Setting the start position for snatches – tight lats

You can often get away with crappy form for the clean and jerk, but not so for the snatch. The snatch is considered the technical lift – and that means any tiny error or fluctuation in your form has the ability to make or break that rep. And good form begins with the start position. The set up position should be active. This means that the all the muscles are ‘switched on’ and nothing is relaxed. Lately, I’ve been focussing on achieving tight lats and have seen phenomenal improvements in just one session!

The role of the lats in the start position

The lats are essential for “pulling” the bar close to the body. Having the lats fully engaged sets you up for a strong first pull which in turn leads to a strong second pull and hopefully a brilliant finish. If the lats are not switched on then the bar will most likely drift out in front of you, resulting in a failed lift. In the Olympic lifts you want the bar as close to your body as possible -Ii the bar is close to you, you are essentially creating a single “system” consisting of yourself, the lifter, plus the barbell. It is this single, tight system that leads to the optimal execution of the snatch.

Zoe Smith snatch start position

GB Olympian Zoe Smith’s lats are fully engaged in the start position of the snatch

If the bar is too far from your body, the centre of mass is tipped forward which will likely make the lift imbalanced and much more difficult. Many people who find the bar always travelling too forward are not actively engaging their lats.

This is a good video on engaging your lats:

Exercises that engage the lats

I’ve talked about some exercises that help ensure the hips and shoulders rise at the same time in the snatch, but these exercise are also very good at engaging the lats. Another exercise I would like to talk about is the Halting Deadlift.

Halting Deadlift

It looks like a conventional deadlift but the bar stops at the top of the knees before returning to the floor. This teaches you to stay over the bar for a longer time than you would in a normal deadlift. If you have to be over the bar for a longer time, the lats need to be engaged in order to keep it close to you; therefore this exercise is good at lat activation. It’s also a good way to train you to ensure your hips and shoulders rise at the same time, another important aspect of the snatch.


Further reading:

Video showing Halting Deadlift by Mark Rippetoe

T-Nation’s Comprehensive Guide to the Snatch

Breaking Muscle’s How To Bake the Perfect Snatch

Lat Activation for Bigger Pulls