The snatch explained

The Snatch – The Ultimate Explanation and Definition

The Snatch is complex, it has a lot to offer, and if you’re new to the Snatch, you will have questions: what exactly it is; what does it do for you; how to perform it; what variations are there; what implements you can perform the exercise with? Etc.


Snatch Exercise

The Snatch is a full-body movement and can be defined as an explosive athletic discipline in which the objective is to lift the weight from lower position to an overhead position in one continuous movement.


The Snatch is included in the Olympic program and is performed with an Olympic Barbell. The same is included in CrossFit, this has become the most common Snatch implement and style, but the Snatch can be performed with different implements and in different styles.


The benefits of the snatch are:
speed, power, mobility, strength, and cardiovascular ability.


If you go to Wikipedia there is only one explanation of the Snatch, and that is the Snatch with the Olympic Barbell, however there are plenty of other implements you can snatch with, the second most used implement for the Snatch is the Kettlebell. Any implement going up from lower position directly to overhead position in one continuous explosive movement is a Snatch, it’s one step up from the Clean which ends at chest level.


Implements (most common)

  • Olympic Barbell
  • Kettlebell
  • Dumbbell


Receiving styles

  • Split
  • Squat
  • Power
  • Neutral



  • Receiving position squat
  • Partly falling under the weight
  • Suitable for heavy weight

My personal opinion is that the squat snatch with barbell is the most advanced and also one of the most difficult and injury prone versions, there is a lot that can go wrong if this move does not have your full attention, more than with any other type of Snatch.


  • Receiving position split lunge
  • Suitable for heavier weight


  • Receiving position half squat
  • Suitable for light weight



In CrossFit the Squat Snatch is referred to as Snatch, and the difference between a squat and power snatch is that the power snatch is received in a higher position, i.e. a more shallow squat.

In the Kettlebell world, there is a difference between technique when comparing the kettlebell training snatch and kettlebell sport snatch, the main difference is with the resistance of the weight, in kettlebell training you want to create resistance and in kettlebell sport you want to remove the resistance as much as possible.



  • Dead
  • Elevated
  • Hang
  • Swing

The different ranges are not available to all implements, for example, the swing snatch is not available for the Olympic Barbell. All ranges are available for the kettlebell and dumbbell.


Muscles used

With all variations of the snatch the following muscles are used:

  • Trapezius in the pull
  • forearm muscles in the pull
  • Latissimus Dorsi in overhead lockout
  • rear Deltoids in overhead lockout
  • Rhomboids in overhead lockout
  • Erector Spinea mainly in pull but also active in lockout
  • Gluteus in the pull
  • Quadriceps in the pull
  • Hamstrings (apart from the short head) in the pull


With different implements there is more focus on the:

  • Quadriceps in the lockout when using the Olympic Barbell
  • Gluteus in swing when using the kettlebell
  • Quads also included more in the swing when using the kettlebell and kettlebell sport style




Also check out snatch differences.

4 thoughts on “The Snatch – The Ultimate Explanation and Definition”

  1. my snatch experience is limited to kettlebells. thus I am interested in comparisons between the swing and dead. Major difference in power requirement to dead snatch vs swing. Great fun. I don’t even know what the elevated and hang snatch look like.

    1. Thanks for the question Peter. I’m hoping others will chime in, but the dead snatch starts from the ground and is straight up with kettlebells, with the Olympic Barbell most of the time the starting position is dead. Elevated is used with the barbell, where the bb is elevated with weight plates under it or some other elevation. Hang snatch you can do with all implements, just like a hang clean. More explosiveness required with the dead or hang snatch, and kb goes straight up.

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