Rest Day Rant: Sweep it, Extend it, Drop it

Posted: September 1, 2012 by Jim in Random Thoughts

This week we were introduced to some finer points of technique on the Olympic lifts. Until now, most of us, honestly, have been working just to get comfortable with the receiving positions for the clean (front squat) and snatch (overhead squat) as well as with positioning and bar path. Now, we’re ready to get crazy good at these lifts.

“Sweep, extend, drop.” Do you recall hearing that multiple times this week, especially on last Monday’s WOD? One of the things you did not hear this week was the word “jump.”

Teaching an athlete to “jump” in the Olympic lifts is a starting point, in my opinion. It is a way to help them understand the concept of explosive lifting. In my personal experience, and in my hours of watching live lifts and video of some of the best lifters in the world, “jumping” isn’t really what they’re doing. But let’s start from the beginning and use the following video for reference


Just bringing the bar straight up, and even keeping it in contact with you isn’t quite enough. You must actively sweep the bar back toward you. This requires activation of the lats as you “sweep” the bar toward you. The way Matt Bruce, one of Coach Hatch’s best lifters explained it to me was this, “start on the ball of your foot and sweep yourself back onto your heel so that the bar arrives above your knee just as your weight transfers to your heel as you’re pushing against the ground.” In simple terms…most of us must get the bar even closer.  This suggests that the path of the bar isn’t perfectly straight up, but similar to the bottom of an “S” as the bar is swept into our bodies. This is in essence the “first pull” of the Olympic lifts. If you get it right, then the bar is in perfect position for the explosive “second pull,” or what we’ll call “extend,” and the bar explodes to the receiving position. If you get it wrong, then you will fight with the bar and likely miss the lift or hurt yourself.


Take another look at the video. Notice that once he has swept the bar into his body, he forcefully extends his hips while applying equal force to the floor with his heels. When the bar is the correct position, this extension, along with the associated pull applied to the bar, creates a tremendous amount of velocity on the bar. The bar path at this point, as you view from the side, looks like the loop in the “S” as it approaches the upper part of the “S”. Again, it is not a straight line bar path but also note that the bar does not move away from his body. Take a look at this amateur video in which the lifter’s coach places a bar path line in the video:



This is a short video that shows different bar paths and the problems associated with non-optimal position. The music may lure you into an eerie coma.




I want to look at a few slow motion videos. You tell me…are these lifters jumping or dropping and pulling themselves down?



This one is crazy good:



And guys…she’s cleaning more than any of us can:



So, what I take away from this is that the best lifters I’ve ever seen drop and use the bar to pull themselves down. They “beat” the bar to the bottom of the squat and receive it in a strong position. Most of us think that this third pull is a pull up. We try to add to the bar’s upward trajectory. This is a fatal error that is keeping most of us from new personal records on these lifts. Jumping is also an error in my opinion. Again, I teach most new lifters to “jump” under the bar in order to get their feet moving, but let’s consider the two difficulties most of us have experienced in this method.

First, how many of you have jumped too wide? The answer is most of you, including me when I first stared. Second, how many of you have felt that jarring sensation that stomping your feet causes, especially on the snatch?

The truth is, the better approach to this third pull is to think of it as a drop, a pull down, and a small shift of your feet from pulling position to squatting position. Think of yourself as a catapult trying to place as much speed on the bar as possible. Like a rocket taking off, the bar will start slower at first and increase in velocity as it rises.

None of this goes well, however, if we don’t execute the first pull (the “sweep”) correctly. We can have great extension and an even better drop, but if the bar isn’t in the right position when we do these things, it will likely still spell disaster for our lift.

“Sweep, extend, drop.” Next time we lift, simply focus on the sweep. Try to actively pull the bar closer to you. Once mastered, then think about explosive extension of your hips. Then, drop it like it’s hot. Snoop Dog will be proud.

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