Friday, November 2, 2012

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

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Finished Squat Positions

Terrific misconceptions exist regarding the finished position of the squat snatch. The blame rests squarely on those who publicized and recommended the so-called "dislocation" style with poking head. Other qualified coaches and ourselves are not exempt from this criticism.

A methodical review like this one, however, reveals how wrong the style is. First of all, let us consider the positions of present squat snatching champions -- measurements were taken as outlined earlier.

It is our veiw that observers were incorrect in their assessment of Pete George's style and quoted the RE-ACTION position rather than his correct lowest position. We have photos and film to show that in a low position, George, although his head was forward, HAD AN UPRIGHT TRUNK AT THE VERY LOW POSITION.

His poking head style gave the immediate reaction of putting shoulders forward and hips back and up. His arms then would be at a more acute angle to his trunk than the average lifter in the recovering position.

The reporters of the last forties and early fifties seemed to disregard the fact that Kinnunen, Runge, Koreans like Lee Young Whan, Salmasi of Iran, the Germans and the Austrians were all upright squatters.

We advocate that the feet should be jumped a little bit forward and astride thus allowing the hips to get very close to the heels. With vertical arms and head held upright, a straight position of the upper part of the back will result.

The analysis of the various lifts and lifters discussed were made from films by David Webster. The methods used have already been published and were the subject of talks at National And International Coaches Conferences. Many have enquired however regarding equipment and materials.

For projection and analysis SPECTO projectors were used extensively and the SPECTO ANALYZER is particularly useful for this type of work.


In a publication of this description we can only cover some of the points we have investigated. It is our hope that we can later publish more of our findings.

Remember that each section must be viewed keeping the complete lift in mind -- feet spacing for example tells very little unless related to other body positions and these body positions are the results of what happened during the pull. The pull is undoubtedly affected by the starting position as the bar comes off the floor and so it goes on.

Pathways of movement of the bar have just been touched on as we consider this worthy of fuller explanation with numerous illustrations. Briefly, although the aim may be to pull the bar directly upwards, the best lifters pull the bar back slightly as it passes the knees, it goes forward slightly in the hip thrust and the curve straightens as it passes chest height. There is generally a slight 'hook' at the top of the pull BUT ALL BACKWARD PULLING MUST BE AVOIDED.

The theories discussed here are intended for coaches and lifters with an advanced theoretical knowledge. We hope they will help to distinguish between cause and effect and help readers to correctly diagnose and rectify faults.

We must always base our teaching on fact, not speculation, and the more facts at our disposal, like those given here, the less need there will be for speculation.        

Review Questions

1.) Visualize the top lifters at world championships, draw the average approximate angle you think their backs are in as the bar leaves the floor.

2.) In taking the bar from the floor to knee height --

     a) Do most of these competitors use mainly legs, mainly back, or legs and back?
     b) IF you feel their techniques are divided in this respect please indicate roughly what proportions you consider they are divided, e.g., half of the lifters use legs and  back, the remainder equally divided.

3.) Is there any difference in the pulling positions of splitters and squatters?

4.) Is the base of a split stylist larger than that of a squatter?

5.) What is the main reason for a squat lift being more precarious than a split.

6.) a) If a top lifter pulls the bar back where is this fault most likely to occur?
     b) Is it possible to the lifter to pull correctly and still jump backwards?

7.) Draw what you think would be a good path of movement for a complete snatch.

8.) What is the difference between an upright squat and the dislocation style? Describe the positions involved.

9.) Which well-known lifters described in this book do you consider to be:
     a) the most upright, and 
     b) the most 'dislocated'?

10.) Make a matchstick style drawing of your impressions of their relative head, arm, and back positions.

11.) If a snatch takes approximately one second from leaving the ground to the lowest possible position, divide this timing up into three or four stages.

12.) Draw a Murray cross with what you believe to be the most common foot positions amongst top lifters landing in the split for a snatch.

Gloassary and Definition of Terms Used

When force is applied to a mass in the direction of the movement the velocity of the mass is increased. This is termed acceleration.

Newton's Third Law states: "To every ection there is an equal and opposite reaction." This law has a terrific effect in lifting. Coaches must learn to distinguish the difference between reactions and cultivated movements.

This is the ability to react quickly in acurate, controlled movements. Maximum force and power are not so necessary as fast precision.

One part of the object remains fixed in comparison to the others and rotation takes place around this part, e.g., the thigh rotating about the hip joint orthe arm rotating about the shoulder joint.

For simplicity we define this a sthe angle through which a body travels per second, e.g., if the back moves from horizontal to vertical, round the hip joint, in half a second, then its angular velocity is said to be 180 degrees (90 degrees in 1/2 second = 180 degrees in 1 second). Naturally there is little chance that the body will be moving att a uniform rate throughout this movement and for greater accuracy only a small part of the movement should be considered.

As a physical quality this is the kinesthetic sense of position displaying poise and control. Mechanically it is the state of equilibrium with equality of weight and force. Factors affecting balance and stability include the weight of the object, dimensions of base, the height of the center of gravity and also the distance from the c. of g. to the edge of the base. 

There are various types of endurance but in weightlifting muscular endurance is most important with cardiovascular endurance following closely behind. Endurance is the capacity for continued exertion with only partial recovery during the sustained effort.


The ability to move without distress through the full range of motion in a muscle, from flexion for extension and vice versa, without restriction of the tissues or joints.

That which produces or tends to produce a change in a body's state either at rest or in motion. In lifting this is generally derived from muscular contractions or the pull of gravity.

This is the resistance to a change of position or motion. Body masses resist being set in motion but once set in motion they tend to retain velocity.

This is the term used to descibe the movement of a body with various parts traveling at the same time, speed, distance, and direction. The upward path of the barbell is an example of LINEAR MOTION but it must be emphasized that in lifting as in many other sports, there are few good examples of PURE linear movement.

This designates the amount or quantity of matter.

The quantity of motion (mass times velocity), see also TRANSFERENCE, ANGULAR MOMENTUM and LINEAR MOMENTUM.

When several forces are acting simultaneously, the resultant direction qand force depends upon the relative forces and direction of the components. This relationship is the parallelogram of forces.

The capacity to execute esudden maximum effort. The ability to release explosive power. Power is FORCE x VELOCITY. This is often confused with strength but the essential difference is that power calls for SPEED OF EFFORT.

This is the capacity to exert great force. Speed and endurance are not important considerations here. The efficiency of levers, will power, ability to utilize a large number of muscle fibers, etc., are all involved.

Frequently a body is put into motion by the transference of momentum from part of the body to the whole. When force is transferred from a part to the whole body, mass x velocity of the part = mass x velocity of the whole body. A good example of transference is seen in the pull for the cleand or the snatch. The transference of momentum from the body to the bar is so great that the bar continues to move upwards even when the body begins to move downwards.

This is the distance a body moves per unit of time but direction as well as rate should be considered. The motion should be expressed in time and distance, e.g. miles per hour or in human movement analysis feet per second would be more appropriate.

Next: Big men in small singlets.   

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

Foot Spacing in Splitting

In our latest study before publication, starting and finishing positions were traced from as near side views as possible, in most instances direct side views were used. Veres' being nearer the back of the platform gave a slight angle for filming. In order to give some degree of uniformity to the finished charts, the various distances were calculated in FOOT LENGTHS, e.g., Stogov's front foot moved forward until his heel was 3/4 foot length in front of the starting position of that toe. Mannironi's rear foot traveled so far that the toe landed two foot lengths behind the starting position of the heel.

This not only gave uniformity but also gave a better comparison of respective width of splits. Had this not been done, small men like Stogov would have appeared to have a very short split compared with big men like Gubner. However, this procedure obviously does not give 100% accuracy as large men with small feet or small men with large feet would give a distorted impression. Observations lead us to believe that this factor did not affect the figures to any noticeable degree.

Having set out the respective amount of travel for front feet and back feet, the distance between the feet was measured again in foot lengths. Assuming that the average lifter's boot measured 10.5 inches, calculations were made to ascertain the amount of split in each case and listed in order of merit. Working on the original figures of foot lengths, rather than on the new ones which were only taken to the nearest 1", an average width of split was calculated.

This survey shows that none of the current top lifters go as far forward as the average British lifter imagines. It is obvious that many lifters are pulling the bar in a straight line (approx.) and even backwards in many cases. The width of split, however, would appear to be in keeping with British conceptions of a good lift as is the finished body positions and distribution of weight if one disregards the starting position of the feet.

Here is the list of foot spacings which must be read bearing in mind the method of measuring to gain uniformity. If for example Zirk's feet actually measure 11.5" as opposed to the 10.5" average used, then his width of split would really be approx. 28.75". If Kaplunov's feet measured 9.25" (which we believe is the case) then the width of split would actually be 32.25" approx.

All these figures are from the HEEL of the front foot to the TOE of the rear foot.

As a guide, one of the investigators at a fraction less than 5'8" in height generally averages approx. 28" in the split. Kaplunov showed the widest split of all, by a considerable margin, on the lifts measured. On the same scale as the chart his measurement would be 36.5 units. Measured as accurately as possible, our measurement showed approx. 31.8 to be the actual figure. Or, calculating from the chart if his feet sized 9" it would be 31.5, if 9.25" split is 32.25 or if 9.5" split is 33.25 and so on.

The Rear Foot in the Split Style

It was for some time believed that the rear foot landed first because of the smaller range of movement it had in the split (the extension of the back leg being less than the flexion of the front leg). A further reason for the back foot landing first was that is was said to travel a shorter distance by keeping near the floot, etc. Actually we now consider that these are not the reasons for the faster landing of the rear foot. In the case of the current champions the rear foot has farther to travel than the front one and in addition the front foot is favored mechanically.

The flexion at the knee and hip joints reduces the moment of inertia as the lower part of the leg is brought nearer to the hip joint and angular velocity increases. The hip flexors, supported by the abdominals, being mainly responsible for this action. The work of these muscles is reduced because of the bending of the leg.

The reason for the back foot landing first is very simple -- the performer makes it move faster! At some stages it is moving approximately twice as fast as the front foot.

It is interesting to note that some performers slide their back foot along the ground after landing, but this is not a recommended practice.

Where the foot travels obliquely from the center line to give a diagonal split, or transference of bodyweight causes the body to be moving away from the side of the rear foot, there is again a lack of stability. This inhibits muscular effort as the attention of the lifter is diverted to maintaining position as well as lifting the weight.


There is usually stability if the lever is at right angles to the fulcrum but where the lever rests obliquely there is generally less stability.

In addition to the mechanical aspect, there are other important anatomical and kinetic reasons why a straight line or thrust is desirable. The 'thrust reflex' in plantar flexion is well know to those who have made a deep study of human movement analysis. There are many good examples in walking and running be we will confine ourselves to its application in the snatch.

As the rear foot touches down and becomes weight bearing, the toes are spread slightly and metatarsals stimulate contraction of the foot flexors. This in turn results in contraction of calf and thigh muscles and there is even increased tension in the muscles of the trunk.

It should be kept in mind that this thrust reflex is also well demonstrated during the pull before splitting or squatting.

NEXT: Finished squat snatch position, review questions and glossary of terms.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

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

Parallelograms of Forces

In Britain a large amount of forward and upward hip thrust is sometimes taught. In other countries the upward action is emphasized. This affects the parallelogram of forces.

The hip thrust is divided into forward and upward components, and the varying magnitudes of these components obviously have different results. These components tend to rotate the lifter forwards and backwards depending on his position. The result is that those who jump back are most likely to rotate forward and those with a big forward hip thrust will tend to rotate backwards. However, compensatory acceleration can reduce this. The elbows coming forward in the clean is a good example of this.

To investigate theories further regarding forward travel being due to eccentric thrust and parallelograms of forces, many tracings were done of Al Murray and Mike Pearman, two typical British stylists. The loops of these two lifters confirmed our views as both emphasized forward and upward hip action and reached positions of 85 deg., 93 and 93.5 deg., in both squat and split styles. Obviously they have their hips much further forward than most world top liners,and although obtaining full extensions, the line No. 2 was also nearer the vertical.

In the light of knowledge gained from this study, we believe that when analyzing film in addition to the frame of maximum extension before the first foot leaves the platform, one of the key positions should also be the last frame before the body finally comes in contact with the floor.

We noted that:

Miyake, Foldi and Stugov use the greatest layback in extension and the heavyweights much less.

Kailajarvi has the greatest body curve in full extension amongst the greatest lifters.

Kaplunov and Tamraz have personal centers of gravity will forward, but because of entirely different body positioning.

Before progressing to the next stage it should be noted that now, with illustrations we have at our disposal, it is possible to calculate the ANGULAR VELOCITY in the angle through which a body travels per second.

The figures quoted in Snatch timings cannot give a good picture unless compared with the appropriate illustration. It can easily be appreciated that a lifter who starts with a high shoulder position and does an incomplete extension will have moved his back through a much shorter radius than the man who starts with a low shoulder position in relation to his hips and does a very full hyperextension.

The former will have less Angular Velocity of the back as he had moved it through a shorter range in the same time.

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The trunk moves from position 1 to position 8 in 1/2 second. By measuring the angles, angular velocity can be calculated. The movement of the femur can also be judged approximately but the intervention of the bar makes accurate calculations difficult for the average person.

For convenience, the angles of the back were measured through 8 frames  (1/2 second) and the figures doubled.


Kaplunov, 154 degrees; Vlasov in one of the snatches which got to arms length and missed, 106 degrees; Plyukfelder, 115 degrees; Makinnen, 174 degrees.

Other body angles must also be considered; for example, the thighs are very important in the pull for the snatch and also the clean. Let us compare the figures of Miyake and Kaplunov. Here are the relevant statistics from lifts at Budapest where Miyake showed better technique than displayed a year earlier --

Miyake's back starts at 40 degrees. In half a second it moves through 40 degrees. 
ANGULAR VELOCITY = 80 degrees.

Kaplunov's back starts at 15 degrees but in half a second moves through 77 degrees.
ANGULAR VELOCITY = 154 degrees.

The range of movements of the respective femurs have been eliminated. Miyake's thighs move through 65 degrees in 1/2 second.
ANGULAR VELOCITY = 130 degrees.

Kaplunov's thighs start at 30 degrees and move through 70 degrees.
ANGULAR VELOCITY = 140 degrees.
Where the sum of Miyake's figures total 210 degrees (180 + 130), Kaplunov's figures total 294 degrees (154 + 140). 
The result is that Kaplunov pulls the bar much higher AT THIS STAGE OF THE LIFT. 
Remember, the details throughout this book apply to the snatch. There are considerable differences in pulling for the clean, etc.

Linear Velocity
The linear velocity imparted to the bar will depend on the foregoing figures and also the length of the athlete's back and thighs. If two lifters pull with the same angular velocity then the one with the longer measurements, thus giving a greater radius, will give greater speed of the bar. This is one of the reasons why a tall lifter can move the bar a greater distance than a small person can in the same time.


Angular momentum is transferred from body to the bar and at full extension the body begins to lower while the transference of momentum should result in the bar continuing to travel upwards. The height to which the bar rises depends on the amount of momentum and velocity. When the feet are back on the floor it is possible once again to apply a considerable amount of force. However, at this stage a speedy but controlled lowering of the bod is desirable. The arm and shoulder muscles should work concentrically against the bar to bring the body into the finished position at a speed greater than the pull of gravity. We estimate the body should go down at approximately double the speed of gravity -- the body should move about 2 ft. in 1/4 sec. It is emphasized that the amount and direction of pull on the bar is of vital importance. The greater the force at this stage the faster the movement under the bar -- but it is at this stage that many good pulls go wrong. The pull of gravity would cause athlete and bar to drop at the same speed(1 ft. in 1/4 sec.) if without momentum or support. This means that although the feet are back on the ground and force can be exerted, any great force from the legs will tend to retard the speed of dropping under the bar. The main effect, in our opinion, is that the feet being fixed will make the reaction of the pull be absorbed not by the body as a whole but by the upper body, particularly the head.

We feel that electromyograph studies of this stage of the snatch would be most enlightening.

The lifter at this stage will be pulling extremely hard with the arms and shoulders, but his leg and hip muscles must be comparatively relaxed on landing. Hence the expression, "Pull like a horse and land like a dancer." Unfortunately, many lifters reverse the procedure.

It is only when a lifter is approaching the lowest position that he applies any real effort. This should be thought of as "applying the brakes" and not as many coaches and lifters have thought, an effort to stop high so that they can go lower if necessary and adjust the body positioning en route. This misconception is still prevalent amongst squat stylists. Always aim at getting the lowest possible position and only "apply the brakes" towards the conculsion of the leg movement while the amrs exert maximum effort throughout.


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