Cleans vs. Snatches

At my school, last year they placed a heavy emphasis on cleans and almost none on snatches. This year, its almost the exact opposite (we have a new S&C coach). As far as cleans go, I increased my 1rm from 95 to 175, which is where I’m at now. However, my snatch is pretty pathetic compared to everyone else who can clean about the same amount of weight. My 1rm for the snatch is 85lbs.

What excercises should I focus on to improve this number? It seems that whenever I’m doing a snatch as soon as I get to the portion of the lift where the bar starts to go over my shoulders I lose all my strength and I cant go any farther.

Oh yeah, all lifts are done from the floor, and I’m about 6 feet tall and I weigh 152lbs, if that is important at all.

Are you in high school or college?

Sorry, I’m 16, in high school.

Then my first recommendation is as follows:

Have your S and C coach email me so I can explain to him/her why the VAST MAJORITY of high school athletes (especially freshmen and sophomores) lack the physical preparedness in order to safely, effectively, and efficiently perform cleans and snatches.

Here is where the distinction must be made; the VAST MAJORITY of high school athletes (who are not part of an OL club) do not have an adequate amount of time in weight training classes to adequately spend on the proper instruction of the OL’s. Alternatively, if the coach opts to instruct/employ the OL’s than valuable training time is lost which could otherwise be more effectively utilized to learn much simpler lifts, yet just as, if not more, effective at building functional/structural adaptations and muscular coordination (e.g., all major compound lifts and medicine ball throws)

I speak from experience, when I took of the S and C position at my school all of the PE classes and sport teams utilized cleans, and about 99% of all the students exhibited SHIT form. The same is true amongst schools across the US.

These S and C coaches get excited because they either seem some fourteen year old Chinese phenom on an Iron Mind training hall tape, or get brainwashed by the NSCA and then proceed to have entirely ill prepared young boys/girls start performing OL’s.

Moving on, at six feet/one hundred fifty lbs the last thing you need to focus on is building a big snatch. You need to pack some muscle mass on your tall frame and work on increasing your relative and core strength. Leave your speed/RFD training to the field/track and med ball work.

Personally I enjoy snatching but can barely do more then you. As it is harder to lift the smaller plates off the floor I usually do them from the hang position above the knees. Your taller so I would think that plays a factor for you as well. Try them from the hang or do what I do stack a bunch of the mats under the plates so the bar starts out higher.

 I am sure the argument against snatches will come up because of possible shoulder problems from other members of the forum so be ready.

Amos, the issue is not shoulder problems, it is whether your level of GPP is sufficient.

To be more clear James could you explain GPP as it relates to snatching?

When I looked at Mister C’s other post on over head sqauts he relates that at first he had trouble with the flexability to squat down with the bar but has improved with practice. To keep it on topic if he is having trouble with the lift as it goes above shoulder height would that mean he is not dropping down into a squat to catch the bar vs. what sounds like he is trying to continue raising the bar above his head with his arms? This would remind me of the first time I tried power snatches that were to heavy for me to power snatch.

In order to yield any appreciable athletic carryover from the snatch, in my view, the trainee must have already developed certain levels of GPP (e.g., muscle cross-section, inter/intra muscular coordination, relative strength, core strength, dynamic flexibility, mobility, etc.)

The snatch, is inherently speed strength dominant and certainly demands many of the above listed qualities. However, it is not a lift, in my view, which is optimal to teach these qualities, as the risk of injury is to great for trainees with low levels of the abilities listed above.

And speed strength and absolute strength are highly interrelated. And as you must know, very view young athletes possess high degrees of absolute strength. Thus, as max strength increases, so will speed strength, so long as a certain volume of speed/RFD work is being performed (on the track/med ball, etc).

To throw in the OL’s before certain levels of GPP are obtained, is a HUGE mistake in my view.

People in the west must realize that most of the OL lifters from eastern Europe, Russia, and Asia spend years developing GPP before any significant loads are used in the OL’s.

Alternatively, in the west, we like to get our 14 and 15 year olds performing OL variations when there pre-existing levels of GPP are complete SHIT! Subsequently, we are left to observe an exhibition of horrible and dangerous technique in school gyms all across America.

If I can single arm dumbbell curl more than a trainee is capable of 1RMing a snatch, then I have news for you, that trainee is exercising futility by attempting to raise his/her 1RM in the snatch. He/she should instead be focusing on raising the motor abilities which I listed at the beginning of this post.


Although I agree with you about GPP and using it to develop specific motor qualities, you have to start somewhere when learning the snatch, by breaking the lift down into parts(snatch pull, overhead squat, front and back squat, drop snatch).
Yes you are right that they will not develop speed-strength with such a small amount of weight but you have to remember that these are beginning athletes and anything they do they will make a fast progression. All my athletes are always extremly sore and burnt out after a few session of technique work. There is no problem implementing the parts of the lift(with light weight even if it is a broom stick) as in the beginning of the workout(and the russians did do this with thier novice lifters along with other more basic exercises). My athletes who are first learning the OL’s have 15 minutes of practice and then we move on to the rest of the workout. We do not waste time and you will be suprised how fast they pick up the movements from practice to practice.

As far as the age thing goes I love the younger athletes. Thier level of flexibility is great and allows them to get into proper rack/catch postion much easier. I have a 15year old girl who started out with nothing more than a plastic pole a year ago, she weighs 110lbs and today she full snatched squated 85lbs for a triple and soccer is her main sport!!!
I guess what it comes down to is as a coach you have to choose what excercises you are going to use to develop certain motor qualites, for you its the DE squat and bench for me its the OL’s. Both work great and require a keen eye and good coaching. So is saying that i never want to entirely drop or not do an excercise but always work on until it is perfected(which id do with my youngsters), so then i can switch emphasis to those excercises when i feel they will make an impact on that motor quality i seek.

Frit, you are an exception to the rule. You know this, as do I. I would be willing to wager that like minded coaches, in the US, are in the extreme minority.

Your logistical breakdown, of using introductory phases of the workouts in order to instruct basic technique with broomsticks, etc., is in my view, an optimal approach.

I still believe, however, that in order to even instruct a lift with a broomstick, that the athlete must first posses certain sufficient components of GPP. And with respect to my position, head strength coach for V. Football, every single minute of weight training class must be maximized.

For me, the introduction and instruction of OL variations would have to take place outside of the teams available lifting hours. And this is something which I will probably initiate for my guys ( of sufficient GPP)who are going on to play college ball or throws, and will most probably be required to perform OL variations in college.

I think I get the gist of it, which is I shouldnt be doing and OLs without first developing proper strength. So what lifts should I be focuing on and what type of set/rep scheme should I use?

As far as talking to my new S&C coach, I only met the guy one week ago, and I really dont want to start out with him by suggesting to him what he is doing is wrong. If you really think I shouldnt be doing the lift then I know I can work my way around it in weight room, I’ve seen people skip before and its really not that difficult to make it so the coaches dont notice when you’re not doing a certain lift.

Mister C, you are right in not wanting to make waves with the coach. This is an all to common, and unfortunate scenario all the way up to the professional level of sports.

If you have the opportunity to perform other lifts, than I strongly encourage you to focus on the more simplistic yet effective lifts.

Squat (front, back, high bar, low bar, box, etc)
DL (RDL, SLDL, Conv, Sumo, Dimmel)
Pulls (high, low, snatch grip, clean grip)
Back Extensions
Step ups
Pull Ups/Chin ups
Push Ups
Tons and Tons of abdominal work

As far as sets and reps I recommend that you switch up the parameters so as to create a constant influx of new training stimuli.

Emphasize perfect form and prioritize this ahead of how much weight you are lifting.

For the most part I would advise you to stay within the 6-15RM range (except for abdominals) and maintain an inverse relationship between sets and repetitions.

Eat every meal like it is your last and keep it clean. Eat every 2-3 hours. You can lift all the weights in the world, but if you don’t up the caloric intake you won’t put on any appreciable amount of muscle mass.

Great thanks for all the advice. One last thing though. At what point would you say that strength is developed enough in order to start using OLs effectively?

I didn’t even learn how to snatch until this year and im almost 22. Clean i learned at 20. and i didn’t ahve the appriaote gpp until this year to really do either of them effectively./ I agree with James I wish in HS i had known to increase my overall body strenght and do more GPP. SO many coachs mess that up and u’ll pay for it later. Even now my snatch isn’t as good as my clean 1rm 225 clean though ive never maxedout my snatch ive done 3x2 at like 145.
Granted we just start snatching now that we’re in pre comp.
James u where the dude staying was scott at the seminar rite?

Yes, Scott helped me out in a huge way by putting me up for the weekend.

In my view, I make this determination on a case by case basis, and much of my assessment is based upon my visual perception of the trainees GPP.

Meaning, by observing you lift weights I can get a very good idea as to whether your levels of inter/intramuscular coordination and strength (as it relates to force-posture) are sufficient.

I wouldn’t feel comfortable just giving you numbers to go by, as many young trainees develop appreciable strength in certain lifts in spite of the fact that their muscular coordination and technique are complete shit.

Thanks to Scott as well for putting up with me, I mean putting me up as well that weekend. Much appreciated.

When you are about to snatch the weight from the hip, try to focus on leaning back with your upper body and try to imagine pulling the weight backwards a bit instead of straight up. Also try to keep the bar as close as possible to your body during the lift.