You want to build boulder shoulders and max out your upper-body strength. The problem is that gains on the shoulder press are unusually slow and oftentimes discouraging.
If you’re ready to spice up your shoulder day and see real gains, stay tuned. We’re about to go over why the barbell snatch and press might be what’ll get your gains back on track for good.
Table of Contents
- What is a Barbell Snatch & Press?
- What Muscles Does the Barbell Snatch & Press Work?
- How to Do the Barbell Snatch & Press
- 2 Awesome Benefits of the Barbell Snatch & Press
- Using Different Equipment
- Improving Your Barbell Snatch & Press
What is a Barbell Snatch & Press?
The barbell snatch and press are sometimes called the “barbell push press.” And if you’re an avid CrossFit athlete, then you’ve probably faced this exercise at least once during a WOD.
This exercise is somewhat of a combination of a snatch and a shoulder press.
Instead of holding a stable posture as you would during a shoulder press, you’ll be incorporating your lower body muscles as well. You’ll be holding a wider grip (like a snatch grip) and using momentum from your legs to help you to extend the bar over your head (like a shoulder press).
This is a full-body exercise, though it mostly targets the upper-body push muscles. It’s kind of like a shoulder press with a twist.
What Muscles Does the Barbell Snatch & Press Work?
The barbell snatch and press is one of those rare exercises that works nearly every muscle in your body. So let’s talk about the muscles you’re hitting most directly.
- Deltoids: These are the shoulder muscles and are the key focus of the barbell snatch and press. The deltoids, specifically the anterior deltoids, help you to push heavy weights straight up above your head. The additional momentum from your lower body will help your deltoids to lift even heavier, meaning greater gains.
- Quadriceps & Glutes: These are the muscles found at the front of your thighs as well as your butt. You’re activating these muscles when you’re pushing up off the ground during your momentum-building phase. These are the same exact muscles you’re working when doing a squat.
- Core: The abdominal muscles and the erector spinae come in handy when it comes to keeping good posture during the snatch and press. Without strong core muscles, you would likely injure yourself during a heavy barbell snatch and press.
The barbell snatch and press also target the hip flexors, hip extensors, hamstrings, triceps, traps, and a ton of other tiny muscles.
How to Do the Barbell Snatch & Press
Ready to get started on your first barbell snatch and press? Here’s a step-by-step guide to walk you through this simple exercise.
- Rest a loaded barbell on your back as if you were doing a regular back squat.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Grasp the bar with a wide snatch grip with your elbows pointing forward.
- Slowly lower your hips toward the ground.
- Use momentum in your legs to extend your body upward.
- Continue the upward motion by extending the bar above your head.
- Rest with your legs and arms extended for a second or two.
- Give with the bar as you lower it, slightly bending your knees in the process of catching the barbell.
It’s important to follow these directions as closely as possible. Doing this exercise incorrectly, especially with a very heavy barbell, can be extremely dangerous.
Remember: If you’re slipping on the form to lift a heavier weight, you’re probably not ready for that weight just yet. Move back down to a lighter weight for now.
2 Awesome Benefits of the Barbell Snatch & Press
If you’ve never heard of the barbell snatch and press before, you might be a little reluctant to add it to your routine. It’s time to go over why this exercise can be a game-changer for your gains.
1. It’s a Full-Body Exercise.
It’s not that there aren’t a lot of full-body exercises out there. It’s that a lot of them focus mostly on the lower-body muscles (just like the squat and deadlift).
The barbell snatch and press incorporates everything.
Think about why.
When you extend your legs to build momentum, you’re directly targeting the glutes and quadriceps. As you push the heavy barbell over your head, you’re hitting your deltoids. And throughout the entire exercise, you’re using your core and back muscles to keep posture.
That makes this a great exercise if you’re a beginner doing full-body exercises at the gym a few times per week.
2. You Can Lift Heavier Than a Shoulder Press
The barbell shoulder press is considered the standard shoulder exercise for max shoulder gains. The biggest problem with this exercise is that it’ll take what seems like months to bump up to a heavier weight.
Well, the barbell snatch and press can help you to lift 30% or more than you can normally lift on the shoulder press. The additional weight can help you to lift heavier than your shoulders are used to while boosting muscle and strength gains.
This can help you to progress on the shoulder press even quicker.
Using Different Equipment
Maybe you don’t have a barbell. Or, maybe you just want to switch up your routine every so often with new equipment.
Either way, you don’t need a barbell to do a push press.
In fact, you can do the same exact exercise by replacing the barbell with either a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells (or you can even work one arm at a time).
Using dumbbells instead can help you to build each side individually while also giving your joints a little more freedom to move naturally through the movement.
Improving Your Barbell Snatch & Press
You might think that doing the barbell snatch and press a few times a week might be all you need to get jacked. But that would be like expecting to max out on the bench press without working your triceps on their own as well.
So, you need to target the other muscles used during the snatch and press.
Here’s a look at some exercises you should also be doing in your routine to maximize your progress on the barbell snatch and press.
- Squats (for lower body strength and building momentum)
- Box jumps (specifically for building power in the lower-body)
- Shoulder press (for upper-body strength minus the momentum factor)
- Ab & lower back exercises (to keep good posture during the snatch and press)
Most importantly, allow your muscles enough time to rest after hard days at the gym. Overworking your muscles puts you at risk for injury and might even reverse your gains.