If you’re looking to get started in the sport of Olympic weightlifting then this complete beginner’s guide to the snatch is for you. We’ll be covering expectations, mobility, key positions and terminology, plus providing you with an exact step by step learning sequence.

Let’s get started, shall we?

How to Guarantee Failure at Learning the Snatch

As a beginner, if you want to FAIL at learning the snatch, here are 3 things that will help you…

1) Expecting to master it straight away

2) Putting too much weight on the bar
3) Giving up too soon

Weightlifting is as much a technical sport as it is a strength sport. You need to be patient, take your time and do things correctly. Be prepared to dedicate at least 6 weeks to doing a lot of very lightweight training.

Pre-Requisites – Mobility for the Snatch

In order to snatch properly, you first need to be able to perform solid, secure and comfortable overhead squats with a barbell.

cartoon person performing snatch

This requirement alone prevents about 90% of people from getting started, so if you’re struggling with it, you’re not alone.

Luckily, here are 3 things that you can EVERY DAY to achieve a solid overhead squat in less than a month…

1) Sit in the bottom position of a squat

One of the simplest and most effective ways to improve your hip and ankle mobility is to sit in the bottom position of the squat for a few minutes every single day.

You don’t need any fancy kit, no bands, no foam rollers. You just need the discipline to do it every day. You can also grab onto something if you find yourself falling backwards.

Bottom position of squat

2) Shoulder ‘dislocates’ with a band or stick

Another incredibly simple and highly specific mobility drill. Shoulder ‘dislocates’ (they don’t actually dislocate anything I promise) stretch the key muscles of your shoulder girdle such as your chest and lats, allowing you to achieve a better overhead position.

3 sets of 10-15 reps every day will have your shoulders flexible enough to snatch in no time.

*Any basic light resistance band works, as does basically any light stick from your local park. In the past, I’ve even had clients use old curtain poles, or take the end off of a wooden sweeping brush.

3) Overhead Squats with a Band or Stick

If you want to overhead squat, you have to practice the overhead squat. Using a light band or stick keeps the exercise safe. Try to sit down slowly, going as far as possible on each rep. You’ll find that over a few weeks you’ll be able to sit further and further down, until you’re right at the bottom.

5 sets of 6-8 slow, controlled reps every day will work great.

And you can use the same band or stick as you did for the ‘dislocates’

Key Positions and Terminology

Weightlifting uses a lot of very specific terminology, which can be a little overwhelming at first. Here on some of the key terms you’ll need to know.

Start Position – This is literally when you’re set with the bar on the floor ready to lift
First Pull – The portion of the lift from the floor to your knee
Bar at knee – Bar in front of knee, shins basically vertical
Power Position – Slight bend in knees, torso upright, like you’re about to jump
Second Pull – Also known as ‘triple extension’ as your hips, knees & ankles are all extended
Third Pull – The pulling of your body underneath the bar
Catch – The overhead squat position in which you receive the bar
Recovery – Standing up with the bar overhead to complete the lift

key position for  snatch

Step by Step Beginner’s Learning Sequence For The Snatch

There are lots of different proposed methods for teaching and learning the snatch. Fundamentally, though, every method relies on breaking the movement down into easily learnable, bitesize chunks.

Personally, I use a ‘top-down’ method as I’ve found this to be the simplest and most effective way for my clients to learn. Here’s what that looks like.

Remember, this assumes that you’ve already taken the time to develop a solid, comfortable overhead squat. If you haven’t, that needs to be your number one priority.

Step 1: High Hang Snatch (a.k.a hip snatch)

Essentially you’re looking to start in the power position and then ‘jump and catch.’ (An over-simplification I know – but a very useful starting point)

Aim to keep the bar close throughout the lift. I like to tell my weightlifters to imagine pulling up their t-shirt with the barbell.

Step 2: Snatch from Knee.

You’re doing exactly the same movement as above, only you’re starting a little lower down the body, keeping the bar close to your thighs and then ‘jumping and catching’ once the bar is close to your hip crease.

Aim to start every lift with the bar in front of your knees, and your shins as close to vertical as possible.

Step 3: Snatch from Floor

You’re doing exactly like you did in the first 2 exercises, only this time you’re starting at the floor. Your goal is to keep the bar close to your body until it’s close to your hip, then ‘jump and catch’ to complete the lift.

Aim to start with your shoulders slightly over the bar, your back tight and your chest up.

Another top tip here is to try not to rush when you pull the bar from the floor. Take your time, go slowly and keep the bar close. You’ll be able to speed everything up once you’re more experienced.

Beginner’s Guide to Snatch Summary

Just like I said right back at the start, learning the snatch is a process. You’ll have to dedicate a decent amount of time to it and you can’t expect to be great at it straight away.

Weightlifting is a sport that requires patience and attention to detail, so go into it with the right expectations and you’ll be setting yourself up for success.

Start by establishing a solid overhead squat, then work through the ‘top-down’ learning sequence I’ve shown you here. Keep the weights light (often only the barbell) and I can damn near guarantee that you’ll have a decent looking snatch technique after a few weeks of consistent practice.


That’s it for today, if you enjoyed this guide you might also want to check out my beginners guide to the clean and jerk (coming soon)

And as always, if you’re looking for a coach to help you with the learning process (no matter where you are in the world), you can book a call to chat with me right here

‘Til Next Time