I am trying to wake my blog up from a period of inactivity. Here is something I wrote 6 years ago and was still in the “draft” category. When I re-read it and think about what I think now- If I was training a team in the off-season, I still believe in this.
We use traditional exercises to build both strength and power with our athletes. One way we look to increase total body power is by performing Olympic lift variations. We will utilize lifts such as the Hang Clean, Hang Snatch, and Dumbbell Snatch for the purpose developing hip and leg power. In these types of lifts, we are actually borrowing the methods from what you may see at the Olympic Games where the Clean and Jerk and the Snatch are the competitive lifts. Olympic lifters are some of the most powerful athletes in the world. Athletes can benefit from the same methods that develop power in the Olympic lifters. However, unlike the Olympic lifters who pull the barbell from the floor, we modify them by performing them from the hang position.
As I progressed in my career as a Strength and Conditioning Coach, I was exposed to Olympic lifting both from the hang position and from the floor. While working in environments where athletes lifted from the floor, I always knew what I would do when I was able to design my own programs. In the back of my mind, I knew that my athletes were going to do Olympic lift from the hang position. The reason is that I had seen far less inadeuqatge form from the hang position versus from the floor. I never saw the benefit of lifting from the floor versus the hang position. To me, the perceived benefit of lifting from the floor simply wasn’t worth the risk of potential injury.
In the hang position, the chest is up, the hips are back, and the shoulders are in front of the bar, with the wrists rolled under. All we are asking the athlete to do is jump, shrug, and sit to get to the front squat rack position. Pretty simple to do, but like any other exercise, it does take some coaching.
When we perform power exercises such as Olympic lift variations, we will do them twice per week during the off-season and 1-2 times per week in-season. In the off-season, we spend 1 of those days performing the Hang Clean, while on the other day, we are either doing Dumbbell Snatches or Kettlebell Swings.
In the last few years, I have strayed away from the Hang Snatch. Now, I believe that they are in the must-do category. When it comes to the reasons why we don’t Hang Snatch, I have always thought of these:
– When I think of hockey players, I immediately think of the sport demands. Hockey isn’t an overhead sport so why should we use overhead lifts for a sport in which they never have their arms overhead?
– I am afraid of my athletes suffering injuries in the weight room. In the case of Hang Snatch, my primary concern here are shoulder injuries. I don’t like the wide grip position on Hang Snatches. I think we would be asking for trouble if we did large amounts of volume with that version.
– The Hang Snatch is a technical lift. I would not be 100% comfortable with the players following our program at home by themselves. The reality is that most of our players leave the area during the off-season.
Now that I have given a few reasons why we don’t Hang Snatch, a recent training session with one of my athletes has let me know that I could also look at why it is a great exercise. In this situation, the athlete had been training around a previous back injury for the past 2-3 years. One off-season, I discontinued the Hang Clean and several other double leg squatting and hinging exercises for this guy. We inserted alternatives such as Squat Jumps and Vertimax Jumps for power development. At the beginning of this past off-season, we discussed what he liked to do for explosive exercises. Immediately, he said he wanted to Hang Snatch. When I was done watching him perform a set, I said “Why did I stop doing these with my athletes?”
What did I see that was so good? I saw an exercise that was really hard to do wrong- once you got into the proper start position. These are the types of exercises that I really like- simple and effective with limited risk of injury with proper load. In this situation, he picked up the bar and slid it down to the position above his knees while simultaneously pushing his hips back. At the same time he had an arched back, his hands were rolled over the bar, his chest and shoulders were over the bar, and his hands were a tad wider than shoulder width and his eyes were up. From there, he proceeded to jump, shrug, and sit while extending the arms up in the finished position. It was really good technique.
Looking at the reasons I gave above for not using the Hang Snatch, I simply thought of the opposite of the reasons to determine why I would use them again.
Hockey is indeed not an overhead sport. However, I see the benefit of the Hang Snatch for the sport. Finishing the lift while holding the bar overhead under load is a great way to train the scapula-thoracic and rotator cuff musculature as stabilizers. The Hang Snatch is also a good exercise for hypertrophy and strength, specifically in the upper back and posterior shoulder girdle region. More importantly, although the load is lower than in the Hang clean- the velocity is higher in the Snatch. Every athlete who is trying to improve power and who don’t have physical limitations. However, like any other exercise, there are some athletes who should not do them at first. For example, we don’t use the Hang Snatch with athletes who have shown asymmetries on the shoulder mobility part of the Functional Movement Screen. We will try to correct the asymmetries with corrective exercise strategies with these individuals. Once they can demonstrate symmetrical scores, we would start teaching them the Hang Snatch.
In regards to load selection during the Hang Snatch, lighter is OK. Especially at the start when we are learning. The proper start position along with the movement has to be dialed in. Like any other exercise in our program, we will add weight to the bar progressively as the athlete gets stronger.
Like I mentioned, the Hang Snatch can be a great exercise for power development. If I can prescribe an exercise that requires less load and can be done right, I am all for it.