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Lauder MA, Jake JP. Biomechanical Comparison of Unilateral and Bilateral Power Snatch Lifts. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 22(3):653-660. 2008

The study was motivated by the rationalization that securing a single dumbbell overhead in a snatch or jerk requires great trunk strength and shoulder girdle strength. Further, it is believed that the dumbbell variations of the Olympic lifts are easier to teach.

10 male weightlifters with a minimum of one year’s experience with both the barbell power snatch (BBPS) and the dumbbell power snatch (DBPS) performed a 1RM test in both lifts and subsequently performed 3 repetitions with 80% of the respective 1RM’s. The DB 1RM was 66% of the BB 1RM. Three dimensional video analyses were used and data was recorded from two force plates (one under each foot). Results: When the DB starts on the floor (as in this study) there is a significantly greater hip flexion on the lifting side compared to the non-lifting side. Significantly greater force is produced (in the lifting phase) and absorbed (in the catch phase) in the leg of the NON-lifting side compared to the lifting side. The lifting phase is overall an uninterrupted ankle, knee and hip extension with only a small tendency to the double knee bend. Many other differences measured, for example, velocity, were associated with differences in load. Discussion: The reason for the measured differences was not discussed.

Comments: Unless specifically called for, I recommend starting the DBPS from the hang at a height that prevents or minimizes spinal rotation. I also recommend the “thumb-forward style” that is taught by the IKFF (ikkf.com); this variation is easier on the shoulder joint and may allow the DB to stay closer to the body throughout the movement. DBPS may be more challenging for the grip than BBPS because more than 50% of 1RM BB Snatch is used. Further, the DB must be stabilized in the frontal plane – a requirement that is unique to the DB. With respect to the shoulder, the DBPS is easier because spinal rotation can help secure the catch position. On the other hand the DBPS is more challenging because the DB can move both forward-backward and side-to-side. Particularly, repetition style DBPS is a great exercise to teach torso “stiffness.” If peak performance in BB Snatches is a key consideration limit, start any DB Snatches at the height of the start of the 2nd pull to avoid any negative transfer.

Karsten

PS: My recommended introduction to periodization is our free video course “The Most Useful Definition of Periodization and The 4 Reason that you MUST base your programs on Periodization if you want to see the best possible results for your athletes/clients”. Get it at www.yestostrength.com (email required).

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Email: karsten@yestostrength.com
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Mississagua, ON, Canada

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Comment by Paul Jackson on March 9, 2014 at 6:16pm

I agree that both variations are great exercises and each has its own unique benefits but training is supposed to be difficult, and I would certainly not select one exercise over another simply on the basis that it is the easier option. 

Comment by Alfredo Ibarra on March 6, 2014 at 9:33pm

All snatch variations are great exercises that can be beneficial towards athlete development. Like mentioned above, the hang DB snatch seems like a safer option and easier for athletes to manage, as well as a DB Jerk.

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