Dangers of the Barbell Snatch


Question: A trainer from a gym recently came, as they regularly do, to our weight lifting class, and was teaching the classes how to do the Barbell Snatch. My shoulders have been sore ever since. I play football and baseball and just wonder if that is an exercise we need to do?

Answer: The barbell snatch exercise that requires the lifter to explode from a squatting position, lifting the bar from the floor to an overhead position while keeping the arms straight and the elbows locked. As the bar travels up the lifter drops into a full squat and then stands up keeping the bar overhead. A huge stress load is placed on the shoulder joints and back. It’s not uncommon for the bar to be dropped while attempting to perform the movement. It is responsible for multiple shoulder inflammatory injuries, rotator cuff tears requiring surgery and at least one recent major injury from which the guy was paralyzed from the neck down when the bar crashed on his head.

We have two guys, each doing post rehab training for labrum tears from doing the barbell snatch. The list of injuries is long. The proponents of the exercise from the gym who came to your school maintain that it builds core strength and conditioning, which it has the potential to do, but it is not an exercise where the movement translates to sports.

The movement barbell snatch doesn’t translate to any sport like the clean does. It’s a difficult move to master for experienced lifters and certainly not one for high school or middle school athletes to attempt. The risks far outweigh the potential benefits especially when so many others exercises exist that provide the same benefits.

Even at higher levels of competition injuries can occur. Several years ago a local university released it’s strength coach when their place kicker tore his rotator cuff doing the same exercise.  The head coach couldn’t understand why a place kicker needed to be doing the exercise.

Unless you hold aspirations of going to the Olympics as a weightlifter, the two events are the barbell snatch and the clean and jerk, or you drink the Kool-Aid of Crossfit, you don’t need that exercise in your training regimen.

God bless and keep training,