If you’re a recreational — or competitive — weightlifter, you probably have a need for speed. The ability to fly under a heavy bar is absolutely essential to performing well in the Olympic lifts.
Unfortunately, not everyone is born with the gift of quickness. Most of us start off slow, clumsy, or both. However, developing agility and power is a traininable quality just like strength, size, or flexibility. All you need are the right tools.
The drop snatch is a highly effective tool for increasing speed under the bar in the snatch. Learning to be lightning quick when it matters most can take your weightlifting game from middling to exceptional if you go about it properly.
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To learn how to go fast, we’re going to slow things down and unpack all the elements of a good drop snatch so you know exactly how to properly integrate it into your training.
- How to Do the Drop Snatch
- Benefits of the Drop Snatch
- Muscles Worked By the Drop Snatch
- Who Should Do the Drop Snatch
- Drop Snatch Programming Recommendations
- Drop Snatch Variations & Alternatives
- Frequently Asked Questions
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How to Do the Drop Snatch
Below is a step-by-step breakdown of the Drop Snatch. Further on, we’ll get into the benefits of the exercise, variations and alternatives, and some programming recommendations as well.
Step 1 — Stand Tall
Take the unloaded — or very lightly loaded — barbell out of the rack or place it on your back manually. Grip it with your standard snatch grip and place your feet as they would be if you were setting up for a snatch from the floor. Grip the bar firmly but keep the arms relaxed. Focus your vision on a fixed point at eye level. Inhale and brace the core.
Coach’s Tip: If your mobility permits, point your elbows downward in the setup position. This will help your arms lock out faster when you execute the drill.
Step 2 — Fall, But Intentionally
Unlike its closely-related cousin the snatch balance, the drop snatch has no preemptive leg drive. From a standing position, in one instantaneous motion, drop down into a low squat position and extend the arms overhead.
Coach’s Tip: A good cue to avoid hesitation is to think about “dropping the hips,” not intentionally moving the feet. Visualize the catch position for a moment and just go.
Step 3 — Catch & Recover
Aim to replace your feet wider than the start position, ideally in a location that matches your overhead squats. If properly executed, you should be able to lock your arms, plant your feet, and stand up out of the squat immediately. However, if you find yourself wobbling or are unstable, take a moment and pause before standing.
Coach’s Tip: For perfecting your timing and coordination, try to synchronize the feet landing on the floor and the elbows locking out. Both should occur at almost the same time.
Benefits of the Drop Snatch
The ability to rapidly change direction is one of the central tenets of weightlifting. Lifters work for years on end to go from extending their entire body to diving underneath in the blink of an eye. You’d be hard-pressed to find an accomplished weightlifter who hasn’t utilized the Drop Snatch regularly in their preparation.
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Speed Under the Bar
If your goal is to move quickly when it matters most, practicing that quality under lighter loads that don’t induce excessive fatigue or present a mental threat is key. The Drop Snatch is the perfect drill for practicing quickness because it won’t burn you out early in your workout, is plenty stimulating with only an empty bar, and replicates the exact nature of catching a big snatch overhead.
Total Body Coordination
One of the big hurdles for newer weightlifters is often a lack of proprioceptive control — an awareness of one’s own body in three-dimensional space. Since weightlifters don’t typically train — or compete — in front of a mirror, having a good sense of where your arms and legs are going is essential for avoiding accidents and performing well.
One of the requirements of a good warm-up is that it properly prepares you for the task you’re about to perform. If your workout is lower-body centric, it only makes sense to perform primers and drills that facilitate lower body performance.
Since many weightlifting or CrossFit programs heavily incorporate snatches and their variations on a regular basis, a few sets of the Drop Snatch when you’re getting warmed up can have a tangible impact on the rest of your session.
Muscles Worked by the Drop Snatch
The Drop Snatch is more of a technical drill than a standard exercise. While you won’t catch a skin-ripping pump off a set of three with an unloaded barbell, that doesn’t mean your muscles will be left wanting.
Quads and Glutes
The second half of the Drop Snatch is nothing more than a standard overhead squat. Even though the highly-challenging element of fixing the barbell overhead (instead of on your traps) makes the overhead squat a full-body exercise, the prime movers are still the quadriceps and glutes. Whether it’s a 20-kilogram bar or the world record snatch, the legs do most of the work from start to finish.
Holding a barbell overhead requires strong isometric contractions from the musculature of the upper back and shoulder girdle to stabilize the weight. As such, even a priming exercise like the Drop Snatch will provide some work for the traps, rear delts, and rotator cuff muscles.
Who Should Do the Drop Snatch
Bear in mind that, when it comes to training, more isn’t always more. The Drop Snatch is a stellar addition to a weightlifting program in the right context, but make sure you’re actually poised to benefit from it before sticking into your routine.
Novices and Newbies
Any exercise or drill that breaks down the goal movement into simpler components is fantastic for those just getting started with barbell training.
The snatch itself is among the most intricate movements you can perform with a bar, so breaking it down into digestible, comfortable parts is critical for learners. Being able to practice your receiving position without having to worry about having a perfect pull can be a game-changer.
If you’re already comfortable with your snatch technique, a remedial drill like the Drop Snatch still has a place in your repertoire, even on meet day. Incorporating a few sets of the Drop Snatch while warming up for your snatch attempts can prime you to be lightning fast on the platform when it matters most. ‘
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It’s no secret that CrossFit programming loves to incorporate more than a little bit of Olympic lifting. Even if you aren’t planning on going six-for-six in front of a crowd anytime soon, refining your technique with the Drop Snatch can help you grind through timed WODs a little faster or set that new PR in the gym.
Drop Snatch Programming Recommendations
A well-designed weightlifting program is an art in and of itself. Since Olympic lifting doesn’t necessarily abide by the same rules for getting strong as other disciplines, knowing exactly how to integrate the Drop Snatch into your workouts is essential for getting the benefits of the exercise itself.
A Good Start
There’s no industry secret behind including the Drop Snatch as a warm-up exercise. Because it is only a segment of the main exercise (the snatch itself), cannot be loaded up with too much weight, and is not overly fatiguing, the Drop Snatch is as close to an ideal start to a workout as you can get.
There are certainly ways to overload the snatch lockout position — snatch balances, the Sots press, or the snatch-grip push press, just to name a few. However, when the goal is training speed, adding excessive weight can be counterproductive, dangerous, or both.
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An experienced weightlifter can probably perform sets of three to five reps in the Drop Snatch with up to 50 kilograms, but for most people, an empty barbell is more than enough. The beauty of the Drop Snatch is that you can get a lot out of a little.
Below is a sample snatch-focused workout. It incorporates the Drop Snatch in an ideal way such that you should see some carryover into the subsequent exercises in the session.
- Warm-up — 5-10min light cardio.
- Snatch Press to Overhead Squat — two sets of five reps each, back to back.
- Drop Snatch — Four sets of three reps, focusing on improving speed each time.
- High Hang Snatch — Six sets of two reps from the mid-thigh position.
- Snatch Pull — Three sets of four reps at 130% of your High Hang Snatch weight.
Drop Snatch Variations & Alternatives
When it comes to weightlifting, not every accessory exercise is as malleable as you’d find in bodybuilding or powerlifting workouts. Often, the drills are very specifically tailored towards tackling a certain aspect of technique. However, there can be more than one tool for the job.
No-Feet Drop Snatch
If you’re finding this exercise a little challenging, that’s perfectly okay. It takes a surprising amount of mental acuity to go from a still position immediately into a deep squat. To reduce some of the coordination demands, place your feet where you’d like them to land and perform the drop snatch without lifting the legs at all.
One of the few things the Drop Snatch comes up short on is the element of arm action in the snatch. With the bar resting on the traps to begin with, you don’t get to practice pulling the elbows high to keep the barbell close to your torso.
The Tall Snatch aims to improve many of the same qualities as the Drop Snatch, but you begin with the barbell in a snatch grip, resting against the hips. However, this alternative does kick up the difficulty somewhat by adding more dynamic arm movement.
In the world of weightlifting exercises, there are none that are truly easy — most are just hard in different ways. The Sots Press is a great option for working on overhead posture if you aren’t obsessed with improving speed.
By starting off in a deep squat position with the barbell on your back, extending the arms overhead lets you work on arm movement and upper back strength with some added time under tension for the lower limbs as well.
Power Snatch Balance
This exercise tends to fly under the radar as most coaches and athletes will prefer to jump directly into practicing full Snatch Balances, sometimes with very heavy weights.
On the other hand, removing the squat element and performing the Snatch Balance while landing in a high half or quarter squat will let you quickly drill many, many reps practicing the timing of your lockout and feet landing on the platform.
Having more questions than answers can sometimes be common in weightlifting. If you’ve made it this far and are still scratching your head, hopefully addressing some common concerns can help clear the air.
Should I do Drop Snatches as a beginner?
Absolutely. In fact, beginners will probably see the most benefit from the Drop Snatch as a part of their weightlifting training.
For intermediate or advanced lifters who have racked up thousands of repetitions in their careers, they may not need to practice arm or foot movement at a basic level anymore. However, if you’re just getting started, a straightforward exercise to develop those qualities is highly valuable.
Are Drop Snatches safe?
Yes. At a glance, the rapid movement may look dangerous or potentially injurious. However, if you have the requisite mobility to perform an overhead squat, you’re ready to practice some Drop Snatches.
The very light load also goes a long way for making the exercise safe and non-fatiguing, meaning you won’t run the risk of tweaking something if you perform them at the end of your session.
What if I’m not flexible enough for Drop Snatches?
To nail the Drop Snatch, you have to be able to do an overhead squat. To do an overhead squat, you have to be limber from head to toe — it is one of the more demanding exercises you can perform with a barbell.
Make sure your mobility game is on point before you attempt weightlifting drills. While you aren’t necessarily likely to hurt yourself if you don’t have the required range of motion, you’ll probably be missing out on the gains you want if you can’t get into the right positions.
Featured Image: Berkomaster / Shutterstock
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