Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Big Five: One Arm Snatch

Sorry for the delay in this weeks post, I cought a cold in the beginning of the week, and took me out for two days.  But I am back on my feet now and ready to drop some knowledge bombs.

The one-arm snatch is one of the biggest, baddest exercises in your arsenal. It is a cross between Chuck Norris and bacon.  And yet, I do not see many people doing them… ever.  I don’t know if it is because people don’t know much about them, or if they just think it is not useful to their goals. But either way, it is not the best idea to skip power exercises.

4 Reason

s to One-Arm Snatch

1.  Power Development

I do not think many people see power as a beneficial thing in the gym. Strength is your ability to move a weight, we all know that and we all want that.  But power is the ability for you to move weight, with speed, and this is very advantageous to almost any goal; jump higher, run faster, bigger squat dead-lift and bench.

To explain why power helps in strength as well is in other power exercises, first let me explain the size principle.  The size principle, definition from the NSCA CSCS textbook, “motor units are recruited in order according to their recruitment thresholds and firing rates, which results in a continuum of voluntary force in the agonist muscle.” In Lamen’s terms, we have different types of motor units that help us contract muscle.  Type I, which are slow twitch fibers, they have a lot of endurance and are good for long distance events.  Then we have Type II a and b motor units.  Type II a, are the intermediate fibers, they are between Type I and Type II b motor units, and some studies show they can be converted to either Type II b or Type I depending onthe type of training one is doing.  And finally Type II b, are the fast twitch fibers that are used only in anaerobic exercises and are responsible for our strength and power production.

Okay, now that I bored you to death, let me explain to you why I wrote all that boring nonsense.  When it comes to strength, you can only recruit the lowest fiber types first.  If you never lift heavy enough, those big muscle fibers will never get any love, and you will never get strong. Also power exercises, and it will take much practice before you can get this good, show that you can skip these slow twitch fibers and go straight to thefast twitch.  This is because the slow twitch fibers take longer to activate then the large Type II fibers. So if you can move the bar fast enough in your power exercises, you will be training your fast twitch fibers, and therefore, your strength can go up along with your vertical jump and sprint times. Plus this exercise will help you burn fat as it is highly metabolic; it is a big winexercise no matter how you look at it.

2.  Unilateral Shoulder Stabilization

This exercise, if and only if you have good enough thoracic spine mobility, is great for a healthy shoulder.  You can do this with both dumbbells and kettlebells.  Kettlebells having the slight advantage in shoulder health because of the irradiation factor since the center of mass of the kettlebell isn’t directly in your hand.  I tend to switch off on dumbbells and kettlebells, when I am going heavier I use the dumbbells,and when going lighter I use kettlebells.

The fact that you need to stabilize all that weight overhead, especially unilaterally, will cause the rotator cuff to work hard as well as all the other stabilizers.  After doing this exercise consistently for a month or two, your shoulder will feel healthier than ever.

3.  Core Strength

Nothing will build your core better than a one arm snatch.  You are holding a weight in one arm straight over head, and you need to keep your body looking like a plank.  That means, scap packed, both glutes locked, no shifting of the hips, ribs down, the whole nine.  Your core has to fire on a whole new level for you to have good technique with this exercise.

4.  First of the O-Lift Progression

This is the first Olympic lift, in the progression to all other Olympic lifts.  It is the easiest one to learn, and sets up the ground work to all other O-Lifts from here on out.  You will get to learn triple extension of the ankles, knees and hips.  You will get to feel the explosiveness that comes from the hips and legs.  You start to learn how to get the weight to float up and how to catch your weight in a half squat.  And it is very easy to learn.  Even the most uncoordinated people can pick this up after a handful of sets.


  • Start with feet hip width apart (should be a bit closer to together then in squats, this is your power position).
  • Pull the ribs down, glutes tight.
  • Fill your brace with air.
  • Hinge at the hips (similar to doing a dead-lift, not a squat).
  • Explode through your hips getting full triple extension of the ankles, knees and hips.
  • Shrug the shoulder holding the weight while going exploding through the hips (this will allow the transfer of force from the lower body to the upper body).
  • Let the weight float as high as it can.
  • Drop under the weight in a half squat and punch the ceiling in order to catch the weight.

Was this post helpful, enlightening, the purest, greatest thing you ever read? Do you do any power exercises? If so, what do you do? Let me know; leave a comment below!

The Big Five: Deadlifts part 2

The Olympics have been underway for some time now, and we have been watching the US excel. We’re two medals away from China  for the most medals, Phelps is now the most decorated Olympian of all time and the women’s gymnastics team did a fantastic job and crushed the competition. No one else stood a chance.  Bolt, Blake and Gatlin ran sub 9.9 seconds in the 100 m sprint, with Bolt breaking his Olympic record.  And we even got to see some acts of courage, as even China’s Liu Xiang injured himself on his first hurdle in his prelims only to find himself hopping on one leg in pain to kiss the rings on the hurdles. 

Here in the second part of the dead-lift edition of the big five lifts; I will discuss the different dead-lift variations and why to use them. As well as the common flaws most people make in every dead-lift variation they do.



This is personally my favorite dead-lift variation. Its very similar to the conventional dead-lift, except we have a much wider leg stance (much further than shoulder width) and we also have a very narrow grip.

Why Sumo?

I Sumo for a couple of reasons.

The first being I am relatively tall, and have a long torso.  Since the Sumo dead-lift has a wider stance, this dead-lift has a shorter path to travel then its counter-part, conventional dead-lifts.

Sumo dead-lifts allow your torso to be more upright, allowing more power to come from the hips while reducing the stresses on the spine.  For me this is great news as I have had a herniated disk in my past.  So the less stress I can place on my disks the better off I am.  It is all about risks vs rewards in training.  If the reward isn’t high enough to risk it, then why would you?

The Technique

Everything holds the same as the conventional dead-lift; the only difference is your hand and foot position.  I will do a short recap of the technique.  If you want the more detailed version, click here.

  • The feet should be placed much further than shoulder width apart, with the toes pointed slightly outward (about 5 degrees).
  • When grabbing the bar, your hands should be inside your knees, grabbing the bar roughly six inches apart from each other.
  • Get your chest out, hips back.
  • Knees point over your toes.
  • Spread the floor with your feet as you come up with the bar, this allows you to keep the tripod of your foot
  • And think about pulling back as you go up.  Pulling back allows you to keep the glutes and hamstring loaded.
  • At the top get real tall, keeping the back, glutes and core as tight as possible (similar to doing a plank).

2.  Trap-bar Dead-lift

The trap-bar dead-lift is, shall I say, the easiest of all the dead-lifts. And by no means is dead-lifting with the trap bar easy, but from a biomechanical standpoint there is much less sheer forces at the spine. Because the handles are to your sides, rather than in front of you, you can stay vertical placing your lower back at less risk of snapping.

I use this version consistently, once again due to my lower back and for having a longer torso.

The technique is the same as above, the only difference here, as mentioned earlier, is that your hands are at your sides.

I usually rotate my dead-lift variation every four weeks.  So I may do trap-bar dead-lift for four weeks, then sumo dead-lift for four weeks, and may add some other variations such as straight-legged dead-lifts and band or chain dead-lifts.


1.  Rounding the Shoulders – When dead-lifting a lot of people don’t keep their chests out.  They tend to fold their upper bodies forward like a lawn chair exposing there spinal column to increased amounts of torque.  Do dead-lifts with repetitive spinal flexion and you will need to pick up your disks off the floor.  There needs to be a great emphasis on thoracic spine extension as you drive your hips forward.

How to Fix it –   Train your upper back and lats hard, as well as work on increasing your thoracic mobility and hip mobility to ensure that you can easily get into the bottom position of the dead-lift.

2.  Knees travel too far forward – Many people have ankle mobility issues, and this lack of dorsi-flexion will have your knees pointing way past your toes.  Why does this happen, if your ankles don’t have any more room to move into dorsi-flexion, your knees will have to start moving forward and your shoulders will be forced to drop in order to make up for the lack of ROM.

How to fix it:  Work on ankle mobility and flexiblility.

3.  Feet are not lined up correctly – This is the most over looked technical cue ever.  Many people do not pay attention to where they stand.  Do not trust your proprioception in the beginning.  When you set up for a dead-lift your feet should be next to each other and shoulder width apart.  You don’t know how many times I see someone get ready to dead-lift and one foot is about one foot behind the other one.

How to Fix it:  Pay attention to where your feet are before you get ready to do the lift.  Don’t look down after rep two to fix it.  Take the one second to get the feet right, and this will help you lock in the technique the rest of the way.

Was this post helpful, enlightening, the purest, greatest thing you ever read? Do you dead-lift? If so, what variations do your prefer? Let me know; leave a comment below!