What to learn first the snatch or clean??

April 17, 2009

First off, just a quick note to celebrate my last exam being over as well as having my undergrad now completed — YAY!!

Alright enough feeding my ego. Here’s an interesting debate that just seems to go back and forth. I’ll actually come right out and say my stance on this isn’t the same as it was even a couple months ago. What  I used to think was teach the clean first then teach the snatch…so maybe you’re thinking “why did you change your mind?”

I think the snatch gets a bad rap as being excessively dangerous, and I was definitely in this boat until I tried them! Then until a couple months I just didn’t give it enough love to say that I’d teach them before cleans — I know my decisions are always changing (I prefer the term “evolving”) Anyways, let me be blunt: EVERY EXERCISE can be dangerous. The thing that worries many people about the snatch is catch a fast moving weight overhead. If you have never snatched before go read up on some form somewhere on the internet and try it next time in the gym, then please come back here and comment on your experience — did your arm fall out of its socket? did you get some shoulder injury that wasnt there before??

Your body naturally decelerates the weight, just as it would declerate the weight doing a shoulder press. As long as the athlete can get their arms up overhead, they can learn to snatch. Now does this mean I’m starting with a barbell?? — My experience until now says no. I would start with a 1-arm dumbbell snatch  because a) holding a weight in only one arm limits the amount of weight you can use (I guess I didnt need letters).

Now, just because I would dumbbel snatch doesn’t mean I would teach dumbbell cleans — I hate the idea of having dumbbells come crashing down on top of someone’s shoulders! So with the clean I’d start out with a barbell. Here’s how this plays into my decision: everyone wants to load barbells — especially adolescent males! If someone’s snatching a dumbbell overhead with one arm, they dont tend to be quite as obsessed with using the big weights, so in essence I can keep someone’s ego out of the equation to a greater degree with a dumbbell snatch than a clean.

On a final note, I have just personally found that dumbbell snatch allow me to focus on form easier than barbell cleans — I know, thats some  scientific data right there! Anyways, this has just been my observation. With the natural tendency to avoid the snatch as long as one can, I wanted to just point out that though it LOOKS dangerous, it really doesnt have to be and the learning curve might not be as long as many people think it to be.

Snatch away my friends, snatch away!

CB

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8 Responses to “What to learn first the snatch or clean??”


  1. I’ve never done a barbell or dumbbell snatch- only kettlebells. I don’t find them dangerous at all with the kettlebell any more so than any other lift like a shoulder press. Yeah, it’s a bit more dynamic, but that’s not necessariily a bad thing. To me, seems more like a good thing because it follows the natural movement battern more so than the boring overhead press. A classmate of mine, her husband is a trainer. He is certain that the snatch will hyperextend the shoulder joint and is dangerous to do (with regards to KB’s at least).
    From waht I see of this lift, I wish more people would do them and other lifts that encourage more natural movement patterns. As for the clean, I’ve also only done that with the KB and the handle on the bell prevents from slamming any of the weight onto the shoulder. When I do hit myself with it, it’s usually the belly of the bicep that takes the brunt of the abuse. I’ve had a couple small bruises when starting out, but none that were severe or all that painful even. I’ve gotten more bruises on my bicep from lowering the KB with the overhead press than with anything else.

  2. Chris Brown Says:

    I see, I didnt know that about the KB cleans…the bicep would be less worrisome than the shoulder for sure.

    Funny you mention the husband of your classmate, because that post and the comments on your blog were what prompted me to write this one. I didnt want to outright just repeat what you said, since your post was very well written so I just ended up putting a little different spin on it — soooo thanks for the content :)

  3. BM Says:

    snatch comes first! After teaching that, than the clean is an easier lift. Also depends on what your’e using it for. A QB would do the snatch as it requires more speed, and a lineman would use the clean as they require more power.

  4. Chris Brown Says:

    Good point buddy!! Thanks


  5. I never got back here after that comment! Well, I’m back. Those kettlebells just hang different. Learning curve there as well. I don’t think it would be as bad for men or “smaller” women. With the stuff on top, I tend to have to have my arm slightly more externally rotated which I think leads to me hitting my bicep a bit more than most would. Even in Pavel’s book it says women will have to go a little more lateral with the clean but doesn’t say why. After hitting myself in the chest with my arm enough, I took his advice. My bicep is much less tender than other anatomy! But at least I don’t have anymore bruises on my clavicle from resting DB’s there while doing step ups’n’such. The kettlebells have dramatically increased my grip strength as well.

  6. pathfitness Says:

    This shouldn’t even be the question! If you want to know what to learn first, go to the guys who do it, and they’ll tell you “snatch.”

    It’s actually easier to teach a younger weaker athlete to snatch than it is a stronger athlete.

    BM (Brian?) I don’t really agree with your thoughts on QB vs lineman.

    And personally not a fan of the DB snatch at all. Think of the eccentric on both lifts!

  7. Chris Brown Says:

    I really dont think the eccentric is anything out of the ordinary. I don’t tell someone to lower it like a lateral raise in reverse — that would just be asking for an issue. I lower it down like the lowering portion of a shoulder press and then bring the DB to the start position between the knees. Now if the person can’t do the second part without pain or cant control the DB– then I think we have to look at other things before we just label the exercise as dangerous.

  8. pathfitness Says:

    I wasn’t thinking it was dangerous.

    But first we need to back up, you can’t put the kettlebell version with the barbell version on the same level. They are two different animals.


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