Exercise Spotlight: Tall Kneeling Snatch

Get explosive and develop your traps and shoulders, with half the prerequisites

The problem with Olympic lifts is simple: Not everyone can do them. If it isn’t a matter of coordination and explosiveness, it’s a matter of immobility and restriction. The reason is because the Olympic lifts are hands down the most complex movements in the gym. For many of my clients, it takes  years of training before I introduce them to training these patterns, if I introduce them at all.

To get all the benefits of explosive training, however, we can make smart modifications to the basic movements to serve a greater population of people – not jut Olympic lifters or advanced trainees.

As far as the Olympic lifts go, I do like coaching the snatch pattern more than the clean and jerk pattern for the simple fact that there are fewer phases to worry about in the former than the latter.  With all things equal, the snatch (especially the power snatch) has shown me faster learning curves than understanding phases in the clean, catch, and split jerk. It’s a smart call for a window into explosiveness while making some key changes.

Enter the Tall Kneeling Snatch

Removing the lower body from involvement during snatches does a couple of things:

  • It removes the need for lower body mobility, like a full overhead squat catch position.
  • It disallows the lower body from completely contributing to the force of the movement, placing more onus on the upper body to be more explosive.
  • Decreases the margin for error, in a good way. This relies on technical precision and no compensatory actions to bring the weight up to the top position.

Doing snatches from the tall kneeling position indeed makes for a very upper body dominant lift that’s still every bit as explosive and great for ramping up your rate of force development. And you’ll know right away if the weight is too heavy.  This is a movement requiring speed and fast arm action, due to a much more limited pulling space.


Tall Kneeling Snatch – Coaching Cues

  • Start with the empty bar or using light weight plates – 5lbs is plenty. Progress from there.
  • Set up by kneeling on a mat, and holding the bar at a wide width that places it in your hip fold when the spine is erect.
  • “Dip” first by allowing the bar to travel toward the floor, making contact with the mid thigh.
  • In one explosive movement, drive the weight upward by shrugging hard and pulling high with the elbows. You should try to get the bar to neck level.
  • “Dive” under the weight by throwing the chest and head through the window you create with your arms overhead. You should end up catching the weight over the spine. Try to press outward on the bar for added tension.
  • This is a power movement, so focusing on sets of 3-6 reps is a more than acceptable recommendation.

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