“Wait. Are We Supposed To Squat?”: Olympic Lifting Terminology Within the Context of Crossfit
Snatch. Squat clean. High hang power clean. Clean. Power Jerk. Squat snatch. No feet/No hook power snatch…
There are all sorts of different names and different exercises when it comes to Olympic Lifting, and it certainly can get confusing, even if you’ve done it for a while. It’s even more difficult when the terminology isn’t consistent. So I’m here now to try to clear things up.
Traditionally, the sport of Olympic lifting has one goal: lift as much weight as possible over your head, once. This is done in two ways. The first is snatch. The second is clean & jerk. What is important to notice here is that the goal of the sport is to lift a weight only once. Even in training, it is rare to perform the lifts for more than a set of three. In the sport, there is no such thing as a “squat snatch” or a “squat clean.” It’s a silly thing to say. In order to lift as much weight as you can in a snatch or clean, you must catch the weight in a squat. You simply cannot pull the bar high enough when it gets heavy to do a power variation of the lift, thus the need to catch it lower in a squat. For this reason, when discussing cleans or snatches, it is assumed the weight is received in a squat, even when working with lighter weights. The only time a clean or snatch is not received in a squat is when it is specified as a “power” variation.
Technically, in practice and competition, there is no rule saying a snatch or clean must be caught in a squat. The terms “snatch” and “clean” encompass both the power variation and the squat variation. If you so choose, you can power snatch or power clean in a weightlifting competition. Nobody does though, because they want to lift the most weight, and power variations is just not how that’s done. Put simply, while “snatch” and “clean” are not by definition caught in a squat, it is always implied. And so things have been for a great many years.
Enter Crossfit in 2000. Crossfit is not Olympic Weightlifting. Crossfit has other goals. For the first time, Olympic lifts were being used for the purpose of metabolic conditioning instead of strength and power development, and were being used with high reps and low weight. The goal is not always maximum weight now. Crossfit introduced a time component. With Crossfit, the weights being lifted are not always heavy, so the squat is not needed to complete a lift.
Here we see the birth of “squat clean” and “squat snatch.” Those terms, in my opinion, are ugly, but I will admit they are necessary. In a race against the clock, nobody is going to squat a weight they do not need to, so to make them squat, it must be explicitly instructed.
Unfortunately, this gets super confusing. So let’s clear things up.
In a metcon, if the variation of the lift is not specified, do whichever will be fastest. Usually, this means power clean, power snatch, and power/push jerk.
During the strength portion of class, if the lift is not specified as a power variation, do a squat. You either will be lifting a heavy weight that needs to be caught in a squat, or warming up for that, and so practicing the movement. If you are someone who can power clean/snatch more than if you receive it in a squat, this does not mean you should do that. This means you have either technique deficiencies or strength deficiencies, or both, and have some work to do, starting with lots more practice with the full variation of the movement.
That’s a lot of words (I love words), but hopefully it helps clear it up a bit for those of you who get (quite understandably) confused.
But, before I go, one last thing. For the love of God, under no circumstances should you for any reason in any situation, ever say the phrase “full squat snatch/clean.” Just don’t. That’s not a thing anywhere to anybody in any sport.