Rest Day Rantings – Go Down and Get it!!

Posted: March 31, 2012 by Admin in Uncategorized

Basically, Olympic lifting involves taking a load from a starting point to a finishing point. With the snatch, for example, we take the load from the floor and finish with the load overhead. Simple, right?

Well, as we’re all learning as we progress in our Olympic lifting, it’s a little more complicated than that. So, while you rest and recover this weekend, think about your clean and your snatch and ask yourself, “do I ‘get’ the pulling mechanics of these lifts?

Consider this diagram:

Let’s break this down:

The First Pull – in basic terms, this is simply pulling/pushing the weight off the floor (i.e., from the starting position). Now, a lot of junk happens in this seemingly simple pull that causes disaster as the bar accelerates to its ending position. What happens?

1. Jerking the bar from the floor – people think that they must start their speed on these lifts from the floor, so they overinvolve their arms and back in an attempt to get that bar moving fast. This is a fundamental and costly error.

2. Overacceleration of the shoulder – in practice this looks like the athlete is trying to stand up immediately from the floor. A key principle of the first pull is keeping your chest over the bar throughout the first pull. We’re trying to load the hamstring to “snap” through the hip as we move into the second pull. When our shoulder gets ahead of our hips to the standing position, we unload the hamstring and, thus, lose power transfer. Your hip angle from the floor to the knee really doesn’t change, so your main thought should be pushing the knee back and maintaining a consistent back angle through the entire first pull.

Remember the two main goals of the first pull – (a) loading the hamstring, and (b) finding the Romanian Deadlift position for the second pull, which maximizes hamstring loading.

The Second Pull – Let’s make it really simple – HUMP the bar!!!! The second pull is all about hip extension. You want to think SNAP the hips while simultaneously and violently shrugging the shoulders. Remember, this is “engine” of the clean and snatch in that this violent motion gets the weight accelerating to its ending position. We must achieve maximum speed through the middle or the weight will not move or we will be forced to muscle it up, thus placing our back at risk. So what are the major problems with this pull?

1. Lack of speed – once we complete the first pull and the bar is now about an inch above our knees, the violence of this lift must begin. But speed and velocity begins with our feet. As we snap the hips forward and aggressively shrug the shoulders, we must also push our feet against the floor with equal intensity as the pull. This pull must be violent, aggressive, and FAST.

2. Elbows bending too soon – this problem is often comorbid with the next problem we will address, but the elbow should remain rigid and straight for the duration of the second pull. One tip I find helpful is to consciously engage the triceps to help keep the elbows straight. Remember, when the elbows bend, the power ends.

3. Lack of hip extension – people will often begin going under the bar with a muted hip (i.e., not fully forward). Let’s keep this point as simple as possible – don’t bring the bar to your hip, SNAP the hip to the bar. OH SNAP!!!!!

And yes, I just broke out the “OH SNAP.”

The Third Pull– I used to coach this as “drop under the bar,” but I have learned that this leads to a very passive approach to what should be a ferociously violent movement. So the third pull is about violently (notice the frequent use of the word violent in this post) pulling your body under the bar. What most people do is pull the bar as high as possible. Think about how inefficient this is compared to pulling yourself under the bar. Why waste energy?

Two points of leverage help us achieve this explosion: the floor and the bar. Let’s apply this to the clean. You’ve snapped the hips forward and shrugged the mess out of the bar. Now, push and YANK yourself into the best front squat you can manage. Imagine yourself violently (again) shooting the tip of your elbow to the ceiling. If you overaim the end point of your elbow, it will likely end in the correct position. Here are some problems that arise from the third pull:

1. Quiet feet – the Olympic lifts are more athletic than the powerlifts, partly because OLY lifts involve jumping. The first part of a jump requires pushing yourself away from the ground with your feet. Most people jump with too much arm, so we must achieve this jump by pressing our feet against the floor. We’ve all probably been on (GASP) a leg press machine. This is how we should think about our feet against the floor during OLY lifts (well, all lifts really). Then aggressively drive your feet down at the point of receiving the bar. This should result in “angry” feet that make and audible sound.

2. Catching the bar – this happens a lot on th clean. For different reasons, some people are not comfortable letting the bar land in the full rack position. This usually happens due to either a lack of flexibility or fear. If you can hold a perfect rack position on front squat, then you are scared and you need to stop being afraid. If you have trouble achieving the rack position on front squat, you may have lat and/or mid back mobility issues that need work.

Take a look at this beautiful third pull by beast mode lifter Doreen Fullhart:

Notice her feet.

Got it? WAIT. Sometimes we focus on the lift and don’t remember that we are not finished until we stand up with the weight. If you forget this important final step, then you will disengage your core and, not only fail to finish the lift, but also expose your lower back to injury. So remember, don’t lose focus until you stand up and then drop the weight.

Have a great weekend and get some rest!!!!

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