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Boxes vs. Platform
Written by Jim Napier

Ilya Ilin 205k Snatch off Boxes

Doing the snatch off boxes has always been a mainstay for weightlifters all over the world as both an auxiliary exercise and an event to establish PRs in. In the above video, Ilya Ilin is snatching 205k with straps off boxes with the bar stationed at mid thigh. This position somewhat represents the point at which the 2nd pull begins.

The pull from the boxes to full extension takes .33 seconds and the 3rd pull to locking out the elbows also takes .33 seconds. What does this tell us about this lift as opposed to lifting off the platform.

1) The 2nd pull is half what it normally is when the weight is pulled off the platform: .17 vs. .33 seconds (approximations)

2) The transition between the 1st and 2nd pull is eliminated when lifting off boxes, unless the bar is stationed well below the knees.

The fact that it takes twice as long to go through the 2nd pull off the boxes is somewhat proof of the lack of utility for this particular lift, at least when tested at 100% of effort (PR). Lifting off boxes makes more sense when trained at 80% or less of PR and leaving the PRs for the meets.

Even more damaging to the idea of lifting off boxes at 100% effort is the transitional phase between the 1st and 2nd pull is eliminated. For professional type lifters, such as Ilin, lifting off boxes is not going to disrupt or alter their skill set in the snatch, whether it helps or not can only be determined by extensive research, but since most lifters have always lifted off boxes, they will never know if it has utility or not. For new and intermediate lifters it is very important to lift off the platform for the majority of training in order to develop their timing and balance skills during the full lift, as well as develop the pull to full extension in .67 seconds by integrating both the 1st and 2nd pull as one motion. If the lifter trains too much off boxes this development in making the pull to full extension feel like one motion instead of two is greatly hindered.

Training off boxes at 80% or less will not, or should not, create any problems, as long as it is not used too often, but is used primarily as an auxiliary exercise and not being trained as an event in order to establish a gym PR.

Most lifters can snatch more off boxes than off the platform, and this seems to be the underlying reason for doing this lift. It can be argued, however, that since that additional 10k to 15k is never achieved off the platform this would make the argument mute. Lifting more off the boxes could also create some overloading problems for subsequent workouts, but again this would apply more to the non professional.

Doing cleans off boxes is a bit dangerous because the lifter cannot produce enough inertia from momentum to be able to absorb the shock of catching the weight. In other words, the lifter is crammed into the bottom position and this eliminates being able to comfortably do a timed rebound. But again, like the snatch, if the weight is kept at 80% or less it could be used as an auxiliary exercise.

Another remedy besides keeping the box lifting to 80% or less is to make sure the bar is stationed below the knees enough so that there is a transitional phase between the 1st and 2nd pull, of course doing this makes lifting off boxes seem somewhat unnecessary.

I consider doing maximum effort snatches off boxes with straps more of a stunt than actual training. Sometimes these variations are needed to keep the fires burning and to keep form becoming stale. I am not talking about rare efforts, but it’s when those efforts take time away from the training of the primary lifts is when problems can ensue.

Another factor to be aware of, is when using straps doing the snatch the lifter can expect to lift anywhere from 5k to 10k more, both off the platform and off the boxes. The lifter should be aware of this so they don’t think they can snatch the same thing in a meet that they did in training off boxes while wearing straps. As an example: Ilin’s best snatch off boxes with straps was 205k and his best snatch in competition was 191k, a 14k difference. His best snatch off the platform with straps was 196k and 191k in competition, a 5k difference.