Friday, August 27, 2010

The Squat Snatch, Part One by Bob Hoffman

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The Squat Snatch, Part One
by Bob Hoffman (1958)

It is generally known throughout the world that I have always preferred the split style over the squat style in two-hands snatching. But from the beginning of my career in lifting I have always suggested that each man practice a great deal with both styles in an endeavor to find which style suits him best. The main reason I have advocated the split technique is because it is a surer method in that it permits the lifter to use a great deal of movement in rocking under the weight in the low position. Furthermore, by using the method we have called the “one-legged squat” for the past 35 years, it is possible to get as low in the split style as in the squat.

The only difference between a low split and a full squat position is the angle at which the body is held. Most splitters hold their bodies erect when in the low position although there were and still are certain splitters who lean the body well forward and keep the arms well back as in the squat style. Notable examples were Wally Zagurski and Stanley Kratkowski, both of whom were former national champions and members of the 1936 Olympic team. By employing this position a splitter can get as low as a squatter. Many squatters hold their bodies quite erect and look up at the bar when in the low position. Certainly these men do not get any lower than a good splitter.

Since I have been an advocate of the split style for so long, perhaps many of you are wondering how it is that I feel competent to write about the squat technique. I have seen the best squatters in the world in action and in training for all these many years. There have always been squatters on the York team, and at Melbourne at the 1956 Olympic Games every single member of the American team was a squatter, all seven of them. So, I know a lot about what is what is what in squat snatching. As a matter of fact, early in my lifting career I did a lot of squat snatching myself – in the one hand snatch. In the first contest we had as a York team I lifted and snatched 160 with one hand, 175 with two hands. Later I moved my lifetime records considerably higher, made 230 with two hands. In those very early days lots of people said I was the best lifter in the York barbell gym (here we go) and that took a lot of territory, for there were many terrific lifters in action here at the time. I simply wasn’t as strong as Grimek, Stanko, Davis, or even the smaller fellows such as Terlazzo and Terpak, and style alone is not enough. Strength is the most important characteristic of a lifter; if you have it, your chances of being a champion are good, for with constant practice you should be able to master the best style.

In my book, “Weightlifting”, the best styles for snatching are described. Formerly, a great variation in lifting styles could be found around the world, but now the lifters from almost every nation have adopted our methods. Even the Russians have been honest enough to admit that they follow Bob Hoffman’s training methods and lifting techniques. The following description of the two-hands snatch is quoted from my book: “As in the one-hand snatch, there are various methods of performing the lift. Stand close to the bar with the feet about 18 inches apart. Bend the knees slightly, bending in the back as in the two-hands snatch. Prepare to grasp the bar with a slow dive and hook. The back is kept flat throughout, the hips low, as the knees are bent. Grasp the bar tightly, using the hook grip. You have concentrated on a long, hard pull, determining to pull the bell as high as possible – at least to the level of the neck or chin. Start the lift with the arm straight, the initial pull being given by the back and legs. The legs and the back will be almost straight before you start pulling with the arm. Pull with increasing rapidity, with all your force, keeping the bar close to the chest and pulling high. Immediately, as the bell reaches its highest point, the body must be lowered. My style was to go into a full squat, at the same time turning a quarter turn or stepping forward a bit with the foot on the nonlifting side (one-arm snatch).

“Close observers of lifting styles will note that the final position of the bent press, the one-hand snatch, and the one-arm jerk in the low position are almost identical. The knees are well bent, the body bent over to right angles, the side upon the thigh, the free hand either resting upon the thigh, hanging between the legs, or crossed to the opposite knee where it rests. The nonlifting hand, at the beginning of the lift, should be rested across the knee on its side. A sharp push is given with this nonlifting hand as the weight is lifted from the floor. It will add pounds to your record.

“Some lifters will use the Get Set style, grasping the bar and starting the lift after a momentary straightening and bending of the legs to give some rebound to the start of the lift. A few lifters who have succeeded with fair poundages use split style in one-hand snatching, similar to their methods in two-hands snatching. This method does not generally permit as low a position or as high a poundage as the full squat. Best to master the full squat position as it will greatly assist you in performing the one-arm snatch, the one-arm jerk, the bent press and the one-arm swing. To teach the body the proper position, hold the weight overhead with one hand, then lower the body into the lowest possible position – the full squat. When the bell is fixed overhead, rise immediately to the erect position. The nonlifting hand can assist in maintaining balance and help the body to the erect position when heavy weights are employed. Regardless of how high you pull the weight in the one-hand snatch, or where you catch it when the lifting arm is straight, always drop into the low squat position, for it will teach you the proper low position so you can handle more weight.”

Although the one-hand snatch has not been a part of the national championships program since 1935 and will probably never be a part of it again because of the time factor, it is a very fine lift and one which all ambitious lifters should practice. A well-executed one-hand snatch is very impressive to behold. The Russians are still breaking one-arm world’s records. It would be interesting to see what some of our great two-arm snatchers could do in the one-hand lift.

It is not easy to learn sure and correct form in the two-hands squat snatch. I believe that the Russian Duganov, has the ideal form in two-hands snatching. He is not a young man, was wounded in the war and had his leg broken in three places, and still he set the world’s middleweight record at 292½ pounds while making record attempts in the lifting at Leningrad in 1955. This is one record that I believe will last for a long time yet. Bogdanovsky, the Russian champion, has done 281, and of course Tommy Kono made a wonderful 286 in our nationals at Los Angeles this past June, but still it does not seem likely that either of these two great lifters will take that record from Duganov in the near future. And in spite of his fine form, I saw Duganov in the only world championships in which he appeared, at Stockholm in 1953, miss his first two snatches before finally succeeding with 264 on his final attempt.

More than once Tommy Kono has missed his first two attempts in the snatch before succeeding. Tommy has been six times world’s champion, has defeated his Russian opponents 10 times. What I am getting at is that even the best squatters often miss. It is imperative that you learn correct form in squat snatching. Splitters rarely make a miss, even the best squatters often miss. It would seem that the squat style is a good way of lifting if you can do it, and you CAN do it if you learn properly. The object of this three-part series is to help teach you the proper method of doing the squat snatch.

It seems so easy when you see a lifter succeed with a high-grade squat snatch. The spectators applaud, and the lifter is happy, for a squat snatch properly performed is a thrilling experience for the lifter and for those who see it done. In fact it looks so easy that lots of men decide to try the squat when they have already lifted for a long time in the split style. Some, such as Joe Pitman, do better than ever in the new style, but others, such as Sid Henry, enter a contest and miss three times in a row. There is a lot of study and preliminary practice that is an essential part of building up to the point where you are a successful two-hands squat snatcher.

A squat snatcher must be a finished performer, for there is not as much room for error in this method as there is in splitting. The squat snatch requires a great deal of practice for proper position, for balance and flexibility. You must practice and practice, and then practice some more, to learn the proper body positions, to acquire the needed sense of balance, and to develop sufficient flexibility. Instead of just starting out to try the squat style without preliminary practice as so many do, you should practice a great deal before trying it in actual lifting.

Split snatchers use most any sort of gymnasium or rubber soled lifting shoes. Squat snatchers use heavy shoes, usually with uppers of more than ankle height, and sturdily constructed. Most lifters merely purchase a pair of heavy duty work shoes and have the heels raised a bit. The heels should be at least as high as when they are brand new, and preferably a little higher. With some lifters, an extra quarter of an inch is sufficient, but with others a full half inch in necessary. Keep the heels on your lifting shoes in new condition, for when they become worn and rounded it is easy to lose balance.

Most squat snatchers fail from stiff shoulders than from any other reason. You can loosed up your shoulders and accustom them to turning under the weight and holding it by practicing with a light bar, a stick, or even a belt or a towel. Whatever you use, hold it with a grip as wide as you need to allow you to lower it behind your back while keeping the arms straight and locked at the elbows. The range of movement is from the buttocks to straight overhead. As you become more flexible, bring in the hands more and decrease the width of your grip, as this will make the shoulders even looser. As far as the actual spacing of the hands while performing the lift is concerned, some lifters hold the bar at about the middle of the knurling on the International type of lifting bar, while others hold it with the hands right up against the collars, as wide as possible. You will have to experiment to find the style that suits you best.

It has been said that one picture is worth a thousand words. Keep this in mind when you study the pictures which accompany this article. They show some of the best squat snatchers in action and should serve to replace a lot of descriptive words. You can learn a lot about how the squat snatch should be performed by studying the sequence photos.

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