The deadlift is a compound (multi-joint) exercise movement that trains the hip and knee extensors, spinal erectors, quads, abdominals, upper back, and forearm muscles, and is widely considered one of the big three exercises for strength coaches.
A number of deadlift variations can be used to create greater emphasis on specific muscles. One of the most under-utilized, yet effective of these variations is the snatch-grip deadlift. While a conventional deadlift would involve placing the hands just outside of shoulder width, as one would do in a power-clean, the snatch grip deadlift involves a significantly wider grip such as would be used in an Olympic snatch (hence the name).
The advantages of a snatch grip deadlift are many. One advantage is greater upper-back contributions, especially from the trapezius. The wider grip from the snatch grip deadlift as compared to the narrower clean-grip create longer moment arms and thus greater forces onto the upper back. In addition, the wider grip forces the lifter to begin with greater knee-and hip flexion, requiring a increased range of motion to complete the lift and increasing the demands of the glutes, hamstrings, and quads.
Therefore, a snatch grip deadlift will likely be more challenging than a conventional deadlift due to the increased range of motion, and greater mechanical disadvantage. However, this can be used to the lifters advantage to develop more muscle mass and strength over time, indicating that the snatch-grip deadlift is a valuable tool to any athlete or coach’s arsenal.