Learning to Snatch

Learning to Snatch

Last night, after surviving my first day at home post-holiday-travel, I checked the Rocktown Crossfit web site to see what today’s WOD would be. I took the holiday week off from workouts (unless you count lugging two 50-pound suitcases around O’Hare airport while carrying a 23-pound backpack of camera and computer gear on your back) and after a good night’s sleep was ready to get back to it. The virtual whiteboard looked like:

10 min to work up to a heavy snatch
Then, 2×2 @90%

As many rounds as possible in 10 minutes:
200m run
10 pullups
5 power snatches (135/95)

My first thought was, “Thank goodness it’s only a 200m run at a time.” Running still crushes my lungs.

My second thought was, “Pullups, good. I need more of those.” I’m still doing them from the floor with the rings, as I still don’t have the grip or arm strength to even hang from the bar, but I like them because I feel like they’re making me stronger.

My third thought was, “I doubt I’m going to do snatches. They’ll probably get subbed with something else… but I’d better watch some videos just in case!” We did not cover snatches in the intro on-ramp PEAK training program, and as a n00b, I don’t really have any feel for what I’m ready for. I have to trust my coaches on that. My upper body strength is the most significant of my weaknesses, so I wasn’t sure I’d be considered ready to attempt a technical overhead move.

After watching some videos, I thought that if I had to do a squat snatch, it would be iffy, as my squat mechanics are still a work in progress. If it was all power snatches, I might be in luck. As it so happens, my snatch googling led me to finally understand that things labeled “power” are the high-catch versions of the lift. So far, I like those the best (probably due to aforementioned squat weaknesses).

I headed to the gym for the 9am class – my usual class, but not on my usual day – and found a zillion people there ready to get their WOD on. I’m exaggerating, but the class was packed. I didn’t recognize many faces, but as usual, everyone was super friendly and welcoming and encouraging. Rocktown Crossfit has the best people, hands down. #likearock

Needless to say, I was beyond excited when Coach Lauren proposed that during the strength session, we work on snatch technique. Yes, please! I started out using the training bar (25#). I expected to have trouble keeping the bar vertical in front of me. I thought I would want to swing it out and up, but surprisingly, that wasn’t a problem. My biggest problems were:

1. Jumping my feet too far out on the catch (well past squat width), and

2. Pulling with my arms instead of shrugging and pushing with my hips.

Both of these things got better with practice, but it definitely took a heck of a lot of brain power to make my body do what I wanted it to do. If I stopped thinking about my feet, they forgot to stay in close. If I stopped thinking about my drive, I reverted to arm-pulling the bar. There were 2 reps in particular that felt different and totally right, and I was glad that Coach Lauren caught one of them and said, “Yes! Nailed it – best one today!” – so I know that what that felt like was indeed what it should feel like. I couldn’t repeat the perfect mix of ingredients with much consistency, but I got it right a few times, and I will build from there.

For the workout, I used the empty women’s bar (35#). Doing snatches after pullups left my arms whimpering, so I’m glad I didn’t try to add any weight. I’ll save that for next time. In my second set of snatches during the workout, as my arms got fatigued, I was having a harder time catching with my arms locked out.

The verdict: I like snatches – power snatches, anyway.

Working with the barbell is my favorite part of Crossfit. I would like to start doing some strength training during open gym maybe once or twice a week, but I will have to talk to the coaches and figure out what that looks like. It’s on my list of things to do in 2015.

Here’s the video that I found most helpful in familiarizing myself with snatch technique:

And because I crack myself up:

Learning to Snatch

Here’s to a happy and safe New Year’s Eve to all. I’ll catch you on the flipside!

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