Grace, strength and athleticism. Those are 3 words that come to mind when I watch one of my weightlifting heroines Natalie (Woolfolk) Burgener snatch. In this video, she’s just tapering off 3 weeks from the Olympic Trials this past March and here she demonstrates for us the WOD: Snatch 1-1-1-1-1-1-1.
Having just peaked for one of the biggest competitions of the year (excluding the Summer Olympics), Natalie isn’t in top shape. She explains that she needs to think of staying tight in her core and bringing the bar back from the beginning cause that’s usually when the lift goes astray. So true. As we move around our own training room, many of our athletes have adopted a rather “grip and rip” mentality thinking speed off the floor is a compensatory measure for proper positioning and technique. If we look at the mechanics of the first pull (floor to just above the knees), the purpose of this phase is solely to keep position and bring the bar to the start of the even more coveted second pull where the hamstrings become maximally loaded and the athlete can start the explosive transition with the barbell. Any deviation of this path, and the athlete will sacrifice some explosive potential. Not cool.
So then, what’s the solution? Slow it down. A lot. Seriously. Speed is only good if you can keep your position and pull the bar back in towards your hips. If that ain’t happening, neither is your lift. Most of us will be snatching loads well under what we can deadlift so what’s the rush? We know we can handle picking the barbell up. Try instead doing a 3, 2, 1 count as you come off the floor; and as soon as you pass your knees, accelerate and complete your extension with a viciousness that would make your mama proud. This will at least give you the fighting chance to then turn yourself around and get under that weight before gravity comes and bites you in the donkey. Watch how Natalie cultivates her speed from the floor being patient until she passes her knees before beginning her acceleration. It’s a like a game of chicken, except the barbell is the other driver. If you flinch too soon and engage your speed, the barbell wins and will pull you forward out of position. Don’t be a chicken.