Power vs. Squat
So you walk into the box and see that the strength for the day is a snatch 5x3. The first
question most people ask is “Is it a power or full snatch?”
For almost every weightlifter, the answer to that question is the same – we always
squat. This isn’t to say that there is no benefit from power snatches and cleans,
however, many crossfitters prefer the power for a number of reasons, and in many
cases, complain that they can power as much as they can squat.
In the world of weightlifting, it is well known that you should not be able to power the
same amount of weight as you can squat – no exceptions. So I want to discuss a
number of reasons that crossfitters may be more willing to power than squat.
1. I don’t like to squat…
It is common knowledge that powering is easier than squatting – especially when you
have a WOD right after the strength. We tend to take the easy road and it can be
detrimental to our ability to squat clean and snatch. Powers are a great way to work the
pull and learn efficient bar path, however, most lifters have the ability to pull the bar high
enough to squat under – actually, most of us pull the bar higher than we need to.
So, if your power clean is the same as your squat clean and you want to lift more
weight, next time the board says “clean” with no specifics, assume you are squatting.
More squats, bigger numbers. If you are still unsure about receiving the bar (see #4),
then power clean or snatch, but ride the squat down and finish it. If you find yourself
moving upwards as soon as you catch the power, add a squat to your lift before you
2. Instability or discomfort in the receiving position
I know it is far more comfortable to think about catching a heavy barbell in a power
position instead of having to squat, however, if you want heavy numbers, discomfort
and a bit of fear is part of the package. The saying that “if you aren’t a little bit scared,
you aren’t lifting heavy enough” is applicable here. We all know how it feels to stand up
a really heavy front squat or overhead squat, but the benefits in your lifts are
If your front squat or overhead squat are just a few kilos from your one rep power clean
and snatch, you won’t be able to squat clean or squat snatch more than you can power
– you need to squat more.
Squat strength is vital for a heavy clean and snatch, but not the only factor you need to
consider. In a clean, you need to have strong stability and be able to maintain a strong
upright posture in order to catch the bar – you can squat whatever you want, but if you
collapse when you catch the bar because you don’t have a stable core or an upright
position, you will miss that lift all day. This is why during my programming, I emphasize
core accessory work to ensure that when you need to lift heavy, your body is stable
enough through your core to catch the weight.
Same goes for overhead position in snatches – you can be “strong overhead” but if you
don’t have the stability to maintain that weight overhead, you won’t be making that lift.
Start with a heavy overhead squat that you can hold at the bottom for 3-5 seconds
without wanting to topple over. Once you have that strength, work in some snatch
balances to teach your body to catch that weight while in motion and find your stable
This may also come back to mobility and your position in the bottom of your squat –
more time spent in the bottom equals more mobility. Make sure this is a priority for your
3. Fear of pulling under the bar
For a lot of crossfitters that I talk to, this can be one of the hardest ideas to get past –
and I know from experience. There was a time where my best snatch wouldn’t budge,
all because I was afraid to pull myself under the bar.
There are a variety of training exercises that can help you overcome all of the possible
weaknesses that cause your body to believe that getting under the bar might just leave
you crippled (I promise it won’t – especially with good coaching!). You may have a
weak second pull (i.e. you aren’t pulling the bar high enough or finishing your
extension), or an inability to pull yourself under the bar for fear or another reason.
Regardless of the issue, talk to a coach who can help design a program to reduce your
fear of pulling under the bar and build your confidence in receiving your clean or snatch
– it really will make all the difference.