It’s a very simple concept once you understand it, on one side you have force, which represents a movement against a high external resistance and low movement velocity and on the other side of the continuum you have velocity, which represents a movement against a low external resistance and high movement velocity.
Strength training, especially maximum strength training improves the force end of the force-velocity curve, speed training improves the velocity end of the force-velocity curve and power training improves the middle part.
The Power Snatch is actually one of those exercises that bridge the two ends of the force-velocity continuum. More on that, later in this article.
What Power Snatches Train
We can look at the Power Snatch and what Power Snatches train at different levels
- technical or movement level
- neurological or neuromuscular level
- metabolic level
- psychological level
What does the Power Snatch train technically?
As we discussed earlier, the Power Snatch trains a combination of fundamental movements and trains the so-called triple extension, which refers to the extension of the hip, knee, and ankle. To train the triple extension is important for all sports, where the athlete is running or jumping.
What does the Power Snatch train neurologically / on a neuromuscular level?
In the sporting practice, the Power Snatch is trained with intensities of 85% of the 1RM or above – once technical mastery is achieved, when learning and acquiring the Power Snatch intensities are lower. In consideration, that intensity and repetitions are inversely related (which means the higher the intensity, the fewer repetitions you are able to do), intensities of 85% of the 1RM or above mandates repetitions of 4 or less. From my practical experience, I would recommend sticking to less than 3 repetitions, because of the technical requirements and challenges of the Power Snatch.
I have written about neuromuscular adaptations before in the article A Short Guide to Plyometric Training
Basically, we have three mechanisms for muscular activation
- Recruitment of muscle fibers, how many motor units or muscle fibers can be activated
- Firing frequency of muscle fibers, how fast motor units or muscle fibers can be activated
- Synchronization of muscle fibers, how efficient motor units or muscle fibers are activated
Working with high intensities in addition to applying a high velocity to the bar, the Power Snatch uniquely trains the recruitment of motor units, as well as the firing frequency of motor units.
What does the Power Snatch train metabolically?
The Power Snatch is generally trained with high intensities and low repetitions. These short but intense efforts demand a high contribution of the Phosphagen system (ATP-CP system), this article from Breaking Muscle offers a good overview of energy systems
Generally speaking, the Power Snatch trains the Phosphagen energy system or ATP-CP system and over time will result in a more explosive and powerful athlete.
What does the Power Snatch train psychologically?
I have spoken about the concept of ‘Willensspannkraft vs Willensstosskraft’ before in the article The Ultimate Guide to Power Cleans , these are terms from the german scientific literature and up to this date, I have not found any similar term in the English literature.
A corresponding English translation could be:
Willensstosskraft: the mental ability or psychological ability to exert the highest possible effort in the shortest period of time. Or if you imagine the mental ability or psychological ability as an increase over time, it would be the steepest increase. Olympic Weightlifting, Shot Put in track and field are perfect examples of this ability, where once the athlete initiates the movement, there’s not much time to build something up gradually.
Willensspannkraft: the mental ability or psychological ability to last and sustain efforts for a long(er) duration. A marathon or a triathlon are perfect examples for that ability.
I have explained how the Power Clean challenges the Willensstosskraft, since the athlete has to commit to getting under the bar. The Power Snatch challenges the Willensstosskraft even more, since it requires getting under the bar and in addition, the bar position being overhead can make it quite scary for athletes.
So, how can that help?
In my opinion, in every sport, where the athlete has to commit to a sporting action within milliseconds, the Power Snatch can help to train this ability.
Look at Koen, he is fully committed to this lift
Why Power Snatches are important for Athletes
With all the information from above, we can see why and how Power Snatches are important and especially important for athletes.
Power Snatches improve athletes performance
The Power Snatch trains fundamental movements and trains the triple extension.
The Power Snatch improves athletic performance by reason of uniquely developing power, it bridges the both ends of the force-velocity curve.
The Power Snatch trains vertical stability and has a great transfer to all sporting activities where the athlete is on their feet.
But there is more to come…
The Power Snatch trains the eccentric control, which means the athlete has to absorb the forces of a weight coming down in the catch phase and recovery phase of the lift. This absorption of forces is called eccentric control and has a high transfer to sports where there is a high impact of running or landing and it improves the ability to shorten the time from landing (absorbing forces) into the next sporting action. So the basketball player, volleyball player, football / soccer player that lands doesn’t have to spend too much time on controlling his body and getting set for the next action.
An often overlooked benefit of the Power Snatch is, that it trains focus. In addition to the aspect of ‘Willensstosskraft’, the Power Snatch forces you to work what I like to call ‘precisely’, which means there is a very little margin of where the bar has to be placed overhead. A centimeter to the front or to the back can make the difference between making the lift or not.
And all that happens at high velocities!
In other exercises, you are able to a certain extend to ‘muscle’ the weight up, even in the Power Clean. But the Power Snatch won’t allow that and that can lead to frustrations in the athletes, believe me, I have seen that often enough.
But, ‘frustration is the first step to mastery’ as Robert Greene explains it in his book Mastery This book explains how humans achieved mastery from Charles Darwin, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and Leonard da Vinci and packs the information into ‘48 laws of power’.
Power Snatches can prevent injuries
Even in training aimed at injury prevention, the Power Snatch can contribute.
As discussed before, the Power Snatch works on vertical core stability and spinal control.
In addition, by catching and stabilizing the weight overhead, the stabilizing mechanism in the shoulders are challenged and trained (considering correct execution and appropriate loading!), therefore, the Power Snatch can be a potentially useful exercise for throwing and hitting sports.
How often Should I Do Power Snatches
I have outlined the benefits of the Power Snatch on vertical stability and shoulder stability, but every coin has two sides, which means the weakest link in the chain of the Power Snatch is in most cases the shoulder and the shoulder can be vulnerable. Consequently, it’s imperative to carefully monitor load, volume, and frequency in training.
In our day to day practice we use the Power Snatch mainly to train the triple extension, and since there are more exercises to train there are more exercises that can train the triple extension effectively, we limit the Power Snatch to once a week.
As a note here, we talk about athletes, that use the Power Snatch to become better at their sport, not Olympic Weightlifters.
Power Snatch Conclusion
The Power Snatch offers a variety of benefits and is well worth the investment of learning and mastering the Power Snatch technique.
The Power Snatch improves athletes performance by
- Teaching and training fundamental movements
- Enhancing core stability
- Training and improving power
- Improving focus
- and can prevent injuries
More Power Snatch information
The Ultimate Guide to Power Snatches
Why Power Snatches?
What Power Snatches Train
Why Power Snatches are important for Athletes
How often should I do Power Snatches
What are Power Snatches
or the Power Snatch video library