Rehband’s Olympic Weightlifting Guide to The First Pull in The Snatch

The snatch involves a perfect combination of flexibility, strength, power and technique. Here is how to improve the first phase of your lift, whatever your current standard may be.

This article is part of the Rehband Carry Yourself series, a complete guide to improving your upper body strength, mobility, posture and health.

This article is following up on the Snatch article. The methods in this article will help those who are struggling to lift as much from the floor as they can from the hang position and help you to regain the feeling of driving through the floor with your legs rather than putting stress upon your back.

It will help you to improve your lifts, make you more resistant to injury and ultimately give you a stronger upper body allowing you to become a better athlete and more accomplished lifter.

The first pull is the movement of the barbell from the floor up to knee height, otherwise known as the first pull. Unfortunately, doing this incorrectly can be the king of ruining the rest of your snatch.

COMMON PROBLEMS IN THE FIRST PULL

There are several ways to commence the pull in weightlifting, some opt for the hips to start at the height they will remain, this is most common and requires less movement but a strong back. Some lifters start with their hips down and start the pull with their shoulder in line or slightly behind the bar and then move over with the shoulders as the bar reaches knee height.

 

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One common problem is when the hips rise too much during the first pull, often becoming the same height as the shoulders and often paired with the knees locking out. During the snatch the shoulders should always be higher than the hips, this ‘proud chest’ posture is very important, and letting those shoulders drop and/or locking your knees out when the bar passes the knees will switch off your legs.

Consequently, there is a less than optimal bar path and the ability to triple extend efficiently becomes almost impossible.

WHAT ARE THE CAUSES?

The perfect coaching cue to cause this problem in athletes is to over emphasise the “knees back” during the snatch. The first pull will make or break your lift. Whilst we want the knees to move out of the way, we do not want that to be the main focus of the first pull. Driving with your legs and keeping your chest proud will put the emphasis on actually standing up with the bar. If your knees are locked out when the bar is at knee height then you must work on improving your first pull.

 

Other clues can be a rounded upper back/shoulders along with the front of their shoes flapping up which often means the weight is too far back, causing the lifter to slip off balance.

The overuse of touch-and-go lifting can also cause this. Whilst touch and go lifting is a necessary skill to train, any kind of dominance of this form of lifting can cause problems lifting heavy off of the floor for an athlete.

Rich Froning driving hard out of the first pull

WHAT ARE THE CURES?

Flexibility is vital here. Often people with tight hips and thoracic areas struggle to get themselves into the position that a good snatch start position requires, such as the shoulders over the bar, chest proud, back flat and weight through the midfoot. Stretching and working on the t-spine will really help.

 

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Building strength in your legs and back will go a long way.  Building up your back squat through squatting 2-3 times per week is a good guideline. Barbell rows are an excellent exercise to build solid back strength as well.

BUILD STRENGTH TO SUPPORT YOUR LIFTS

However, a golden exercise for athletes that struggle with the first pull is to work on snatch deficit pulls and snatch from a deficit (standing on a block or 20-25kg plates).

 

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Start with your bum on your calves, your back straight and chest up. Commence the pull with the most upright position you can manage with the bar over the base of your big toe. Once you start to push you will feel your quads engage and as the bar reaches mid-shin height you should be migrating to position your shoulders over the bar.

At this point keep your chest proud, and make sure you lock your hips at the height and do not let them come any higher. Twice a week doing this exercise for five sets of five with as heavy as your form allows will really help you to reprogram your first pull in the snatch.

The Clean and Jerk, Snatch and Accessory Exercises will all help to develop your mobility, strength and motor patterns. They are all great ways to strengthen your upper body for general life as well.

Make sure that you always place optimal form at the top of your list of priorities when it comes to mastering these lifts. This in turn will improve your posture and proprioceptive abilities as well. Both of these classical Olympic lifts will also test and improve your athleticism and ability to generate power and speed in a technically effective manner. They are different from other more strength orientated exercises such as the overhead press in that you have to enable your full potential across a broader range of domains in order to complete each lift successfully.

 

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