performed, but the bar is not actually caught. One of the advantages of Olympic lifting pulls over the standard lifts is that they allow you to displace more weight and do not require as much technique.

You may have seen someone at some point do a split snatch or a split clean. When you catch a standard snatch, your feel are basically in a squatting position with your toes in line with one another. You can perform a split snatch were you catch the bar with one foot in front of the other in a lunging type of position. This is a less commonly utilized option, but is fine to use if you feel more comfortable.

Don’t get too bogged down with terms and variations. You don’t need to do hang snatch pulls one week and power snatches the next week. In fact, I would avoid hang cleans and hang snatches altogether save using them for a warm up or a teaching tool. You are going to snatch more weight than you hang snatch, so why not just snatch?

In terms of the best Olympic lifting variations for sport, I’d focus on the power clean and the power snatch. While both power and squat variations are excellent, power Olympic lifting variations require a little less mobility and are a bit easier to learn. Let’s not forget that you are working out for the sake of your sport, and likely have a ton on your mind already about the little nuances of movements specific to it. My guess is most of you reading this would rather spend time perfecting your x-guard or switch kick than your snatch, and fair enough!

Lastly, review my last quick tips post about Olympic lifting technique work. These lifts are very complicated. Don’t rush into them. Learn to do them properly before you start to load heavy.

Long story short: 1) You should be Olympic lifting. 2) The two variations which you should focus on are power snatches and power cleans. #allgo