Here’s a quick newcomers guide looking at the snatch vs clean. We’ll start with a couple of short videos demonstrating the two lifts and then look at 5 major differences between them. This should help get you some clarity as you start the sport, or look to introduce the lifts into your training.
- The Snatch – A Quick Look
- The Clean – A Quick Look
- Difference 1: Bar to Overhead Vs Bar to Shoulders
- Difference 2: Grip Width
- Difference 3: Snatch and Clean Start Position
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- Difference 4: Lift Speed and Feel
- Difference 5: Bar Contact Point
- Snatch Vs Clean Frequently Asked Questions
- Next Steps
The Snatch – A Quick Look
The Clean – A Quick Look
Difference 1: Bar to Overhead Vs Bar to Shoulders
The biggest key difference between the snatch and clean is simply where the bar ends up. In the snatch you lift the bar from the floor to overhead in one fluid movement, whereas in the clean you lift the barbell from the floor to your shoulders. To put the bar overhead after the clean, lifters will often then use the jerk movement.
Difference 2: Grip Width
One of the most obvious and important differences in the snatch vs clean is the grip width you use. In the clean, you use a narrower grip, typically around shoulder width, whereas with the snatch you use a much wider grip.
Difference 3: Snatch and Clean Start Position
As a result of these different grip widths, the snatch and the clean have different start positions. If you watch the two videos above closely, you’ll notice that the clean start position has higher shoulders and a more upright torso than the snatch start position.
You might also notice that people tend to have their shoulders slightly further over the bar in the snatch start position vs the clean start position.
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Difference 4: Lift Speed and Feel
As a result of the first 3 differences, the snatch and clean have a different lifting speeds and a different feel. Cleans tend to be heavier, slightly slower, and feel more forceful. On the other hand, snatches tend to be lighter, faster, and feel more snappy.
Difference 5: Bar Contact Point
Lastly, a key difference is that you’ll also feel the difference in contact points, with the barbell in the snatch contacting your body at your hip crease, versus the barbell in the clean contacting your body at your upper thighs (pocket level)
Snatch Vs Clean Frequently Asked Questions
What’s better the snatch or clean?
Neither lift is inherently better or worse, they’re just different. Cleans are heavier, so can be a bit more fatiguing, but they can also be simpler to learn for many people. Snatches are a bit more technically challenging but produce less fatigue. So it’s really a question of preference and goal.
Why is the snatch harder than the clean?
For most beginners, the snatch is harder to learn because it feels less natural or familiar. This leads to hesitation and poor movement patterns. For more advanced lifters, this is no longer a problem, and the snatch lift is only limited by the biomechanical differences discussed above (wider grip, lower start position etc)
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‘Til Next Time
Alex Parry, MSc, BA
Alex is the Head content writer and Coach at Character Strength & Conditioning, as well as an Assistant Lecturer and PhD Researcher at the University of Hull.
His experience includes 7+ years within professional strength and conditioning, as well as working as a tutor & educator for British Weightlifting.