Fixing the First Pull: 3 Tips for a Better Snatch

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Want to improve your snatch? It all starts with the first pull. Over the past month or so, USA Weightlifting Olympic Lifter and CrossFitter Spencer Arnold has covered a series of essential points — primarily connected to the first pull — on how to improve your snatch and make it more efficient.

Spencer’s first piece of advice? When lifting the bar off the ground, keep it covered. While all of his advice sounds simple enough, you know they don’t call it “Olympic” weightlifting for nothing — every small improvement in technique makes a difference.

1. “Don’t Leave the Bar Naked”

Don’t leave the bar naked…cover it.

The longer the lever that is moving an object, the more weight it is able to displace with less force. This is how catapults in the Middle Ages were able to throw giant stones thousands of yards: Leverage.
Once a week I want to address a common problem most lifters and Crossfitters have with their Olympic lifts. Today the target problem is our inability to cover the bar with our shoulders when snatching or cleaning. A lifter’s best friend is leverage. Just like a see-saw with a heavy weight on one end: the longer the lever, the less power need to be applied to move the weight. This goes back to simple machines in 9th grade physical science. The longer the lever that is moving an object, the more weight it is able to displace with less force. This is how catapults in the Middle Ages were able to throw giant stones thousands of yards: Leverage.

Many lifters take their leverage away when they snatch or clean by transferring their knees under the bar too soon and getting their shoulders behind the bar too fast. You can watch this happen on video by watching a lifter’s knees… With the bar at the top of their knees, their shoulders should be well in front of the bar and their shins vertical.  Anyone watching the lift can see from this point if they are using their leverage well. Watch their knees. If they push their knees under the bar IMMEDIATELY after the bar passes their knees, then they are taking away their leverage. The torso that is supposed to be acting as their long “see-saw” arm is now not so long anymore and their leverage is gone.

To give credit where I never thought I would, my high school physics teacher was right. I can actually apply what he was teaching me to real life. At least to the Olympic lifts, anyway. Cover the bar. The longer and farther you can stay over the bar, the higher your success rate will be and the higher your max numbers will be.

Spencer’s Video Analysis: Leverage

Poor Leverage
Many lifters take their leverage away when they snatch or clean by transferring their knees under the bar too soon and getting their shoulders behind the bar too fast.
At this point of the pull, the athlete’s shins are at an angle, which takes away from his leverage. As a result, Spencer points out that his arms bend a little too soon as his hips bang into the bar, sending it out too far in front. Because he is forced to chase it forward, he lands in his toes; the ideal would be for the bar to travel up his body instead of away from it.

Good Leverage
A lifter’s best friend is leverage.
In stark contrast to the previous video, this athlete is in a good position because he covers the bar well. When the bar reaches the top of his knees, his shins are completely vertical and his shoulder is well in front of the bar, creating the necessary leverage for the lift — keeping his back strong and his heels firmly on the ground. As the bar travels up his body, he stays over the bar as long as possible and delays getting his knees underneath the bar. By the time the bar is at his hip, he is still in a great position with his heels planted and ready to translate his power vertically.

Spencer Arnold published “Don’t Leave The Bar Naked” on December 19, 2012. Read the full article here.

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