When you think of the word or concept of “technique”, what comes to mind? Here are a few definitions to help prime for the discussion and considerations to follow:

  1. A way of carrying out a particular task, especially the execution or performance of an artistic work or scientific procedure.
  2. A skillful or efficient way of doing or achieving something.

When it comes to the snatch and clean, the “technique” that one has (whether it be “good” or “bad”) is typically established from what is seen in the set-up and the portion of those lifts commonly referred to as “the pull”. Additionally, it is here that “different” techniques or “styles” are expressed, observed, and labeled. It might be assumed that one is using or should be using “Russian” or “Chinese” or “German” technique if they have limb length proportions common to athletes from those areas of the world. It might be said that one is “catapulting” or “triple-extending” if they have certain characteristic actions in their movement.

So, what “technique” do you use? Which SHOULD you use? Before you spend too much time measuring your limbs or using ancestry.com to help you answer those questions, let me present an alternative perspective. This perspective is 1 of 2 debatable considerations so let’s first put them side by side below and expound from there:

  1. There is and should be an endless number of “techniques” one should thumb through, experiment with, and decide on for themselves with their specific body type, strengths, weaknesses, etc., in mind.
  2. Although we are individuals, we have more in common than we have differences, and are going to use similar methods to execute the most efficient lift.

I believe, follow, and teach the second statement. STOP “shopping” for the “technique” that might be best for you; there is no need! It’s worth repeating: Although we are individuals, we have more in common than we have differences, and are going to use similar methods to execute the most efficient lift.

I’ve become less and less of a fan of the word “technique” due to these country, system, and style-type labels. They lead to the assumption that there is more variability than there really is amongst the elite lifters. They indicate that each human should use a particular technique to fit their body type or have a special style created from scratch for their special “snowflake” variations in anatomy or abilities. We all have variations yes, but, this idea of seeking out and prioritizing those differences in our technique creates a lot of unnecessary confusion, expends wasted time and energy, and “spinning wheels” in progress and learning.

What about the differences that are undoubtedly observed amongst the elite lifters (ie, varying angles in the body through the set-up of a snatch) that lead to this labeling of “different” techniques? I want to urge you to look at them simply as BY-PRODUCTS. By-products of a few key characteristics and undeniable execution points that are the SAME amongst the elites! These characteristics and execution points are BASICS that should be understood, learned, and developed by everyone trying to reach their potential. Another part of this is knowing what areas of your body and portions of the lift you can actually control, which will expose WHERE you should be putting your effort. This will give you FREEDOM of thought/focus from most of the lift and PERMISSION to allow the “by-products” to be what they will be; what they NEED to be.

To differentiate between “basics” and “by-products” we’ll first need to establish a common language. This will be accomplished by pointing out, naming, and defining the key positions (snapshots in a lift), as well as the movement that occurs between each. We will then dig into the great detail of each position and portion to develop and ensure fluency in the language. To express this language clearly with your body, you will need to prioritize and perfect each of the key positions. This will lead to more automation and efficiency for the detailed movement between the key positions, and SIMPLIFY “technique” as a whole for EVERYONE! This may all seem like an oversimplification or apathy towards individual differences, but in my extensive experience as both athlete and coach, this approach is successful.

In the spirit of simplification (and further promoting a sense of camaraderie in our community) in any discussion, let’s label technique as either effective or ineffective as opposed to Russian, Chinese, American, etc. “Effective” being if all the basics in the start position and movement through all key positions are accomplished, and “ineffective” if any of the basics are missed.  I’ll continue to argue the universality of applying these basics with everyone. For example, the basics of the start position you will learn about soon will apply regardless of a lifter’s anatomical differences (long femurs, short femurs, etc.) or where they are from (Russia, China, America, etc.). Each athlete may have a different approach to achieve the position, or even look slightly different, but the overall standard applies. 

All that being said, I hope we’ve been able to create some curiosity as to what these specific basics are and we are now ready to move forward. Check back tomorrow as we’ll introduce a language and begin to communicate key positions of the snatch and clean!

Until next time,

Chad Vaughn,
2-Time Olympian, USAW


Dr. Aaron Horschig, PT,

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