July 7, 2011
July 13, 2011


Sometimes awkward exercises are good because they teach our bodies to prepare for anything – that whole GPP (Genl Physical Preparedness) that is one of the founding principles of CF. Sometimes awkward exercises are good because they teach our bodies how to better perform just one thing. Such is the nature of the Snatch Balance.

Skill/Strength: Snatch Balance

The Snatch Balance. A “skill transfer exercise” to help a lifter better understand and master the Snatch. Specifically, the snatch balance helps a lifter learn to exert continuous force on the bar while driving themselves under the weight. The focus on this movement has to be on getting down fast. Of course, that is a skill to be worked on, and not an easy one to master, but to help, there are three graduating versions of the snatch balance: the Pressing, the Heaving, and the Pure/Dynamic.

Pressing: Feet start wide and aren’t moved while the lifter applies constant pressure on the bar, slowly pushing themselves under – difficult to perform as it requires the equal pressure to be applied through-out the movement ~ key on trying to keep the bar in the same place at all times during the lift;

Heaving: Feet start narrow but finish wide as the lifter performs a slight dip&drive motion to impart just a bit of upward momentum on the bar while he/she jumps their feet out and drives their-self under the weight – difficult to perform correctly, but can provide an instant of weightlessness to help the lifter beat gravity when pressing themselves under the weight;

Pure/Dynamic: Feet start wide and aren’t moved while the lifter applies constant pressure on the bar while exploding downward under the weight, receiving it in a full squat position – by far the most difficult to perform.

Usually we practice all three versions of the snatch balance, or at least the first two versions. So why was class limited to only the first and last version this time (cutting out the heaving snatch balance)?

Although the heaving snatch balance can be the easiest of the three versions for most people to perform, it is also the most likely to be mis-performed. Too often, lifters impart too much “heave” and ride the bar down into a squat, turning the lift into a “heaving-behind-the-neck-push-jerk-into-an-overhead-squat.”

Instead, Sunday’s class focused on only the first and third versions in order to emphasize the need for continuous pressure on the bar. This need – to exert constant pressure on the bar – is encapsulated in the oft-given instruction “drive yourself under the bar!” This means (to crib lines from a previous CFDC post in November, 2010) that a lifter should be continuously exerting force upward on the bar as they descend under it, especially in the full squat position, where a lifter should be pushing up against the bar AT ALL TIMES to help control the weight.

Hopefully those in attendance have a better understanding of this requirement. To facilitate understanding, and ensure no one let their ego’s get the better of them, everyone was required to perform at least three sets of 2 reps of pressing snatch balance. Only after getting coach approval could a lifter move on to the pure snatch balance; if approval was not forthcoming, then lifters continued with the pressing snatch balance for the rest of the skill/strength set.

Great work all around on what is an extremely difficult exercise to master. Of course, the best way to get-over a lift requiring a lot of thinking is to rip through a few movements which don’t require a whole of thought…just lots of energy.

3 x Max Pull-Ups + 10 KB Swings, 15 Burpees, 20 Squat Jumps, 2min Rest

Perform a set of max pull-ups (strict or kipping), followed by a quick blast of 10 heavy KB Swings (done Russian Style – only to chest level), 15 burpees, and 20 squat jumps, with a 2min mandatory rest in between rounds.

Hope everyone enjoyed the rest of their weekend. See you all on Tuesday.



  1. Stohlman says:

    I enjoyed this motion, though it was tricky, because of how cool it felt when I got the right combination of pressing and lowering into a squat. I look forward to trying the fast motion in the future.

    This metcon had, like many Crossfit metcons, that point in it where I felt like I couldn’t continue. For me, reaching that point and then being stubborn or stupid enough to decide to continue is the most valuable part of Crossfit — practicing the mental fortitude necessary to keep going even when I want to fall over. Seems to be a good life lesson.

    Great class!

  2. Julia says:

    I was pretty excited about trying the pressing snatch balance after Tom walked over and said, “This is going to be a hard movement for you.”

    As it turned out… it was a hard movement for me. Darn it. One of these days, I’ll prove him wrong. Gosh, these were awkward. And really, really funny-looking (or is it just me?). I liked them.

    Metcon – hit 15 on each pullup round. Swings – just grabbed the first free appropriate-looking KB I saw; think I wound up using 3 different weights. (Discovery: objects are heavier than they appear.) Burpees okay; broke the squat jumps up a lot.

    After: a few minutes of double-under practice with my jump rope/box jump buddy Reggie. Everyone is welcome. 🙂

  3. Steph says:

    Julia, you broke on the jump squats?! Wow, that’s hard to believe, of course you were probably jumping 2 feet off the ground!

    And I agree, holy crap those pressing snatch balances were awkward! I think that was the most awkward movement I’ve come across thus far in my CrossFit journey. Out of the 7 sets of 2, I think I only truly did 3 sets correctly. The first 3 sets I didn’t realize that I was supposed to keep the bar still and drop under. Thanks to lots of coaching from Chris, I think I did the next set correctly. The set after that I was so worried about not pressing the bar up first that I ended up dropping with the bar. It was only after that that I realized I still needed to exert enough pressure on pushing the bar up but not too much that I press it up first. Man, like I said, awkward awkward awkward. Although I was annoyed that I didn’t perform the movement as gracefully or well as I had hoped, it was fun to work on it. I’m hoping to do more of these in the future to get better at them!

    I worked with Erica and McKenzie on the pressing snatch balances. I think I only worked up to 30lbs with correct form. Hey, better get the movement right than doing them incorrectly at a higher weight! McKenzie made those look really easy and I think she actually went heavier!!

    I did the class metcon as well, well sort of, first time in a looong time! Used the red band for pull-ups (no more kipping!), did db(20lbs/arm) presses instead of kb swings, did slow-mo burpees, and finally did goblet(20lbs) squats instead of jump squats. Pull-up numbers were 6-6-5.

    Even though I was doing slow-mo burpees, they still killed me. I was definitely sucking air!

    Yay for being a sweaty mess. See everyone Tuesday!

  4. Steph says:

    Oh and thank you to Erica and McKenzie for keeping an eye on my movement and all the coaching during the pressing snatch balances!

  5. edgy reggie says:

    Pressing snatch balance: The snatch balance is a skill exercise that I do a lot of on Wednesdays (at CrossFit Bethesda). I usually perform either the dynamic or the heaving snatch balances. But for this class, it was back to the pressing snatch balance. Even though Coach approved my technique and form (thanks for keeping me honest), I continued to perform pressing snatch balances at 35 kg (77 lbs.).

    Met-con: Did at least ten ring pull-ups each round. I used the 32 kg (72.6 lbs./2 pood) kettlebell for swings (I felt that this was the easiest exercise in this met-con.). I had to break up the burpees, but the jump squats felt okay. I liked this met-con despite the burpees in it. 🙂

    Post-class: Double-under practice with my “bud,” Julia.

    …and later: Yoga with Winnie. I’m glad that she’s back; I really needed the stretching. 🙂

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

  6. Tom Brose says:

    Julia, I have to work hard to find things to challenge you! Snatch Balances are really tough to adjust to, but that’s where the benefit lies. Almost everything we do, the focus in on more power, more explosiveness etc can get you through it. Here, the emphasis is on moving the body under the bar. If you find yourself a serial power snatcher, this is going to seem like punishment, but is really a cure.

  7. Sara says:

    Wow lots of long comments. I actually feel really comfortable with the pressing snatch balance now. It took a long time to not feel awkward doing this movement, but yesterday felt pretty natural. I did 3 sets up to 75lbs and them moved onto the dynamic snatch balance. Here I had some trouble since I have only done them once or twice before. The first 2 sets I could feel myself heaving a little. By the last 2 I think I corrected that with a little more focus. I didnt go up in weight until the last set cause I dent feel it. The last set I went up to 80lbs and it felt really solid.

    For the metcon, I choose not to max out on pull-ups. Instead I just made sure to get 10-12 each round. I think I used the 24kg KB for my first set and pretty much had to stop myself short of going overhead. I switched to the 28kg after that which was better but definitely could have swung that overhead as well. My legs felt on fire during the jump squats.

    Great work in class by everyone.

  8. Tom Brose says:

    Max, excellent point on the mental fortitude aspect of training. We don’t like to make overbearing posts about the CF relating to life, but practicing being uncomfortable is a way to challenge yourself to being a better person.

    Steph, its great to have you back in class.

    Sara and Julia, both of you did great with the heavier bells. I thought that was Julia’s strategy, working up to the 32kg for the last round.

  9. Erica says:

    I agree with Steph, AWWWWKWARD (kind of like a really bad, bad joke like this post) movement on the snatch balance. I too only worked up to whatever Steph said she did because once again, I cannot remember how much weight I lifted. I was super inspired by Mackenzie and Steph’s finesse on the movement and am really REALLY excited that Steph is joining in on more movements (hello Deadlift). On the met-con, I was feeling frustrated because I could not get more than one good pull-up before I switched to the bands. I feel like I’m getting good on the bands, but I REALLY want to get more pull-ups. I also find myself getting stronger on the burpees. I think my cardio training has helped with this.

    On a side note, saw Steve at the pool later that day. Was fun seeing crossfiters out of there element.

  10. SaltyHat says:

    Max, I wholeheartedly echo Tom’s comment – while a few too many people beat the drum of “CF is Life!” there are definitely some valuable lessons to be learned, such as when to grit your teeth and push on through to the end. HOWEVER, part and parcel of that is also learning when to call it a day; i.e., are you pushing through a plateau or over-reaching? laziness or fatigue? discomfort or pain? In each case, the former is fine, but the latter runs the gamut from bad to disastrous.

    I also echo the call that the snatch balance is an awkward movement; I am still learning to perform them properly, as I struggle to get away from a sort-of hybrid heaving-dynamic SB. Thanks to both Brose and Choi for helping me work on these. I did strict pull-ups for the met-con and used Jimmy’s “Heavy” KB for the swings after a little taunting from Tom. But man, those jump squats killed me.

    Nice to have Steph back in class, although I am slightly biased. See everyone tonight.

  11. Mark Minukas says:

    Hey, nice work everyone! Made that metcon look easy (at least from where I stood).

    Tom, I like the focus on the pressing snatch balance. It really gives the feel for maintaining active shoulders (way more than just overhead squats).

    I finally made it to the chiropractor today, by the way. I thought a freakin bone snapped the adjustment was so loud! Feeling quite a bit better already. Crawling back…..

  12. Mark Minukas says:

    And Chris, I agree with you. Gotta know when to call it a day. Mental challenge is great. Breaking yourself is “bad to disastrous”