Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Stay Over the Bar!

Whether it's the snatch or the clean, one of the biggest mistakes I see as a coach is that beginner lifters have a tendency to want to open the hips and lift the shoulders too soon.  This creates a couple of big problems:

1) A reliance on pulling with the arms.  Intuitively, since we are lifting weight from the ground to our shoulders or overhead, the first thought is to pull with the arms.  WAAPPPSHH!  That's the sound of me slapping you and telling you to knock it off.  Pulling with the arms forces you to lift your shoulders way too early, which kills your power production.  These lifts are about using your legs, not your arms.  Your legs are much stronger than your wimpy little arms, so use that to your advantage.

The faster you can grasp the concept of driving your legs into the ground as hard as possible, as opposed to "ripping" the bar off the ground, the faster you will become proficient in these lifts.

2)  Receiving the bar too far forward.  Because you open the hips and lift the shoulders too soon, your shoulders are too far behind the bar.  With your shoulders behind the bar, the bar cannot get into the right place (the hips) when it comes time to FINISH.  The result is that you cannot fully extend to generate the power and speed you need at the top of the second pull.  Secondly, the bar typically comes off of the thighs, not hips, and is projected too far forward in front of the body causing you to miss the lift completely or make it a fight to hold the receiving position and stand it up.

So how do you improve on this?  Use more of your legs and STAY OVER THE BAR.

In the most recent edition of The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, there was a study done on exactly this as it relates to the clean.  While the study was done only on the clean, the pulling mechanics of both lifts are very similar, so I would bet money that if a similar study was conducted on the snatch, the findings would be similar, if not the same.  The research concluded:

"Greater relative lift mass appears to be associated with steady trunk position during the first pull, relatively small hip motion during the second-knee bend transition, and rapid hip extension during the second pull."(1)

Essentially, you are keeping your shoulders over the bar until it reaches to about the mid-thigh area followed immediately by a rapid hip extension and explosion of speed and power!  The best way for you to see this is to watch slow motion videos or still shots of lifting progressions of the most elite lifters.

So, next time you lift, cue yourself to a) use your legs, and b) stay over the bar.  If you can video yourself to give yourself immediate feedback after each lift, even better.  Let the improvement begin!

Source: Rob Macklem's Flickr

Source: Rob Macklem's Flickr

1) Kipp, K, Redden, J, Sabick, MB, Harris, C. Weightlifting performance is related to kinematic and kinetic patterns of the hip and the knee joints. J Strength Cond Res 26: 1838-1844, 2012.

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