Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Olympic Lifting: The Lifts

Sa Jae-Hyouk: 2008 77kg gold medalist.
He beat Li Hongli.

The last three weeks I've given a lot of information. Realistically to prepare for every step it would take around two weeks, maybe three, of daily practice. The exercises are to drill in new motor skills.

But, to move on to the actual lifts is important. After all, everything's been leading up to this post. I'll cover the snatch, clean, jerk, key points, and provide further resources.

Manuel Buitrago's video is good so I'll be using the following for visual reference,

Fast forward to the 1:14 mark.
He'll do two snatches, then the clean & jerk.

To keep the post concise, I'll omit details previously discussed - such as the start position, deadlifting, triple extension, and keeping the bar close. Also, the start of the snatch and clean are very similar in execution. I'll describe a general beginning then split off to describe each where they differ.

First and Second Pulls
  • In the snatch grab the bar with a wide hook grip. It doesn't have to be end-to-end, but wide enough. In the clean the bar can be grabbed wider than a deadlift grip, but narrower than the snatch grip.
  • Get comfortable, look at the floor a few feet in front then take a big breath into your belly and begin to rise. Straighten the legs while maintaining the torso's posture over the bar.
  • After the bar passes the knees [end of the first pull], start to speed up, straighten out and to prepare for triple extension.
  • As the bar approaches the hips, triple extend fast. The bar will continue going up. [end of the second pull]
Receiving in the Snatch
  • When the bar is at around lower pec level (think lower part of the arm pit), that's your cue to drop straight down as quick as possible. The bar will be caught overhead as you go under it.
  • When you're confident the bar is settled above, squat it up.
Receiving in the Clean
  • Around lower pec level again, perform the descent of a front squat allowing your elbows to break away to the sides. If you've been keeping the bar close it will come to rest in the racked position. Done correctly, it will look like you front squatted down into the bottom position.
  • Front squat the weight up to prepare for the jerk.
- The arms hold the weight and nothing more. Don't use them to force/muscle the bar into the receiving position. Tight grip, loose arms.

- Triple extend straight up. Some lifters have the tendency to pull backwards and rely more on back than legs consequently losing out on power.

- In the snatch, the bar isn't swung up in an arc fashion. The bar travels vertically with the elbows bending as you drop under it.

- In the clean, keep the torso upright! It's easy to cave forward and lose the bar.

- Rearranging the feet after triple extension is normal. They narrow up after standing and tend to take on a wider stance in the catch. A common mistake is going extremely wide for the lack of descent speed and/or flexibility. For example, see here.

- The difference between a good or bad rep is obvious in snatches and cleans. If you're not satisfied with it, dump the bar or don't count it.
  • Stand tall with hands open and as wide as you grabbed the bar during the clean's first pull.
  • Squat a quarter of the way down maintaining a straight posture. Squat back up as hard as you can to give momentum to the bar.
  • Right before you finish the squat upwards, quickly shoot one leg forward and the other back to allow your elbows to lock out as you descend under the bar.
  • Bring the front foot a half step back then the back foot forward to stand finished.
- Use the leg you find comfortable to put forward. I'm right-side dominant, but my left leg leads.

- "Slide" the leg shooting forth as opposed to jumping or hopping it out.

- You're not pressing the bar up. The squat gives the bar speed to momentarily go up as you settle under it in the lock out position.

- In this post I've described the popular split jerk. A small portion of lifters use the push jerk or squat jerk. Shi Zhiyong push jerks his first two attempts then a squat jerk on the last in this video. Cara heads does a squat jerk here. Some lifters prefer it and become more proficient at it compared to the split jerk.
My Advice

Grab a broomstick handle and get to it. You get better by practice. Progress to an empty barbell after you understand the movements.

Not only that, but watch videos of elite level lifters perform. It happens quickly, but replay it pausing at various points. Take note of how they move - triple extension, set-up, etc. A few examples,

In general, this is just an awesome video.

Alternatives & Further Resources

Personally I don't think there's a replacement for the lifts or environment. An Olympic coach and gym does wonders to improve your performance. Not only is it helpful to receive feedback from everyone, but the people are very friendly.

Although you can't force anyone to perform the lifts. If you don't want to do them, the assistance exercises can be used as a substitute. Chad Wesley Smith also lists alternative methods he employs in this article. For more information, check out these places:
1) Michael Hartman's blog

2) Tracy Fober's blog

3) Manuel Buitrago's Youtube channel (previously had instructional videos for the snatch)

4) Sweat Pit forum
This wraps up the performance part of the series, but I'll have a formal conclusion here Friday.

Stay tuned.

Other posts in this series,

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