Friday, September 14, 2012

The Two Hands Snatch , Part One - Dave Webster and Al Murray

Great Britain, 1964


These notes have been published by popular demand.

Al Murray and Dave Webster travel extensively and are personally acquainted with top lifters and coaches from all over the world. They are very experienced in all aspects of weightlifting, but unlike many others, they do not rely on their own subjective observations and personal judgement alone. In addition to observation, tests, measurements and discussion with leading research workers, anatomists, etc., Webster filmed the lifters and then methodically analyzed the lifts in the light of anatomical and mechanical principles. The lifts are sometimes filmed with three cameras at the same time so that they can be seen from several angles. At other times a particular part of the body is filmed on its own - for example, loop films may be made of the rear foot only as it lands in the split. No effort has been spared in their investigations.

Both authors are actively engaged in many aspects of film and TV work. Webster appears regularly on several television stations and his "Get Fit" series on Border TV had an extended run while "Leisure Time" on Grampian TV was another most successful series.

Al Murray has appeared in various types of films including an interesting series of advertising features. He has also appeared with success in numerous instructional films, the best known of these being "Weight Training for Sport" and "Easing the Effort." These are two of the excellent range of sports and recreation films.

Their lectures, books and magazine articles have aroused considerable interest but their depth of knowledge is still largely untapped as they must often cater for large numbers who require basic knowledge rather than the minority group who wish advanced theory.

The qualifications of these writers asre many. Both are very experienced weight lifters and have held records in several weight divisions. Both are college trained Physical Educationists and both were selected to lecture at the first Coaching Conference at Munich. Their talks were so successful that they were asked to prepare further lectures for the second Conference, held in France. In permitting publication of these notes, the authors stress that they must always remain flexible in their teachings and be prepared to alter techniques in the light of new findings and interpretations of the rules.



To appreciate fully the various aspects of snatching and to drive home the lesson that styles arre constantly changing, a review of snatching styles is necessary. It would be unwid\se to trace the entire history of the lift as it has been included in the lifter's repertoire ever since the sport became organised, and even at the turn of the century it was included in weightlifting textbooks (Scientific W/Lifting [T. Inch], Text Book of W/Lifting [Arthur Saxon]), alongside the bent presses and continental lifts so popular in those days. In those times, however, the briefest of descriptions would be considered sufficient, and even up to the time of the second world war many "experts" would give their entire theory of snatching in half a page - and this with a little bit of padding.

Most of our knowledge of lifting styles of those times has been gained from photographs and eye witnesses' accounts, and frankly we are not impressed by the accuracy of these methods. Suffice it to say that the snatch was done with a shoulder width grip and at the lowest position the lifter was  half squat, half split position, generally looking up at the bar.

When the lift was regularly included in the Olympic Games, great advances took place in technique.

Generally speaking, prior to the 1936 Olympics, the French lifters seemed to favor the split style and the Germans and Austrians the squat style. It is relevant to note that both employed an UPRIGHT position of the trunk.

Britons have almost always preferred the split style but there was a swing towards the squat when in 1935 two American lifters, Bill Good and Bob Mitchell, came to Britain and amazed audiences with efficient squat style snatches. Mitchell was an upright snatcher, going quite low without any exaggerated forward bend. Good, however, did a half squat and at the end of the dip his head would be poked forward and hips would be well back. The reaction was shown in an oft published photograph where he was forced onto his toes. being a half squat, he was under the bar fast and this speed stunned the onlookers. The style caught on and to our knowledge it was the first time the term "dislocation" style was used.

The performance of Germans Josef Manger and Rudolf Ismayr in the squat style added further popularity to squatting, but again Manger had some bad habits which were copied. Many, perhaps most, of his lifts were half squats; he too did the lift onto his toes, but he looked up at the bar and had a fairly upright position of the trunk.

It is a great pity that it was the spectacular and faulty styles which were copied, for had they imitated the more workmanlike squatters who jumped their feet a little bit astride and got their hips close to their buttocks whit body fairly upright, then progress would undoubtedly have been faster. The British lifters were at a further disadvantage because even in the mid-thirties the rules still demanded a shoulder width grip. The unsuccessful efforts to improve with half squats, on the toes and with the dislocation style, and the continued success of Egyptian lifters who were mainly split stylists probably had an effect in keeping the split style favorite in Britain, and as far as normal mobility is concerned it is easier to do a split snatch than to attempt a squat snatch in the very early days of training. A few years before the second world war most of the world records were held by squat lifters but by 1941 the pendulum had swung the other way and split lifters reigned supreme with EVERY RECORD being held by splitters.

Naturally hostilities prevented any great progress and by the time the fighting was over, new lifting habits had been developed.

Many of these were very bad techniques. For example, recovery to the front foot was common and lifters were quite wrongly taught to thrust their heads forward in front of the bar when snatching.

It took the British Coaching Scheme to correct these major faults in their own country, and it was a long uphill fight.

With another swing back to squat snatching, the whole cycle of mistakes was repeated. People had evidently forgotten the lessons of the mid-thirties and when in the 1948 Olympics, Pete George electrified audiences with his fantastic lifting, the clock was turned back to the poking head dislocation styles. It is emphasized that this is not by any means a personal attack on George, a wonderful lifter who considerably enriched the Iron Game. However, we believe that just as people copy the champions and profit by their good points we can also profit by the mistakes of the greats. Always it is the exciting and colorful lifters who capture the imagination and are copied. Much was written about Pete George's style of snatching but the writers of the period would have done a great service to lifting had they CORRECTLY interpreted Pete George's style, for we have photographs and films to show that in many when Pete hit the lowest position, he was indeed in the position we advocate, with body upright and hips close to the heels. His head and back position a fraction later being partly reaction and partly an idiosyncrasy, possibly cultivated by his instructors. Actually the great majority of squat snatchers of this period, the late 40's and early 50's, were upright squatters, and numerous examples can be given.

It is mainly with this upright style that records have gone ahead and whereas in pressing it can perhaps be claimed that alteration and interpretation of the rules has contributed largely to the amendments in the record lifts, with snatching improved techniques is mainly responsible.

There have been many other variations in snatching. There was a phase when the influence of the Egyptians made the Dive Start popular; there were some who used a one-legged squat or half split style when Stan Kratkowski broke the USA middleweight record in 1937. When Rigoulet placed his thumb alongside the fingers instead of around the bar, some even copied this. So it goes on - phases, fashions, styles, call them what you may.

However, while the authors re reluctant to make any rash or exaggerated claims, there is no doubt that many experts believe that until the appointment of Al Murray as National Coach, and the introduction  of the BAWLA Coaching Scheme, weight-lifting instruction was not of a high standard and certainly not explained in sound anatomical and mechanical principles as outlined in this publication.

It has always been the policy of the British National Coach and the Chief Scottish Coach to base their instruction on these methods and make their theories available to all, though there is a danger of these principles being utilized by coaches and instructors outside the coaching scheme - and indeed outside Britain.

This booklet is not for the average lifter who does not want to be bogged down with data, this can be confusing to those who are not inclined to studying mechanics, anatomy, and physiology.

The movements have been analyzed from films taken by the authors at competitions all over the world. They were thoroughly studied in terms of skeletal mechanics and muscular action and, once the principles are understood, lifts may be taught and executed with greater efficiency and accuracy. In addition, strain will be diminished and there will be less danger of injury.

Those wishing to make a deeper study of mechanics applied to human motion are advised to obtain Geoffery Dyson's book "The Mechanics of Athletics."

In this publication we will not try to alter the course of weight-lifting as a result of our research. What we will do is to recommend you put into practice what believe is the greatest lesson to be gleaned from this resume of snatching techniques:


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