Improve Your Snatch for CrossFit: Cycling Tips

Check out an audio version of this content here from the Doc and Jock Podcast! 

Its been said by many coaches that fatigue makes cowards of us all.

But, does it?

I would say losing track of your technique can be equally, if not more, debilitating.

Inversely, harnessing quality movement while fatigued can keep you practicing longer and make your performance on game day stronger.

In this post I will to discuss the merit of cycling snatches in a functional fitness setting, provide a few tips and tricks to promote movement efficiency and offer a few ideas to structure your practice.

Below, is one of my remote CrossFit athletes is working through Isabell (#30 Snatches for time 95/135).  This video will serve as a reference point to the performance tips below.

Before we discuss technique lets talk about the elephant in the blog post, high rep snatching.  A lot is made by Weightlifting Coaches about “Crossfit’ers” bastardizing their precious movements.  Facts are the sports are different.  The only thing to really consider is that this is much different than this!

The huge difference being that the athletes in the second THIS are professional athletes, completing for a big pay day.  They have trained, recovered, and overhauled their lives to compete in the CrossFit Games.  In the opinion of this Weightlifting Coach, its “OK” if Josh Bridges’s Clean (:42) in the CrossFit Games Speed Ladder isn’t technique sound, and would not have counted on a Weightlifting Platform.

The regular folks in the first this have exchanged time in their day to compete in the CrossFit Open.  I’m not mad at their effort.  I’m mad that they have decided to compete in a dangerous situation, without building a base, and no one stepped in to say stop.  What’s at stake does not measure up with what is to gain.  Any honest person could have told either of these fine gents that they were not making it out of their own gym in regards to the Open.

I have said this before in blog posts, the podcasts, and will repeat it here:

“If you are not earning your lively hood through training, your training cannot effect your lively hood.”

We all have the right to compete.  We all have the right to Weightlift. We all have the right to combine the two if we choose.  Truthfully, I don’t have an opinion that matters unless you care what I think.  And, having competed at the CrossFit Games…


USAW National Championships … twice…



and as the current second best 85kg Weightlifter in the country who is between the age of 35-40…


my opinion is that we should all pack our chutes before exiting the plane.

As coaches, if your athletes want to compete in CrossFit you have to teach them the best way to cycle Weightlifting movements.  Its simply part of the sport and you are doing yourself and them a disservice not teaching them the proper technique.

Also, as coaches, if folks come to you wanting to be more fit and do not have the skill set to perform a movement, that includes snatches and clean and jerks, teach them the movements and make sure they can display proficiency before incorporating cycling, high speed intervals, and competition intensity.  If teaching the movement is above your pay grade pass them off or learn something new.

I for one believe wholeheartedly that you must crawl, then walk, and then run.  I have seen it first hand raising 3 kids.  The process of learning new movements takes time.  With good instruction humans pick things up.

With that covered, I want to share 3 Snatch Cycling tricks I have found helpful playing with the big boys in two similar, yet very different sports.

Remember my athlete from above.  If not click here.  Lets discuss what he could have done early on in the work out to save form, function, and time.

1 – Utilize Your Legs

Your legs are stronger than your arms, or at least they should be. If you have gone out of you way to defy this, great and good for you.  However, if you are interested in any level of success training CrossFit or Weightlifting, your legs must be stronger than your arms.  Your legs should be the driving force behind most of your movements and cycling Weightlifting movements is no different.

In the video above you can see Brandon drop his chest, straighten his legs and go to a high hip set up in an effort to move faster.  This is a common mistake made by many CrossFit athletes.

Set up, no matter what the load, utilizing leg drive.  The higher your hips the more you have to use your back, arms and shoulders to move the barbell.  Eventually those smaller and less powerful muscle groups will fatigue. Much like Brandon’s, you will come to find that what was once fast will very quickly become slow.

2 – Prioritize Foot Placement

When Weightlifting, we want to use the floor as much as possible without loosing it.

When cycling Weightlifting movements, and working for a heavy single, you must prioritize footwork.  You can see in the video above that Brandon is jumping up, out, and even turning around.  This is a no bueno and a clear sign of inefficiency and inexperience.

When you break Weightlifting movements down to their simplest form its a matter of up and down, that is it.

Some folks, will make an argument that jumping backward has a place.  I am not one of them.  In my mind our legs should drive the bar up, and our hands should push or pull our body down.  Any movement in any other direction is inefficient and a sign of applying force in the wrong direction.

Also, notice Brandon leaving the ground.  Again, this wastes time and is inefficient.  Remember…

 use the floor, don’t loose it.

When working for a heavy single I do believe some foot movement is advantageous for speed under the bar.  You should thrust up, then slide your feet out.  I call this push to slide.  Here is one way I practice this.

Again, take note of Brandon’s later attempts.  Not only does he leave the ground but he also begins shooting his feet out past his normal receiving width.

Not coincidentally, he also slows down.

Practice variations of the drill above and cruise my feed for a host of options regarding the snatch, clean and jerk.

3 – Pull Under

Even when working light reps for time, pulling your body under should be prioritized. To what degree and depth takes practice.

Very early in the workout Brandon receives the bar in a high power.  In later reps you can see his high power turn into a press out.  Any time he gained early in the work out was wasted.

Not to mention, pressing a bar up while tired and breathing hard becomes very taxing.

Remember tip 1.  The idea when moving the barbell is to drive it up with the legs.

The idea when moving your body should be to pull it down against the bar.  Developing this skill takes time and practice.

Fatigue, load, and setting will also be major factors.


I came up as a strength and conditioning coach through team sports.  Its my opinion athletes should attempt mastery in practice before taking it to the field.

“Perfect practice makes perfect.”

When the coach thinks the athlete is ready for competition they can compete, not a rep sooner.

You can practice the 3 tips above pretty easily.  You and your coach have the final say but here is a broad template.

EMOM’s of varying loads for 5 reps post heavy or technical training.  5 seems to be a bit of a magic number and a nice compliment to heavy singles, doubles and triples.

Start with the 50% of your current best and make 3-5% jumps for the course of the EMOM.  I wouldn’t suggest tapping and going or cycling for anything over 87% of your best.  In fact, working between 75-87% results in pretty solid power outputs once form is dialed in.

Cycling Weightlifting movements is a huge part of the sport of fitness.  With a  little attention to detail you can cycle safely, effectively, and not look ridiculous.

Here is an old video I dug up and as you can see not much as changed.


Also Gang, Remember to head over to Doc and Jock to take a listen to this blog post!





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