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3 Steps to Improve Your Snatch Receiving Position

Image Source: Londonyouthgames / CC BY 3.0 / Cropped from original

Read time: 6 min

The snatch receiving position, or overhead squat position, is one of the most demanding positions in terms of mobility and dynamic stability.

The three strategies that follow are a surefire combination to develop the mobility, stability, and strength to snatch more weight safely and effectively.

One of the basic tenets of human movement is that everything is connected. Applied to today's topic, the cause of poor shoulder mobility in the snatch receiving position may be rooted in other areas of the body.

This case study of a weightlifter I work with shows how less-than-optimal spine and rib cage position can negatively affect shoulder function, and it's important reading that sets the stage for our first strategy.

Improving Your Catch Position

1) Quadruped Thoracic Flexion (with Posterior Pelvic Tilt)

Video 1. Quadruped thoracic flexion series.

The first step to effective shoulder mobility is to make sure that all parts of the body are positioned to allow for proper movement.

This exercise is a breathing drill that helps ensure our ribs are in a good position to allow good scapular movement and that big muscles like our lats and spinal erectors don't put is into too much extension, which can actually reduce overhead shoulder mobility.

To perform the drill, get into the quadruped position (on hands and knees, with hands beneath shoulders and knees beneath hips). Push away from the ground, allowing your upper back to round.

For individuals with excessive lumbar lordosis and/or anterior pelvic tilt, initiate a posterior pelvic tilt as well. This article details specific strategies to address excessive lumbar extension and anterior pelvic tilt.

Maintain this position as you go through a few cycles of diaphragmatic breathing, relaxing between sets. Start off by performing 3-5 sets of 3-5 breaths, eventually working up to rounds of 5-10 breaths.

Inhale slowly and fully through the nose and exhale slowly and fully through the mouth. Also, pause for a three-count between each inhale and exhale.

It's important to note that proper diaphragmatic breathing results in circumferential expansion of the trunk during inhalation. In other words, the abdomen, sides, and back will expand outward as you breathe in.

The two progressions shown in the video increase activation of the obliques, which help to stabilize the pelvis and play an integral role with proper lumbopelvic-trunk alignment during pretty much any exercise.

Perform Quadruped Thoracic Flexion as one of the first parts of your warm-up, because it will set the stage for subsequent shoulder-specific mobility drills and any exercises that target the shoulders.

2) Front Scapular Wall Slide with Shrug

Video 2. Front scapular wall slide with shrug.

Focused corrective or activation exercises can help your brain learn that the changes from any repositioning or resets are useful, which will help those changes become more permanent.

The Front Scapular Wall Slide with Shrug is a great movement to develop or practice effective scapular and shoulder mechanics and to reinforce the positive changes from the Quadruped Thoracic Flexion.

To perform this exercise, set up with a split-stance or staggered foot position facing a wall about one foot away. Start with your hands in front of your shoulders with the blades of your hands on the wall.

Slowly slide the blades of your hand up the wall until your elbows are locked out, while also shrugging your shoulders up. Slowly return to the starting position.

I advise athletes to slide their hands into an overhead position that mimics the primary overhead position they'll perform in their workout.

Since this article is about the snatch receiving position, you should end up with your hands spaced in your snatch grip-width. For workouts that mainly include overhead presses, push presses, or jerks, assume a narrower hand spacing that mimics those exercises.

There are two things to avoid to ensure this exercise is effective: your lower ribs protruding when your arms are overhead and your low back overextending (remember all that work we did to get your ribs and back into the right place with the first drill?).

Exhaling forcefully as you raise your arms and engaging your abdominals will help address both of these issues.

Include this movement toward the end of your general warm-up, or during the early portions of your specific warm-up during workouts where you'll be doing any overhead work. 1-3 sets of 5-10 repetitions should be sufficient.

3) Drop Snatch (a.k.a. Heaving Snatch Balance)

Video 3. Drop snatch.

Improved shoulder mobility and function make it easier to get into an overhead squat position, but we also need to develop more strength if we want to be able to snatch or overhead squat more weight.

The Drop Snatch, sometimes referred to as the Heaving Snatch Balance, is a fantastic exercise to build the skill and strength needed to do that.

Athletes can typically Drop Snatch more weight than they can snatch, which means they can overload the snatch receiving position. This surplus of specific strength should boost any athlete's confidence to secure maximum weights overhead during the catch phase of the snatch.

In addition, the dynamic nature of the Drop Snatch develops balance, coordination, and timing that will carry over to receiving the barbell during the snatch.

To perform the Drop Snatch, set up with the barbell on your back with your hands gripping the barbell in a snatch grip. Dip and drive as you would for a jerk. Focus on keeping your chest up during the dip and driving vertically with the hips and legs.

After the dip and drive, shuffle your feet to your squatting width while driving yourself underneath the barbell to full elbow lockout, arriving at the bottom of an overhead squat position.

Once you have settled with the weight, stand up completely before carefully returning the bar to your back. For heavy attempts, it's best to drop the barbell directly to the platform.

The Drop Snatch is an accessory exercise and should be performed after primary strength, power, or technical exercises. It is most appropriate toward the end of specific preparatory phases and during competition phases for weightlifters.

For heavy attempts (i.e. 90%+) perform 3-5 singles; for lower intensities (i.e. 70-90%) 3-5 sets of 2-3 repetitions may be more appropriate.

Other athletes may benefit from the inclusion of heavy Drop Snatches during phases that emphasize maximum overhead strength. Another option may be sets with lighter intensities during general phases that have a broader focus.

Coaches should weigh the risk/reward of this exercise to achieve targeted outcomes for other athletes.


Shoulder mobility is such an integral component of many exercises. I use at least one of these strategies every day with the athletes I work with. The repositioning and corrective exercises are valuable tools for any athlete who works overhead.

If yout training includes snatches or overhead squats, the Drop Snatch is a great exercise to help increase your weights in those lifts.

Make sure to share this article with someone you know who could use some help with their overhead position! And feel free to share your own tips by posting a comment below.

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