Why We Don’t Snatch or Clean

You’re about to read a post full of conjecture, personal experience and opinion.

If you’re looking for a scientific discussion as to the merits of weightlifting versus other forms of power training, look elsewhere.

If you’e expecting a rant against CrossFit and bad technique, look elsewhere.

If you want to hear the opinion of someone with more experience and proficiency with the lifts, and with coaching them than > 99% of people reading this post, stay here and read on.

For the record, I don’t dislike the snatch and clean because I don’t “get them”. I’ve snatched over bodyweight and cleaned more than 1.5x bodyweight. I’ve also thought the lifts and the learning process to 100s of personal trainers and done several training certs along with learning from Ireland’s best lifters and coaches.

So don’t mistake my dislike for lack of knowledge or ignorance.

How To Snatch

Here’s why we don’t use the classic weightlifting competition lifts at RevFit.

  • Most people have insufficient mobility and kinesthetic awareness to execute the lifts with good form or technique. If you can’t hit the right positions during the lifts to extract the intended training effect, there’s no point even trying. Some sort of bastardised high pull upright row variation is not a clean.
 
  • Snatches / cleans don’t add anything that can’t be got faster with traditional less complex lifts (unless you’re a high level athlete or compete in something that requires you to clean / snatch). If, as a beginner, you want to get more “powerful” – get stronger. Then get good at jumping. Then get good at jumping with weight. Once you’ve that nailed (…4 or 5 years later, maybe then it matters more)
 
  • Until you’re already strong, there’s no point pretending to be “powerful” with a 20kg barbell. Yes, you might learn technique, and if that’s your goal, cool. But weightlifting is fundamentally a strength sport. There’s a huge technique component, but no one who is any good at the sport is weak. Getting strong is harder and takes longer than getting technically good (…yes, this is a very controversial statement, but I believe it to be true)
  • Unless you’re doing some sort of plyometric / reactive work, all the “power” in the world won’t matter unless you’ve also got “quickness” – the ability to demonstrate that power repeatedly when it matters. We all know someone with fast feet who can get in and out of tight spots and never get hit. You might call them a “dancer”
 
  • A lot of Irish athletes move so poorly and have so many physical preparation in adequacies that adding a ballistic weighted movement onto a dysfunctional system is basically rolling the injury the dice and hoping it doesn’t come up snake-eyes
 
  • Attempting to teach a mixed competency group a high skill (I use “high skill” loosely) means a large proportion get left behind, and before you say – “get better at coaching then”, if you know anything about me you’ll know I’m an incredible coach who can get someones body to do whatever I want in the gym with enough time, this is not a competency issue, it’s a fundamental problem with teaching the lifts
 
  • Learning how to clean and snatch won’t make you “stronger”. Controversial, again. But for most, spending 15-20 minutes 2-3x per week at the start of a class throwing around 40kg won’t do much for max strength at limit loads like on squats and deadlifts. If you make weightlifting your focus for a number of months and years and train it hard, there’ll clearly be a beneficial effect, but I’m not talking about that in this instance

That’s an non-exhaustive list of why we dont’ train em in RevFit. If I was to sum it up in one sentence I’d say;

“we don’t train the snatch and clean because most people move too poorly, are too weak, and won’t do a good enough job executing the lifts to really benefit from  them in any meaningful manner”

…..BUT

Yeah.

There’s a but.

And it’s this – they are great fun when you get them right. Like incredibly good craic. But the cost is A LOT of frustration. At the end of the day, weightlifting is basically lifting a bar just high enough to THROW yourself underneath it and try to stand up with the weight.

Sometimes you get it right, sometimes you get it wrong. But you’ll win or learn.

Please remember, I’m not saying you SHOULDN’T do these lifts, but you should do them and commit time to learning them only when you understand why you’re doing them, and what you should expect to get as a result.

If you want to clean and snatch because they’re fun, and because you want to get better at them – knock yourself out. I’ll even bend over backwards to help.

But don’t think by excluding them you’re missing out on something that can’t be got by some other means.

That’s all.

I expect many jimmies will be rustled, but the coaches I respect who truly get this sort of stuff will understand EXACTLY what I’m talking about, and will be able to set aside their love for the lifts (which I have too by the way) and understand the message.

TL;DR – the only reason to snatch / clean is because you enjoy the lifts and want to get better at em. They have no fundamental magic properties.

James Hanley

Strength Coach. Performance Specialist. Dog Lover. Powerlifter. And the guy behind the scenes in RevFit that keeps the plates spinning.