When powerlifters and weightlifters want to take their strength to new heights, they often turn to the snatch grip deadlift.
So, what is the snatch grip deadlift? The snatch grip deadlift is one of the most versatile deadlift variations. It requires a much wider grip than regular deadlifts. This targets more of the upper back muscles and helps build grip strength. The snatch grip deadlift also forces the lifter to move the barbell a greater distance.
Despite the snatch grip deadlift being a less common variation in commercial gyms, don’t underestimate its utility.
In the article below, I’ll outline the technique, benefits, and muscles targeted in the snatch grip deadlift. Stick to this guide, and you’ll avoid making beginner mistakes while getting some expert tips to help skyrocket your deadlift strength.
Let’s get started!
What Is The Snatch Grip Deadlift?
The snatch grip deadlift is a variation of the straight bar conventional deadlift.
The primary difference between the two is the wider grip used for the snatch grip deadlift. When a significantly wider hand position is taken on the barbell, there are added challenges to the upper back musculature.
Additionally, the snatch grip deadlift activates more muscle than a regular deadlift.
With a wider grip, the lifter must squat down lower to grab the bar. When they stand up, they also end up lifting the barbell a couple of inches higher than in the conventional deadlift.
For these reasons, the snatch grip deadlift is viewed as a harder deadlift variation because it requires:
• More mobility in the ankles, knees, and hips
• Higher amounts of upper back strength
• Greater levels of grip strength
The snatch grip deadlift is one of 12 Deadlift Accessories To Increase Strength & Technique. Make sure to check out the other exercises that made the list!
Snatch Grip Deadlift: Muscles Worked
The muscles used in the snatch grip deadlift are the:
• Trunk musculature (abs and lower back)
As a deadlift variation, snatch grip deadlifts predominantly target the posterior chain muscles: glutes, hamstrings, and trunk muscles (abdominals and lower back muscles).
The glutes and hamstrings handle most of the work because a large amount of hip extension occurs to lift the barbell from the floor to a standing position. That said, the quads are recruited more with the snatch grip deadlift because of the lower starting position.
With the wider grip, this places a greater demand on the upper back muscles. Specifically, the lats, traps, and rhomboids must work harder to prevent the upper back from rounding forward.
Finally, the abs and lower back muscles act as spine stabilizers for the supporting muscle groups during a wide grip deadlift. They basically prevent the midsection from slumping forward against the weight of the barbell.
Read our full guide on the muscles used in the deadlift and different variations.
6 Benefits of The Snatch Grip Deadlift
The snatch grip deadlift is a unique deadlift variation that has multiple benefits for olympic weightlifters, powerlifters, and general strength athletes.
The benefits of the snatch grip deadlift are:
• It can improve your upper back strength
• It can increase lower body hypertrophy
• It can be performed for added variety
• It can build your conventional deadlift
• It can be helpful for Olympic lifters
• It can strengthen your grip
1. It Can Improve Your Upper Back Strength
The snatch grip deadlift requires a much wider grip than the conventional deadlift.
Having your hands further out places a greater demand on the strength of your lats, traps, and rhomboids.
Because of this, the snatch grip deadlift can be a great exercise if you find that your upper back rounds over when you deadlift.
Check out my tips on how to keep your back straight while deadlifting.
2. It Can Increase Lower Body Hypertrophy
Hypertrophy (building muscle) has a few primary drivers. On the training side, it responds most to larger amounts of work (volume), training near failure (difficulty), and moving through bigger ranges of motion (ROM).
The snatch grip deadlift will require you to get lower to pick up the bar than your conventional deadlift. This increased range of motion makes your leg muscles — specifically, your quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
Over time, this will cause greater muscle gains to occur.
3. It Can Be Performed For Added Variety
Sticking with the same exercise for multiple weeks is necessary to progress. Usually, this is done by adding weight, total reps, or more sets from one week to the next. Your linear progress will eventually stall, though.
When this happens, exercise variety can be used to push through strength plateaus.
That said, exercise variety can also help you mentally. Switching the exercise slightly by using a different bar and adding assistance from your arms can give you just enough variety to kickstart your enjoyment.
It seems obvious enough, but enjoying your training is critical for you to stick with it for the long term.
The barbell snatch grip deadlift is technically an Olympic weightlifting movement, not a powerlifting movement. Check out my article Should Powerlifters Do Olympic Lifts to know if there are other beneficial movements we can take from weightlifters.
4. It Can Build Your Conventional Deadlift
The snatch grip deadlift is basically a harder version of the conventional deadlift.
First, the wider grip forces you to get lower in order to grab onto the barbell. Having a lower starting position means that the range of motion is increased. This will help build your bottom end deadlift strength.
Additionally, the snatch grip deadlift’s wide grip forces the lifter to move the bar far from the floor to lockout. Compared to the conventional deadlift’s lockout, the snatch grip deadlift’s end position has the barbell much higher up on the thighs.
This two-fold increase in the range of motion makes the snatch grip deadlift more difficult than the conventional deadlift. In turn, you’ll likely end up building your conventional deadlift. After all, it’s the easier deadlift variation when you also have snatch grip deadlifts in your program.
5. It Can Be Helpful For Olympic Lifters
Snatch grip deadlifts closely resemble one of the competition movements in Olympic weightlifting — the snatch.
Due to the similarities, the snatch grip deadlift can be used as an accessory exercise for Olympic lifters. Specifically, it can be used to accumulate extra volume or improve technical components of the snatch.
In order to reinforce proper snatch mechanics, you can incorporate the snatch grip deadlift into your program using eccentric tempos, pauses, and partials.
Check out my tips on how to switch from powerlifting to weightlifting.
6. It Can Strengthen Your Grip
It is no surprise that the deadlift is a great grip strength developer.
That said, the snatch grip deadlift can bring your grip strength to the next level if you routinely perform it without straps or only using a hook grip.
The wider grip places your wrists at an angle that does not allow the full grip of all your fingers around the barbell, unlike in the conventional deadlift. For this reason, you’ll have to squeeze even harder if you want to maintain your grip.
Over weeks and months, the additional work to hold onto the barbell in a snatch deadlift will almost certainly enhance your grip strength.
Check out my review of the 7 Best Hand Strengtheners if you have a weak grip. Or check out this article to learn more about the hook grip.
2 Drawbacks Of The Snatch Grip Deadlift
Despite being an excellent deadlift and snatch variation, the snatch grip deadlift does come with a couple of drawbacks.
1. Grip Challenges
As mentioned earlier, the wider grip needed for the snatch grip deadlift places the wrists at an odd angle to the barbell. This results in fewer fingers around the bar, making holding onto the bar more difficult.
In fact, it’s quite common for the limiting factor on the snatch grip deadlift to be your grip strength. Because of this, you’ll either have to settle with using extremely light weights that might not cause an adaptation or use straps for all of your working sets.
If you do need straps, check out my review of the Best Lifting Straps.
2. Lower Lifting Numbers
It’s common for many lifters to have varying levels of upper back weakness, resulting in upper back rounding.
While this is most obvious with deadlifts — the weights are heavier than the snatch, Olympic weightlifters are not immune to this weakness.
As a result, you might need to reduce your expectations for this lift and use much lighter weights. It’s not unusual for lifters to stay around 50-60% of their deadlift 1 rep max for the first couple weeks until beginning to progress. Despite these drawbacks, there are still several snatch grip deadlift benefits.
Who Should Do The Snatch-Grip Deadlift?
The snatch grip deadlifts benefit a number of lifters:
- Olympic weightlifters
- Or Anyone who needs to improve their upper body strength.
Additionally, snatch grip deadlifts increase lower body flexibility.
How To Do The Snatch Grip Deadlift
You should now understand the benefits of the snatch grip deadlift.
With that covered, let’s establish what the proper technique looks like!
Step 1: Set Your Stance
The first step for snatch grip deadlifts is to set your stance.
Generally, you’ll want to replicate your normal deadlift stance used for traditional deadlifts. Use the same distance between your heels and toe flare, as it will probably feel best.
As you set your stance, ensure the barbell is positioned over your midfoot.
The middle of your foot is where your balance is the most centered. For this reason, you should set the barbell above this point instead of over the toes or too close to your heels.
From here on out, it’s critical that you do not move the barbell. You’ve deliberately placed it above the middle of your foot to ensure it is properly centered. If you move it even half an inch forward as you set up, you’ll have negated this first fundamental step.
Remember, do not move the barbell from here on out.
Step 2: Place Your Grip
Once your stance is set, it’s time to set your grip.
Start by bending forward at your waist, without bending your knees very much.
Olympic weightlifters will simply use the same grip they use for the snatch. If you’re unfamiliar with this grip, just take a significantly wider grip than you usually do. Usually, it’s easiest to put your index fingers on the widest smooth rings (hash marks) on the barbell.
This grip width should be much wider than your standard grip.
Step 3: Shins Against The Bar
Next, you must position your knees and hips more favorably.
Without moving the barbell, bend your knees until your shins contact the bar. Once they touch, keep your knees in place and do not lower your hips.
Step 4: Stick Your Chest Out
With your lower body better positioned, it’s time to straighten your back.
Keeping the barbell motionless and your hips frozen in place, stick your chest out — hard. When this cue is done properly, your back should go from rounded to straight.That said, some lifters find this cue hard to execute correctly.
An alternative deadlift cue that you can use to flatten your back is to literally “lift” your chest upwards. When your hips are motionless, this action should bring your back to a neutral position.
Step 5: Drag The Bar Up Your Body
At this point, it’s time to actually move the barbell.
When ready, push the floor away to begin standing up with the bar. As you do this, keep your arms straight and try to drag the barbell up your body actively.
If done correctly, this step should result in the bar sliding up your shins and thighs as you continue lifting the bar upwards.
Step 6: Stand Tall At The Top
The final step is to simply stand tall at the top.
This position should have your ankle, knee, and hip joints straightened and vertically stacked. Additionally, your arms should be hanging at an outwards angle, with the barbell resting against the skin of your thighs.
Slide the barbell down your legs to return it to the floor.
Common Snatch Grip Deadlift Mistakes
Here are some of the most common mistakes seen in the snatch grip deadlift.
1. Hips Shooting Up Too Early
If your hips shoot up too early, it’s usually because they were set too low.
When your hips are too low, it places too much of your weight behind the barbell. Your hips shoot up to send your weight more forward (back to being properly centered), then the bar lifts up.
It’s worth mentioning that this mistake often results in bruised shins as well. Having too much of your body weight behind the barbell will cause the bar to dig excessively into your shins as you begin the pull.
Avoid this common error by freezing your hips in place once your shins make contact with the barbell during your set-up.
I wrote an entire article on how to fix your hips from shooting up in the deadlift.
2. Inefficient Bar Path
Failing to keep the bar against your body at all times results in an inefficient bar path.
In almost every case, your snatch grip deadlift will be most efficient with the barbell above your midfoot. Since this is your balance point, letting the bar move away from you (by allowing it to drift forwards) will cause you to lose efficiency.
To avoid this mistake, keep the bar against your body at all times by dragging it up your skin.
How To Program The Snatch Grip Deadlift
For powerlifters and strength athletes, the most common way to incorporate the snatch grip deadlift into your training program is as a deadlift accessory exercise.
Check out this article for a list of 12 deadlift accessory exercises.
To Build Muscle
To build muscle with a snatch grip deadlift, 2-5 sets of 5-10 reps with 65-85% of your snatch grip deadlift 1 rep max seem to work quite well — opt to do a higher number of sets if you’re an intermediate or advanced lifter.
To Improve Strength
For Olympic weightlifters, the barbell snatch grip deadlift is often used to reinforce proper mechanics for the snatch. For this purpose, it’s usually performed with an eccentric tempo, a pause, or as a partial exercise.
For a greater carryover, heavier weights tend to be used for these variations: upwards of 75% of your 1 rep max. In fact, some coaches program upwards of 10 sets of heavy doubles or triples in their training program to get more competition-specific practice.
To Increase Shoulder Stability
However, this exercise can also strengthen weak muscle groups for the snatch. Similar prescriptions (for powerlifters) are used to accomplish this: 2-5 sets of 5-10 reps with 65-85% of your deadlift 1 rep max.
A great alternative to the snatch grip deadlift is the snatch grip Romanian deadlift (Snatch-grip RDL). Sometimes getting into the starting position can be tough. The snatch grip RDL is a great place to start.
To strengthen your traditional deadlift even more, here’s what else you should do on deadlift day.
Snatch Grip Deadlift Variations
Snatch Grip Romanian Deadlift
This variation focuses on eccentric loading of the hamstring and glutes. The lift starts from a full standing position. Lower the bar as low as possible while keeping the spine straight and rigid. Knees are slightly bent the whole time. Keep bar close to your legs the entire time.
Snatch Grip Deadlift from Blocks
If you do not have the flexibility or strength to start a snatch grip deadlift from the floor starting from blocks is a great option. Situate the blocks underneath the weight on either side to a height appropriate to your ability. The posterior chain and midline stability required for a regular snatch grip deadlift is the same from the blocks, but with a shorter range of motion.
Deficit Snatch Grip Deadlift
Instead of setting a platform under the weights, a deficit snatch grip deadlift uses a platform to increase the height of the lifter and therefore increases the range of motion overall. Increasing the height of the lifter, but not the bar, requires extra flexibility and strength to lift the bar from the floor.
Snatch Grip Deadlift with Bands or Chains
Adding resistance bands to the end of the bar increases tension as you stand and decreases tension as you return to the starting position. Chains provide a similar experience. Form and technique are of utmost importance when adding any resistance to the snatch grip deadlift.
Frequently Asked Questions
When it comes to the snatch grip deadlift, here are the frequently asked questions that get asked the most:
What muscles does the snatch grip deadlift target?
Like any deadlift, the snatch grip deadlift works the hamstrings, glutes, quads, lower and upper back, lats, traps, and abdominal muscles. The snatch grip deadlift also targets the upper back and lats to a higher degree.
My shins keep getting scraped, what can I do to avoid this?
If this is happening because you’re dropping your hips too low, make sure to “freeze” your hips in place once your shins contact the bar.
I’m setting up correctly and my shins are still bruising/bleeding, what gives?
Your shins are probably right up against the knurling of the barbell. In this case, you have a few options: switch to a smoother barbell, wear shin savers, or narrow your stance to get your shins on the smooth part of the bar.
Should I do touch-and-go or dead-stop reps?
If you’re a powerlifter or olympic weightlifter, you should probably do dead-stop reps since they more closely resemble a maximum deadlift attempt. Touch-and-go reps are fine for all other occasions, but you should know that they’re inherently easier.
What tempo should I have during the descent?
A controlled descent (1-2 second lowering phase) should work well for almost all lifters. If you’re a strength athlete (powerlifter, weightlifter), you’re welcome to descend as fast as possible.
Should I use straps for the snatch grip deadlift?
For most lifters, probably. Weightlifters might find more benefit by going strap-less due to the added practice and grip strength development.
Are snatch grip deadlifts better than regular deadlifts?
Not necessarily. You’ll almost certainly deadlift more with a conventional style, but the term “better” depends on the goal you’re pursuing.
How wide should I grip for a snatch-grip deadlift?
Take your hands as wide as you can while maintaining a full grip. You should be able to raise your knee to hip height and have the barbell resting on the top of your leg in your hip crease. If the barbell raises while you lift your leg, your hands must go out wider.
How do I know if I shouldn’t do the snatch-grip deadlift?
If you cannot hold onto the barbell without wrist pain or assume the starting position without shoulder, hip, or low back pain, you should not do the snatch grip deadlift.
Open my article Which is Better? Touch-and-Go or Reset Deadlifts in a new tab to learn which deadlift style you should be using.
The snatch grip deadlift is a variation that increases the range of motion by positioning the lifter’s grip much wider than usual. This wide-grip deadlift modification causes the lower body to do more work and targets the upper back muscles more than a standard deadlift.
There are many snatch grip deadlift benefits. The most notable advantages of the snatch grip deadlift are that it can improve your upper back strength and result in total body hypertrophy. It also has the unique benefits of transferring well to the deadlift and snatch, making it an excellent accessory exercise for both powerlifters and weightlifters.
About The Author
Kent Nilson is an online strength coach, residing in Calgary (AB). When he’s not training, coaching, or volunteering on the platform at powerlifting meets, you’ll likely find Kent drinking coffee or enjoying his next Eggs Benedict. Connect with him on Facebook or Instagram.