November 12, 2010
November 17, 2010
In Over Your Head

Sunday’s class devoted themselves, by choice or otherwise, to strengthening one particular lift: the Olympic Snatch. Oddly enough, however, no actual snatches were prescribed. Instead, class concentrated on a few “skill transfer exercises” for the Snatch: The OverHead Squat (OHS), and all three versions of the Snatch Balance (Pressing, Heaving, & pure Snatch Balance).

These skill transfer exercises are designed to help a lifter with one of, if not THE, hardest things about mastering the Olympic Snatch: learning to (1) exert continuous force on the bar while (2) maintaining a solid position under the weight and within the line of gravity.

Continuous Force on the Bar: You may have heard Coach Brose or Choi state it before: “drive yourself under the bar.” What they mean is this: during the snatch (or any of the skill transfer exercises mentioned above), a lifter should be continuously exerting force upward on the weight as they descend under the bar. Especially in the full squat position, a lifter should be pushing up against the bar AT ALL TIMES to help control the weight.

Center of Gravity (COG): The COG of a lifter’s body is the point at which all body parts, and thus body weight, are equally distributed. Think of this as your balance point. The force of gravity, unsurprisingly, on the COG is always straight down. Thus, a barbell, which has a fixed COG, does not change, regardless of increasing weight. So, why is it so damn hard to balance that bar overhead?

The problem is that the COG of a lifter’s body DOES change as the lifter changes position: At standing, the COG is just above the waist, near the navel. In a squat, though, the COG is (or should be) closer to the head, in the upper chest. Add a weighted bar in an overhead position to the mix, and the COG moves closer to the weight. Indeed, the COG in the receiving position of the snatch is actually above the lifters head. Thus, it’s “so damn hard” because a lifter is attempting to keep a weight that they can’t see in line with a COG that’s now located above their head!

That’s a lot of explanation, but I bet it made sense to everyone in class on Sunday, who ground their way through a Weight Set of Heavy Snatch Balances followed by a Met-Con of high rep OHS along with pull-ups and box jumps.

Great work by all. This was a tough one, and required a lot of concentration and effort. Rest up and refuel for Tuesday. And speaking of refueling, let’s talk about the Nutritional Challenge. Everyone’s gotten their general Nutritional requirements by now, and should soon receive some more tailored suggestions. In the meantime, be sure to fill out your Food Log. This is important – keeping track of what you eat and how you feel from day to day, and workout to workout, will help immensely. So get on it!



  1. SBV says:

    Overhead squats (OHS) are the worst. To perform them correctly, you must have tremendous mobility in the hips and ankles. If you’re loose in the aforementioned areas, then you’re knees are able to track out over your toes (while your heels stay pinned to the floor) and your torso remains upright. In contrast, if you’re tight in these areas, then your torso tilts forward as you lower and your shoulders bear most of the burden while trying to keep the bar over the middle of your foot.

    Me? Well . . . I’m tight in the ankles, hips, AND shoulders. My torso tilts forward during the OHS and my shoulders are forced to work double-time to keep the bar from falling forward. It’s getting better, though.

    Ethan and I worked at 75# on the METCON. It was by-far-and-away the best I’ve ever felt on OHS for reps. I think I’m ready to graduate to 95# the next time OHS show their ugly head in a METCON.

    One additional note. While you folks are controlling your portion sizes and trying to “eat clean,” I’m trying to get stronger so that I can hang with the big boys. Last night, before bed, I made a smoothie with a can of coconut milk, a scoop of protein power, and a cup of frozen strawberries. An estimated 900 calories, and quite delicious. Thanks to Sara for the recommendation on coconut milk. Get big!

  2. edgy reggie says:

    That was a hella workout (but I liked it…I think).

    Snatch balance: I worked up to 60kg x 2 on a heaving snatch balance. I actually ended up performing four reps in order to get two quality ones. I worked out with Mark, Chris (“Salty”), and Greg. I feel as if my speed in getting under the bar is getting better (especially as the weight increases), but I also know that there is room for improvement (read: I can get under the bar faster). I may do some more snatch balances this Wednesday.

    Met-con: One word describes this portion: brutal. I worked with Chris and Mark; we did 95# on the overhead squat. It took a while for me to find a groove, but I eventually did at around the 15-rep phase. Pull-ups killed me! Box jumps are always fun with weightlifting shoes.

    My left calf muscle started cramping around the 10-rep phase; but after a little massaging and some mental toughness, I was able to complete the workout (which was my primary goal).

    Post-class: First, there was nap time. 🙂 Second, I did Winnie’s Sunday evening Iyengar yoga class which featured a lot of back, hip, quad, and shoulder stretching. It alleviated some of the soreness I was feeling in my quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, traps, and shoulders (as well as a self-inflicted headache I received from banging the barbell on my head while performing OHS and later from hitting my head on a car door); however, it didn’t eliminate it. I’m still sore (but it’s a good thing).

    Again, if you have the time and funds on Sunday and Thursday evenings, take her yoga class (address, rate, and times were posted on a blog comment in September 2010). It will improve your lifting; it has definitely improved mine. 🙂

    @Sebastian: If you want an overhead squat challenge, try this CrossFit DC “oldie-but-goodie:” Perform fifty overhead squats (at 95# rx’d; of course, it can be scaled) in as few sets as possible. If you can do all fifty (unbroken), great (that is the goal). The best that I have seen is two sets of 25 reps. The best that I have done (if I recall correctly) is four sets (15, 15, 10, 10).

    “Not too bad for an old man” -CFDC’s own ODB

  3. edgy reggie says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Tom Brose says:

    Thank Chris for really breaking down the OHS. Understanding the concepts and mechanics of the movements is an essential step in improvement.

    I’m similar to Sebastian, and really need to warm up the movement to feel comfortable.

    Good work to all for pushing through a very challenging workout.

    Reggie, try to limit hitting yourself in the head this week OK? Way to stick with the wod, but we need you healthy.

  5. Sara says:

    Great post Salty! I am one of those who seems to go soft. It was evident in my snatch balances. Julia even pointed out that on the ones I missed I actually had them then got soft in the core (shoulders were ok) which made me lose it. It was pretty clear I had plenty of strength and power to go high than 90# which is what I worked up too. however I need to really work on core stability.

    On the metcon- this was the first workout in a while I felt good about my outcome after. I used 65# for OHS and did 15-12-9-6-3 on pull-ups. Glad I scaled the pullups. They are what broke down the most. I think all of my OHS rounds were unbroken except the 20.

  6. edgy reggie says:

    Coach: Deal, but sometimes that is the only way that I can knock some sense in me. 🙂

  7. SaltyHat says:

    Glad so many like the post – mad props to USAW and their Club Coach Manual for helping me out on this one.

    I am fortunate enough to be located on the other end of the spectrum from Tom & Sebastian when it comes to flexibility/mobility, and I like squats to boot. However, I did notice that I am still having lopsided shoulder issues – one shoulder pressing up more than the other, and I need to remedy this to help out on my snatches.

    Snatch Balance: worked up 70kg I think.
    Met-Con: worked with Mark & Reg at 95lbs, and kept all sets unbroken.

    Good call on the 50-rep OHS WOD Reg – Brose & I were reminiscing about that WOD during class. In all fairness, however, I’ve seen it done in one shot by two people: Fred & Tuba on the same day:

    (of course, I followed up on their spectacular examples by making it to 46reps and then promptly dropping the bar on my head…)

  8. Steph says:

    Came and did Elements class. Really tried to focus on coming up from the squats using both legs equally, and thanks to Chris for suggesting that I pause slightly at the bottom of the squat before coming up, which seemed to solve the problem of my hips tilting. Also had my deadlift form corrected, emphasizing on pushing the knees back all the way before opening the hips.

    For the metcon I did man-makers instead of burpees since I cannot jump yet. Feeling it a bit in the chest and it’s a good sore.

    Started my nutritional challenge on Saturday and already feeling a hundred times better today. Haven’t had any processed carbs or grains of any sort, eating lots of meat (yay!) and even more veggies. Also switched to a new brand of fish oil, so not sure if it’s one or a combination of all of the above, I felt fresh and energized today even on not-so-great sleep. Excited to continue the challenge to see more results. Having a lot of fun filling out my food log as well. I also added a column for exercises done each day just to keep myself more committed.