I’m not a statistician, but in weightlifting I would venture to say that ninety percent of all mistakes occur from the time the bar breaks the floor to the time it gets to the knees.
Getting the bar to the knees and ultimately past them is one of the more difficult aspect of the sport. Although this happens in hundredths of a second, this is a crucial time in the lift. Think about all that is happening.
You are trying to push away from the floor with even weight distribution in the foot. The hips and shoulders need to seemingly rise together. All the while the shoulder has to stay on top of or slightly in front of the bar. And lets not forget about your back and core. Your trunk has to stay tight and neutral while making infinitesimal shifts in your weight distribution. The closer you get to your knee the further the weight has to be distributed back, yet not so far back you end up with your weight in your heel.
Complex stuff right? I want to simplify it for you with a couple drills you should be using to figure out how to properly pull the bar to your hip.
For the reasons above, here at Lift Lab Co, we teach all of our weightlifting from the ground up. We choose to tackle the hardest part of the lifts first. This just makes sense to me.
If most of the mistakes a weightlifter will make are from the floor to the knee, why not start there and try to save to time in the long run?
As a beginner lifter you need to have a few drills and progressions you can work through to perfect the lifts from the ground up. Remember the stronger your foundation and the better your positions, the more weight you will lift in the long run!
Set your ego aside and master some basics!
Here are a few simple set up rules and two drills to get you comfortable with the snatch.
The Set Up
There are two types of start positions in Olympic style weightlifting, dynamic and static. They are cleverly named. For most beginners we will start with a static position. I recommend you do the same because it allows for more consistency when breaking the bar from the floor.
Keep the set up really simple. To gauge where you need to be in relation to the bar start by putting your first shoelace directly under the bar. Shorter athletes will have the bar closer to the shin. Think about it for a second, why would we start closer to the bar if we are short?
If you are a six foot 2 inch 105+kg lifter you probably have a longer lower leg than a 48kg female lifter. Thus when you squat down you will have more knee protruding in front of the bar. As mentioned earlier the first part of the lift is all about maneuvering around the knees.
In general, we want you to set up with your feet directly under your hips, toes and knees slightly turned out. When you squat to your set up, you want your hips equal too or slightly higher than your knee, your shoulders should be higher than your hips. Your arms will be turned so your elbows are pointed out with the crux of your elbow inline with your knees. Keep in mind you should always have a nice neutral spine with a rigid tight upper and lower back. Check out Ehab– this pretty much nails it.
Master this first. If you don’t know how to fix it, send me a pic via email at email@example.com and I will help you get it squared away.
The start position is crucial, because a good start equals a good finish!
Lets get into some of the drills we like to use when teaching the lifts!
This is the single handedly most important drill you will ever do. We know that passing the knee is crucial for success in the lift. The drill itself is extremely simple. Use the snatch set up described above. Push away from the floor keeping the pressure even in your foot. People will make the mistake of shifting all of their weight back towards the heel. Remember weightlifting is a change of direction sport and you can not change direction from your heel. Yes, your weight will shift slightly back, but don’t go to far back. Typically, when athletes do this we will have them pause for a three count at the knee and have them make adjustments if they shifted too far back or too far forward, so that they can feel the proper position. As with most things weightlifting wash, rinse, repeat. Usually we prescribe this in something like 5×3 with a 3 second hold, using roughly the weight they would snatch, sometimes more, sometimes less.
One word of caution, if you load the bar too heavy, you will most likely shift to far one way or the other. We want you to use a weight where you can pull yourself into a good position consistently.
There are a million varieties of pulls that you can do. Some coaches like the panda pull, some coaches like a dead pull, some want the lift to mimic the snatch until it hits the hips, others like to overload the position. The bottom line—we all need to do pulls, try your best to justify how you pull.
Right now, in this phase of coaching, I like for our athletes to mimic the exact positions of their classical lifts. Now a lot of times this can get skewed one way or the other because of the load being used. In general the heavier the load the more the athletes will shift their weight towards the rear or front extreme of the foot, which is probably not the platform they transition from in the classical lift.
Try to think about performing the pull in the same sequence you would if you were doing the classical version. For example, if you typically do not bend your arms until the bar is in the crease of your hips, make sure you do the same when you pull. If you are a lifter that has an acceptable early arm bend, make sure you use it when you pull.
A lot of the time we are using pulls to try to get the lifters to learn proper sequence and timing. In the very beginning of teaching we will do pulls at very sub-maximal weights.
If you are like most beginners and you jump forward when you lift you are probably throwing your shoulders hard behind the bar at the top of your pull. Use the snatch pull to practice keeping your shoulder on top of the bar as you lift and to really dial in the sequencing of the sport.
If you do not know what proper sequencing of the lifts should look like, think about it in this simple context. Hips and shoulders rise together, arms are relaxed until the bar is in the crease of the hips, once you reach your hips you will finish on the toes at the top of the pull. Then and only then get your arms involved in the lift. It is going to happen fast, but when you do it right you will feel it!
Here is an example of the above mentioned “panda pulls”. It may not be my bag man, but some people love it. At least you can see the purpose and the thought process as to why they are doing their pulls this way.
This is the most controversial drill that we will use. Because of Instagram you will see this turned into a press more often than not, and people clamoring over a muscle snatch PR.
The purpose of the muscle snatch is to reinforce bar path and the continual connection between you and the bar. At no point should you be dropping your elbow under the bar and pressing it up wards.
When you muscle snatch your sequencing as described above is the same. You are going to push through the top of the pull, but do not move the feet. Again, this drill is all about bar placement and creating and ideal path for the bar. These are the beginning steps to drilling your technique fro proper bar position.
Ideally you will use the muscle snatch as more of a warm up than anything else. I do not see much value in overloading this drill, the risk vs reward just does not match.
Here is a video talking about the right way vs the other way
Once you have gotten yourself familiar with the pulling portion of the lifts, you will probably want to start working on the overhead receiving portions of the lifts. I assume that by this point in time you are already working on the power versions of the classical lifts.
One of the best drills you can use to practice meeting the bar in the overhead position is the snatch balance.
I love the snatch balance. I also love that it is hated by so many people. I think weightlifting purist hate the snatch balance because crossfiters started doing it under heavy load and counting it as a PR of something.
However, if you are using the snatch balance to learn and feel the overhead position in a dynamic fashion there is no better drill.
When doing the drill, you are going to start with the bar on your back and hands and snatch grip. From there you are going to just drop under the bar and simultaneously press up on the bar. If done properly you should look like you just hit a successful snatch.
One caveat is that you may want to do a “heaving” version of the lift in which you pop the bar up like a jerk before you drop under.
We prefer the athletes do the snatch balance with out the “heaving” part. Check out the demo video and shoot me any questions you have.
It pains me when people are hesitant to learn Olympic weightlifting because they fear that it is too complex. I fully appreciate the skill it takes to learn how to snatch, but you do not have to learn it all at once. Take it step by step and go from there! If you have and questions please email me Dan@liftlabco.com