Why Does My Snatch Suck? Fixing the Set-Up and First Pull: Part 2

SnatchSo last week we went over some common issues with the set-up and first pull of the snatch.  We learned about how important it is to have a neutral spine and a straight bar path to become master snatchers without blasting lumbar discs all over the place in the process.  Hopefully you gleaned some pro snatch basics from Glen Pendlay and now you’re looking for ways to put an end to your terrible technique once and for all.

If you missed the 1st part I’d recommend you start there, you can find a link to part 1 HERE:

Towards the end of the last article I mentioned 3 structures that may be holding your technique back in the set-up and first pull of the snatch.  These were:

  1. Hip Capsule and Deep Posterior Hip Musculature
  2. Hamstrings and Gastrocnemius
  3. Nerve Tightness (aka neural tension)

I think I know what you’re probably thinking, “Ya ok Dan, I know what I need to do, stretch, stretch stretch”.

Well I’ll agree with you, stretching is going to be super important, but there are some other very interesting ways to get more mobile.  I do believe you’ll find them very intriguing and super effective.

1. Hip Capsule and Deep Hip Musculature:

So going back to the hip capsule and deep hip musculature.  I believe these are the structures that are usually the LEAST problematic but we’ll still address it because it can holding us back from snatch mastery.

Lets take a look at the hip capsule and deep hip musculature…

Posterior Capsule

Posterior Capsule

Deep Hip Musculature

Deep Hip Musculature

Mmmm, beautiful huh?  In case you were confused we’re looking at the back (posterior) of the hip with the larger more superficial muscles removed.  The top picture shows the posterior capsule depicted in white, surrounding the hip joint.  The bottom picture depicts some of the musculature shown in red.

As cute as they are, these little buggers can get in the way of end range hip flexion, which is going to be very important for keeping a neutral spine and a strong efficient set-up position for the snatch.  If we lack mobility here, we’ll end up with some wonky compensations like seen in part 1 of the series.  Not what we want…

Getting these structures more mobile is going to be as easy as doing some mobilizations and basic stretches.  We’ll cover these in part 3 of the series.  NEXT!

2. Hamstrings and Gastrocnemius:hamstrings gastrocnemius

Depicted in the photo to the right you can see the hamstrings group (Biceps femoris, Semitendinosus, Semimembranosus) as well as the Gastrocnemius.

What is important to understand is that when we go into the set-up for the snatch we’re bending (flexing) at the hip.  Hip flexion and relative knee extension like we see in the set-up (and even more importantly as the bar passes the knee) of the snatch is going to put a large stretch on the hamstring musculature.

Look how eerily similar this hamstring stretch looks compared to the snatch position we’re trying to improve:

supine_ham_stretch_hep

clean 1st pull

 

Starting to make sense?

Now, since the Gastrocs also cross over the knee and can limit your ability to extend the knee when the ankle is dorsiflexed I wanted to mention them.   In reality, I think the hamstrings are the biggest fish we need to fry and the issue I see most often.

Now, we both know that active and passive stretching are two ways we can improve flexibility (1).  When we try to gain mobility we’re going to use a combination of stretches as well as techniques that engage the nervous system to get the fastest results.

Another often overlooked way to gain flexibility in the hamstrings is by using eccentrics.  Eccentric contractions are the way your muscles contract to lower the weight in a lift.  They are also commonly referred to the negative portion of the lift.  Think of the way you lower the weight to the floor with a deadlift so that you don’t smash plate shaped holes in the floor.  Your hamstrings are working eccentrically during this portion of the lift.

Eccentric contractions have been shown to increase flexibility of muscles through the addition of sarcomeres (2).  Sarcomeres are the functional units of a muscle that create muscle shortening or contraction.  Be sure that the plan for improving your snatch mobility will contain eccentrics!

3. Nerves and Neural Tension

nervous_system_anatomyNow this is one area you might be unfamiliar with and may find particularly interesting.  Our brain sits within our skull and sends and receives information to and from the rest of the body through the spinal cord and peripheral nerves.

What we tend to forget sometimes is that these structures can be tight and decrease our mobility.  Give the slump test a shot on yourself:

http://youtu.be/kuGTP5ZX9Kk

Feel a bit of burning pain in the back of your knee?  Maybe from the hip down to the toes?  Maybe even some pins and needles?

That my friends is a nerve stretch, also known as neural tension.  The slump position maximally stretches the nerves as they leave the skull and travel down to the toes.  Research shows us that neural tension can present as limited hamstring flexibility when we try to do something like reach down and touch our toes or do a sitting reach test (3).  This means that if we have a lot of neural tension or nerve tightness, it’s going to limit our ability to achieve efficient positions during the snatch.

How can we tell if we have a neural tension issue?  How can we distinguish between neural tension and hamstring muscular tightness.  Check out the video below:

How do we fix this neural tension?  Through the use of stretching (1) and flossing techniques, both of which we’ll address in the next article.

Keep in mind that most people are going to have a combination of hamstring tightness and neural tension, so our corrective approach will utilize both.

So now I believe you have a more in depth understanding of what can limit your ability to get into those sexy snatch positions.  Next week we’ll go over my favorite exercises to improve your mobility.  Stay tuned…

Part 3Part 4

Snatchasaurus Rex,

Dan Pope

P.S. If you enjoyed this article then sign up for the newsletter to receive the FREE guide – 10 Idiot Proof Principles to Crossfit Performance and Injury Prevention as well as to keep up to date with new information as it comes out via weekly emails.

References:

  1. Fasen, J., Oconnor, A., Schwartz, S., Watson, J., Plastaras, C., & Garvan, C. (2009). A randomized controlled trial of hamstring stretching: Comparison of four techniques. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research23(2), 660-667.
  2. OSullivan, K., McAuliffe, S., & DeBurca, N. (2012). The effects of eccentric training on lower limb flexibility: a systematic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine46, 838-845.
  3. McHugh, M., Johnson, C., & Morrison, R. (2012). The role of neural tension in hamstring flexibility.Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports22(2), 164-169.
  4. Butler, D. (2000). The sensitive nervous system. Adelaide City West, South Australia 5000: Noi Group Publications.

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